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Ohmy.At last I managed to read through all of this (your diary and the comments). My head is overflowing with thoughts. And I agree with so much even in debating comments. Which means I'll and be able to comment only on a few things and be incoherent in that.

First, I have some misgivings because of reality, because of that faqlling tree. Myths may govern even our perceptions, but that doesn't mean myths are the sole mover of our perceived universe. If copper runs out or a 5-km asteroid strikes, then we are fucked no matter what mythology we are using - the mythology may make it worse (say the particular version of Athanasian Christianity propagated by the forces behind Theodosius blamed a plague on immorality, and proceeded to accelerate the internal disintegration of the Roman Empire) or mitigate it (say Christian aid workers doing disaster relief), but there is an outside effect nevertheless that is not in our direct influence.

Hence, saying that the new mythology is reality-based is not enough for me, especially if you felt important to require it to be centre-left (<-which in itself is bowing down to a mythology, one of political classification, I note). The new mythology will fail no matter what, even if it has as much power to get people deny reality as the current marketism, if it gives up too much reality. Or, you could say it in another framing: this could be the Achilles heel of the whole project, this idea of moderation could result in a failure at the very task of setting up a really independent mythology.

This moves me to another messy point. I think the broadly understood hard left is already ahead of the curve in the project you set out, partly by morphing and updating the older (Marxist) mythology. But the centre of this process may no longer lie in Europe and North America: it may be that we more should look at South America at how to turn leftism into a ruling mythology and a mass movement again, not tinker on with what we have from scratch.

A last convoluted point; the reality issue doesn't just meant to me that we should tell and 'predict' the right things - but also that from the start, the aim shan't be just to re-take the discourse and change minds. Also action. Whether it's going out for a protest, aid work, consumer choice, fitting out your home, support strikes, travel choices. Take clues (in different fields) from DeAnander and Ritter. (Even if one doesn't believe a single action saves the world, as if you live as you preach, that's good rhetoric too.)

Finally, though by experience I am not good at creating buzzwords, some scant contributions:

  • In the turn-theirs-inside-out mythology, let's talk about a country like a company, and as those do on their balance sheets, add depreciation to GDP. Depreciation of natural reserves, reduction of resource stocks, reduction of health and so on.
  • In the same mythology: holding down wages removes the incentive to produce more & better.
  • Again the turn-theirs-inside-out mythology: the State is inefficient - and least efficient in privatisation.
  • For our own mythology: Do you want to secure a better life for your children than yours? So do the rich & powerful. If we let them have more success at it, we'll have ever less success at it.
  • Paying foreign aid and integration of immigrants is expensive. Fighting illegal immigration is even more expensive - but futile.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 02:01:13 PM EST
Great point and great summary.

But of course, there is the question of reality and myth.  You see them as some kind different things. My take is that, in a very broad sense, reality is myth. The construction of reality is purely mythical. Science is mainly mythical.

We may have different approaches on that, and we can see the wolrd different dodo, but I think we can reach basically the same conclusion. I can say that it is important that our myths should have a lot of the rational myth, that we should use them as a powerful aweapon. You can say that the fact tat at the end of the day "reality" is here will show us the prope way. I woudl also like a good content of other myths, not necessarily related to rarionality. The fact that it is not related with science  does not mean that it is not real (in the sense I use the word).

So, basically, I think like you that a good deal of our myths should be based on the power of rationality. That our myth on economics should be based in a perfect mixture of a scientific narrative and spiritual narrative. And I think both should be perfectly comprehensible , and complementary (like ying and yang).

Ragarding attacking their turf, the power of using a more rational mind on economics, well...as you think it is the way to go....

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 07:38:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My take is that, in a very broad sense, reality is myth. The construction of reality is purely mythical. Science is mainly mythical.

No, reality is real. Interpretations of reality are mythical.

Which is why you can tell that some interpretations are more reliable and consistent than others. If I lose a tooth as an adult and put it under my pillow, I won't find it replaced with money in the morning, no matter how convinced I am that the tooth fairy exists. For an adult, a tooth fairy myth is wrong, and not realistic.

The difference is easy enough to see with a trivial example. But it's much harder with a myth like - Once Again The EU Heroically Opposes the US. Or - Liberal Reform is Economically Good.  

My take on it is that myth and narrative are almost synonymous. If you control the narratives that people use, you control their world view. This is almost obvious, but it's not until you start to realise just how incredibly dominant nonsensical narratives are that you realise how big a problem it is.

And myth is just narrative with a supernatural, metaphysical, or abstract element that pretends to be inevitable and impossible to argue with. Functionally, all you're doing with the metaphysics is making your narrative more memorable and persuasive. This works fantastically well. But I don't think there's a lot more to it than that.

One thing that's not so well known about narrative is that it moralises. It's the most important and powerful way that human primates perpetuate values and enforce codes of behaviour. When you get annoyed by an op-ed in the Economist, it's because the author is trying to foist their neo-liberal morality on you. They may also be factually wrong, but the real anger comes from being told you should be living your life according to someone else's beliefs about how you should behave.

Worse, realism isn't what gives narratives their power. What does that is presentation - the correct delivery, supported by signifiers of dominance, aggression and high social status, and personal emotional appeal, is more likely to be convincing than a narrative based on factual accurate predictive argument.

So it's almost true that myths create reality. But not quite. What creates narrative reality is the signification of status and dominance in social relationships. The narrative details aren't nearly as important as the relationships they can be used to promote.

So there's the fist, and there's the glove - the story you tell that disguises the naked power of the fist. If you can condition people to respond to the glove, it's enough to imply the fist. If you can make your story say 'God says...' or 'Markets want...' or 'Destiny and history prove...', well, that works well too.

But reality is still out there, and it's not a good idea to assume that just because it doesn't have a glove it doesn't matter. Because reality always has the biggest fist of all, and it's really, really smart to get along with it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 09:58:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
myth and narrative are almost synonymous.

Perhaps, but if I were to nitpick I would say that in "Once Again The EU Heroically Opposes the US", we're talking about a hero myth, but that "Once Again The EU Heroically Opposes the US" is a narrative. The myth foreshadows, almost predetermines the narrative -- but different narratives may use the same myth, as in "Once Again the US presses Heroically on in spite of Cowardly, Appeasing Europe".

And myth is just narrative with a supernatural, metaphysical, or abstract element that pretends to be inevitable and impossible to argue with.

Given what I've just said, you won't be surprised that I disagree. Narrative based on a myth or myths may have a pretension to inevitability, as in the Last Days or the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (which are perhaps based on End-of-History myths (?)), but they don't have to be.

Worse, realism isn't what gives narratives their power. What does that is presentation - the correct delivery, supported by signifiers of dominance, aggression and high social status, and personal emotional appeal, is more likely to be convincing than a narrative based on factual accurate predictive argument.

  1. Realism : I agree on this as narrative style. Later you give more detail with "factual predictive argument". By no means should a myth or fundamental narrative be factual and predictive. Predictive, at this level, is like "We Will all go to Heaven" or "a Cargo Ship Will Come", in other words, quasi-religious. At another level of discourse, however, factual, predictive -- rational, scientific -- methods will be necessary, see our discussion above with brunoken

  2. Can you say more about "delivery", "signifiers of dominance, aggression and high social status" and "emotional appeal" since you seem to have some fairly clear ideas there?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 09:14:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We are reading form the same playbook.

Your position is my position. But I do not think the outcome proposal would be very differnt taking our aproach to the subject and Dodo's approach.

At the end is all about a set of myths and genral narratives. Narratives would use a good network of other myhts. Among them, factual predictions will play a very basic and important role. But there will not only be factual predictions. Narratives should be compelling, well-though, self-explanatory and with any kind of "myth".

Dodo: I have also notice that you relate myth with something abstract or weird external forces. These were the Greeks myths which used these kind of narrative to construct their myths. But this is a too narrow definition for myth. Myts is any general structure of symbolic elements (narratives, concepts, ideas, tales, other myths) which are linked among them to explain all or a very broad aspect of our world. The construction of the reality is also mythical. What our mind focus on, what we look for,... in the West we focus in factual predictions, in most other cultures this is irrelevant, this does not explain the world...it only explains a small set and mostly irrelevant part of the world.

In your example: Ok, yes this asteroid is gonna hit us because there are certain laws of physics, gravitation and the orbit.... Most cultures and most people do not give Shi* about that. The question is why this particuar asteroid with these laws happened to have the exact trajectory needed to hit the Earth.

Our answer is chance...any of the cultures would laugh at this stupid and first-grade interpretation. You may say that they need to beleive in foreign entitities. Not necessay, the explanations using God are only a small fraction of the explanations.
There are a lot of explanation for what really matters for a ot of people: Why?
Luckily we agree that we can not leave all these people that are worried more about the mythical Why? just because they do not focus as much as we do on the mythical How?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 10:13:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we can not leave all these people that are worried more about the mythical Why? just because they do not focus as much as we do on the mythical How?

That's so important that I double-framed it!!!

From brunoken above :

we need to make it theoretically compelling: it has got to make sense for Joe and Jane Main Street, and it has to help them make sense out of their own real-world experiences.

A mythical narrative must reveal, and to do so it must first address the question Why?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 12:59:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo: I have also notice that you relate myth with something abstract or weird external forces.

Not at all, I used it in your (the broadest) sense. But your mythology of closet-positivist (ex)scientists made you understand my lines as a reference to the myth of rationality :-)

Without recapitulating my long reply below, regarding the asteroid strike, this would mean: whether we blame Sky Pixies or Gravity or The Wrath Of God, if say we could predict where it will strike and when in advance, our mythology will be strong, On the other hand, if we erect a mythology saying that Asteroids Will Burn Completely in The Atmosphere/Chief Sky Pixie Kicks Asteroids Back Into Space/ God Wouldn't Do That, He Loves Us, then not only will the asteroid fry our asses but the mythology will be brought down. (At least in its orignal form - then again, I woulnd't think that a modified version likely to emerge after such a 'test' would make it worth to even strive to build a mythology in the first place...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 12:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't really wanted to wax philosophical, but as you moved in that direction, and both you and DeAnander seem to have mis-understood what I meant, I have to :-)

I am fully aware that any conscious perception of reality (even a formless flash of light) is a processed product of our mind, built upon what we could call myths (and I shall use your language from now on). But the theory of a conceptual universe made up of myths in human minds is such a myth itself, rather than a universal reference frame. While it does away with (or steps behind) a lot of a priori assumptions, it keeps some beyond a soliptistic (my-mind-exists) zero reference frame: the existence of other minds than mine.

Now, I can't see into other minds, I do not know them, I have assumptions based on perceptions. I may believe that that cashier's slow reaction is contempt for me, that my girlfriend is ever faithful to me, that Bush means what he says when talking of Freedom, and so on. All of these are hypotheses, based on my own myths about how people think and what they can feel and how they express themselves - plus an underlying assumption that all these sensory sensations correspond to thingies called "people" who can have these attributes.

But we could do the same with non-human reality. This is more basic than the-myth-of-rationality, just as our perception of other people and their thoughts doesn't presuppose such an approach: merely the acknowledgement of further agents in action, not their understanding. So what bothers me is that the conceptual-universe-made-of-myths myth only assumes interacting minds, giving a neatly self-enclosed system, in which (moving to the more practical) perception management is the only, not one of the things politics is about.

So my point was not that our mythology-to-be be based on the power of rationality (and I suspect that DeAnander read the same into my words only after reading you). I absolutely don't dispute that the power should come from the power of mythologies, giving purpose, simplicity of buzzwords and so on. It was something more basic, it is that we should concern ourselves with the 'external' agents at the stage of myth-building. (For the practicalities of that task, of course the rationality-myth lends itself, but this was only implicit in what I wrote.)

I wouldn't have brought up this if not for your argument about of hard/centre-left. To be even more practical, for example I would consider it both a worthless and ultimately doomed project if the New Left Mythology would say only something like, Drive Diesel & We're Saved From Peak oil & Global Warming, because it feels better or feels confortably 'moderate'. [I hope I got DeAnander with that!]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 12:36:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we should concern ourselves with the 'external' agents at the stage of myth-building.

Agreed, and this is what I understand brunoken, ThatBritGuy, and I were saying above.

As you point out in your asteroid example just above, there are mythologies that work insofar as they satisfy people by their explanation of Why? and also may offer hope, reassurance, etc, but that will not stand the test of the asteroid that strikes (or the revolution that doesn't work, to bring things into the political sphere). We are not out to build that kind of myth.

We do have tools (myth-based perhaps, but efficient) with which to describe and predict what is happening (and if "happening" is a solipsistic illusion, I don't care, since I'm going to go on doing what I'm doing anyway ;)) and we should use them. Our interest is in a compelling narrative, not one that takes advantage of people's gullibility and/or distress.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 02:50:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm addressing this to all three in response to your posts, which concern the notion of reality v myth.

I was going to write a comment, but I see brunoken has put up a double-headed diary on "reality-based mythology" and I think I'm going to look at that before continuing.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 09:28:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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