The Living Myths of the West (I)
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
Created on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, 10:12
In light of the worldwide chaos at the present historical moment, where the decline of the West has been sharply highlighted, I will attempt to analyze and question the absurd worldview that has spread since World War II. It is which is a development model of modernity and progress that assumes there are or have been no other alternatives. This idea was imposed by those who still hold or believe that they hold power over the entire world.
The first and most convenient thing to do is to try to understand what a myth is. Since members of a particular social group need to reach general agreement to facilitate individual and collective development, living as a society means entering into agreements, reaching consensus, sharing, yielding or prevailing. This requires a language that enables communication, relationships and exchanges with other social groups and within the group. There is a need to share ideas about things, about events and about their causes and origins.
Jacopin said in 2002 that language is often thought of as something utilitarian, as if it were not capable of creating different types of reality. But language not only serves to establish social relations, but to shape them in different ways. Globalization today is a recreation of ancestral methods of social reductionism to achieve consensus and to dominate, by maintaining control over human and social relations, modes of exchange, and types of governments. Consequently, it can be said that one of the roles of the mass media is to reduce society to a small homogeneous group capable of sharing the myths necessary to maintain a certain established order.
The word ‘mythology’ comes from the Greek ‘mythos’ which means non-rational word, discourse or fiction. That term was merged with the Latin ‘mythos’ which means fable, tale or story. ‘Logia’ comes from the Greek ‘logos’ which means reason or knowledge. So myth – according to Levi Strauss – is a dogmatic explanation of facts, events, phenomena and worldviews that are indispensable for those attempting to explain what they do not know. So myth is a response to the questions that provided the base for the mental coherence of a group. And the enforcement of the myth guarantees this coherence.
This approach of looking for answers to try to explain what happens and how it happens has taken very different, and in some cases even fantastic, forms within each human group, and it has served as a response to the fear that makes members of a particular social group vulnerable.
Lévi-Strauss says that even if mythology does not correspond to an objective reality, it is irrelevant because the people are part of a social group that believes in that same mythology. So the important thing about a myth is not that it is false or true, but that there is a tacit agreement between the people who share the myth.
Myth will be used whenever a social group tries to establish agreements that allow it to maintain its effectiveness and cohesion without self-questioning or searching for the profound reasons behind that way of seeing or living reality. The only way to develop the potential of human beings is to accept their limitations and then to understand them in order for evolution to take place. An exchange of mutual understanding is very complicated, so the use of myths has been absolutely indispensable throughout the history of human civilization.
It seems feasible to believe in a myth within a particular social group, so that criticism from outside will not affect the inner workings of the group. Most intellectuals and scientists today claim that myth has no place in today’s reality because access to the world and what happens in it is the same in all cases. This, they believe, is the result of a compulsory institutional education that teaches the same thing to everyone, in addition to the influence of the media and current technologies that are the same for all who live in the West.
Levi-Strauss says that perhaps one day we will get to the point where we realize that the logic that supports mythical thinking is the same logic underlying scientific thinking, because the place where the mythical idea of progress was developed was not consciousness, but the physical world itself. This is the physical world in which humankind, endowed with endless ability, has found itself in the course of its long history with different objectives, establishing, imposing and controlling the social order through the use of myths.
Addendum: In Part II of this essay I will try to identify the main myths that have constituted the vision of the Western World since the end of the eighteenth century, many of which are still alive, but their natural death has not been being noticed by the great majority of the inhabitants of this vast region of the world that considers them ‘eternal’.