Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Periscope depths

Jeff Conant, A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency:

In Myth and the Origin of Religion, Vine Deloria surveys an impressive array of Western social scientists, including Émile Durkheim, Franz Boas, R.G. Collingwood, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, and Mircea Eliade, and demonstrates that, for virtually all of them, "the definition of myth, or at least religious myth, excludes the possibility of extracting from myth any historical reality. It finds myth to possess verbal existence only, confining it to the realms of ancient intellectualism or psychological phenomena that occur 'in here' rather than 'out there' in the world of physical existence."

Deloria asserts, by contrast, that myth is likely always constructed from lived historical reality: "The point that seems to escape all of these men is that the ancient sources and accounts that we have in hand today may simply be the way people wrote about the events that affected their lives."

Belief systems are simply the way people make sense of their own lives. Like every living thing, they are comprised of different trends, and these trends exist in different proportions depending on the circumstances.

Because people find themselves in a variety of situations, a diversity of orientations toward existence is only natural within human cultures. At the same time, this impulse to explain has been shaped by the struggle to achieve material security. Explanations commonly refer back to the material requirements of existence, as with the "gospel of prosperity" or the offering of paper currency to the Buddha, on one hand; and the "good news for the poor" or "spiritual enrichment," on the other. Two trends with very different implications, contained within a whole.

The considerations of power never announce themselves outright, but are concealed as trends behind some unifying concept, a belief system, such as patriotism or God. The facade is not as important as understanding what is happening underneath -- so don't get worked up about first appearances!


evil doer said...

Please do explore these covert and latent functions behind the sacred mythologies in a future post!

Richard said...

yo, I'm way behind on your posts, sorry... but this one caught my particular attention, since I've spent much of the last couple of months reading two works on the Greeks by Marxist historian George Thomson: great stuff. Anyway, gibes very well with the thrust of the excerpt you've posted. Thomson spends a lot of space tracing how the myths reveal (though sought to conceal) the suppressed matriarchal past... fascinating.

Related, in my mind: Blood Relations by Chris Knight, a marxist anthropologist.