The Pathless Quest: Creative Mythology

“For those in whom a local mythology still works, there is an experience both of accord with the social order, and of harmony with the universe. For those, however, in whom the authorized signs no longer work – or, if working produce deviant effects – there follows inevitably a sense both of dissociation from the local social nexus and of quest within and without, for life, which the brain will take for “meaning”. Coerced into the social pattern, the individual can only harden to some figure of living death; and if any considerable number of the members of a civilization are in this predicament, a point of no return will have passed.”

                                                         …Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Vol. 4: Creative Mythology

Mythology, according to the late Joseph Campbell, serves four major purposes:

  • To reconcile our individual consciousness to the mysteries of life as it is – that is, as it exists without our interpreting it or trying to relate it to our existence;
  • To make sense of the universe in a context our contemporary minds can grasp;
  • To enforce the moral order of the society we are born into;
  • To encourage us as individuals to grow, both inwardly and socially, in a manner that respects our relationships to ourselves, our culture, the greater world around us and the infinite mystery of being.

Leaders of Western Civilization long ago recognized that their mythologies weren’t working. So, they launched a reign of terror to destroy all the forces threatening the ancient order so many emperors, high priests and prophets had so long suffered to create, rather than admit that the world and its many societies, climates and ecosystems could not possibly be crushed into a single, all – encompassing, tightly controlled social entity.

The brutality of these attempts to conquer nature and reduce human existence to soul-destroying drudgery has left us shocked into numbness and psychotically clinging to literal interpretations of Bronze Age mythology that no one back then believed, knowing as they did the cosmological tale-between-the lines that gave these myths meaning at a level unapproachable by factual historic tales.

The only new mythology to have arisen since the bloody death-throes of the ancient religions is grounded in the all-too-human theory of historical progress and its dual doctrines of economic development and scientific knowledge. Too busy chasing after income to experience life, much less reflect on one’s place in the infinite mystery of being, the westernized person is left hollow by the bankruptcy of her society’s spiritual disconnection to the rest of the universe.

“The profession of views that are not one’s own and the living of life according to such views – no matter what the resultant sense of social participation, fulfillment, or even euphoria may be – eventuates inevitably in self-loss and  falsification. For in our public roles and conventional beliefs we are – after all! – practically interchangeable. “Out there” we are not ourselves, but at best only what we are expected to be, and at worst what we have got to be.

The intent of the old mythologies to integrate the individual in his group, to imprint on his mind the ideals of that group, to fashion him according to one or another of its orthodox stereotypes, and to convert him thus into an absolutely dependable cliche, has become assumed in the modern world by an increasingly officious array of ostensibly permissive, but actually coercive, demythologized secular institutions.

“A new anxiety in relation to this development is now becoming evident, however; for with the increase, on one hand, of our efficiencies in mass indoctrination and, on the other, of our uniquely modern occidental interest in the fosterage of authentic individuals, there is dawning upon many a new and painful realization of the depth to which the imprints, stereotypes, and archetypes of the social sphere determine our personal sentiments, deeds, thoughts, and even capacities for experience…”
(J.C., ibid.)

When a young person enters the workforce, she is expected to have achieved a state of detachment from the consequences of her actions. Yes, cars cause pollution, but she has to get to work. Fertilizers and pesticides are destroying entire bioregions, but organic food is too expensive or hard to find. And so on.

Older societies and cultures encouraged youth to take inward and actual journeys in order to find their place in the world, not – as our culture does – shut themselves away from themselves and their sense of empathy for and connection to other living entities. In the place of a feeling of at-one-ness, we are given a few limited social roles to perform.

A young man named Kip Kinkel walked into his high school one morning, armed – the day after he’d shot and killed his parents. He opened fire, wounding and killing dozens of his fellow students. Weeping as he surrendered to the police, Kip – when asked why he had done this – could only repeat over and over “I had to, I had no choice.” An awkward, shy boy, Kip’s parents were both educators – his father athletic, his mother scholarly, his sister both. Unable to match his sister’s performance in the classroom and unable to live up to his tennis coach father’s expectations, Kip was continually forced into categorizations he could not fit. And rather than allow Kip the freedom to explore his own potentials, his limitations were continuously exposed. He could not be what his parents tried so patiently to make him. Kip saw two options; to be seen as a complete failure while surrendering his life to other people’s worldviews, or to fight back in self-defense. The many other school-related massacres and the high instance of teenage suicides in the U.S. are indications of how greatly our cultural mythology fails to induce even so much as a perception of meaning to our lives.

A universal myth of earlier societies concerns the questing hero. The hero is caught up in some circumstance which requires a journey, during which she is presented with an array of challenges that she overcomes and leads her to some sort of gift – a magic object or an extra-ordinary revelation- which will bring to her people peace and prosperity.

In our spiritually dead society, such tales are seen as stories of a time long ago lost to us.

To living, dynamic people, however, these stories serve as instructions and preparation for their very own adolescent journey of quest, when an old child ventured into the wilderness for a time and upon returning, would have been transformed into an adult, ready to take her place in the community. This is such a momentous change in the person’s life that she usually takes a new name – a name suggested by her experiences during her wilderness quest. She has experienced the cycle of death and rebirth, like the seasons and the waxing and waning moon.

Human beings have the longest period of childhood of any animal on Earth. This is good in that it provides an ample time to learn and grow, to explore one’s self as well as one’s society and one’s relationship to it. Unfortunately, this lengthy period also provides us with time to flounder, to lose our way and to become disoriented and misinformed about our society, our communities, and ourselves. Indeed, this is the goal of our education system – to indoctrinate us into the belief that the world is progressing from an age of superstition to an age of scientific rationalism. The results of this blind faith in cold machinery and learning which denies inward growth are so profound now that few people are anymore able to turn a blind eye towards them. More people are beginning to doubt the validity of our society’s goals and our roles within it, and still more people are turning away from them altogether.

This is a time of human development that will define us as a species for all time. Will we redefine our lives in such a manner as to regain our place in the organic nature of this splendid, living world, or will we go extinct and take most of our fellow creatures along with us?

“Today the walls and towers of the culture world…are dissolving; and whereas heroes then could set forth of their own free will from the known to the unknown, we today, willy-nilly, must enter the forest…and, like it or not, the pathless way is the only way now before us…

“In this life -creative adventure the criterion of achievement will be, the courage to let go of the past, with its truths, its goals, its dogmas of “meaning,” and its gifts: to die to the world and to come to birth from within…

“Thus, creative mythology does not come from authority (like theology)…but from the insights, sentiments, thought and vision of an adequate individual…it corrects the authority…left behind by lives once lived…it restores to existence the quality of adventure …that is no thing but life, not as it will be, or as it should be, as it was or as it never will be, but as it is – in depth, in process – here and now.”

(J.C., ibid.)


hunger fuels rebellions

as turmoil spreads throughout the arabic world, there has been a tendency for all the usual suspects to trot out their pet ideologies. these attempts to validate ideology through current events are sad, but predictable.  yet again, 19th century dogma is being re-animated by the blood of people fighting for their survival. once again, the words of long-dead white men are being used to describe situations unforseen two centuries ago.

the unrest sweeping across the globe have one, readily identifiable, often-mentioned cause: people cannot afford to feed their families, or themselves.

don’t listen to economic analysts  belching their lists of reasons why food has become unobtainably expensive. they are lying.

don’t listen to anyone preaching about retribution from on high. characters in books have no effect on the real world except when insane people cannot distinguish one from the other.

what’s actually happening – here and now on this planet – is that fabulously wealthy people are investing vast sums of money in food commodities, then withdrawing the commodities from the market until people’s demand for food drives prices up. prices will continue to rise until the investors feel they have earned enough profit. by the time the food reaches store shelves, the added costs have raised the price beyond what many people can afford. plain and simple: people are rebelling because they are hungry, despite the usual abundance of food on market shelves and stalls.

and, what are people to do about this, here in  the u.s.? common, everyday people who do not have investment portfolios? what can we do? over the past three decades, we have witnessed an unfathomable consolidation of wealth. there are only 44 countries on earth that have a greater divide between the wealthiest and poorest people than in the u.s. many of the wealthiest americans have more personal wealth than entire nations.  and this does not take into consideration the wealth of corporations, which now outright own the federal government, as sanctioned by the supreme court.

those of us who still believe enough in economic systems to think their needs can be met through markets are delusional. when a can of beans gets to be over $50, and you still earn$12 per hour, then you’ll understand. of course, by that time it will be too late to do anything but beg for wage increases, or jobs for the 40 million of us currently unemployable.

jobs will not be forthcoming, and if anything, wages will continue to fall. and anyone willing to entrust their survival to government-funded assistance just hasn’t been paying attention to the shenanigans going on in the halls of power, as politicians continue to best one another in cutting social programs that assist people. after all, they have a war and military occupation to fund.

are we – those of us not among the wealthy elite – completely helpless against the entire array of forces the wealthy have to wield against us? only so long as we allow them to continue defining our lives.

as things stand now, we can only aspire to be and do what we can afford. once we realize that life has nothing to do with money, we will be free from the trap of poverty, and free from the yokes that wealthy elites wish to fasten upon us.

the class warriors have it all wrong. we cannot shake loose the control banks and rich entities have over us so long as we continue to play their game – a game in which they control every aspect; from making and enforcing the rules (rules which they can ignore), to selecting who will play which role.

we cannot and will not be free until we have stopped playing their game.

our only chance is to make a total break from economics. to do so, we must have land to utilize for our own needs. cultivable land, with clean water sources.  there is precious little of that left in the world. we are going to have to take it for our own.

right now, not many people reading this can imagine hunger so persistent that it forces one into action. right now, food is costly, but obtainable. not for long, as speculators will continue to profit off of food commodities, and our currency will begin to become worthless.

by the end of this year, if not sooner, food prices will be considerably higher than they are now.  as will be housing. and fuel. if we don’t collectively get our act together, we’re doomed, and we’ll be condemning our descendents to hellish lives we cannot even imagine.

or, we can stop analyzing everything through the eyes of corpses, set aside our differences, and build a future that will be unimaginably rewarding.

it won’t be easy. it will be dangerous, bloody and painful. giving birth is always this way.

can a society create such a change in one generation? it’s possible…see this video…


corporations intend to starve the entire human race into submission

how many times do we have to keep pointing this out before it sinks in? this is the greatest on-going event in human history, and it’s happening right now, all around us. tell me you haven’t noticed price increases at the grocery store.

International Speculation Culprit in Rising Food Prices by Umberto Mazzei

Henry Kissinger once said that whoever controls food controls people. In other words, everyone surrenders when they see their children starve. That is how the U.S. government subdued the American Indians defending their lands, by exterminating the bison that provided them food and instead handing out food on reservations. The British government did the same to subdue the Boer republics in South Africa by forcing the Boer civilian population into the first concentration camps ever and letting them starve.

International cartels now use their control over the global food supply to make huge profits. There are six major corporations that control the purchase and sale of agricultural products: Cargill, Kraft, Bunge & Born, ADM (Archer Daniels Midland), Nestlé and General Mills. Food prices are set at exchanges in Chicago, New York and London.

Some countries shield their population from commodity speculation on basic foods by restricting the export of their agricultural staples until domestic demand is satisfied. This has a clear and legitimate purpose: to stabilize domestic prices and ensure supply for their own people. Domestic prices are also an uncomfortable testimony of real prices and temper full international market control over pricing.

On January 22, agriculture ministers from 50 countries met in Berlin, to examine the rise of international prices of commodities during the second half of 2010. Before the assembly, World Trade Organization (WTO) director, Pascal Lamy, earned merits with the global food cartels by attacking export restrictions. No doubt hoping that the cartels will hire him when he loses his present position, Lamy attributed the record high international prices of agricultural products to the export limits that some countries apply. His claim was a classic case of sophistry—a distortion of the truth with a false arguments.

“Export restrictions are a prime cause of current and recent surges in global food prices, and countries should find other ways to secure domestic supplies,” the WTO chief said. “Export restrictions lead to panic in markets when different actors see prices rising at stellar speed,” he added. Mr. Lamy illogically ignores the fact that a sudden rise in agricultural commodity prices, as reported three weeks ago by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), cannot be attributed to controls that have always been there. Those controls, as he acknowledges, are imposed to assure supply to the population of the producing countries and, although Lamy did not say it, also to stabilize national and to an extent, international agricultural prices. This last point is very annoying to the cartels that dominate international food trade.

After attacking export restrictions, Mr. Lamy stated that exporting countries seek other ways to assure their own national supply. But here his proposals for a different approach are misleading. Lamy called for an increase in global food production, “more social safety nets, more food aid and food supplies and …humanitarian aid exempt from export restrictions.”

do you see their game? the WTO says publicly that governments should increase social services, but cuts off their funds funds if they do so. the policies of the IMF/WB demand that services be cut and/or privatised, or no more loans. the only countries that are not seeing food costs sky-rocketing are those who reject WTO and IMF/WB policies. a document released by wikileaks shows that governments are willing to starve people in order to force boitech agriculture upon people unwilling to adopt frankenfoods.

On January 11, Senators Charles Grassley and John Thune, together with the Deputy Chief of Mission, AgCouns and EconOff, met with the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade,s Secretary of State for International Trade, Pedro Mejia, and Secretary General Alfredo Bonet. Senator Grassley emphasized the importance of science-based decisions in the agricultural biotechnology context. Mejia said that Spain had a relatively “liberal” view with respect to biotechnology. However, even in Spain the technology was controversial and faced NGO opposition, albeit not as strong as in some other EU member states. Senator Thune asked what influence Spain could exercise in Brussels on this issue. Bonet noted it was very difficult to get a qualified majority for biotech approvals in the EU Environment Council so in the end the Commission was taking decisions in favor of biotechnology. Both Mejia and Bonet noted that commodity price hikes might spur greater liberalization on biotech imports. (emphasis added)

soaring food prices are creating unrest across the world:

and these are just a few examples. most news reports, and even the UN, talk about the many factors that have caused this sudden rise in food prices worldwide, but these factors are always present, and food production is at an all-time high. it’s clearly not food shortages causing hunger, but food PRICES!

World Food Price Hikes Driven by Speculation and Derivatives

The same banks, hedge funds and financiers whose speculation on the global money markets caused the 2008 world financial meltdown are thought to be causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. The charge against them is that by taking advantage of the deregulation of global commodity markets they are making billions from speculating on food and causing misery around the world. As food prices soar again to beyond 2008 levels, it becomes clear that everyone is now being affected. Food prices are now rising by up to 10% a year in Britain and Europe. What is more, says the UN, prices can be expected to rise at least 40% in the next decade.

and who didn’t see this coming?

Biofuels – NY Times

first-generation biofuels — chiefly, ethanol made from corn or sugar cane, or biodiesel made from vegetable oil — have provoked intense backlash. They have been blamed for causing unintended environmental damage and for displacing production of food crops, which may have helped raise world food prices.

Amid these attacks, the political momentum of biofuels has slowed in the last couple of years. In principle, biofuels offer a huge advantage over fossil fuels. The source plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air as they are growing, and consequently, the carbon dioxide that is released when biofuels are burned does not represent a net addition of that greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. In practice, some fossil fuels, especially natural gas, are consumed in refining today’s biofuels, one source of controversy about them.

when biofuels were first proposed as a source of renewable energy, many people warned of the way this would affect food prices. adding billions of hungry engines to food demands was a catastrophic mistake.

finally, i have to mention that as i researched this online, some of the articles i had bookmarked as references were no longer available. many no longer turned up in searches. someone’s fucking with the internet, someone with loads of money and resources.


a ballad against work

Indian communist group Collective Action Note’s pamphlet about and against wage labour.

i wrote a review of this for Anarchy, in the winter of ’99.

A Ballad against Work: A Publication for Collectivities
(Majdoor Library, Autophin Jhuggi, N.I.T., Faridabad 12001, India, 1997) 62pp., Free, but send appropriate postage.

In this ambitious project, the people of Collectivities attempt to take anti-work discourse beyond theory to create a body of work which examines the actual mechanisms employers use to create the repressive conditions at our places of employment and in our lives beyond the workplace. Utilizing specific case histories, wage-slave poetry, and actual corporate propaganda, they create an epic saga about 20th century workers and the effects of factory speed-ups, spectacularized “entertainment,” efficiency studies, and control over workers-both at the site of work and away-which points out in stark detail the dehumanizing effects of modern industrial/corporate domination over the working class. To counteract the foulness of corporate labor practices, the authors have also included numerous examples of workers resisting these imposed conditions through ingenious methods of their own-and a chapter which explains the imperative for collective struggle.

Though produced in India and dependant sometimes on accounts of local labkaroshior activities, this pamphlet has examples of workplace horrors and worker’s experiences from every industrially developed continent. Without the stories of resistance and call for worker solidarity against the oppressive bosses, this would be quite a depressing piece of work. Indeed, many of the entries do not suggest that there is a way out for workers and describe how they are crushed, in spirit as well as bodily, by the conditions imposed upon them. However, the narrative nature of much of the brief entries, the occasional poem, the lists and boxed asides makes for an entertaining read, even when dealing with such topics as karoshi -a word coined by the Japanese to describe sudden death due to overwork, which caused 1500 deaths there in the ’80s. Yet, it seems that no matter what the efforts of those in charge, people cling desperately to their humanity, and for every effort made to squeeze out more productivity, workers find ways to sabotage, resist and assert themselves as human beings.

A Ballad Against Work‘s one obvious contradiction is the final chapter’s rally-cry for collective acts of resistance as the only means of effective struggle in the workplace, despite having devoted space in an earlier chapter to descriptions of how the downsizing of personnel and the resultant concentration of tasks, particularly in the transportation industry, has made it possible for very few people to disrupt-even bring to a complete halt-industrial production on a factory or national level.

sabotageUnlike Studs Terkel’s Working, or the anthology Sabotage in the American Workplace (pdf), the people who make up Collectivities are more interested in a long glance at our workplace oppression, rather than an exhaustive study. Their layout is fun to look over, with mish-mashed fonts in the subheadings and boxes of anecdotal alternatives to corporate dictates. There is even a postscript flow chart which depicts the interconnections between resistance and subversion, motivators and coercers and the actions/ forces they utilize. Although sometimes bleak and disturbing, and with little to offer in the way of theory, this pamphlet is entertaining and can inspire playful acts of subversion as well as dread and hopelessness, often on the same page. Which makes it fit quite well into our bipolar culture.

This review was first published in Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed

there is a text-only version available from the libcom library.

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