consumerism film

The importance of myths

Prompted by John Fosters’ book After Sustainability, I’ve been doing some reading around myths over the last few days. We usually use the word ‘myth’ to disparagingly describe something that is widely believed, but untrue. I’m interested in myths as underlying stories, broadly held understandings of the world. Myths have an important sociological function, helping us to understand ourselves as part of a wider human story, and where we fit within it. They shape our aspirations and give us meaning.

The myth I’m particularly interested in is the idea of progress. (Again, by the ‘myth of progress’ I don’t mean that progress is false, but that it is a shared story that underpins much of our politics and our expectations.) I’ll say more about progress specifically another time, but as a little introduction to the idea of myths and how they function, here’s a little video on mythology.

It’s from Jonah Sachs, author of the book Winning the Story Wars. He believes that as many of the traditional myths, including religion, have eroded in recent times. This has greated a ‘myth gap’, with people hungry for meaning and purpose. That can easily be exploited by consumerism, with marketers playing on people’s fears.

As you’ll see in the video, he also sees marketers as the answer, and encourages them to tell more empowering stories. I’m not sure that Nike and Apple’s marketing teams should be considered a satisfactory equivalent to the Greek myths, the Upanishads or the Old Testament, but it’s an interesting line of enquiry. I haven’t read the book, so I’m posting the video to open the idea of myths and how they function, rather than to endorse his conclusions. See what you think:

5 comments

  1. Leaving the bends and overlaps in language aside, what about the underpinnings of the world economy being a myth, THE religion of our times, as it turns out, data-wise, mathematically, judged by common sense, being the driver to the destruction of the species.

    Finance is number one, the high-priests of the ponzi schemes, politicians, corporate slaves to policemen and privates, then the mercenaries. The masses, the numbers, the bulk of humanity the subject more then anything else.

    Connecting rational thinking to emotion is the challenge, the tools indeed to corrupt could be used as the tools to inspire, a religion of inclusiveness and the long term would work if our elites see the need: their opportunistic short term junk like despair must be comprehended by them as ‘unsustainable’ then first. Now remember for the ‘organically’ distinct power-class to turncoat, even out of proper interests is a long shot, they were selected on the lack of any intellectual delicacies.

    1. Yes, I think economic growth is the big one here, embedded in the broader story of progress. As long as we measure progress in material terms, that’s a road to nowhere. The question is if, and how, an alternative story can be told.

  2. Economics as religion sums it up to me: the reactions of the acolytes of this religion to any suggestion that things may not work according to the free liberal capitalist doctrine is a vehement as any fundamentalist of the more traditional faiths.

  3. Thnks for asserting, J., been with your blog for a while now,

    Whatever we have human-wise, intelligence-wise, cognitive-wise,
    structurally engineered wise, social-political-economically organized
    wise must be pitched to the bigger picture of not UK, US, The West,
    Gaza, Ukraine, Petrol, Climate warming, The Arctic, …but against what
    I mention in my last year’s “A minor matter” better “quality of
    desire”. Rather what is it that we want, since we do understand within
    pockets of our global societies the data and dynamics that point
    undeniably to the opportunism of the planetary, the long-term as the
    only ‘via grata’.

    The answer might lie into emotionally connect reason to emotion on a
    collective level, starting with harnessing the wasted human potential
    through intelligent relationships, and into power circles, where
    potential has been engineered out on the basis of immediate bottom
    lines of their own microscopic value-set.

    Nowhere is this more apparent then in the finance-community: Nero-like
    decadence, dictator-like authoritarianism, nowhere more masking and
    obscuring to be done to cover outright lies. Using programming software
    to precede ‘markets’, putting fictitious value into real assets per
    person, commissions, fees, percentiles then converted into luxury
    gettos in brick and time-cognition. Their only investment to perdure
    being the relentless propagation of ‘capitalism’, the religion.

    The people within the power structures should not be able to hide, the
    power structures themselves are to be reasserted, the systemics, if you
    prefer the theoretic s are all flawed and need not repair but a re-base
    on different principles: rational and potential, better drive,
    different figurines, …now make this timely one points to possible
    solutions.

    Numbers, the masses and rousing revolution is untimely, dissertive,
    clutter-prone, reversible. What is needed is intelligent relationships
    between potential rich individuals, ditto communities, ditto
    interdisciplinary pathways, ditto transparency to the inside, ditto
    structured in an organic way ‘shadowcabinets’. Bitcoin now being
    prostituted is a great example of real solutions conceptually,
    close-boxed internet hardware, could be another.

    No sensibility to the big system, beyond the propagation of science as
    a tool to comprehend anything and everywhere, the ability to live with
    the idea to steer reality ‘god-like’ based on a comprehension of what
    is known to man and what is for the most part not, is urgent. If ever,
    and when this opportunity fades quickly away, outside human-centric
    induced resources of ‘life’ will take care of a different to any man,
    including todays elites interests dynamic. The greater probability
    sadly is the former, how is it possible humankind squanders the
    incredible potential to mark the universe as inclusive to the species
    survival as far as in our own hands, never present in history at such
    extend.

    The tools are better then ever, what we do with them is
    counterproductive, demisive.

    You are one of these potential rich, real-resource rich individuals to
    my humble estimate, that adds responsibility, keep up the good
    relevancy within your posts: anything that does not fit into a larger
    context might be futile.

  4. I’ll be looking out for that book for sure. Definitely hit the nail on the head, as people look for new following, narcissism has taken over and the marketers have capitalised on this and taken over minds. Great post!

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