Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Mata Hari Meme

Sarah Lewison hit onto something with her idea of the "Mata Hari syndrome", in which she compared Mata Hari to a virus inoculated into the European society of her time. It was, clearly, a highly infectious virus and its effects are still felt, nowadays. In more recent terms, we could say that Mata Hari was a powerful meme. She expressed trends which were taking shape during her time: exotism, oriental religions, female power and much more.

Here is an excerpt of the text by Lewison that you can find on "carbonfarm"

The attractions of Mata Hari consist of unaligned components, each a symptom of the time. Narcissism meets a rudimentary familiarity with exotic religion, flows into a fascination for difference, courses through the salon of a retired opera singer, and washes up in numerous bedchambers. She takes advantage of opportunities the way a parasite infests a host, feeding her enormous appetite for popular trends, and she becomes very big, big, enough that she can host her own soirees. A courtesan is also a hostesse

But we are not finished with the metaphor of river or wash. An underground tributary forms from love juices and coins and trinkets which tumble down, down, through beds covered with the flags of hostile nations. Deep underground, they form a nourishing microbial soup, which sustains her, soup that is also a trap, a quicksand waiting for the wash-up of her career. The microbial soup, a syndrome in itself, becomes infested as a current ofparanoia, preferences and dire circumstances run together. Like an organism, she has generated a process, which must fulfill its own life cycle.

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