THE POWER OF MYTH
America is traveling through a period of its development that is pivotal and contentious, if not terminally predictive. It is a not a time of war, other than for the made-up war against distressed, distributed and beaten down Arabs in the Middle East. It is not a time of economic decline, recession or depression. It is not a time any challenges from outside countries or forces are worth mentioning. It is a time of divided beliefs, and no society has ever stood for long with a serious divided internal belief structure. Joseph Campbell, in his much- ballyhooed book with Bill Moyers, coined the phrase ‘power of myth,’ but even Joe, who has since passed on, could never have predicted just how powerfully divisive his phrase could be interpreted to be.
The Internet (actually, the origin of the world wide web) was not invented when Joe wrote his book. The book was about how all human societies arise, are organized, and live or die by the power of their myths (another word Joe used interchangeably with beliefs). All societies joined together (in what today is called civilization) have differential myth structures. Some humans believe in God and others do not. Some citizens believe in socialism or a form of it, while others only support pure capitalism. Some citizens want many rules and plenty of government, while others want none of that at all. Such differential beliefs are common, and their existence is considered to be healthy for a developing culture.
What is happening across America today, however, is the development of two myth structures in such opposition and so highly and evenly populated that a division of the systems becomes ever more likely, and the slide toward this division appears to be gaining such momentum that stopping it for the sake of protecting the union begins to appear fruitless. Any efforts to do so begin to seem futile before they are even begun. The creation of the Internet and the rising of the power of television to spread information into almost every home without fail, have been two forces helping to create a grand and probably violent illustration of the power of myth.
A large portion of American society has come to believe that the way things are needs to be changed dramatically, and it needs to be made to do so under the leadership of a dominating male figure by the name of Donald Trump, who is pontificating that everyone and everything, in or outside the belief structure supporting him, needs to be made to kneel in supplication, or suffer great pain or death. The other great portion of the nation, splitting the country nearly down the center in volume, believes that life is pretty good in the U.S. of A and, although changes need to be made the fundamental structure of the country needs to be protected, and changes need to be made slowly without recrimination, bombast, great pain or the threat of death.
These two population bases follow entirely different myths that are so stunningly in opposition that each side is awed by the seeming audacity of the other to listen to, see and question any presentation made by the other side. Trump supporters, because of being educated by the Internet and television about the ability of media manipulators to Photoshop and more, refuse to believe that Trump, and some of his people, make comments, statements or even video presentations that might appear to consist mostly of lies or crass and awful behavior. That huge group also chants about the weakness of liberals, progressives and those who do not support more harsh treatment of other people. The other side, though, sees the actions of Trump as going after the most sacred heart of America, and often its’ most vulnerable citizenry. Both sides of the divide in the American culture see the other side as moronic, stupid and dangerously wrong.
The last time this type of powerfully mythical difference was so graphically evident was right before the Civil War when the issue that polarized the nation into two camps became that very real, very deadly and very costly U.S. Civil War. The nation broke apart over that war, and when it was put back together following the war it never fully healed its wounds. The fundamental issue, of equal rights for all and equality of worth for everyone, is the same fundamental issue dividing America today. Slavery is not part of the issue, but the attitudes that brought about and allowed for slavery remain smoldering like hot coals just beneath the mythical structure on both sides.
The informational transfer capabilities of the ‘smart everything’ cultures of today’s modern world, what with the near-universal creation and possession of cell phones, pads, laptops, mainframes and television sets, has done nothing to minimize or relieve the intensity of what is clearly appearing to be the likelihood of a second civil war. When reality is blurred, when facts are no longer considered facts, when science and education are decried and declared to be a waste of assets and time, and there exists a near-universal supporting communication structure that will not, or cannot, handle such issues (and quite possibly only exacerbates them), then violent conflict cannot, eventually, be ignored or avoided.
“Reality Television” shows allowed for the rise of entertainment to overcome the “boring” factual display of true reality. Human beings do not strive to deal with reality, compared to how much they hope for something, or anything, better. Americans do not live in the world-wide reality most other human beings must encounter (generally miserably) on a daily, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute basis. What is most problematic is that most American’s do not know they do not live in reality. The coming Second Civil War may very well be fought with no comprehension whatever that what is going to be fought over isn’t real, never has been real and never will be real.
“What has reality got to do with it”, might be a power of myth battle cry, and the answer provided by television and the Internet might well be the same: what difference does it make, and who cares about that, anyway?