Sunday, May 19, 2024

Darmok and Jalad on the road.

The problem with memes is that everyone who sees them needs to speak the same language. 

I was reminded of this yesterday, when I shared two memes on Facebook. One hit its mark with almost all of my friends; with the other, I inadvertently started a fight. 

Let me back up and explain why I didn't write a post last weekend: I was visiting friends in California. They live near Temecula, which is inland from the coast. It wasn't my first trip to the state (naturally, as I nailed all 50 states several years ago), but it was my first time in this part of the state. We saw a bunch of stuff and had a fine time. 

Harveston Lake Park, Temecula, CA | Lynne Cantwell 2024

Joshua Tree National Park, CA | Lynne Cantwell 2024

La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA | Lynne Cantwell 2024
California is a big, beautiful state. There are big cities and rural areas, mountains and deserts and the Pacific Ocean. But because it is so big, to experience it, you pretty much have to spend a lot of time on the road -- and as in big cities all over the world, if you're driving, you're going to be in heavy traffic. 

I mean, I lived near DC for more than 30 years. One thing I don't miss about it is the traffic. I once met a woman who always brought a knitting project along when she drove herself to work, so she could work on the socks or whatever when she was stuck in traffic.

So anyway, after I got back to Santa Fe, where heavy traffic means waiting through an extra light cycle to make a left, I happened to see this meme. 
Stolen from somebody on Facebook
It made me laugh, so I shared it. 

Then all hell broke loose. The Californians, insulted, were like, "Not all of California!" The Texans were like, "Parts of Texas look like that photo of California!" The New Mexicans didn't say anything (I presume they were chuckling to themselves).

Let's pause here and talk about the other meme I mentioned. It's the one where Pooh and Piglet are having a conversation -- except in this version, Piglet says, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra," and Pooh replies, "Shaka, when the walls fell." The dialogue comes from my very favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Picard and crew make first contact with a civilization that communicates only in metaphor. The phrases encapsulate the culture's allegorical myths; for example, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" refers to a story about two enemies who teamed up to fight a mutual enemy and, through that experience, became friends. But you have to know the myth to get the meaning.

Now back to the driving meme. Part of the reason I thought it was funny was that it sums up some New Mexicans' (and some Coloradans') view of both Californians and Texans: that they're carpetbaggers who escape the high cost of living in their home states by moving to other states, thereby driving up prices for housing and everything else. In reality, lots of factors go into rising prices, including corporate greed, but if you're looking for an excuse for why X is suddenly so expensive, people are suddenly so rude, traffic is suddenly so horrible, and so on, new arrivals are an easy target.

Of course, as a (relatively) new arrival to New Mexico myself, I'm aware that I'm part of the "problem". Self-awareness is important, I think. So is agreeing with the locals to blend in, right?

Anyway. To me, the driving meme sums up the stereotypical views of the three states held by New Mexicans: California might be pretty, but the traffic is horrible; Texas is miles and miles of nothing at all; and New Mexico has no traffic and beautiful scenery. Therefore, New Mexico is best.

To get the meme, you have to know the myth.

Besides stirring up trouble on social media, I've been putting up new tile in my kitchen this week. It took me longer than I expected (every home improvement project takes longer than you expect...) and still needs to be grouted. So I'll share photos next week.

These moments of communicative blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Peace to all -- or as a Tamarian would say, "Temba, his arms wide."


sflorio said...

That is a memorable Star Trek episode. I believe it is considered one of the series' best.

Viola said...

When I first moved to AR, I stopped at a stop sign there where five cars 🚗 in front and the first thought that ran through my mind was I'll never get there, then I realized that that it wasn't 15 or 20 cars like in Ill.

Lynne Cantwell said...

You're right -- it is considered one of the best episodes of the series.

In fact, I saw a comment by a blogger on a random sci-fi fansite that claimed it was a terrible episode. Apparently the blogger was virtually shouted down by people who knew better, lol.

Lynne Cantwell said...

Viola - LOL! Some people here say they never come to downtown Santa Fe because the traffic around the plaza is "so bad". I just laugh at them. In DC, you can sit on a side street for 15-20 minutes, just trying to turn onto a cross-street where the traffic is at a standstill...