Contemporary Mythology (I)
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
In order to be able to live in society, the members of a group of people have to reach agreements to enable individual and collective development. Therefore, there is need for a common language that allows for communication, relationships and exchange because for there to be communication, it is necessary to share thoughts about what is happening, how things happen in the world and then reach a consensus.
Social consensus is achieved when the group is small and the people who exchange messages are required to have similar contexts and histories. So it is not possible for this to happen in societies that are physically, geographically and historically divided and separated. Fortunately, today's communication technologies allow for the existence of a huge global community that can receive messages and information in a single language through 'social networks'.
The current globalization recreates the ancestral methods of reducing society in order to achieve consensus, maintaining control of human and social relations, the means of exchange and forms of government. One of the roles of the current mass media is to reduce society to a small homogeneous group that can share the myths necessary to maintain the established order.
Out of that need comes myth, a dogmatic explanation of events, phenomena and worldviews, which is absolutely indispensable for those who want to explain the unknown and achieve the mental coherence of a group. According to Lévi-Strauss, myth implies a closed system and an answer to questions, thus creating mental coherence in a certain group. So the force a myth guarantees the group’s unity.
Lévi-Strauss says that myth functions as a response to the fear of becoming vulnerable to the members of a given group. It does not matter that mythology does not express a reality, because people believe in it and these people are part of a social group that believes in the same mythology. So what matters is not that a myth is false or true, but that there is a tacit agreement between all people who share the myth.
Many current intellectuals and scientists claim that nowadays myth has no place in society and they cannot accept that the use of the belief in myths is possible within modern societies, because they assume that the approach to the world and what happens in it is the same in all cases due to institutional education and contemporary media and technology. But as Lévi-Strauss says, perhaps one day it will be discovered that the human mind uses the same logic in mythical and scientific thinking, and that the mythical idea of progress has coincided with reality in some periods of the history of humankind and the the social order has been established through the use of myths.
One of the most well-known myths is that critical thinking, the opening of the mind and spirit were developed from the beginning of human life, with education within the family being what first shaped the core of the individual. The education of children and children in tribal societies was the responsibility of the same group that constituted the tribe, while in today's societies children are educated by television sets that do not allow direct exchange or social interaction, which has produced generations of apathetic and conformist individuals. The educational role of television continues throughout the life of today’s human beings who have placed their trust in it.
Traditional educational institutions remain within the same type of 'vertical education', where nothing is shared and there is no openness or reciprocity, only submission and obedience. This situation does not only exist in developing countries because it was a model that was institutionalized in mid-18th century Europe in order to prepare people for the routine work of developing industries.
Merle pointed out in 2007 that the French education system seeks to prepare elites starting from primary school, continuing classify the population into social hierarchies, as happened in the nineteenth century and up until the early twentieth century, when a primary school certificate provided entry to professional life. At that time, as they do now, students’ grades allowed people to be placed on the social ladder.
French mythologists know that their compatriots are very skilled at being tested, although that need to be constantly passing tests does not help them get the best grades in Europe. In this area of education, the best grades are those of Finland where grading does not begin until high school. The experts on these matters show that grades are not only useless, but detrimental to the achievement of learning in any discipline, since French students do not dare to respond, although they know the answer due to the fear of being wrong.
Addendum: In the next instalment I will continue with the subject of the underlying myths of humanity from its earliest beginnings.