In her book "The Meme Machine", Susan Blackmore posits that the meme is as important to human evolution as the gene. Like the gene, the meme is a replicator of information. But rather than genetic code, the meme is a cultural replicator; transmitting ideas, belief systems, habits, philosophies, fashions, fads, and all of the other stuff that gets knocked around between our oversized monkey brains. Memes, like genes, thrive or perish based on natural selection. A caveman "infected" by the "how to light a fire" meme would have a better chance of getting some cro-mag nookie than his in-the-dark competitors; therefore, it would be his genes and memes that were transmitted to the next generation.
Also like genes, memes are "selfish" (not in the Janet Jackson, "what has he done for me late-ly?" sense, but in the unstoppable, Terminator robot on-a-mission sense); both genes and memes exist only to replecate themselves, whether or not doing so will be beneficial to their "hosts" (i.e. us... We of the oversized monkey brains). Genes compel humans to procreate in times of famine, memes compel you to order the "Windsor Pilates" 6 DVD set when you're channel surfing at 3 am, even though you're too lazy to ever actually use it.
A good example of memes in action is "The Lovely Latte Ladies Auxiliary". These are the women who visit coffee shops in small groups and try to out-do each other with increasingly complex drink orders. ("Double tall, non-fat, decaf vanilla latte") Their behavior is learned through mimicry, like monkeys at the zoo. Each successive order is placed more loudly than the last, so that any nearby women who are not part of the gaggle can return next time to spread the meme among their own group. ("SOY, NO FOAM ORANGE MOCHA!") There wouldn't appear to be any evolutionary benefit to this behavior, as it's extremely hard to believe that it's the kind of thing that would help them attract a mate. But the memes march on...
The simple reality is this... nobody is safe from the influence of memes. I myself got infected, just the other day. Sitting at Kaladi Brothers, I witnessed a half-caf, 2% milk caramel machiato get trumped by a "Mate Latte". ("THAT'S RIGHT! MATE LATTE, PLEASE! MMM, DELICIOUS! TAKE THAT, WHORE! POW!") Seeing as Kaladi's, with it's DU professors and it's marathon moms, is basically a scale model of the People's Republic of Boulder, I was pretty confident that Mate Latte would be made from rice milk (but only after they asked the rice real nice-like) and organic tree bark. But in the spirit of FAUX COFFEE WEEK, I decided to find out for myself.
Only one problem... when I rushed into Kaladi's this morning, toddler in tow, I was sympathetically informed "I'm sorry, we are out of Mate Latte... can I get you something else?"
So there I stood, a recovering addict in a crack-den, the aroma of the oily black beans firing my synapses to full attention. Didn't these people realize this is FAUX COFFEE WEEK? Doesn't anybody read this blog??
Arms pinned to my sides, I ran out of the building, Napoleon Dynamite-style. My canine-obsessed daughter wailed hysterically as we ran past the friendly-looking golden retriever parked on the patio. I knew just how she felt.
I stopped by Scooter Joe's, figuring that they would be just earth-y enough to carry the stuff. The barista whipped up the drink by brewing the leaves/bark/whatever through the espresso machine's portafilter and topping it off with steamed milk, just like you would a regular-old latte. But then, he put an extra tea-bag of the stuff directly into the cup because it "looked a little weak". I have to tell you, the only thing weaker than what I drank this morning would have been cup of evaporated tap-water. I mean, no disrespect to the barista, he probably made it exactly the right way. The thing is... it's tea. I hate tea. Tea tastes like soap; like a big gulp from a cup of "Bed Bath and B'nasty". Now, I don't hate people who like tea. Not all of them, anyway. Hate the drink, not the drinker, I always say.
(Except in the case of Lipton ice tea drinkers. That stuff tastes like obese-man bathwater, and is surely an abomination against... I don't know... something. )
But if I'm going to be one of the "Meme Machines" who's spreading the word about this stuff, giving throngs of rampant soccer moms one more excuse to raid their local coffee shops, like SUV driving zombies, the least I can do is affect my best Charlton Heston and scream "IT'S TEA! MATE LATTE IS TEA!" Even if you like tea... this is worse than Lipton. Step away from the hype machine... they're trying to brainwash you...
Unlike the many other Ted Campbells on the interwebs, I'm neither a minister, nor a professional motorcyclist, nor a gay realtor from Florida.
What I AM is an ass-kickin' father, a corporate schlep, and an occasional freelance writer.
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