In the new year there is an (Abridged 0 – 52:) Contagion… so I thought we’d give you a bit of a heads up. We’re in the midst of an Abridged Pestilence trilogy, not of the traditional medical kind, though the symptoms cause injury and harm and the ‘disease’ inevitably comes to the same conclusion as untreated malediction generally. We’re focusing on the ‘meme’ concept of a spreading fear, paranoia and judgement, the symptoms of which are generally though of course not exclusively injurious to women and minorities. We’ve all become familiar with the meme as harmless entertainment consisting of entertaining cats and cute babies but it does of course have a life outside of the internet though more accurately these days it exists in a kind of hybrid online/real world viral infection. A meme for those who aren’t aware of them was a word coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene and has its roots in the Greek: ‘mīmēma, “imitated thing”, from μιμεῖσθαι mimeisthai, “to imitate”‘. Dawkins used the term as a vehicle for the exploration of how ideas and cultural concepts spread and are accepted.
Abridged has always ran with the concept that ideas, especially those based on fear eventually become evolutionary eco-systems of their own evolving beyond logic to fit a particular circumstance. In essence take on a life of their own. If you imagine a collective consciousness where ideas float and evolve until the time is right for a break out and a contagion to spread you (so to speak) get the idea. Humanity that births ideas and concepts is of course the perfect incubator, replicator and contaminator of the meme, in fact probably the only one. Though it should be pointed out that if a rogue gene that produces a better change of survival or mating for a member of a particular species it isn’t unknown for that gene to be ‘adopted’ into future members of the species.
Fear of course has been the driving force of humanity since consciousness became something recognisable as apart from instinct. For instance the contemporary fear of spiders is most probably something we inherited from our ancestors look ago when a bite from a spider could have disastrous consequences for the individual. Even the microbes whose existence we weren’t aware of and whose capacity as carriers for disease wasn’t known until relatively recently can be articulated in our fear of decaying and corrupted things. These are of course in a way ‘positive’ fears that exist to keep us away from danger and ultimately to keep us alive.
As stated above Abridged always imagine ideas floating like Lovecraftian creatures existing in another timeless consciousness breaking into existence when the conditions are just right. Religion and Politics have often created these conditions and the results are often as deadly as traditional epidemics though with the proviso that often it is one particular group have been the unfortunate victims. We can see this for instance in the outbreak of various pogroms against Jewish people stretching from the time of the Crusades (which of course had another meme of their own i.e. saving Jerusalem from the barbarian, even if the barbarians in question were often more civilized than the Crusaders) to the Nazi horror. Of course contagion needs a human agent but the disease or idea can outlast individuals, generations, cultures and countries. The idea that Jewish people rule the world and that Muslim people are barbarians are memes that are still alive today. Social conditioning is of course the ‘unhealthy living’ that keeps these memes infectious.
The internet has become almost an extension of humanity, so intertwined with it we have become. It is the perfect carrier of a contagion. Millions literally can hear a message at once and if that message is negative to an individual, community or society the consequences can be dire. Ideas become current almost instantly these days, fade and then become current again. We catch them like the flu, when we are at our weakest and open to suggestion. Hence the success of Brexit, Trump etc. Contagion always needs a Typhoid Mary/Mathew whether it’s a politician or some cliched teenager sitting behind a computer screen in the Czech Republic. It also needs victims and inevitably those are the ‘other’ or the ‘different’. A contagion eventually becomes part of the landscape, infiltrating and evolving. We create memes and then they recreate us. Eventually we don’t notice how infected we are until it’s too late.
The submission call for Abridged 0 – 52: Contagion will be made in early 2018. You can find the first part of the Pestilence trilogy, Wormwood here: Abridged 0 – 51.