I am constitutionally vulnerable to jingles, tunes, and all things catchy. Among the jingles that seem to be permanently stuck in my head are:
The jingles in my head were put there intentionally, but not by me. As everyone knows, marketers exploit the human disposition to remember and repeat songs, phrases, and ideas that have certain psychologically appealing properties. As far as marketing techniques go, jingles are fairly innocuous. Still, I think jingles of this kind affect our wellbeing in pernicious ways.
Think about what the world would be like without all the catchy tunes that advertisers and their ilk impose upon us. For one, I wouldn’t be doing things like singing about Safe Auto or dollops of Daisy in the shower. Moreover, you and I wouldn't share a lot of the trivial common ground that we now do. For instance, you wouldn’t be able to complete phrases like “Break me off a piece of that…” or “The best part of waking up is Folgers…” if I started singing them.
In my opinion, this would be for the better. There is something offensive about the fact that so many of our shibboleths are effectively meaningless babble with no positive aesthetic value. If you and I must repeat the lyrics of tunes over and over again to ourselves, if such tunes are going to be part of what characterizes the flavor of our communal life, then shouldn’t they mean something? Shouldn’t they be beautiful or somehow choiceworthy? All else being equal, it seems to me that our lives would be better if our minds and common ground were not polluted by junk.
Maybe junk is unavoidable. Much of our junk is the product of capitalist mechanisms and so is contingent upon a particular type of society, but maybe worthless songs and phrases that stick to the mind like lint sticks to Velcro arise in every type of society. Yet one sometimes gets the impression when reading texts from other times and places that the minds of past peoples were crammed with more worthwhile things than our own. For example, the Greeks seemed to talk to one another as if they all had Homer and Hesiod rattling around in their heads. Consider just one instance. In The Apology when Socrates is snidely noting that he will not use his family to garner sympathy in the courtroom where he is on trial, he sneaks in a quote from Homer, almost as if it were a jingle flowing effortlessly off the tip of his tongue:
“…I too have relatives, for I am, as Homer has it, ‘not born of an oak or a rock,’ but of human parents, so that I have relatives and, men of Athens, I have three sons, one nearly grown up, and two still children; but nevertheless I shall not bring any of them here and beg you to acquit me.”
Through my rose-colored glasses, the (apparent) suffusion of the work of poets and mythmakers into Greek thought and common ground is enviable compared to the suffusion of empty tunes and phrases that characterizes the society we live in. Indeed, there’s some significant unluckiness in having been born into a situation wherein one has to resist the ridiculous compulsion to ask others what they would do for a Klondike bar.
 This one is especially puzzling, since I can’t recall ever even watching the show all the way through.
 As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, ideas that are propagated through cultures can be thought of us as replicators that are analogous to genes. Dawkins coined the term ‘memes’ for these cultural replicators. Memes “replicate themselves” via communication and imitation. Just like genes, memes can change over time in heritable ways, and the environments in which memes replicate (i.e. human cultures) are such that some heritable variations give some memes a replicative advantage over others, which is all that is needed for natural selection to occur (Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, ch. 11). According to this framework, a successful marketer, much like a successful proselytizer or demagogue, is good at creating memes with properties that promote prolific and fidelitous replication. I find this way of looking at things simultaneously unsettling and true to my own experience, inundated as my head seems to be with all sorts of noxious little replicating parasites.
 Plato, The Apology 34d, trans. Harold Fowler
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