Friday, April 10, 2009

Musings: Persistent Myths

The moon was full last night, not that it had much chance to shine, covered as it was in a thick, persistent of layer of clouds. I woke in the wee hours to a muffled roar, and it took me a few moments to realize that it was the sound of big rain approaching. It continued intermittently, and briefly sprinkled upon Koko and me while we were out walking this morning.

I remembered to bring a beet and a carrot for the small white horse that lives along my route and she was pleased to get a little something more than the usual scratching between her ears, under her shaggy forelock. Snacks trump petting any day of the week.

The air was perfumed with citrus blossoms, spider lilies, horse manure and the smell of damp earth, and the street was blissfully quiet on this holiday morning. I never could understand, I told my neighbor Andy, how the secular state can legitimately celebrate a fully religious holiday like Good Friday.

Christmas is one thing, because despite its religious origins, it’s turned into more of a pageant. But there’s no way to take the Christian veneer off Good Friday, which a friend likes to call Bad Friday because it launched that whole weird myth that turned a murder into a heavenly sacrifice. Talk about spin masters.

It’s sort of like that myth of happily-ever-after. I was interviewing a man the other day and asked him if he was close to retirement. “I don’t want to retire and stay home with my Portagee wife,” he exclaimed. Added his sidekick: “I don’t think too many married men do want to stay home with their wives.”

Getting back to the Jesus-as-savior myth, Andy remarked that he’d been talking to a man who expressed his fear that Obama was trying to destroy America as a Christian nation. Where did you get the idea that America was a Christian nation? Andy asked him, to which the man replied: It’s in the Constitution. Andy reminded him that some of the founding fathers were Deists and advised him to go read the Constitution, realizing later he should have directed him to the Bill of Rights.

Not that it would have mattered, anyway, because it was obvious, Andy said, that the man was just repeating something his pastor had said.

A woman stopped by my house the other day and was offended I didn’t want to take “the invitation” she was extending to all her neighbors to attend a Son Rise Service. I wasn’t trying to hurt her feelings, but why accept something that’s gonna go straight into the recycling bin? Now if she would have been passing out chocolate bunnies, she might have gotten my attention.

The Los Angeles Times certainly got the attention of its reporters when it decided to run an ad that resembled a faux news story on its front page. And since it’s LA, the ad was for a TV series — and not even a reality show, either. Of course, papers like the Star-Bulletin have pop up ads that cover the content on their websites, but it’s not likely anybody’s gonna mistake a Pizza Hut special for news, even in this dumbed down society.

According to a report by AFP:

"The NBC ad may have provided some quick cash, but it has caused incalculable damage to this institution," it said. "Placing a fake news article on A-1 makes a mockery of our integrity and our journalistic standards.

"Our willingness to sell our most precious real estate to an advertiser is embarrassing and demoralizing," the petition said.


But what the reporters viewed as heresy, the financially-strapped publisher termed innovation. Looks like another crack in the myth of objective journalism.

Geez. Is nothing sacred anymore?

16 comments:

Dawson said...

> Geez. Is nothing sacred anymore? <

If there's money or power in it, no.

:(

Anonymous said...

The Bill of Rights is part of the constitution.

Anonymous said...

Watch this program, things are sacred, including land.

We Shall Remain

PBS Starts Monday April 12th

Anonymous said...

Land is nothing more than that..."land"...geography, dirt, sand, rocks. Nothing "sacred" about that except the connotations given by people with some emotional attachment. That represents perception, not inherent "spiritual" qualities of minerals.

Joan said...

Your assertion that land has no inherent spiritual value is similar to how some people dehumanize other races for the purpose of exploiting and annihilating them, and has similar results.

If you don't already feel it or know it, it's not likely that you can be made to think otherwise, but for many of us, the land very definitely has inherent spiritual values. And that's a concept that has been embraced pretty much across the board by indigenous peoples, who so far seem to have been the only ones capable of living in harmony with their environment.

Anonymous said...

Sentient beings deserve one form of respect and non-sentient "items"...minerals, vegetables, non-sentient animals (including the ones we eat)...deserve another form and do exist for relative exploitation.

Land can be appreciated and protected for many reasons, but not because it should be worshiped as sacred.

Anonymous said...

the idea that indigenous people lived in harmony with their environment is another western myth. Natives were as bad about over hunting and overfishing and over clearing land as anyone. IN the American midwest Indians used to run whole herds of bison over cliffs and consumed only a fraction of those killed. They just didn't have the technology to do it on a scale of an industrial society.

Anonymous said...

"And that's a concept that has been embraced pretty much across the board by indigenous peoples, who so far seem to have been the only ones capable of living in harmony with their environment."

-- mostly a total myth, sorry. examples and general trends to the contrary abound ("indigenous" population collapse, resource overuse, war, high homicide rates...in north and south america...african...asia, southeast asia etc)

Joan said...

mostly a total myth, sorry

I never said they were all successful at it. But it does seem they're the only ones who have ever been able to pull it off.

Anonymous said...

"I never said they were all successful at it. But it does seem they're the only ones who have ever been able to pull it off."

-- i would suggest the general rule of: the more technically and scientifically advanced the society, the harder it is to maintain low-impact operations. this holds true with indigenous missouri mound builders, dutch dyke farmers, certain small towns in japan, etc. but i would agree that if those guys in bougainville can pull of those sorts of sustainably oriented, low-impact, and measurable effective "green practices" as to food, arms, transportation, rudimentary medicine, and housing (mind you, while under the pressure of war, and largely with on-island materials), then i would hope modern kauai can put together a smart "green" policy or two...and the barriers to this goal: the good old boys club, the dislike/distrust of "outside" persons and forces, and (reactionary) hippies

Dawson said...

> Sentient beings deserve one form of respect and non-sentient "items"...minerals, vegetables, non-sentient animals (including the ones we eat)...deserve another form and do exist for relative exploitation. <

And people think 16th European colonialism is ancient history! Hah!

Dawson said...

16th CENTURY European colonialism, that is!

Anonymous said...

"I never said they were all successful at it. But it does seem they're the only ones who have ever been able to pull it off."

Only because they didn't have the numbers or the technology. Your mistake is imposing a western notion of some mythical spiritual relationship between indigenous people and the land they occupied.

Anonymous said...

It's New Age crap.

line of flight said...

the post-marxists point out that, in general, nothing is sacred in the capitalist mode of production. anyone in this system that says otherwise, is merely developing (or part of) a niche market to extract surplus value. and one bemoaning the lack of the sacred is "just striking a pose." land has been central to every mode of production other than capitalist, and so i think any discussion of the land should consider the materialist perspective to avoid the pitfalls of mystifying the system of exploitation. (and perhaps only for that limited purpose).

Kolea said...

One of your many anonymous posters wrote:

"Land can be appreciated and protected for many reasons, but not because it should be worshiped as sacred."

Why shouldn't the land be viewed as "sacred"? What does "sacred" mean? Let me suggest that a non-rational respect for the complexity of nature, an aesthetic affinity towards the fertility of nature, as well as its risks, may serve as a useful complement to a rational understanding of its "laws."

Rationalists who are not guided in part by non-rational thought processes like intuition, are likely to behave in an insane fashion. The NON-rational needn't be IR-rational.

I am skeptical of the reports of Indians driving herds of buffalo over cliffs in order to harvest only a few. Without studying the reports more closely, let me suggest it is likely that a closer examination of the data would should such actions to have been highly unusual and any "reports" to have been a result of exceptional circumstances rather than normal behavior.

We know for a fact that white "hunters" massacred millions of buffalo for meat, furs and sport in a very short time. "Buffalo Bill" Cody obtained his nickname for these actions. The "Western: incentives were very "rational" at the "micro-level." Short-term, massive profits were to be gained by individuals by the wholesale "Rape of the Commons".

Such mass killing was also "rational" because the whites didn't need the buffalo and the Indians DID. Buffalo were sometimes killed off as part of a conscious plan to eliminate the food supply of Indians in line the overall policy of American genocide.

The Indians did not have the same incentives, "rational" or otherwise. As a general policy, there was no incentive to kill more buffalo than were needed. One can imagine unusual circumstances where hungry Indians might run some buffalo over a cliff to gain the meat. One can imagine circumstances where such a stampede might get out of control, leading to the deaths of many more buffalo than intended. I can also imagine a tribe not caring if they killed off excess buffalo if the herd were generally the food supply of a rival tribe.

I distrust western ideological constructs which romanticize "First Peoples" as if they still lived in a state of grace in the Garden of Eden. But I also distrust western views which project all the excesses of capitalism and imperialism onto "human nature," as if to absolve "European culture" and capitalism of all its sins.

Capitalism is only "rational" on the surface. Indeed, it is "hyper-rational" in its ability to assign a price to every human behavior, every thing in the world. But the pursuit of profit, as the driving force of human civilization, is grossly irrational at the macro-level and is threatening the health of both the planet and human beings.

If a non-rational appreciation of nature informs us of the inter-relatedness of all life, then it makes sense to accept that message and align our lives accordingly. A hunter or fisherman can respect the sacredness of the life being killed in order to put food on the table and still kill the animal. Any hunter who kills without that respect is, in my opinion, insane.

(Vegetarians may not understand this, but a lot of hunters and fisherman will readily agree.)

Life IS Sacred, meaning it is worthy of our profound respect. Sentient life forms are embedded in a complex fabric of life with less sentient and non-sentient lifeforms and nonliving materials. While one might extract individual life forms or processes from the larger process to understand them, they need asl obe understood within the context of their role in the larger process for a wholistic understanding. If "sentient" lifeforms depend upon the health or non-destruction of other elements, then it is not wrongheaded to believe the component parts, sentient or not, as "sacred" and worthy of protection.

If we malama the aina, the aina feeds us, clothes use, sustains us in return. If you need to, consider the traditional Hawaiian beliefs to be "metaphorical." But they reflect a greater wisdom towards the "nature" of life in THESE islands than the capitalist model.