Ok, the inspiration for this post stems from the cult classic Snow Crash (Stephenson, 1992), so most of you may have already encountered this stuff.
It goes like this, more or less:
The Sumerians developed a set of rules and regulations called me that encompassed every aspect of life, belief, technology, behaviour and human conditions. They were early code, memes codified for human perusal and to pass themselves on. It was an attempt to neurolinguistically program a whole population. They were of utmost social importance and every aspect of Sumerian social life was regulated by them. E.g. the baker was required to go to the temple (where the scripts, or whatever they were [Klein, 1997; Emelianov, 2003], were placed in the custody of the god Enki, inventor of civilization) and obtain a me (a meme, or more properly a set of memes) for bakery. That particular me included instruction on how, when, where to perform his craft.
Worship, state, sex, every aspect of Sumerian life were treated similarly.
The gods of their mythology waged wars in order to conquer and possess the most me, stealing them from each other. The god (king?) with the most me was then able to aggregate (we’re talking politically, but those guys weren’t for the separation of church and state) a larger number of Sumers under his or her aegis.
Inanna, owning 50 ME’s, reminds Ningirsu from Gudea Cylinders: she is a deity of war to whom her father Enlil gives 50 ME’s. It is curious that Inanna of the Old Sumerian texts has a sufficient number of ME’s to win and unite neighbouring countries. Such state of affairs contradicts sharply the data of later written hymns in which Inanna complains about the shortage of ME’s and even takes them from her father («Enki and the World Order», «Inanna and Enki»). Also we do not find here any mention of travels with ME’s or journeys for them. (Emelianov, 2003)
One could infer that me were the weapons of mass destructions of their age, when communication was practically inexistent and regression to a primitive life very easy, if the hinges of social life cracked.
Now, we can say that the Sumerians were a totally different culture from those of today (we’re talking about 3/4000 years BCE), that their social interactions were embryonic although rigidly codified, or we can say that nothing has really changed at all…