Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama v. Washington Mythmaking

By Robert Parry
December 18, 2008

Over the years, Washington has evolved into a city of deceptions where semantics cloud reality and where a hazy mix of lies, half-truths and mythology can combine to unleash the devastating military might of the United States for no good reason.

Read on.

1 comment:

knowbuddhau said...

Thanks for the great--and all too rare--emphasis on the deceptive power of myths, and the process of their manufacture in Washington thinktanks.

Myth-jacking is the state of the art in manufacturing consent.

The Eritrean Government has fabricated a national mythology by demonizing neighboring Ethiopia, for the central purpose of garnering complete compliance with his autocratic domestic policies. By channeling Eritreans' patriotism into hostility toward Ethiopia, the government ensures that [it] can rule as it likes, without public opposition. Democracy and economic opportunity remain purely theoretical concepts for the people of Eritrea.

Check out this State Department assessment of Iran from 1961. I wonder what the report on the US looks like?

Good and Evil
There are certain key concepts of the world which are born and bred into Iranians which unfortunately tend to sharpen the terrible psychological dilemma outlined above. They are rooted in Iranian history, and can be traced back to Zoroastrianism and picked up again in the Iranian interpretation of Shi'a Islam.

Persians tend to believe in the all-pervasive presence of a powerful force of evil in the world. All actions, all motives, are divisible into good and evil. It is probable at any time in history that the forces of evil control the world, while the good man, like the hidden Imam, is forced to hide and remain inconspicuous, to lie and pretend if need be, until the moment arrives for battle. Thus, most Persians cannot ascribe political actions with which they disagree to error, or to grant good intentions to the author of such actions. The term "political compromise" cannot be translated into colloquial Persian without a connotation of "sell-out".

Two results follow from this--first, since the forces of evil are strong and organized, actions by others which one disapproves are not isolated, they are linked together in a mesh of intertwining conspiracies with an overall evil motive behind them. Second, public and private morality are inextricably confused--no politician with a reprehensible private life can be other than evil in his public actions, and no saintly man can be really wrong in his public life.

As a corollary of the above, Persians tend to follow blindly a man who has convinced them that he is on the side of right, without examining political issues critically. Since members of the urban middle class have deep aggressive drives against the traditional ruling class and the Westerner, it is natural to associate a saintly leader with opposition to these two forces. All the ingredients are present for what we would call demagogic politics directed against them as scapegoats and as evil forces.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Now in that mythology of the cosmic order [the original mythos of earth], the whole sphere of the universe is the womb of the goddess mother whose children we are. She is the primary divinity. She is the one that is represented: the Great Goddess World, and the deities by whom she is fecundated are represented usually in animal form. They are secondary to Her. And the early deities were Her consorts.

But with these warrior people, you have a masculine god as the dominant figure, not one who prays to the Goddess to bring forth the fruits of the earth, but one who comes in and takes them: the Thunder Hurler, whether his name is Zeus or Yahvay (ph) or Indra, they are all of the same order. And they despise the other people.

So you now have a very interesting conflict between a culturally inferior but physically more powerful people of patriarchal orientation coming into an area of much higher sophistication and assimilating their mythologies.

One of the most interesting things about the Bible that turns up throughout the researches of the 19th century is that all the Old Testament themes come right from the Sumero-Babylonian complex and can be equated there and shown to be there.

And now look what happens as a result: the myths that originally pointed to the Goddess as the source of All point to the God. This is a curious transformation. And it's one of the baffling things in our tradition.

Symbols talk spontaneously to the psyche. You know what they're saying down here. But the person who presents the myth to you [he chuckles] talks a different language. He says, 'It's Daddy,' and your psyche says, 'No, it's Mother.' So then we go to the psychiatrist. [Laughter]

All of our symbols are speaking a doubletalk. Joseph Campbell Audio Collection Volume 4 Man and Myth Disc 1 Man and Myth [Bold emphasis added]

What are the four functions of a mythology? What mythology is revealed by "the conventional wisdom in Washington"? To what uses is mythology being put by our government and media today, in the process of manufacturing our consent?

JOSPEH CAMPBELL:[Between 628 and 551 BC,] the Zoroastrian religion appeared, presenting the notion that the world was originally good--harmless, so to say--and that an evil principle moved in to precipitate a fall. Out of that fall came this unfortunate, unhappy, unintended situation known as the human condition. By following the doctrine of Zoroaster, by participating in a good work, persons associate themselves with the forces of restoration, eliminating the infection of evil and moving on toward the good again.

Essentially, this is the mythology, in broad terms, found in the biblical tradition: the idea of a good creation and a subsequent fall. Instead of blaming the fall on an evil principle antecedent to man, the biblical tradition blamed it on man himself. The work of redemption restores the good situation and, this completed, will bring about the end of the world as we know it--that is, the world of conflict and contest, that universe of life eating life.

Whether one thinks of the mythology in terms of the affirmation of the world as it is, the negation of the world as it is, or the restoration of the world to what it ought to be, the first function of mythology is to arouse in the mind a sense of awe before this situation through one of three ways of participating in it: by moving out, moving in, or effecting a correction.

This I would regard as the essentially religious function of mythology--that is, the mystical function, which represents the discovery and recognition of the dimension of the mystery of being.

The second function of a traditional mythology is interpretive, to present a consistent image of the order of the cosmos. At about 3200 B.C. the concept of a cosmic order came into being, along with the notion that society and men and women should participate in that cosmic order because it is, in fact, the basic order of one's life... [O]ne comes to the experience of a great mysterious tremendum that manifests itself so impersonally that one cannot even pray to it, one can only be in awe of it. The gods themselves are simply agents of that great high mystery, the secret of which is found in mathematics. This can still be ob¬served in our sciences, in which the mathematics of time and space are regarded as the veil through which the great mystery, the tremendum, shows itself.

The science, in all of the traditional mythologies, reflected that of its time. It is not surprising that the Bible reflects the cosmology of the third millennium B.C. Those who do not understand the metaphor, the language of religious revelation, find themselves up against the images that they accept or contest as facts.

One of the most stunning experiences of this century occurred in 1968 on a great venture around the moon. On Christmas Eve, the first verses of Genesis were read by astronauts, three men flying around the moon. The incongruity was that they were several thousand miles beyond the highest heaven conceived of at the time when the Book of Genesis was written, when such science as there was held the concept of a flat earth. There they were, in one moment remarking on how dry the moon was, and in the next, reading of how the waters above and the waters beneath had been walled off.

One of the most marvelous moments of that contemporary experience was described in stately imagery that just did not fit. The moment deserved a more appropriate religious text. Yet it came to us with all the awe of some¬thing wise, something resonant of our origins, even though it really was not. The old metaphors were taken as factual accounts of creation. Modern cosmology had left that whole little kindergarten image of the universe far, far behind, but, as an illustration of popular misconception, the metaphors of the Bible, which were not intended as fact, were spoken by men who believed that they were to millions who also believed that these metaphors were factual.

The third function of a traditional mythology is to validate and sup¬port a specific moral order, that order of the society out of which that mythology arose. All mythologies come to us in the field of a certain specific culture and must speak to us through the language and symbols of that culture. In traditional mythologies, the notion is really that the moral order is organically related to or somehow of a piece with the cosmic order.

Through this third function, mythology reinforces the moral order by shaping the person to the demands of a specific geographically and historically conditioned social group.

As an example, the primitive rites of initiation, which treated people quite harshly, were intended to solve the problem of getting growing per¬sons over the first great threshold of their development. These rites, commonly, included scarification and certain minor surgeries.... The force here, it must be observed, is found in society rather than in nature....

A real danger exists when social institutions press on people mythological structures that no longer match their human experience. For example, when certain religious or political interpretations of human life are insisted upon, mythic dissociation can occur. Through mythic dissociation, persons reject or are cut off from effective explanatory notions about the order of their lives.

The fourth function of traditional mythology is to carry the individual through the various stages and crises of life--that is, to help persons grasp the unfolding of life with integrity. This wholeness means that individuals will experience significant events, from birth through midlife to death, as in accord with, first, themselves, and, secondly, with their culture, as well as, thirdly, the universe, and, lastly, with that mysterium tremendum beyond themselves and all things. [Campbell, J. (2001). Thou Art That: transforming religious metaphor, pp. 3-5. Novato, CA: New World Library].