memes are the DNA of the soul
The last few years have been a wild ride. From 2016 onward, many of us have begun to question politics, history, and world events in ways we would have never guessed. A fun side effect of this has been the reemergence of older media that can now carry the subtitle: more relevant than ever. It no longer begins and ends with evergreen callbacks to 1984, not to say George Orwell’s master work isn’t more relevant than ever but it has been joined by a host of newcomers. Heavy hitters like The Matrix injected a plethora of terminology surrounding the redpill, and cult classic films such as, Falling Down, Idiocracy, and Minority Report have returned to the conversation.
It can be found in unexpected places such as Speed Racer, a film that barely registers on the cultural radar. It’s a great watch, underappreciated then as it is now. A film containing a scene in which the main villain monologues to our hero about how every Grand Prix race is rigged by a group of powerful men behind the scenes. The racing film focuses on what is little more than a front for corruption and benefits only the elite, ending with the line,
“It’s not about cars or drivers! It’s about power and the unassailable might of money.”
Films are great, but this extends to other forms of media. Video games are the biggest entertainment industry in the world. This might surprise those of you who aren’t familiar with the industry, but their cultural impact is undeniable. However, no one has ever watched a game of Mario Kart and expected biting cultural critique. This isn’t a strength of the medium, or is it? I want to show you a video game that comes to us from the great nation of Japan. Ten years ago, a collection of Japanese nerds had a better grasp on the long term implications of American politics than anyone on earth. Or they got lucky, I’ll let you be the judge.
(zero video game knowledge is required to enjoy and understand the following)
Part 1: what is going on?
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (hereafter referred to as MGR) was released in 2013 and received a positive reception from those of us who play video games. It is worth noting that MGR is a spinoff from the wildly popular Metal Gear Solid franchise, which is known for its highly political themes. Set in the far flung future of 2018, MGR follows Raiden, a soldier for hire, in his attempts to thwart a conspiracy to perpetuate never ending warfare. MGR depicts a futuristic world of nano-machines, sentient AI, transhumanism, war for profit and secret conspiracies. Looking back at it now, MGR was only off by a few years.
Part 2: the memes, what do they mean?
Everything is the internet’s fault, can we agree on that? Memes are more than just images with funny words and Tik-Tok videos reposted on Youtube. The word was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. According to Dawkins a meme is an idea that spreads through culture like a virus. Take a moment and appreciate that this was written several decades before the internet, and even longer before the proliferation of the smartphone. This is the origin of the term “going viral” as applied to internet images and videos. How many times have you seen a solitary news article become the one thing everyone is discussing the next day? The death toll of socialism is in the hundreds of millions and yet the virus continues to spread. A meme is an idea, and you can’t kill an idea.
The following is an excerpt from MGR, the infamous “meme speech” given by the villain Monsoon.
“War is a cruel parent, but an effective teacher. Its final lesson is carved deep in my psyche: this world and all its people, are diseased. Free will is a myth. Religion is a joke. We are all pawns, controlled by something greater: Memes. The DNA of the soul. They shape our will. They are the culture they are everything we pass on. Expose someone to anger long enough, and they will learn to hate. They become a carrier. Envy, greed, despair … All Memes. All passed along. You can’t fight nature. Wind blows, rain falls, and the strong prey upon the weak.”
The World Economic Forum needs to hire this man.
Part 3: the war economy
Fighting a war is profitable, winning a war is not. This next stop on our journey has our hero Raiden confront a mouthpiece for the military industrial complex. Raiden learns they are engaged in harvesting the brains of children, virtually conditioning them for violence, placing them inside terminator-esque war machines, and selling them to the highest bidder. Human nature, the virtues of war, and 9/11 are all touched on in this monologue given by the villain Sundowner.
“Kids are cruel. All people are, by nature they just lose touch with it as they get older. Start thinking they know right and wrong. “That’s immoral!” War crime-this, Code of Conduct-that … Kids you can mold, manipulate into performing all kinds of atrocities and there’s nothing like a good atrocity to keep a war going. … We’re just suppliers. We don’t create the market for war. Did you think every battle in history was all part of some big conspiracy? Bullshit! War is just a part of who we are. Why fight it? Demand for PMCs (private military corporations) is about to skyrocket. Like the good old days after 9/11. What about all the good things war has done for us? Why don’t we ever hear speeches about that? Jobs, technology, a common purpose… All we’re sayin’ is… give war a chance! Like I said, kids are cruel. And I’m very in touch with my inner child.”
But what if every war is part of some big conspiracy?
Part 4: “do you have a source for that senator?”
Right now, if you type the word “senator” into the Youtube search box, the first suggestion is Senator Kennedy, and the second is Senator Armstrong. It should be noted that Senator Armstrong isn’t real, but he is the last stop on our tour.
The climax of MGR sees Raiden traveling to a far flung part of the middle east in an attempt to stop a staged international incident. He is confronted by United States Senator Armstrong, a man with some interesting ideas about America. We learn too late that Raiden himself is the international incident, and Senator Armstrong delivers one of the most iconic monologues in video game history.
“I have a dream. That one day every person in this nation will control their own destiny. A nation of the truly free, dammit. A nation of action, not words, ruled by strength, not committee! Where the law changes to suit the individual, not the other way around. Where power and justice are back where they belong: in the hands of the people! Where every man is free to think – to act – for himself! F*** all these limp-dick lawyers and chickenshit bureaucrats. F*** this 24-hour Internet spew of trivia and celebrity bullshit! F*** American pride! F*** the media! F*** ALL OF IT! America is diseased. Rotten to the core. There’s no saving it – we need to pull it out by the roots. Wipe the slate clean. BURN IT DOWN! And from the ashes, a new America will be born. Evolved, but untamed! The weak will be purged and the strongest will thrive – free to live as they see fit, they’ll make America great again! You still don’t get it. I’m using war as a business to get elected so I can end war as a business! In my new America, people will die and kill for what they BELIEVE! Not for money. not for oil! Not for what they’re told is right. Every man will be free to fight his own wars!”
If you are the type who plays video games Metal Gear Rising receives my highest recommendation. For everyone else I have another recommendation, Armstrong 2024.