Thursday, July 19, 2012

You didn't build that meme!

Meme: 1 : an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)

2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable 

(Etymology : meme : derived from the Greek mimëma, 'something imitated', by Richard Dawkins in 1976)

Pronounced (Meem; rhymes with dream)

Borrowed from

I'm starting to think this will be the presidential election that was fought [incorrectly] with internet memes.

And why shouldn't it be? 

They are fast, cheap (free), funny, and easy to make happen. If you make a clever enough one, it can spread like wildfire before bedtime. They convey a message (or share a belief really) that is easily remembered and identifiable. A political and PR dream come true.

Now here's the problem. I like to mock some of President Obama's chest-thumping, BFD, credit-taking as much as the next Republican. It really does annoy me. But this week's memes are not just wrong, they are going too far.

And I say this as one who is in the process of starting her own small business, and really would love to do nothing all day but share anti-Obama memes. In fact, why can't I be paid to sit around and do that all day? It sounds like a job I would be well qualified for!

Here's the problem, the meme of the week is a little too wrong. Thanks to Obama's chest-thumping past, everyone (and by everyone, I mean non-Democrats) assume "You didn't build that" meant that the government did it for you. And why shouldn't we think that? No politician ever before has wanted to grow the government and take credit for things like Obama does. But! That's not what he actually said.

Read for yourself:

"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

"So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together."

In a rather tasteful change of pace, he didn't take the glory for everyone else's success. But the memes sure don't imply that, do they?

I'm going to put myself out there and admit a few things.  And again, I am a Republican, so it does pain me to say it.

I'm *almost* a small business owner. I'm hoping that within the next 3-4 weeks I can really justify saying I'm a small business owner, and not just a freelancer. It has been a lot of hard work for several months to build from an idea I had to an actual business. And trust me, a lot of that hard work was done solely by me. But it wasn't all done by me. Like Obama said, I had good teachers who taught me some invaluable skills. Thanks to the competitive, commercial American capitalist system, there is room out there for a business like mine to enter the market. I'd like to pretend my idea is unique and no one has thought of it before. But that's not true. There are similar businesses out there, but we all want to do it a little bit different. My company will operate entirely online, and employs 5-6 people around the country. As a result, I have multiple ISPs to thank for their part, plus my [patient] employees (not to mention the network of people who gave them their skills), and I suppose the good people at Apple and Acer for their fine products.

A decade or more ago people threw a fit over Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" comments. They wanted to give all the credit to mothers for raising their children. I struggled then like I struggle now. Mothers do deserve most of the credit. But mothers need to thank the village that gave them the tools to raise that child. It isn't that different from this week's hot spot memes. Sure, the business owners deserve a lot of the credit. But they also need to thank the other service providers out there for providing them the tools.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this honest, bipartisan assessment of the situation. The words you used earlier, "a tasteful change of pace," really apply quite well to your own writing here.


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