A meme ( /ˈmiːm/; meem)) is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.
In order to explore the question of how new cultural memes spread throughout a society, it’s instructive to study some history. For instance, how did drugs like LSD become so popular during the 60s.
Leaving aside for a moment the role of organizations like Britain’s Tavistock Institute, and America’s CIA, we can look simply at the face value history of someone like Timothy Leary who talks in his autobiography about how he popularized the drug through engaging the help of what we’d now call “the creative class”, artists and poets who took what he had, recognized the value of it in a way that even he had not done, and promoted it through their songs and writings, enabling it to read a mass audience. From the book “Flashbacks”:
“… I am Neil Cassady. While some have called me beatnik, you understand, I prefer to identify as wandering poet, amateur philosopher, autopilot outlaw, sent here by destiny and the advice of good friends to gobble down everything you are learning about these wonderful magical mystical drugs.
“I’m afraid you have the wrong idea,” I [Timothy Leary] replied, cautious. “We’re scientists here, performing experiments in consciousness alteration and self-induced brain change.”…”
“… You gotta stop this pedantic nonsense, said Cassady. “You’re defiling and corrupting something, you understand, that is beautiful and free and wild and spontaneous. Why, you’re running a defloration clinic where people can lose their virginity in a sanitized mental health situation.”…”
There were others who worked more behind the scenes, such as Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was part of a cabal of eight intelligent women turning on the most powerful men in Washington, the Cabinet, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the President. An excerpt from “America’s First Psychedelic President”, Mondo 2000, issue #6:
“Lisa and Mary got together again several weeks later. It was early February, 1963. The weather was clear but cold. They stopped at a sunny bench and sat down.
“How’s it going with Bill?” Mary inquired almost immediately. Lisa grinned.
“Right to the point, aren’t you Mary?” Things are going great with the ambassador. How’s the Pres?”
Mary leaned back and looked at the sky. She was beginning to feel strangely protective of Jack [Fitzgerald Kennedy]. It was more than a mad plot for world peace. “I think he’s changing. Rapidly. He’s looking at things in a more holistic fashion. More aware of the inter-connectedness of things, you know?”
Lisa nodded “Do you think our mad plot is working?”
Mary laughed “We’re making inroads at any rate.”
“Inroads?” Lisa arched a brow mockingly.
Things looked wonderful for the feminist conspirators in early 1963. Quite a group had built up with “… top people in Washington turning on”. The President visited Mary at her art studio several times during this period for further psychedelic sessions. By this time Mary was able to source the finest acid direct from the N.I.M.H. Things were going swimmingly….”
In his book “Cosmos and Psyche” Richard Tarnas looks at what he calls ‘world transits’ and finds connections between what’s going on in the cosmos, astrologically speaking, and cultural history on earth. He sees important parallels between our present time, and the 60s. Although he doesn’t specifically mention LSD in the same breath as raw milk, that’s the link that came to mind when I stumbled on the following story by Mike Sula, from the Chicago Reader, about underground groups committed to spreading the gospel of raw milk among the uninitiated:
“One warm evening last month I showed up at a cluttered Humboldt Park basement apartment with an empty Ball jar. There I was met by a 23-year-old musician and barista named Jon, who opened his refrigerator and filled my jar with cold, creamy, unpasteurized raw milk.
Jon is a member of a guerrilla art group called the Molecular Collective, which for the past three months has been giving away organic unpasteurized milk to folks who’ve obtained a designated password through word of mouth. That password leads to a protected blog that contains an e-mail address. Send a request and you might be included in the e-mail blast the group sends out each Saturday, listing pickup spots where you can get a free eight-ounce pour—or more if you ask—of untreated, BGH-free, butterfat-loaded moo juice.
The Milkmen, as the group has dubbed the enterprise, is part of a larger, overarching Molecular Collective project called the Phase, characterized by a combination of youthful exuberance and apocalyptic cynicism. Like the group itself, it was inspired in part by the revolutionary events of the Arab Spring, and incorporates public art and “radical giving” as a means to stimulate discussion and action.
The clandestine milk distribution “is about creating stronger communities and asking questions about where your food comes from and also knowing who’s feeding you,” says Alexis, the 22-year-old student and artist who conceived the plan. “Also about how it’s time to take responsibility for each other and give to each other. That someone is going to come around and feed you is a pretty radical idea in today’s food climate. It’s a really good symbol to connect this larger thing that I’m talking about, which is that we have a food system which is very disempowering.”…”