It’s 2016, and our civilization is well into the age of information. The internet has become the primary medium to exchange material, and the result of it is the power to instantly share content. From a friend putting pictures on Instagram to a news organization live streaming an event on Facebook; social media has become the platform people use to express themselves. Today the internet has not only become a tool for us conduct ourselves in a virtual space, but an essential complement to reality itself because it has become the ultimate proliferator of memes.
Much like how genes are the building blocks of life, memes are the building blocks of culture. Memes have always been around, from the walls of cavemen to the message boards of Reddit, and flourish at the rate of the preferred means of communication at a given time. Most importantly, they have the power to disrupt the structure of society itself.
One does not have to look no further of this fact than the advent of the printing press. For 1500 years, Roman Catholic doctrine dominated Western Culture, and the Priest’s word was the ultimate authority. The Priestly Class were the men who not reigned with influence to their supposedly spiritual connection with the divine, but above all knew how to read and write. Literacy was a rare attribute in the middle ages and those who attained it had much more agency to conduct themselves with the highest levels of society.
Everything changed when Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press, and it is no coincidence that the first that he published was The Bible. Seventy-seven years after its first publication in 1440, the Catholic Church monopoly on spirituality broke down with The Reformation, and a large part of igniting it was the ability to translate the Bible from Latin to each region’s own vernacular language. No longer did the common man have to rely on priests to interpret Latin scriptures; there was finally a way for everyone to learn how to read and write in their own language and interpret “God” in a much more personal matter. This development of individual free-thinking helped usher in the scientific revolution.