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You really want to fight back? Manifesto

by kcurie Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 02:57:52 PM EST

This week has seen in ET and Kos a good deal of writing and effort to discuss the situation the left-wing policies are facing in the US and most of Europe. We are not heard, we do not know how to fight, TV is killing us, we have to develop a new medium, they are building and financing think tanks in Europe. Jerome has made a superb effort to deconstruct the assumptions and the conventional wisdom that the elites digest. But the most important gun they have is not the think tank, or the media...what they have and we do not have is a MYTH.

I think that nobody can doubt now how powerful myths are. Myths, in the anthropological sense, is a whole narrative that explains the world.. and this is what the right has, a myth to explain the economic world where the policies that are ruining our economy in the medium term (and making some people mega-uber rich in the meantime) come naturally. Their myths is very powerful because it explains everything. It has been worked out using billions of dollars in great think tanks and Academia. If you really want to know more about myths..well Levi-Strauss is the way to go.

The question here is...what can the left do? This is a diary to sum up what I think are the most relevant points made in the blogs and some new points coming from a personal perspective (where physics and maths are mixed with basic anthropology). Some of them are already conventional wisdom in ET and in the US left. I would just try to clarify why they are so important. Others will sound crazy to you...Good, excellent...we can discuss them.

Follow me if you want to know how to change the world..."Of course a small group of dedicated people can change the world. Actually I do not know of any other way" (M.M.)

Back from the front page


First thing you must know is the answer to the following question: there is sound if a tree falls and there is no one around it? well, you should know the answer by now. It is NO, a big NO. If a democrat stands up and fights and nobody reports it, it just plainly did not happen. If there is a narrative about democrats not fighting back and there is no one reporting when a democrat fights back, there will never be a change of narrative.

So, if you do not have a media that reports you are doomed. And when I say report , I mean taking the general narrative of the left in this particular piece of information. You know is not the same "Half a million people demonstrate for illegal aliens among violent riots" than "Half a million people demonstrate for immigrants rights among strong social bonds". And this is why the US has much more problems to develop a left-wing message than Europe. In Europe there is indeed media that would report and listen to our interpretation of the reporting. We just need to create the proper myth and expand the means to spread it. Unfortunately US has none of them. It is extremely hard to find any reporting in US, but there is something worse, there is no mainstream media that would listen or promote and alternative symbolic universe or narrative than the right-wing one.

Everything in the US is read along the lines of reform, efficiency, individual freedom, moral values...and as one of the best comments I have seen around said: "they actually do not mean anything but you know where they are coming from". Of course, reform could be about improving the relation of wage and work, but it will never be. Of course, efficiency could mean to have meetings between workers and management about how to best improve the future of the company, but it will never be. Of course, moral values could mean no one in the world without food and shelter, but it will never be. Why? Because the myth behind has nothing to do with the narrative we would like to associate this concepts with.

Here is what the US needs in the media landscape:

US:

-Air America radio in 600 stations all across the country.
-Pacifica radio in more than 200 station in all main cities
-The blog community joining efforts to produce fairly constant new video and radio material.
-CNN or MSNBC being bought by a left-wing group  and transformed in a left-wing media
-The other channel news network transformed in a "balanced" news outcast. Fox must remain as it is.
-On of the three big (ABC , NBC or CBS) bought by new owners and give a social-democrat slant to the economic news. This same one should increase the level of reporting covering all left-wing activities.
-New ventures like A. Gore to make people generate the material on TV.
-An international channel paid by subscribers (Like INN) to cover all world events.
-Facilitate the entrance of BBC and other independent outlets in the US.
-A chain of small left-wing papers in small cities of rural America.

It is quite a  lot , isn't it. Well this is what you need to have a level playing field. The big newspapers can go on as they are.

And here what Europe needs  

-We need the equivalent of the PRISA group in Spain in every single country. In Spain, beside the standard left-wing outlets, they have a conglomerate of radio stations and one TV station which is mainly partisan and exactly on the center-left (never a conglomerate on the hard left, never, it is a bad idea). Some of the countries do not have this structure: Italy,  Germany and Poland are good examples. The situation of France is more cumbersome.
-We need a world alternative news outlet like the future INN

In Europe our work is actually much more easy. Fortunately in Europe the newspaper landscape is already balanced. Fortunately there are already independent left-wing outlets. Unfortunately some countries lack a center-of-left  TV and radio chain.

Well, maybe you would like to know the reasons of the above mentioned items. Well, I think some of them are conventional wisdom. What is not conventional wisdom is that until we do not get ALL of them most of our efforts will be diluted. It does not matter to have Air America if you do not have one channel news network to receive your input. It does not matter to have one channel medium if you do not have an international news with aid from the audience. Why? It is a little more complicated than synergy, and also more complicated that the pure Left-Wing noise machine. It is the multiple source phenomena of validation, which includes all the above and much more. Before going into it, let me add here that once you have two or three of the items in place, the rest will be much  more easy to achieve (I would go for Air America, news TV channel and INN as the first steps..the rest will come easier then)

What do we need the media for? This will explain why we need exactly the above-mentioned list.

To understand why we need this media you have to make yourself a question: watching TV makes you stupid or people that watch TV are already stupid... or in other terms, was Hitler so powerful because he and GBL knew how to manipulate the masses, or was the German people who empowered Hitler because he said exactly what German wanted to hear at that time. This is the key question. If you think TV can manipulate, then you need to control all TV because the one that controls TV controls the political landscape. If you think TV does not affect people (you are already a right-wing if you watch FOX News) you just have to look for the places where the political symbolic universe of a person is created.

This is a vital anthropological concept that I do not understand how the left fails to get it. It is not frames. Frames is about winning a debate. The question is, how come these two guys that discuss (using the proper frames if they want to spread their message) came to have the political ideas that they have? Answer this properly and then you know what to do. The question is where a symbolic political universe is created. Where the political description of the world is obtained.

Anthropological answer: You can only think in mythical terms. As much as you dislike it (maybe, not me), you can not create your own symbolic universe, you just take one of those out there and adapt it to your own necessities, vital experience, family, past.. For example, if you like science is because you like the myth of rationality, you think ration makes people better and this world better. If the rational myth would not be there..well there would be no science whatsoever. In the same way, you can believe the myth of progress or not believe it. You can believe that having rich and poor people is disgusting or just plainly normal... you can believe in social darwinism or just plainly hate it. How and when you decide which myths fit you, which ones you hate? How do you construct your symbolic political universe? How do you establish the links that connect the dots. And when do you decide how much you care, this is, how many myths are going to be important for you, and which ones wont? This is the difference between someone willing to fight for a cause and someone who would only vote for a cause. Between someone who would look for information about the world at any cost and someone who would just sit on TV avoiding political news.

So here is my answer.

I would say that for most people political perception and its symbolism are created in other areas and that TV can only, listened and watched at the proper time, reinforce one of the options. Once the symbolism is fixed, TV is useless for changing minds. It is only useful for pandering the base, create a noise machine and, if you control it broadly, set the terms of what "can be thought" (it can not control the limits of the debate because you already have your universe) by means of narrative.

That said, there is always roughly 10-20 % (maybe 30% in the US) of subjects extremely affected by the latest general political perception. They are people who are mildly into politics but not strongly. They normally have a very strong feeling about some subject outside politics running their life but they do care about the general political situation in fuzzy terms because of their relational role in the society (imagine a housewife going suddenly to work for the administration, or a taxi driver listening to the radio all the time). Unfortunately this is a percentage that can easily swing an election. The main goal of the right-wing is to increase this ratio by whatever means. The goal of the left-wing should be to diminish this ratio by whatever means.

But it also needs to enhance the symbolic resources to generate supporters when and where it matters...and this is out of TV....in high school years. Yes, it is there.. from 14 to 20 that your political symbolic universe is created independently.. meaning you can have strong swings (do not tell anybody since only the right-wingers are supposed to know and use it to generate disconnecting universes, people that would never get into politics) while earlier the political universe is non-existent or strongly fixed (yes you can be 12 and have a very strong political universe... but do not say that to anyone since children are supposed to be stupid). After 20 you can only change your political universe through the process called "enlightenment". Interesting process that would need another diary and one of the reason why right-wing invested so  much in radio during the 80´s: it was their only way out at that time. They needed converts and pandering the base, and only radio can do both at the same time.

As you see, we need the TV and the media for different things:

-First, pander to the base, tell those that already have your political vision that  they are not alone.
-Second, try to affect the political perception of those which have not a fixed  political universe but it is still a "rewarding" universe. In other words, convincing the swing voter... but the real swing voter. The swing voters ARE NOT, and I repeat, they ARE NOT those in the middle of the present political spectrum. Armando in Kos has been very clear on that (although he never gave a general framework and only political framework for the 2006 elections, the truth is that what he says is universally valid). Those swing voters are those who do not have a strong structured symbolism, they do not care about not having it but they are nevertheless formally interested. At the present time they can be right-wing, left-wing or center, it does not matter. They would vote according to the general perception they have of the media.
-Third, be a vehicle for the transmission of a mythology, so that whenever someone acquires it in any other place it can have the reinforcement effect of telling them that it is not a fringe universe...being fringe is a very powerful tool to discredit...but this is another topic. And TV is as good place as any other to market myths.. so if you give enough different material they can even take it.
-Fourth, discredit the right-wing political symbolism to move the general spectrum. When what it once was right-wing becomes center what was left becomes fringe left....and nobody considers it seriously anymore.
-Fifth, and this the less important. Use frames to convince already political motivated people. Once in a  while you get the phenomena of "transformation-enlightenment"...Anybody interested in "how I was ditto-head and I saw the light" book (or confession of a ditto-head)...enlightment processes are important. Unfortunately there are not enough. No importnt for us except for knowing better the cracks on their system. In any case, to get these conversion, radio is a better place than TV. Actually radio alone is enough (this is why Air America Radio is a win-win strategy)

So, this is why you need the media for. Now, it is clear why you need all the media at the same time. You can not do everything with one media outlet. You need two or three to pander the base and not be a fringe. But you need a couple of mainstream stations that take seriously your cues so that other people do not see you as fringe. You need the different connections between the different media to create a myth and spread it. And finally, you need different slightly versions of the same myth out there to fit better the different approaches to politics.

It is time to go for the role of think tanks and blogs. We do not need a highly structured set of thinks tanks, but we need some of them.  And, of course, we need blogs.
Blogs is a medium but it is also a place to discuss and create the mythology. We can push others to change the media landscape, and we must do our part. But the main tools the blogs have are participation and socialization.  We need blogs to discuss how we construct our  myths and how to kill theirs. But we also need blogs to create social bonds. We need to connect with those fixing their political universe.

Fortunately this is what Kos is getting. Blogs are for discussion as a gathering place but they are not powerful in the sense that they can no spread the myths created farther away from the core. He is right about that. He is not right about the influence of socialization. In Kos' analysis of attending mass demonstration you can see this fundamental flaw: He thinks you go to a demonstration to defend a  cause. No... you go to a demonstration to be with others. This is what makes demonstration successful or not. It is not about what the media in the US says (no way they are going to cover it properly) but about the bond you create. Notice the success of the immigrant rallies? The anti-war demonstrations in Europe? We did not go with our pet subjects. .we went to join others. Blogs is probably not the best place to generate a demonstration but it is the perfect place to make/create other social gatherings. It is very difficult to invite someone on line. It is so easy to invite someone to a party. Kos , Booman ET are not (or only or mainly) about  parties. They have to generate their own brand of gathering. The only problem Nomad notices is that "not making" a party is even easier.

So blogs can change the future in many ways, the best one is to socialize people without fixed political universe and the second best is by creating a better mythology that their mythology thanks to common interaction.

Here is where think tanks come to play. We need only a couple of them, not a lot, because we only need coordination.  A couple of think tanks are enough to coordinate and polish the different myths coming form the roots. The roots is the perfect place to discuss them, because we immediately feel by common interaction what it is going to work. A cracking idea is immediately accepted by a good deal of slightly different symbolic universes. A think tank needs to find and prepare the people that would better deliver them in the media. Frames and targets. One think tank to prepare people for debate. Another one to target the audiences that are the real SWING VOTERS. The same goes for political campaigns.

Now I finish it with a final note. You have to attack their symbolic universe using their symbolic universe and, at the same time, create your own alternative symbolic universe. Both. So we need so called "infiltrators" too. There MUST BE 2 myths proposals completely different (you have to know that the target audience is different)  coming from the roots. One with our own universe, one with them. About their universe.. it is very easy .. you have to turn the tables around. "The world economies are really stagnant , we need to improve efficiency and increase the dynamics of the economy.. it is therefore vital to INCREASE the minimal wage..." You should take care not to use claims that they could dismiss on their own terms as stupid or irrational...so I would go for minimal wage and improve the environment of investment PROTECTING SMALL COMPANIES AGAINST BIG COMPANIES. These are just two examples of using their symbolic universe.

Now, it is also vital to create ours...recall: explain all your narrative with small details, we have to create this narrative (our duty in the netroots), it is a history about something, a bad company, a bad investor, a poor child... and then conclude with a big concept (responsibility, common good, fair taxes, whatever).. over and over again, repeat it everywhere to everyone, send people on TV, radio.... Then you reach the "three lines" state, where our concepts become a manifesto in itself.. And from the general concept you go back to details (as Kos has said once and again, general principles first, then policies derive from it naturally, he forgot that you need a narrative before getting the three lines as a manifesto). You apply those simple principles to political decision only when you are asked. It turns out then that a subgroup of the contrary universe has exactly the same solutions as we have...and then we have OUR conventional wisdom. .not theirs....or even better, we have a compromise between our ideas and our slightly different ideas.

Display:
I think I'll go away and digest that ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:56:54 AM EST
I think you would hardly need to digest anything. Your first trial of building a set of concatenating concepts to build up a manifesto was great.

We just need to differentiate between their symbolism and ours. And of coure, we nee to develope a narrative for allt eh new concets. A narrative than can influnce and engage a huge number of people.

Two manifestos. One for the right-wing newspapers. Another for our base (to atract an engage people) and our future. One with a new vocabulary.

Actually, your effort, afew and jerome efforts push me to write this manifeto down.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 09:44:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you just wrote this manifesto down, I'm amazed. It's huge, kc. Yesterday on a thread I said we were inching towards the moment when we could create a new narrative, and here you've offered us a leap forward, thanks so much.

There are a great many points there that matter, and nothing I disagree with. Just to say that people fixing (or not quite fixing for some) the symbolic structure that will determine their political and social attitudes is not a process that occurs in a void. Children, teenagers, young adults, don't snatch myths out of thin air. The surrounding culture, the zeitgeist, have their effect, and the mass media play a more or less "activist" role. There are reinforcing feedback loops: to take the Hitler example, Hitler did manipulate German opinion, but he only reached a position to do so because he articulated with bizarre precision what Germans wanted to hear (mostly a result of a particular historical situation). The difference with today is that conventional wisdom about the power of economics and globalisation seems to me to have been more deliberately fabricated from the mid-seventies on. In other words, think tanks and media, with big money to back them, have trumped what used to be the zeitgeist. And now, those who are forming their symbolic universe are learning from... you guess. In other words, there's a lot to fight against...

Hmm. That's confused stuff... Perhaps something clearer later...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:28:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, it could not be clearer than that.

Absolutely right on the reinforcement effect of mass media. But the close local experiencesare is much more important than TV. Actully, what comes from HOllywood is much more importnat thtn what you find in the news.

So, the first reinforcer is friends and surrounding. Second are movies, TV series, myths in the  strict sense (and we have fair movies right now...all those hateful HOllywood liberal..you know why they attack them so much) and third the elite-news stablishment that you mention. that was precisely my point. Why they are importatn. You just eleaborated the point  hundred of times better than I could.

So Hitler at the beginning was only a puppet. Only later he could create the feedback..and still it was a feedback. Dead on.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:44:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hitler at the beginning was like a ventiloquist's dummy -- with a mind of his own. He was speaking the words that were coming to him, while he had his own intent. Which sharpened in focus and grew darker with the feedback of power he experienced. By which he then sharpened and darkened the desires of the people.

what comes from HOllywood is much more importnat thtn what you find in the news.

And how. (And I was thinking also of pop music and how it's created and what out of). OTOH, the TV news is also part of the story-telling world and the entertainment world. Just doesn't tell the same stories, that's all. Have you noticed how a TV news sequence in a movie is rarely convincing, because they just show them doing what they're supposed to do ie cover events, when the truth of the newscaster's profession is it's all about telling stories? (Exception no doubt for Wag The Dog, terrible librul movie... ;))

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 12:28:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The surrounding culture, the zeitgeist, have their effect, and the mass media play a more or less "activist" role. There are reinforcing feedback loops: to take the Hitler example, Hitler did manipulate German opinion, but he only reached a position to do so because he articulated with bizarre precision what Germans wanted to hear (mostly a result of a particular historical situation)

This really resonates for me as it describes the process I've seen time and time again. Suddenly an idea or meme, encapsulated in a simple phrase, will suddenly appear almost everywhere as the commonly accepted wisdom. to run counter to it would seem to go against what everyone "knows" is common sense.

During the Thatcher era, everybody knew "the economy was doing very well". Karl Rove is a master of enchantment at conjouring new climates of concensus as enablers for policy. He is the myth maker extraordinaire.

So, what are the constituents of an effective myth ?
Maybe an aspirational feelgood factor. People want to feel the choices they've made have been validated. It's why they prefer to vote for an obviously winning side.

Maybe there is an element of team-work, we are all in it together.

I dunno, I don't want to reach too far and lose the idea. Any others ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 12:29:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me use my language to describe what you perceive.

What K. Rove uses are not mtyhs: the myths are already there. What he does is to develop a particular sharp narrative with a strong concept behind that perfectly fits the myhtology or the large narrative.

I define general myth as something like: "reforming the economy is improtant because"..... the ideas of market  and reform are mythical ideas. Narrative is what comes afterward: If companies do not sell they can not sustain the workers, so we need our comapnies to be more competitive, otherwise they close and the economy becomes stagnant. SO here comes the narrative with a concept: competition.

A local narrative is something more restrict: when the media says that democrats do not stand for anything and repeat it.

SO Rove takes the general myth , knows it. He knows the general narratives surroudnign the basic myths out there and then develops a local narrative that fits perfectly, expands the general narrative and prevents other narratives from happening. Redoing this process hundredds of time reinforces the his narrative and makes the underlying myths almost unreachable.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 12:50:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A local narrative is something more restrict: when the media says that democrats do not stand for anything and repeat it.

It does help that it happens to be true. Sadly. I've given up wondering what it will take for them to stand up and cry "Enough !!" Feingold is trying but it is only the spinelessness of the rest that makes his rational resistance seem remarkable.

I half accept your point, but his weaving of themes also creates the mythology, concesual straw by concensual straw. He works with the grain of the American people, but he melds it into his own creature.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 01:06:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Half accept? What you said is exactly my point: Little by little he melds into its own creature. He works from what exists and fits something. This is what think tanks (you know all those right-wing G. Norquist gatherings?) on the right-wing do. Adapt the local narratives to react to paricualr events but also to change little by little the general narratives and the myths. The events require a hugely local arrative and little by little through aggregation of local events they can also change the general picture. You just said it better than me.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 01:27:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germans in 1938 had the same confusion. This is not rocket science.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 04:26:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok I've had time to head your diary, some good points and a lot of very good points.

I think the effort on vocabulary is vital.
It's important to start redefining things like "growth rate", which don't mean shit and are even detrimental both to our future and to this planet's future. "Economic progress", if that expression even makes sense, should never be expressed as a "growth rate". A child has a "growth rate". But a child stabilizes in height eventually. And this aspect is laking from our economic perspective. We do not need nor want to "grow" endlessly (which is impossible anyhow), we need to "grow" to a certain point and stabilize when we reach that point.

So how would we go about renaming the term, then? "Distance from objective"? "Remaining growth"? There has to be a way to positively and objectively redefine such a term.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:30:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a very important point because it does not fit nicely in the frameworks of our narrative versus their narrative.
But I would say that this is best done working on their territory and I would keep my propostition. Like a lot of threads are commented, new definitions in economics is something that the elite and media would take more seriously if they come form the economic world.

So I would say this a change in  he general narrative with the intention of changin slightly even the myth they have.
So working on their turf can be done at multiple levels. Your comment makes me remind about it...yes, dead on.

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 07:28:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The key problem with changing society is that those in control have economic and political power. The "people" are disorganized and are easily bought off by small bribes. So, for example, it is popular in the US for governments to enact nominal tax cuts (preferably in the form of a check to the voters) right before elections. Bush bribed the voters with $600.

The ruling class owns the media and has a vested interest in the status quo. How to reach and energize people is the issue. Notice that there have been few peaceful changes, that's why people still study the American, French and Russian revolutions.

The change in the Philippines and what is happening in South America may signal a new dynamic. I don't think the internet is, currently, up to the task...


Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:30:57 AM EST
As much as I hate it, I agree with you.

Internet is still not ready. It still has not its social branding to help int he political symbolic universe and it has not still creative a new narrative of the world.

But we have accomplished much. It is a gathering place, so we are not alone. we can push histories and anrratives. we are asking the part of the elite that thinks the present olicies are goingto hit us back that they should invest in media. And what kind of think tanks we need.

We have also been doing major inroad in getting to know their myhts and their cracks. Stem cell research in the US. Fair contracts-wages in Europe.

A lot to be done. This is why I wrote the manifesto.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:49:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our myth should be simple: we are only as rich as the poorest amongst us.

This fits in the myth of "getting richer", progress, moving forward, etc... (which we still have to reconcile with peak oil - that aspect hasn't been stressed yet).

It fits with our mania to rank everything. This time, you rank not the average income/wealth (or the sum for the country), but the average income/wealth for the bottom 20% - and that's the criteria we use to rate everything. We can tap in the mythology of cycling, and team competitions: the time of the team is the time of the last runner, not of the first or the average of all.

This can bring in the idea that we have to get out of the "armaments race" of having more stuff than the neighbor, and force us to focus on solidarity, and actual measures to help the poor - education, social services, etc...

We are only as strong as our weakest link.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:47:33 AM EST
this is an excellent point for our narrative. I think we should put the concept in our list becuase the narrative is already there. Colman somehow did it.

Weakiest link. Wonderful.

We will have to join the different pieces together in some kind of list of narratives (myths) and simple concepts that we should use.

I would take different simple myths. Not only one. Three or four maybe as the US right-wing?

Weakeat link, sustainible future...

other possibilities:
Any of the Colman first paragraph statement,
Strenght of team work (strength of cooperation in front of comeptition..), fairness (it needs a narrative, a  set of histories to explain it).

And of course, we have the big elephant in the room. Do we take the rich vs poor narrative of equality... do we try to change it? can we change it?

Plus, we probably need a new set of narratives to put in a new single concept never used before to add to the list.

Regarding how to attack their myths, you are already doing a great job. But we need our market efficiency myths too in another set ideas as I propose in the diary. You have written these ideas in different diaries related with different topics. Improtance of the minimum wage for efficiency. Improtance of state regulation for business growth...

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:23:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, kcurie. Looking forward to a synthesis of these ideas.
Me, I no longer believe in groups, only in what individuals can achieve, at their very own micro level, by the power of love and willingness to change a little something. Helping out in townships, bringing medical support to children, to the elderly, to AIDS victims in Africa and Asia, standing by the weakest.
Ideas can change the world, but only if they translate into action.
Let's leave our keyboards and go out there in the real world.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 06:49:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think everyone is cut for all of that, and everyone's potential impact is the same. I for example, when confronted to squat-level poverty, get either very angry or feel totally helpless, depending on my mood. Others who succeed in helping in such places may be emotionally bland. And there is also the issue of what you get out of it. There is always an agenda, and even if it's unconscious, it's there. What do we get out of travelling thousands of miles and sharing the living conditions of others?

Also, there are already very qualified local people in countries that welcome help. There is rarely a justified need to send "experts" from Europe and elsewhere for irrigation projects in Niger, when Niger already has experts but not the cash to give them a job or material to do their job. There are obviously some really good humanitarian workers, but they should be prioritarily be there to train local workers to do the same job, not to do the work themselves. Any foreign humanitarian worker, even by being a volunteer, earns more with his/her rent & lunch budget than any local worker ever will. But ok, this all belongs to a whole different debate, which we can have elsewhere.

My point should be that some of us may be helping the world more by helping usher it in the right place. Every little action counts. This morning I was wondering what I'd done with my life. I thought "I'm lay, I don't produce anything, I don't have any ambition, so what good am I?". Then I thought of all the people I had been in close contact with and realized how much their lives had changed after meeting me. And inversely. And I concluded "I am part of it all, I have my role".

We create ideas, we exchange ideas on a blog ... then we talk about them with our friends, then they talk about it to their friends, and these ideas eventually make it out all the way into the townships and favelas. Just look at how fast a virus/worm or a funny picture travels the entire internet. We are all connected online, and we all know everyone else on the planet anyhow.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:44:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm lay, uhuh. I meant "I'm lazy".
by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:45:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did understand. And I do not one sec' believe you lazy.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 09:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm too lazy to prove it to you :))
by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:46:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Taking a dive into the depths of lurkedom. No stakes this time, I know I'll win. Take care.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:52:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i thought you meant you weren't a priest...

not that that should stop you getting laid!

kaboom

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 04:48:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We are only as strong as our weakest link

This very morning I used exactly the same words in a discussion with my boss. He wanted to spend the education-budget only for hist 'best' people. I was the only one in the 20-people-meeting to have second thoughts. Bribes from the boss for the good ones, competition among co-workers to recieve bonus and status, breaking solidarity , bringing down motivation for the most and ending with low efficiency and unhappy people and frustrated boss. Yeah,  I can forget promotion for this year.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:47:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent. I think we have a vital point there, and around the whole subject of wealth.

Ranking : it is their mania, and it ends up with the stupidity of Net Personal Worth, by which a person's value is judged by their price tag.

On the other hand, we should be looking at wealth that is common, and here we can chime in with energy and sustainability : as I said on another thread yesterday, (more or less), the basis of all our wealth is the planet, which we inherited in common and which we should cooperate to preserve.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 12:48:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, yes. I agree. This is the narrative. Perfect. We woudl need a couple of particualr examples that make it clear.

No doubt, this is one of the myths we must create and reinforce in our vocabulary for the left.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 12:52:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Outstanding diary.

I think you're absolutely correct. Cultures are built on narratives and mythologies, and changing the culture means offering a new narrative.

But - I don't agree about this myth. There are two problems. The first is that the people who claw their way to the top of the heap and not a few lower down the pole do not care about the poor and weak. Many of them seem to have no concept of or interest in social responsibility. I can easily find ten people who believe that all taxation is bad, and don't see why they should have to pay any - usually while ranting about welfare mothers and immigrants living on hand-outs. Now - these are potential swing voters. But 'We are only as strong...' really isn't going to reach them.

The other problem is that the great mythological success of the right wing has been to persuade the poor and disenfranchised that they're either on the inside already, or they could be if only they worked hard enough. A successful replacement myth has to break that identification, so they realise that in fact this will never happen - except possibly for a very small minority.

In terms of self-interest, it means putting across the realities of globalisation in personal, not abstract economic terms:

Increased prospect of unemployment
Increased job insecurity
Increased personal debt
Increased working hours
Rapid inflation of the cost of basic necessities, including heat, light, housing, water and food.
Increased oversight of personal time by employers
Decreased pensions and benefits

...And so on.

These are all direct and personal outcomes of the right wing 'reform' program that even those who lack the empathy gene should be able to understand.

The sub-problem is that currently this issue is misdirected with a platitude - Higher Taxation Is Bad.

So an important job for a media program is to explain how taxation is almost irrelevant now in the bigger picture. Because the strains on personal budgets are coming from elsewhere. A tiny increase in taxes is not an issue when you can't afford to buy a home, or heat it after you've bought it.

I think this is a winnable argument, and - perhaps more importantly - it's winnable without traditional old-left abstractions or terminology. Those are two legacy reasons why the left isn't heard much. Left-leaning media points tend to be about abstractions like freedom and justice. In the world of realpolitik, these either mean nothing to many people or they're not interested in them.

Maybe a generation or two from now this will change, but today the Thatcherite poison runs so deep that we have to work with what we've got. Which is self-interest. So setting out a stall that says 'These reform policies don't work for you' seems like a good way to start wedging the door open and undermining the identification that drives popular support for the financial oligarchs.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:28:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
wow, I am taking notes.

We really need a process to know which narratives will work there and how.

US will be different than Europe according to your ideas..

Processing.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 03:05:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're right that the poison runs deep. It's a huge job trying to imagine countering it. One thing kcurie suggests, though, that it may be useful to underline -- he says we need two narratives, one situated in the enemy's symbolic world, to attack it and break it down, the other in ours, our own myth. (brunoken picks this up and elaborates on it in his comment, too).

kcurie suggests turning their narrative round: this economy isn't working, for example. And there, your list of suggestions fits in perfectly.

OTOH, there's a base of people who will warm to redefinitions of wealth and value and who will support a line like "we are as rich as the poorest among us" -- and that base is currently flagging and needs energising.

In other words, we need to attack the enemy's myths and influence potential "swing voters"; but we also need to encourage and enable our own base with reformulations of our own myths.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 03:14:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have a general tendency to say the things I think better than myself. And in a shorter and more direct way.

This is exactly what we need to do.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 05:54:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another conventional wisdom belief we have to get rid of is that there is one best way : of writing things, of taking actions.
It depends on the medium and on the target. You have to be snappy on a TV show. You have to make things sound simple when addressing the man on the street.
Only dropping a few ideas here, and my contribution will go no further, for reasons well familiar to those directly concerned.

As Migeru rightly pointed out to me when I was still an idealist on certain things, this is not a democracy round here. And I do not believe in the concept of benevolent dictator.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 09:30:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agnès, does this thread look like the work of a dictator, even benevolent?
We're all thinking out loud, putting a lot of effort into this thing, and it's a real collective endeavor. And it's not like we're looking for "one best way" of anything, so I don't understand what your point is.

You're free to think it's pointless. We'll keep chugging along, and hopefully bring out soething worthwhile.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 03:10:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree about the two pronged attack. But I might be a bit more radical about what the liberal message should be.

I think if you try to map social justice into traditional economic terms, you're perpetuating the same framing that the right uses. You're also trying to wrest control of it from them. That's a very difficult thing to do.

If you want to get really ambitious about this, a new mythology has to replace economic mythology completely, all the way down.

Economics is only tangentially reality-based. It's a measure of belief in an abstraction called 'value' which is entirely subjective, and sometimes looks very much like it might as well be faith-based.

The problem of how to distribute resources and manage and develop assets isn't unreal at all. But the way it's done today measures the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and then draws the wrong conclusions.

Reality-based economics would have to balance real resource shortages with an explicit concern for long-term husbandry and world-wide humanitarian welfare.

This is the polar opposite of today's economics, which is based on implicit assumptions that benefit the oligarchs and monopolies at the expense of everyone else. It's not just about numbers, it's about using a discourse to evangelise a value system. By agreeing with the discourse people are herded towards the implied values.

So a replacement has to do the same, but for benign reasons. It has to be built on different implicit values that can be reduced to simple and manageable concepts that are equivalent to today's 'growth' and 'unemployment' and 'productivity.' The reason these are memorable is because they can be propagated as sound-bites that appear simple and self-evidently important.

In fact they're complicated, and not self-evident or easy to understand at all. But that isn't how they appear. And that's why a slogan isn't going to work as a replacement for them. Because you can always argue with a slogan. But - so we're told over and over - you can't argue with 'economic realities.'

So the challenge becomes - can progressive aims be reduced to metrics labelled with simple names for essential concepts like environmental health, sustainability, etc, that have the same sound-bite quality?

Once you have simple definitions of your goals, and simple labels for them, you can start creating lobbies,  pressure groups and even parties that will push the relevant metrics in healthy directions. But the concepts have to be very clear and very simple. Something like 'social justice' is still too abstract, I think. So promoting 'social justice' will never have more than a minority influence, even for progressives. Because unless it can be folded into a reworked economics it's unlikely to get to the top of the political agenda.

As an example of how it's gone wrong in the past, take a word like 'sustainability'. This has a very simple, concrete meaning - if something is unsustainable, you will run out of it.

That shouldn't be a complicated idea. But consider what 'sustainable' means to most people. I'd guess the reality-based foundation won't be there for them. What they're more likely to associate it with is rather fringey and eccentric hippyish romanticism about self-sufficiency. A bit wacky, and hard to take seriously.

It's that disconnect with reality that has to be bridged. What we have now is a system that pretends to define reality while mostly being based on hand-waving and woo-woo, with a side order of bullying and oppression.

A replacement has to seem just as real and just as inevitable, with the difference that it really will be real and inevitable. E.g. if you cause global warming, there will be huge economic costs. If you don't use water intelligently, there will be huge economic costs. If you start wars, there will be huge economic costs. And so on.

I think calling it 'reality-based economics' is a start. After that it gets more complicated - but as a goal to aim for, I think it's worth considering as a beginning.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 06:08:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent comment, and I think you're dead right. Perhaps there is a slight misunderstanding (not your fault) about Jérôme's and my contribution above, in that we suggested and bolded themes that look as if they are finished slogans. We've all seen, in the American left blogosphere, endless frustrated discussions of the type: "The Dems should say this... We should say that...", and our points above might have appeared to fit roughly into that category.

But I believe Jérôme (and I'm sure in my case) meant to suggest a basic, essential point on which we needed to found our thinking and discussion. As I said, we need to redefine the notions of wealth and value. The other side's trick, as you say, lies in

using a discourse to evangelise a value system.

The religious hint there is not misplaced. We are talking about generalized myths and belief systems. Turning them upside down is a work on a par with creating a new religion. We need to start at the bottom and define a new system of value and wealth, then articulate it into discrete elements and metrics. What I think Jérôme and I were suggesting, and you in fact took up and moved forward, was that we should look at the twin foundation of humanity and the planet as reality-based sources of a new narrative.

Pace kcurie (I'm thinking of his citing the tree falling in the forest), when the planet goes kaput, it will be for real, and screw perception. There's also a question about how much oppression people can bear without noticing they're unhappy. (It's only a question, I admit). But I think it's an advantage we have that the ruling economic dogma today is not reality-based. We can debunk it through the attack prong (this system is specious, it exists only to enrich a tiny number), while offering a new, reality-based version of value that may encourage our base and (sigh, the religious analogy again...) make new converts.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 02:42:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As an oblique comment on this :

There's also a question about how much oppression people can bear without noticing they're unhappy.

here's a quote from an excellent comment by DeAnander in RadiumSoda's diary Chomsky Interviewed by Irish Times :

I don't think it's coincidental that the "generation of rebellion" in the 60's were the children of security and affluence.  it was that sense of security that gave them the chutzpah to dream of a better world, instead of negotiating each his/her own desperate accommodation with the overlords for bare survival.  failing that sense of security, the other thing that sparks open revolt seems to be genuine despair:  a loss of security so complete that, having "nothing to lose," the disenfranchised will risk their lives just to strike a blow at the overlords (or whomever they think the overlords are, or sometimes just whomever they can reach or blame locally).

the intellectual and strategic space in between Fat Happy Rebels with an optimistic vision of making life better for all, and Thin Miserable Furious Rebels swearing to leave at least a scorch mark somewhere on the System with their last breath, is a vast gray area of fear, compromise, caution, grim endurance, selfish private manoeuvring, hoping that whoever gets smashed next won't be me, desperate attempts to believe elite rhetoric so as to stave off despair, etc....  in other words the mentality of survivors in a prison or camp:  take it one day at a time, keep yer head down, there's no percentage in trying anything, you'll never get enough people with you 'cos everyone else is thinking cautiously just like you are.  kick in a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome and Prisoners Dilemma and it's not surprising that the system works and that Bush and his merry men are laughing all the way to the offshore bank...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:18:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in other words the mentality of survivors in a prison or camp:  take it one day at a time, keep yer head down, there's no percentage in trying anything, you'll never get enough people with you 'cos everyone else is thinking cautiously just like you are.  kick in a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome and Prisoners Dilemma and it's not surprising that the system works and that Bush and his merry men are laughing all the way to the offshore bank...

jesus, DeAnander is good.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:58:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we should look at the twin foundation of humanity and the planet as reality-based sources of a new narrative.

a reality-based myth.  muy interesante indeed.  this starts to blur the distinction between myth and theory, the former traditionally associated with irrationalism and subjectivity, the latter associated with reason and objectivity.  perhaps this should be an explicit criterion of our myths, that they should be as empirical, consistent, and explicative as possible, in short, that we make our political myths as close to scientific theories as possible.  with the crucial caveat, however, that we emphatically acknowledge that our myths -- just like scientific theories -- are not the final Truth, that they are provisionary, dynamic, and evolving.

then what would the role be for values in such "scientific myths"/reality-based narratives?  if science is supposed to be objective, then wouldn't making our myths scientific rule out human values?  no.  because the objectivity of science deals with the quantities we measure; however, it is our value system (i.e. our interests, our perspectives, our assumptions) that determins what we measure and how we do so.  most importantly, our values are the only thing that by which we can say if a particular measurement is good or bad (e.g. participation rate of labor force, unemployment rate, percentage of unemployed persons in the population, GDP, body fat index, etc. are all things to be measured; but it is our values that assign relative importance and desirability/undesirability to each of these categories of measurements as well as to the range of measurable quantities within each category.)

We need to start at the bottom and define a new system of value and wealth, then articulate it into discrete elements and metrics.

discrete elements and metrics.  sounds like a plan.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 01:48:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
discrete elements and metrics.  sounds like a plan.

I was taking up these ideas :

It has to be built on different implicit values that can be reduced to simple and manageable concepts that are equivalent to today's 'growth' and 'unemployment' and 'productivity.' (...)
can progressive aims be reduced to metrics labelled with simple names for essential concepts like environmental health, sustainability, etc, that have the same sound-bite quality?

from ThatBritGuy's comment. Is it a plan? It would certainly involve structuring interconnected memes that would need easily graspable names.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:12:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree very much.  I meant, Sounds like a good plan, a sound approach.  And I had the same response to ThatBritGuy's emphasis on discovering and defining the cencepts -- memes, as you put it -- to start building this myth/theoretic structure.  Perhaps these are the "elements" you refer to.  And I would agree that "metrics" are just as critical, as they introduce objectivity into our observations as to how well our myth/theory corresponds to our experience of reality.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 12:34:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here, here.
by andrethegiant on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 10:12:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think calling it 'reality-based economics' is a start. After that it gets more complicated - but as a goal to aim for, I think it's worth considering as a beginning.

I certainly do, too.  But your comment brings up a very, very difficult issue:  When we have two or more conflicting versions of what is "really real".  I think conservatives will argue just as forcefully that they desire -- and already do espouse -- a reality-based economics.  And when you point out to them that "if something is unsustainable, you will run out of it," they will say, "Actually it is sustainable.  Here, read this study by Professor Greenhousewarmingisnothappening, and this study by Professor Oilwillalwaysbeplentiful."

One of my best friends from college, whose intellect I hold in very high respect, is convinced that global warming is a myth (the non-reality-based kind.)  He points to several studies written by various professors challening global warming, and most of all he points to the cyclical nature of ice-ages and warming in earth's history.  Doesn't he have the same right as you to develop an economic theory based on his own version of reality?

In the end, I believe our myths must be as close to scientifically valid as possible, but we must be aware that grounding our economics and our myths in "reality" and science will not in and of itself be enough.  In addition to communicating myths to the public, we will have to back up those myths with the scientific evidence that we choose to make our own reality -- and hope that the public will adopt those scientific theories as their reality, too.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 02:08:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course people have the right to develop their own systems or choose to believe in whatever version that is on offer. As far as people who insist global warming isn't happening, we might think they're in denial, and therefore not especially easy to deal with. And we don't have to persuade everybody. We're not totalitarians. What we do want is at least to level the playing field, rather than take the flow of non-reality-based nonsense we're subjected to now. Level the playing field and perhaps start winning the game... ;)

Yes, you're right about subjectivity, as I hinted at in another comment below: we need to examine

the base of what is false about the current economic "wisdom" and what seems to us (can't do better than that -- but either we try, or we don't) true about the real state of economic relations.

There's another reason for trying to stick as close to reality as possible, and that is that the other side really does have the communications clout to explode in short order any notions we might put out that are one-half as phantasticall as their own. Something that's too far removed from reality, as DoDo points out below, just isn't going to work.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 03:53:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Something that's too far removed from reality, as DoDo points out below, just isn't going to work.

Indeed.  As "stable money" spouting financiers discovered in 1929, as Republicans are starting to discover re: Iraq, and, I'm afraid, as American and Chinese Pollyannas are going to learn if and when the dollar starts sliding down (though here I tread quickly into waters that go over my head.)

In the end, reality always catches up and sorts the less reality-based myths from the more reality-based myths.  However, in the process, bad things like wars and depressions all too often happen.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 12:45:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, it was an excellent move to front page Helen's diary with the Euston manisfesto.

At the risk of being provocative, I will be more specific, even if less lyric, than you were : if we continue to stick to ideals and utopia, and gather in think tanks producing nothing but rhetoric, we are doomed.
What they have, as Kcurie brilliantly demonstrated, is the power to make their point, and money is power.
It is sad but reality contradicts your point : there is no "team" as such, only a management tool to boost productivity, and the time of the last runner is his problem. The team does not give a shit.
That's how companies operate, economics rule the world, and governments take their instructions from the Stock Exchange.


When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 06:41:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the point. We have to change reality. By providing a new understanding of it.

(I did not promote the Euston diary, Colman did...)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 07:16:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know Colman did, but we are talking about a team, aren't we ? ;-)
Have you seen the Interpreter ?
Beautiful movie, about how hard it may be to wait out for words to change reality. You may also take a read through Les mains sales by Satre.
The level of understanding we may provide round here will be useful to a thin minority, unless action brings those ideas into the open.


When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 07:23:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
unless action brings those ideas into the open.

Agnes, what ideas would those be, if we don't think about them? Action based on half-digested or hastily-assumed ideas will bring just what into the open, in your view?

And what action do you propose?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:23:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not meaning stop thinking, just pointing out that over-digestion of ideas should not become an alibi for no action. This is a general comment.
At some point, you have to bring your ideas out on the political scene, that's the action I have in mind. That's were things are going on. And it's the only way to address the general public. Thinking never got one's hands muddy.

As for myself, and my areas of preoccupation, I go out on the streets and in circles where it is possible to have direct contact to prostitution, the "service providers" (I hate this expression) and the clients. I use my connections with the so-called French Grandes ecoles elites to get in touch with politicians, those who will be running for the next Parliamentary election. Does that answer your question ?

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 09:24:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't asking what you did. My question was impersonal.

As to your first point as to moving ideas out into the political sphere -- indeed the public sphere -- isn't it clear that is what we're talking about here?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 10:26:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An example is worth a theoretical explanation, as least so I thought. Sorry if you were offended in any sense by my being personal.
As I was writing in another post, you will not be bothered a lot by me round here any longer.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:26:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not offended, I was hoping to show I wasn't prying into your personal life. I'm sorry you say you won't be around much longer, but you'll forgive me if I feel somewhat mystified by the meaning of rather a lot of your comments.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:56:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Meethinks Agnes's "political scene" is about action on policy (e.g. something with real-world not just mental effects), not just entry into publix discourse.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:34:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't get your distinction between "real-world" as opposed to "just mental".
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:57:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent!

I seem to recall something like this in at least one famous book. (I'm very much an atheist, by the way.)

Sadly if you remind certain people they'll just spout the stuff about "helps those who help themselves."

-----
sapere aude

by Number 6 on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 05:59:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been trying to wrap my head around what you have written, it's like trying to hug a sequoia.

Anyway, to jump into this communal brainstorm on articulating our values and getting them across to the public more forcefully...

Use myths, but do not be used by myths
"Myths" and "symbolic universes", which though distinct from "manifesto" and "ideology", are nevertheless similar and related to those terms.  If we sincerely believe that our values, interpretations and proposals are superior to those of the "neoliberals" and "conservatives", then yes we should articulate myths and symbolic universes that ground and support our points of view, in other words, we need to propagandize our viewpoints by articulating them in myths and by utilizing the media that you enumerated.  My concern, however, is that we make a distinction between "myths" and "ideology", and not let the former calcify into the latter.  There is a danger that myths become party line become ideology, suppressing free discourse, ostracizing unorthodox voices, and themselves becoming the raison d'etre of a political movement, rather than the set of conditions that the myth was created to help bring about in the first place?  Perhaps the general public has enough sense of irony -- and suffficient, if vague, memory of fascism and communism -- to keep a healthy perspective on these myths.  Nonetheless, this talk of "manifesto" somehow sits uneasy with me...

The impact of geography
Your diary made me think a lot about the fact that among my university friends (Americans), it is remarkable how our political positions correspond in most cases so well to where we grew up:  north-east and west coastals and northerners (especially Minnesota and Wisconsin) tend to be more liberal; southerners, rockies and southwesterners tend to be conservative, with some exceptions, of course.  Which raises the question:  Can radio/TV/movies/blogs significantly alter the symbolic universes that imprint themselves on us in the geographical milieus that we grow up in?  Or do the underlying fundamental conditions of those milieus have to change themselves iin order to alter those universes?  (For example, I am intrigued by the [possibly crackpot, yes I admit] theory that much of the culture and viewpoints in the U.S. south is still affected by the trauma of the Civil War and the Reconstruction period.)  You yourself answer in the negatiive, though you claim that "10-20 % (maybe 30% in the US) of subjects extremely affected by the latest general political perception" may be influenced by TV and the mass media (if I read you right.)  Do we then tailor our myths and narratives to this potentially more flexible demographic based on their geohistorical backgrounds, so that our message sinks in and spreads better?

Specific Policy Positions
I may have missed it in your diary, but I think a key element that would help a lot would be clear, concise, specific policy "bullet-points", that while perhaps overly simplified and even simplistic, can be readily grasped, resonate, and be remembered.  For example, the hardcore Republican platform had the following specific policy bullet-points: Reduce taxes, no mercy for terrorists, America sovereign against the world, roll back abortion freedoms, greater openness for religion in public institutions, guns rights, and probably more I can't think of right now.  Even if not all conservatives agreed on all points, they could find enough in the menu to choose from and chose "Eat at George's".  What are the analogous bullet-points for our liberal/progressive position?  We need to come up with such a menu: of course not all liberal/progressives will agree with all of the points, whatever they turn out to be, but enough should find enough to agree with to get motivated and do something about them.  Furthermore, the points need to be succinct and salient enough to stir chords among the undecided/disaffected/on the fence 20-30% .  (Some bullet-points that come to mind:  inviolability of privacy (including personal lifestyle); restoring the power to declare and/or initiate war to the legislature; crackdown on legislative corruption; campaign reform; renewed efforts to provide all children the knowledge and skills to succeed in society; a ban on preventive warfare; recommitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty with emphasis on destroying existing hoards of nuclear arms by U.S., France, Russia, China, etc.; a Manhattan project for developing non-fossil-based, environment friendly, sustainable energy sources; taxes on gasoline and petroleum based products throughout the supply/distribution chain; a ban on capital punishment; a ban on torture; a revision of the Geneva Conventions to formalize international protocols on the detention of non-POWs; international treaty to eliminate slave trafficking (in particular, sexual slaves); tax incentives to encourage people (primarily Americans) to save; and so on.

Different strategies/tactics needed for different political tribes?
I am not sure about this, but I have been wondering, do conservatives prefer different styles of communication in general (more confrontational, more self-assured, more categorical, more dualistic) than liberals (more discursive, more reflective, more qualifying, more pluralistic)?  If so, should we try to identify the right cadence that rings true for liberals, but that also appeals to those who do not self-identify as liberals, but are potentially persuadable to a more liberal/progressive platform?  Francois in Paris made an interesting point in the Criminalizing Abortion thread:

From my experience in the US, Obama is correct that many American voters shy away from partisanship and pine for a "return" to an idealized consensual "bipartisanhip" that never really existed. But he completely misses that the debate always happen at two levels, the general public and the base, and the terms are very different. The Republicans understand that very well and have played it for years with the outward message of "compassionate conservatism" or whatever to the general voters and the paranoid discourse to the base, "Christianity under attack" and all that crap.

For those in the public who would be open to a more liberal/progressive platform, do we also need to think in terms of a twofold "general public"/"base" approach?  What would our analog of "compassionate conservativism" be?  Our "Christianity under attack"?  Or do we just keep one message, for both the general public and the base?  (Personally, I like Jerome's we are only as rich as the poorest amongst us.  It wraps up so much so nicely.  But I am not sure how that would play in the U.S.  Americans still are uneasy with the notion that there are huge socioeconomic divergences in our country.  Couching a myth in terms of this wealth divergence will make many uncomfortable.  The embarrassing family secret we're not ready to face up to yet.  Irrational, yes.  But I calls them like I sees them.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 12:15:20 PM EST
Wow, this ideserves a diary in itself. You nail so many point. On your issues.

  1. Right on.  Exact, ideology must not be confused with mythology. Ideology is a very narrow set of myths strongly clustered. Ideology comes from the mythical idea of coherence and improvement. We must not confuse two. Myths are general narratives that explain the world whose main aim is not to correlate forces.

  2. This indeed deseves a diary on its own. Your ideas look brilliant. How geography and past can affect the present set of myths available. Indeed absolutely necessry to tailor the myths to the regions. Another reason why blogs could be so important.

  3. I had not time to talk about this issue. It was already too long. I only said a sentence. Polticial campaigns will be base on the mythology and narrative. And this what I was talking about. Sharp political proposals are more effective when there is a whole narrative behind and they basically sum up in short proposals the general concept. So campaigning items to get out the vote or any other tactic comes after (are more effective once we have) the narrative/myth->Concept/General idea->Particular proposal.

4 This is the key part of my argument. You do not only need to have a message for your universe but to develope a message with and within their universe. This does not mean targeting the republicans per se. Or splitting the message base/swing. It means using their mythology and concepts: moral values, individual freedom, free markets and turn them around a with the langauge (including as you say "the body language"-confrontation if you want) that they  like. So moral values- no fucking person without food, shelter or health care. Freemarketeers?- Ok , strict control of the monopolies or oligopolies who destroy communist-style monopoly the middle company. Do you want individual freedom?-> Get out of my bedroom...a dn so on.

But we also need our set of vocabulary and narrative. we have to push the narrative in the US of why we are as rich as he poorest among us. We need to invent the narrative. Think tanks coordiante it  and media spread it. As you say political parties should target the people according to their myths indeed. But this is not possbile if we do not have a narrative and set of concepts to sum up the narrative.

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 Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 12:42:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A night of sleep has left me understanding your distinction between myth and ideology better, but I still don't feel I've really got it completely just yet.  Two more points that occurred to

Myths helped Bush win in 2000
It occurred to me that one reason why Bush had even a remote a chance to win in 2000 -- despite his obvious lack of qualifications and the relatively excellent state of the economy (with the caveat that many were already predicting a downturn after 2000) -- is probably indeed the fact that myths operated so well among the conservative basis, and probably even influenced the undecideds.  It also points to a major effect of having strong myths:  motivating the disaffected within the base to mobilize and rally together and vote.

Progressives do need a compelling theoryy (i.e. "myth") of economics
The more I think about Jerome's we are only as rich as the poorest amongst us, the more I like it.  But to make it work for more than just the base -- and I agree with afew that it is important to use this meme to "pander to the base", as you put it, to reassure them, and to expand it -- we need to back it up with some compelling theory.  Someone wrote recently in some other thread that we don't need an economic theory right now, that highlights and general principles will be enough for now.  I disagree.  The huge advantage that conservatives have in the U.S. at least on the economic front is that they have a very compelling folk theory of a free market, one that has explicative force and is coherent.  The nearest thing I could find to such a theory on EuroTrib was a comment Jerome once posted regarding an alternative to the CPE to bolster employment among youths in France -- if I read him correctly, basically he wass advocating Keynesianism in the form of emplois jeunes for masses of disadvantaged youths.  I am embarrassingly unread in economics, but it seems to me that if we want we are only as rich as the poorest amongst us to not sound too "out there" (again, primarily in the U.S.), 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.  Right now I fear it comes off more as fuzzy wishful feel-good thinking, not grounded in reality and practicality.  If we can come up with a version of such a theory that makes sense to the broad public, then it can act as a very powerful, perhaps essential, myth for expanding the base and swaying the undecided/uninformed.  (I just discovered the Towards a New Economics Manifesto which I need to get to reading.)

Mythologizing vs. Propagandizing
Although I think I understand your thesis better, I still am somewhat uncomfortable about the very slippery slope/incestuous relationship between "creating/spreading myths" and "propaganda" and "ideology".  You wrote that

Ideology is a very narrow set of myths strongly clustered. Ideology comes from the mythical idea of coherence and improvement. We must not confuse two. Myths are general narratives that explain the world whose main aim is not to correlate forces.

But teasing one out from the other is difficult.  Take Marxism:  I believe, though am not sure, that you would consider Marxism to be an example of a myth.  And from that myth was distilled an ideology.  But how/where do you separate the two?  Marx himself got caught up in his own rhetoric about revolution.  His legacy was indeed leaving an economic myth to generations that followed him.  But I am worried that this legacy lent itself to abuse leading to unprecedented -- and so far, unmatched -- levels of cruelty, suffering, exploitation, destruction and waste.  So, I still feel confused about the distinctions between myth, narrative, slogan, values, ideology, propaganda, and so on.   On the one hand, I obviously see the need for better articulating progressive values and viewpoints to the public; on the other hand, I am uncomfortable with this conscious, deliberate shaping of "myths" to make them more persuasive.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:13:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Marx offered one of the most compelling myths : I will explain to you the meaning of human history. His explanation was that history was engaged in a movement of inevitable progress towards a final, harmonious condition. He described a mechanism by which that happened, dialectics. And from it he said predictions could be made. And from that came the ideology of the dictatorship of the proletariat. And from that...

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to show you that's it's easy to "tease out" the mythology from the ideology. I'm not familiar with all this enough to attempt that. Anyway, what's more important, imo, is not the compelling or persuasive character of the myth, but what might be called its quality (basically, it was way off the reality mark, which matters less when a myth purports to describe unverifiable pie in the sky like heaven or the arrival of a cargo ship, more when it sets out to describe economic reality); and, next, its nature, which was to function as a predictive model (a system that claims to interpret the workings of history and to offer infallible predictions based on them has one foot in the camp of religion, anyway).

How I mean to relate this to your unease about thinking about myths is that it's not the case that we should be  attempting "conscious, deliberate shaping of "myths" to make them more persuasive", but that we should be searching in reality itself for a general myth that springs from the base of what is false about the current economic "wisdom" and what seems to us (can't do better than that -- but either we try, or we don't) true about the real state of economic relations. There's a discussion above about, basically, what is the meaning of wealth, what is the meaning of value. Personally, I think that's at the very base of economic thought (there may be others that people may suggest). What we need is to work on those notions till we come up with a narrative that may serve to expose the speciousness of the ultra-free-market myth, while setting out an alternative that has quality (is not miles off the reality mark) and does not have a mechanically predictive nature (will not lead to quasi-religious belief in some future state of happiness).

If we can do that (and it is no small or quickly-accomplished task) then we will have something that measures up to these requirements:

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.

Exactly. Dead on.

And from that point we will have won more than half of the battle. But, I fear, if we don't dig that deep, we will not stem the tide of money-fed propaganda from globalising big-corp financial capitalism.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 05:30:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I still am somewhat uncomfortable about the very slippery slope/incestuous relationship between "creating/spreading myths" and "propaganda" and "ideology".
 I too would be uncomfortable with a superficial mythology, but I don't think this is the issue here.  I think the idea here is that, once you have a clear set of ideas that make sense, the "mythology" creates itself and is self-perpetuating.  Myths, as condendsations of ideas, are inevitable because  of their symbolic efficacy.

While I tend to be pessimistic about our ability to face the future, I tend to be optimistic about mythologizing a new economy.  I'll cite a few examples I've quoted before:

One is Post Autistic Economics, a true-cost economics movement born in the grandes ecoles in France, and spreading to Britain and the U.S..  Another is Natural Capitalism.  Natural capitalism stresses the true cost of materials and is already being introduced by corporations such as Interface.  Interface is the world's largest carpet and flooring manufacturer.  Their plan is to create a rental economy.  The idea is that corporations must be required to recycle what they produce and therefore companies that can recycle the materials in their products the most efficiently can charge the lowest rent.  This makes sense: humans shouldn't own natural resources, they should borrow or rent them, because they are mostly non-renewable. The "rental" may not be a monthly charge, but a one-time payment that requires the renter to give the carpet or flooring back to interface after X years.  Such a relationship build customer relationships with corporations, but also defines the most efficient relationship between corporations and the products they make, and the natural consequences of making those products. Anyway, I think you get the idea...

Recycling is another example of a rising mythology, one with a quasi-religious connotation.  Many people today feel guilty when they do not recycle.  Why do they feel guilty?  Because they are aware of a duty, a shared responsibility that goes beyond consumption.  As a writer for Harper's pointed out, he gets chided by his children when he forgets to take out the recycling on Monday morning, and he equates taking out the recycling to a ceremony, a ritual--and rituals always have a basis in mythology, in symbolism.

Anyway, we are facing an economy of exchange, of that there is no doubt.  But I do think the left can frame or mythologize those exchanges to make them work for the greater majority.  Great diary...

by andrethegiant on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 10:37:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great.

Exactly, this is for fighting in their turf. This is using the narratives we know that work, believe and see as true

Regarding af uture exchange economy. do yout hink it would work as anew set of narratives for our own base?

Weakiest link, sustainable worl, exchanging society?

How does it sound exchaging society.. it sound too utopian. what can of narrative would you propose?

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 07:20:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mythologizing vs. Propagandizing
Although I think I understand your thesis better, I still am somewhat uncomfortable about the very slippery slope/incestuous relationship between "creating/spreading myths" and "propaganda" and "ideology".
Kcurie is fond of Cultural Anthropology and Claude Levy-Strauss, and so talks about myths. I am fond of cognitive linguistics and George Lakoff and so would frame the same argument in terms of metaphors.

It is possible that, since 'myth' is associated with 'untruth' in Western culture, 'metaphor' is a more palatable way to discuss the strategy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 05:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From the first paragraphs, this looks really really good, and I am recommending it. But there is no way that I can read that much tonight, waaaay too many things to read already. I'll be back here once I've -to quote Colman- digested it all ;))
by Alex in Toulouse on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 04:34:41 PM EST
What you propose is exactly how long-term effectiveness is achieved.  The small number of liberals in the Cold War 1950's planting the seeds that would bear fruit in 1970 or so, when even Richard Nixon was an environmentalist and went to China.  How much did he believe in these things versus to what degree did he do it to try and capture the political breeze to sail his craft?  I don't know - but he, like all politicians know which way the wind is blowing.  

By the late 1970's, this long-term political arc - powered by and organized around a specific worldview or set of myths, as you point out - was running out of steam, and was supplanted by Republican conservatives that had spent their time in the desert and now were in a position to capture the public imagination with their new set of myths, that tapped into needs the general public felt were not being addressed by the prevailing worldview.

From 1980 to the present has been the Republican era - even while Clinton was in office, the Republican congress and the conservative-leaning media tied his hands, and he needed to tap into the prevailing winds to get anything done, like "ending welfare as we know it."  

The conservative forces that have been the prevailing worldview for a generation are fading now, and the current unmet needs of society are things that the present set of myths cannot or will not address, and this will lead to the formation of a new political liberal coalition that will again take power shortly.  Exactly when depends on how quickly things go to hell in a handbasket.  Carter was seen as the incompetent last president of the democratic, liberal period [as much as we all love him!], and Bush will be seen as the same for this cycle.  Which is why I have said that the far right will view him as their Carter - someone "too moral, too Godly" [gag me!] to achieve success in the cesspools of DC.  And the folks closer to the middle will view him as Nixon - someone whose personal weaknesses led to the collapse of all he hoped to achieve, a tragic figure a la Greek drama.

But this social transformation, while partly powered by long-term internal intergenerational dynamics of the American people, can be impeded or encouraged by the instiutions you discuss.  We need think tanks, we need media outlets, we need their synergistic effects, but - and this is the key point you've raised - we need the consistent worldview that will tie it all together and light a fire in people's hearts to do the things needed to bring about change.

I've asked here and at Big Orange for that discussion, and more often than not been greeted with a resounding silence, for this is a very long-term perspective we're talking, and most folks only can see as far as getting rid of BushCo and the Republican congress.  to which I ask - "All right, then what happens?"  Getting rid of these folks is only the first step in what is going to be a generational task.

The ideas that will form a part of the next worldview will come from the problems that are not being addressed by those in power today:  

    * How to deal with global warming?
    * How to deal with immigration?
    * How to deal with the growing gulf between rich and poor?
    * How to provide health care that's better than third-world levels for the uninsured?
    * How to deal with the federal deficit?
    * How to achieve energy independence?
    * How to have social infrastructure in place so another post-Katrina debacle cannot happen again?
    * How to protect privacy from both the government and private data miners?

The worldview will have to start from first principles about why the government exists and what it should be empowered to do.  Then the actions needed will flow naturally.

But it isn't just the work of think tanks.  Unmet needs will percolate from the bottom up and demand attention.  In 1955, most folks could have predicted that the Civil Rights struggle was on the horizon, but few would have predicted the environmental movement or the women's rights movement; those kind of rose up and surprised people, but were incorporated into the new worldview and the coalition that took power to effect change.  

Today, the left seems a bit surprised by the immigration uprising of 2006.  But if we are going to form the most effective, powerful coalition possible, our new worldview will also address the needs of these folks - or we will be working at cross-purposes and our attempts to put the next big political cycle in place will be self-hobbled.

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on? - Thoreau

by Dem in Knoxville (green_planet_2000 (at) yahoo (dot) com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:20:00 PM EST
(The above was originally at Booman Tribune, so when I said "I've posted here" it actually meant there.  Sorry for any confusion...)

Another point - driving home from work I was thinking about this, and had an idea about the following point:

"You have to attack their symbolic universe using their symbolic terms and, at the same time, create your own alternative symbolic universe. Both. So we need so called "infiltrators" too. There MUST BE TWO myths proposals completely different (you have to know that the target audience is different)  coming from the roots. One with our own universe, one with them. About their universe.. it is very easy .. you have to turn the tables around."

I think we're beginning to see this with the efforts of the religious left in the US speaking out about issues like climate change and poverty, and telling their Christian bretheren in Christian language that if you're for a "culture of life" that includes life after birth as well.  This message will play better with American Catholics than evangelicals - Catholic bishops spoke from 1980 to 2000 in just such terms, as reflected by Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago saying that Catholic pro-life policies of all types needed to be a "seamless garment."  Of course, since then many of the Catholic bishops have swung right as well, but the concept is still sound, and is an example of a useful wedge that can be applied to the right.  If American Catholics would look at their own theology more closely they would see they actually have few points in common with the fundamentalist extremists.  Unfortunately, while John Kerry was aware of this, he never brought that message home, perhaps because as a New Englander he had that region's reluctance to wear his religion on his sleeve.  (A tradition that actually has roots going back to the cultural aftermath in New England to the Salem witch trials in the 1600's, and still was clearly present in Hawthorne's writing almost 200 years later - but then, Hawthorne was from Salem itself and had ancestors involved in that unpleasantness...)

What we've been viewing politically as a short-term "wedge issue" may in some cases be useful long-term in eroding solidarity on the right.  The right is a master of this - look at how, in response to the new-found political voice of the Latino population in the US, they are currently using job insecurity as a wedge between Hispanics, blacks, and poor whites, who might otherwise find solidarity against big business.  The American left awaits a leader who can point this out for all to see.

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on? - Thoreau

by Dem in Knoxville (green_planet_2000 (at) yahoo (dot) com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 09:42:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for posting this here, Dem! (What's all this about sa-fisty-kated Yurpeens? That's some pretty darn sa-fisty-kated commentary you're layin' on us there!)

From my other comments, you'll perhaps have seen we agree about the necessity for working on a new fundamental narrative. I don't think we'll get far without it. Concentrating on how to win an election is great, but what if (say) a Dem candidate were to win in '08 and just take a Swift-Boat-style beating for four years so the GOP come back stronger in 2012? The trouble is you can't do much against a majority consensus in the country, and the current mythology, as you point out, even has a good number of people left of centre unable to escape from its thrall.

I hope we'll go further with this here at ET. Don't go away...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 06:01:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Suddenly the meeting in Paris on May 20th looks like a "must-attend". There have been fireworks here the last couple of days and it's really exciting to watch.

But I'm off to Granada for a few days and will miss what's going on. I'll be back on Thursday and I expect all of this to have been tidied up into a pithy (short) statement of ideals and objectives by then.

Get cracking ;-)))

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 06:31:33 AM EST
Hmm.  Well one could spend one's energy arguing against mainstream wisdom.

Or..  You could apply your energies into being productive.  Making things people want.  Performing work somebody wants to pay you for.  If you put effort into it, perhaps you manage to create some wealth.  And if you like, you can utilize it responsibly.  For instance, contributing to malaria research.

------
Ideals are the ultimate motivators. But also the greatest causes of destruction.

A tip: Don't get too high on your ideals.

by cge on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 10:41:46 AM EST
You seem quite impressed with a certain way of contributing to the world. It'd be very boring if we were all the same though.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 10:52:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One could also spend one's energy commenting on blogs where considerably different opinions from one's own form the mainstream.

Instead of working productively.

No?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 11:07:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not either-or.  Why not both?

------
Ideals are the ultimate motivators. But also the greatest causes of destruction.

A tip: Don't get too high on your ideals.

by cge on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 06:25:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's your first comment above that proposes an either/or, that I repeated with a variation...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 08:13:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you! This is such an energizing thread. The kind of dialogue I spend much of my life searching for. I've deliberately chosen the name of a book by Hans Blumenberg, Work on Myth, as the subject head for my comment because I want to affirm that there are some extremely useful resources that can be brought to bear on this topic. I also want to mention Emery Roe's Narrative Policy Analysis. For that matter I could turn this comment into a bibliography but I won't.

I wanted to say that in my view the MYTH can be summarized as "speed and the self-made man." The insidious thing about the myth is that in some way or other it appeals to all of us in the darkest recesses of our terror of loneliness and isolation. Even a manifesto is an effort to speed up the process of re-making our selves. The myth of the self-made man offers us the consolation of agency in the face of powerlessness, even if it is an illusory agency. No myth that fails to offer such a psychological life-raft won't get far.

I think what needs to be done (and I said this four years ago) is not to criticize the myth or try to substitute for it but to get inside it, understand it as no one has understood it before and divert it into a transformative myth.

I'm going to sum up the results of 11 years of research very abruptly, so I won't be surprised if people don't get what I'm saying. But I think two things have to be done to the myth: 1. replace speed with rhythm or "own time" (eigenzeit) and 2. reconfigure the proverbial work ethic of the self-made man into an ethic of time, which is an ethic of caring. Obviously, there's much more I could say to elaborate on what is involved in an ethic of time. And I will, in good time...
 

Sandwichman

by Sandwichman on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 01:03:12 PM EST
I think what needs to be done (and I said this four years ago) is not to criticize the myth or try to substitute for it but to get inside it, understand it as no one has understood it before and divert it into a transformative myth.

The US Right had a more ambitious project - and succeeded.

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

by DoDo on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 02:07:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, no. The US Right is one of the default outcomes of the establshed myth.

Sandwichman
by Sandwichman on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:26:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
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 ]
Symbolism? In simple anthropological terms, the myth you reference I think is like Joseph Campbell so eloquently says, it is the myth of the "hero's journey."  We cannot have a "hero's journey" if we don't have any real heroes.  

That in my opinion, for the Dems, is the key missing element in this particular propaganda play.

Where are the Democratic heroes?  Huddled together in bunches like birds in the ocean at rest, hoping that their group presence will protect them from the feeding sharks.  Instead, the sharks just feed off the birds at the edge of the circle, eating them one by one until the clutch gets alarmed and takes off or is devoured.

alohapolitics.com

by Keone Michaels on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 03:21:12 PM EST
Oh man. You touch the topic. But I think it was too difficult right now to talk about real or perceive heroes.

If we show them that our world would be better with our myths our percetion...well then the netroots would become the heroes? Not really. Maybe someone picking our ideas? Who knows?

A plesurue

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 07:42:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saved up this monster thread for weekend reading as I knew it would take some time -- chewy stuff, thanks all for a thought provoking discussion.

I have seen this same dilemma plaguing progressive/radical activists over and over again.  On the one hand as Enlightenment-fans, we are unalterably attached to facts.  "Reality-based" is a proud label for most of us, and having seen in history books and in our own lifetimes the results of manipulating populations with propaganda and mythology, we have an instinctive horror of "dumbing it down" or "tarting it up" or other variations on lying to people.  And we keep thinking that if we only show them the facts, they'll come around to our side of the net.  I mean, the facts speak for themselves, right?

OTOH we have to admit -- based on our very own, scientifically rigorous, rationalist, quantified, clinical psych studies of human cognition and socialisation -- that much of human decision making is based on pre-rational or irrational processes.  The evidence is pretty clear that most/all of us "think in stories" rather than "thinking in numbers" or "thinking in facts."  Even when we learn to think in facts and numbers and syllogisms, the chitchat of narrative and symbol flows right along underneath.

Thus kcurie's insistence that for social change one needs a set of stories, a mythology, a narrative that places policy within a framework of meaning and purpose ... though I would have resisted it with distaste and indignation even ten years ago... makes a lot of sense to me today.  It also fills me with all the wariness and caveats expressed by others, above.

I suggest just a few "counterpoints" or "Eulenspiegeln" that might serve.

They say: Growth.  This is a central shibboleth of the whole neolib conceptual schema.  With [infinite] "growth," there is always the promise of pie in the sky any day now, because the larger and larger pie will have a bigger tiny slice for you and me as well as the huger enormous slice for Richie Rich.

I suggest that We say:  Health.  I suggest that we start talking about "healthy" economies  and economic health and national health, rather than economic growth.  I would even suggest pointing out that when you have a "growth" in your uterus (or your prostate for the outies among us) it is not necessarily a Good Thing.

Another random idea:  "The Economy is US".  Meaning, if we're not doing well then by definition the economy is not doing well.  We have to stop this reification and alienation of "The Economy" as an abstract entity divorced from the population.  This gets back to Jerome's "We are as wealthy as the poorest among us," and I venture to suggest that this connects very well with one of the most famous sayings of Jesus from the NT:  "Even as ye have done unto the least of these..."

Next, with "The Economy is US" plus Health as fundamental building blocks, we can do the comparison and metrics game.  I think we can do very well with comparison tables of doctors per 1000 population, infant mortality, maternal mortality, percentage of children with cancer, percentage of children illiterate/hungry, percentage of children with diabetes, etc etc.  National pride is a persistent emotion, but it need not be centred on "having more nukes than those other guys".  It might be centred on a deep pride in having clean and law-abiding cities, or world-beating literacy and infant survival rates, or a very low incidence of homelessness and hunger.  We can get competitive over being good, as well as over being mean.

Next, I offer the bumper sticker slogan, "Trees Don't Grow on Money Either," as an entry into the idea that Health (Health is the only Real Wealth is an enduring folk saying... "as long as you've got your health," so it is not a stretch to get Wealth=Health into the public mind) is the same as Wealth when we are talking about topsoil, water quality, forest cover, health of wild and domestic life, fisheries, etc.  The idea of "healthy" (i.e. robust, functioning, sustainable) wetlands, forests, farms, lakes, rivers, coasts is a powerful idea.  Everyone knows the difference between a healthy, happy child or pet or livestock animal and a sick, pathetic, endangered one;  to get people engaged with Health not as a shallow ego-fad for body building and dieting, but as an attribute of cities, agriculture, wilderness, watersheds, etc., should not be that much of a leap.

We are as wealthy as our forests, rivers, lakes, fisheries, etc are healthy.

Next I'd like to engage that meme from upthread about "Speed and the Self Made Man," and counteract that persistent (and somehow quaint, C19) banner with countermemes:  "Slow Down" and "We are Family."  The Slow Down meme is already out there in the Slow Food movement, but that's a very restricted audience.  I think it could be a very attractive meme for millions who feel overworked, overstressed, overhurried;  the idea of slowing down (slowing down overdevelopment, slowing down the pace of work with flextime, reduced working weeks, etc, slowing down the pace of motor traffic in urban residential and shopping areas, slowing down to enjoy a leisurely train journey, etc) has I think some shine to it for hustling, hassled contemporary people.

We Are Family is not only an obsolete pop hit, but a way to take "family values" and use it to undermine the Self Made Man and the Agonal Hero ideal.  It ties back in to "the Economy is US", and here's another folk saying that may play well:  "We're All In This Together."  I'd contrast this cooperative or affectional rhetorical model with the currently prevailing "wisdom" by calling the prevailing model what it is:  Predatory.  Comparing "the law of the jungle" (which the neolibs and wingnuts persist in elevating as ultimately "natural") to the affectional and mutually beneficial bonds of the family (which they can hardly pretend is "unnatural" after all that preaching they do about Family!).

Another common folk saying might be "The Canary in the Coal Mine," i.e. what happens to the weakest among us is symptomatic or predictive, and indicates what could happen to you and me next;  this is in contrast to the "throw them to the wolves" model in which jettisoning the weakest is seen as improving our chances.  A labour solidarity campaign might start with "When NAFTA started I wasn't worried because I knew it would only be sweatshop workers who lost their jobs..." followed by the outsourcing of call centres and then software and hardware engineering;  an echo of the old "when they came for the Communists I said nothing" confession.

Soundbites are not really my thing, as my habitual verbosity attests.  But I think there's a wealth of soundbite potential in:  fairy tales (many of them have morals that directly confound the stories of the rentier class), NT bible stories, folk sayings, and "common sense" as in family life and finances.  How about "Family Friendly Economy" as a way of describing Europe?  instead of being "not business-friendly enough" it could be "more family-friendly than US or UK".  "Would you rather your economy was Business Friendly or Family Friendly?"

well I am more comfortable with numbers myself, so I think this is all I have to contribute to the Department of Propaganda.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 12:58:33 AM EST
Your parting crack about being more comfortable with numbers than with words has me rolling about...

There are a lot of really good suggestions in your comment. I think we should take them up in the next stage of our discussion, in another diary. If you'd like to diarize them yourself, that would be great. If not, be prepared to be extensively quoted :-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 06:04:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All good points, quip on the last:

How about "Family Friendly Economy" as a way of describing Europe?  instead of being "not business-friendly enough" it could be "more family-friendly than US or UK".  "Would you rather your economy was Business Friendly or Family Friendly?"

"Family-friendly" is an already much-used meme by European conservatives (at least on the Continent), with a lot of meaning loaded on it, so stealing it would be difficult. But it may work in the US.

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

by DoDo on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 11:33:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have seen this same dilemma plaguing progressive/radical activists over and over again.  On the one hand as Enlightenment-fans, we are unalterably attached to facts.  "Reality-based" is a proud label for most of us, and having seen in history books and in our own lifetimes the results of manipulating populations with propaganda and mythology, we have an instinctive horror of "dumbing it down" or "tarting it up" or other variations on lying to people.  And we keep thinking that if we only show them the facts, they'll come around to our side of the net.  I mean, the facts speak for themselves, right?

I hope you read my reply to kcurie, which is in part a reply to you (and not a disagreeing but an I-was-misunderstood one :-) )

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

by DoDo on Sun Apr 16th, 2006 at 12:38:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Collons, t'has passat!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 05:00:25 PM EST
I aixo nomes es el principi. Haurem d'agrupar les narratives alguna vegada. Sera impressionant.

SO many grea ideas around here...narratives int heir turf and our own new narratives. The meaning of the refor concet of Jerome is brilliant, and De ander and aferw.. and a lot of other narratives, concets and myths.... It will become even better.

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 Tue Apr 18th, 2006 at 09:16:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i think it's vital to take back language from the orwellian hijack that's going on right now.

liberal, neoliberal, conservative, neoconservative, all terms that are so fucking bogus it makes me want to scream.

the moneyed class depend on mystification to keep the great unwashed confused.

we need to cut through the gordian knot of bogus language by patiently demystifying terms, deconstructing bogus arguments and straw men, circular logic and all the bullshit we're being fed right now.

blogs are revealing how many intelligent, creative, caring people are out there, willing to give time to analysis and hopeful projection of values that work for us on a micro level up to working on the macro.

as de says, the difference between theory and practice is practice.

i think fun should be the new value, especially fun that doesn't add to the gnp.

in this way we undermine the commoditisation that seeks to banalise beauty and make us think all happiness is buyable.

that myth is very difficult to break through, and yet i see no better alternative.

i like the phrase 'steady-state economics', as growth should be an effect of living well, respecting the ecology, with its finite aspects held up as supremely important.

by affirming that economics is not the be-all and end-all of life, we can undermine the massive clutch on our collective unconscious that the 'hidden persuaders' of hype have bamboozled their wicked way to.

the best things in life should be free, like rainwater to the bolivians.

instead we have corporations convincing us that privatising the planet to sell it back to us is the best and most efficient way to run our lives.

this is such a crappy myth it should need no deconstruction, but look at where we are.

to take back language, to make lying unnacceptable, now that would be a victory of mythic proportion.

so blog on me hearties

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 05:42:15 AM EST
I think we need a "retail" myth if we are to compete!

(I know, I have much faith in the common man's lazyness and stupidity. )

-----
sapere aude

by Number 6 on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 06:32:21 AM EST


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