The one about Dada as a coping mechanism

Hello there!

Welcome to Salmon Theory, a philosophy newsletter for smart and hopeful minds, now trusted by ~2,400 of you.

This is usually a weekly newsletter, but I’m trying something new.

Daily notes of hope. Powered by some sort of philosophical or timeless idea.

🔍 Find the hope

A lifetime ago, I saved a page from Wikipedia about one of my favourite artistic movements. It’s called Dadaism. And the reason I love Dadaism – AKA Dada – is that it feels like the absurdist version of what a fella I know once called ‘negative identity politics’. Meaning, it defines itself by what it’s against, not what it’s for. But it tries to do so with a bit of humour and, quite frankly, nonsense. Even the name is silly: Dada. Sounds like a baby came up with it. Which makes it even better.

Look, here’s what good ol’ Wikipedia has to say about it:

“Developed in reaction to World War I, the Dada movement consisted of artists who rejected the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society, instead expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois protest in their works.”

How silly is it? Well, let’s just say you can’t make this shit up.

Further, I can’t help but feel that we’re going through a similar dynamic in today’s media environment, especially when you venture your tiny little feet, hands and brain into that wild jungle of apocalyptic creation, where chaos is only form of governance and IP is a notion of a bygone era to which we wish we never had to return.

I am, of course, talking about memes.

Memes are the defining art form of our era. Yes, of course, there’s loads of new music and the golden age of TV and all that, but everything that is remotely popular ends up manifesting itself through the art form of a meme. The Office. The MCU. Spongebob Squarepants. Drake. Lizzo. Tiger King. These, and many others, are representations of art in themselves, but the fact they became memes only adds to their cultural gravitas. And that, to me, is an even bigger expression of what defines art in the 2000s: something which is significant, but even further, replicable. By whoever. You, me, some kid with 2.7 million Instagram followers and a mini meme account empire.

All of this to say that memes, and humour, are something I’ve always found value in, but especially in hard times. To be clear, this isn’t to say the virus is something to laugh about, but if you see laughter as a coping mechanism, then fuck, I’m in.

Memes are the contemporary spirit animal of Dada. They are reactive by nature, because they need the source material from the rest of culture to manifest themselves. Further, they do so with such nonsense that a lot of the time you’re left hanging and looking for the punchline, but when you do get the punchline it’s like a tombstone piledriver into your brain’s funny button. Laughter is the closest I have to drugs or booze (both of which I am not a consumer of, because I have the physical resilience of a parakeet, and some sort of trigger happy part of the brain that loves migraines.)

And contextually, memes seem to be a response to what you could argue is an overly rational, efficiency-driven world. They are not efficient, because most of them aren’t even that great. But goodness me, if there ever was a pure representation of quantity breeding quality, memes are it. Millions of independent artists celebrating nonsense through the art of replicated popular culture as seen through low resolution PNG files posted through your three-generations-ago phone. You just gotta fucking love it.

So today’s note of hope – and the last one for this week – is around humour. Nonsense. Total absurdity. Finding sources for these things, embracing them, not feeling guilty about it. The world’s pretty shit right now, and there’s so much we can’t do about it apart from staying in, so consider this another tactic to stay sane. You don’t need to do it all the time, but it’s there when you need it. The funnies are reliable like that.

In simpler terms: when things get rough, be more Dada.

To finish off, I thought I’d share a few interesting memes – or just, you know, funny content – that made me chortle this week. Some are related to where we are, some are just evergreen enough to cut through anyway. Ready? Feast your brains:

Got memes or funny stuff of your own to exchange? Hit me up!

Stay safe – and sane. 😘


PS: See you on Twitter and LinkedIn. Have a relaxed weekend!

🚀 Share the hope

If you liked this, please share it with a smart friend.

If someone sent you this, you can subscribe here.

Salmon Theory is a philosophy newsletter for smart and hopeful minds.