Memes, ketchup and culture
The first time I can across the word ‘meme’ was while reading 'The Selfish Gene' by atheist ragamuffin Richard Dawkins (In fact it was Dawkins who coined the term, decades before the rise of the internet meme). He was describing how cultural ideas are passed down through generations in a similar fashion to the physical traits we inherit through our genes
I found my self thinking about the spread of memes the other day as I went to the fridge looking for a bottle of ketchup. You see keeping ketchup in the fridge was a huge cultural shift for me. When I was growing up, living with my parents, we didn't keep ketchup in the fridge. We kept it in the press (or cupboard/pantry anyone who is not Irish and has no idea what a 'press' is).
So why did I change? My girlfriend moved in with me and was quick to inform me of my wrong doings against ketchup. She was adamant that the only valid place to store ketchup was in the fridge. We argued a little about this but in the end I relented. The ketchup was on her side... In that it said on the bottle to keep refrigerated once opened. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed.
In the five or so years that have passed I've gradually be accustomed to the reality that our ketchup lives in the fridge. I don't think about it anymore. It has become a part of me. When I unpack the shopping the tomato and sugar filled bottle goes in the fridge without even a hint of old habits making a return.
As I thought about this I began thinking about children. If we had children they would only ever know of ketchup as living in the fridge. They will have inherited this from us. This decision we made to settle on her tradition of fridge based ketchup storage would ripple down into our children's very concept of reality.
What other beliefs and practices, I began to wonder, had we mangled and munged together as we diverged from our internal familial way of life and formed our own. Practices that our children would inherit as a standard base of reality. What other worlds, realities and lifestyles would they never know because of the social and cultural decisions we make? Would they even be accepting of some who doesn't keep their ketchup in the fridge?