Written on: 19. 8. 2011 in the category: news

Leaving Cert Anti-Meme

I was writing earlier this summer about the “meme”, the mental equivalent of a gene: it is like a small cultural package that enters a community of minds, and mutates just like a gene. Urban myths are memes. So are most political ideas. Feminism is a classic meme. Whether you like them or not, these memes have a structural energy which gives people direction.


But as the Leaving Cert and the A-Level results in maths in Ireland and England so closely and catastrophically resemble one another, I wonder: is there a negative meme, a sort of invisible virus that destroys the desire to know certain things? Nobody in authority wants children to fail in maths – but that is precisely what they’re doing, thereby doing huge damage to our economic prospects.


The Celtic Tiger was built on a highly-skilled workforce that was electronically literate. Long before the great economic boom, I coined the term “silicocracy” to describe the new caste that was only then emerging, but is now the ruling elite in the world. The astonishing growth of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Motorola and Apple tells us of the primacy of mathematics today. One of the reasons why Google recently spent $12.5 billion on Motorola is because of the latter’s intellectual portfolio: it has 17,000 patents, and 7,500 pending patents. This is a truly astounding and – for most of us anyway – utterly unquantifiable amount of human knowledge, and one that is virtually all mathematics-based. This is the future: yet the young people of Ireland and England – I leave a largely doomed Scotland out of the picture, because to try and include that Caledonian Congo would only confuse things – are opting not to enter the real world which the silicocracy governs. This real world is where the JICK-lands – Japan, Indian China and Korea – have already staked their claims.


The situation in England is even more extraordinary than here. The country which gave the world the steam engine, the industrial revolution, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Avro, de Havilland, Hawker aircraft and GEC, is now unable to supply enough qualified engineers to Dyson, the manufacturers of vacuum-cleaners. BP is experiencing even worse problems.


What is going on? It is probably not coincidental that these two countries also have high rates of street-violence, of youthful drunkenness, of single motherhood, of work-malingering, and of dole-dependency. Certainly, no-one in authority actively encourages such aberrant behaviour; it is, moreover, largely absent from mainland Europe.


Is this common affliction because of the invisible transmission of a mental virus, a pathogen that causes dysfunctional and self-evidently destructive behaviour, though this is not usually visible to the sufferer? Since it works like a particularly toxic form of VD that has no other symptom before it starts rotting the brain, I’m going to call this mental contagion by its component metaphors, “venereal” and “meme”: hence, “veme”.




Yes, it seems absurd: but how else can one explain these parallel phenomena, especially since one group – the Irish – almost define themselves as not being like the other group? Yet being like one another is precisely what we’ve got; two systems which after thirteen years’ education manage to produce annually tens of thousands of young people who are qualified only to sell coffee to one another. Except, of course, that word has been generically replaced by an entire lexicon of ludicrous Mediterranean terms, the most preposterous of which is “Americano”, ie, coffee.


So, our new generation of corpulent innumerates in Dundalk and Derby know all about the differences between a Café Akimbo, a Café Supino and a Café Abjecto as they dumbly listen to their iPlayer; and yes, they’d probably have great sex-lives too, if they could only find their genitals amid the folds of flab. (“Oh, keep looking, it’s definitely down there somewhere.”) But the veme has apparently destroyed their mathematical powers. So many of the best students today want to do feminism-and-media studies at college, in the apparent belief that any really useless arts BA will be rewarded with riches. Such studied stupidity must therefore also be reckoned a by-product of the mind-wrecking veme.


Is this Veme Disease curable? Neither England nor Ireland seems remotely capable of coping with the visible problems of teenage drunkenness, or indeed teenage-anything. So how on earth can the two countries cope with the invisible veme?


By anti-vemetic memes, that’s how. We need to create the cultural equivalent of vaccinations or anti-biotics, which will resist or attack these vemes. In the USA – the world-centre of mathematical and scientific excellence – anti-vemetic memes clearly exist in the schools. Such anti-vemes also quite clearly exist in Germany, whose emigrants – rather than those of England or Ireland – were the intellectual inspiration for the US, which has now experienced four distinct industrial revolutions. So we should start simply. We must make draughts, and then chess, part of the obligatory school curriculum for seven year-olds upwards, all the way to the Inter Cert level, rewarding the ablest with wonderful prizes. We must infuse our schools with the culture and love of maths. The name of this cure? The Special CHess mEME: the Scheme