Prompted by John Fosters’ book After Sustainability, I’ve been doing some reading around myths over the last few days. We usually use the word ‘myth’ to disparagingly describe something that is widely believed, but untrue. I’m interested in myths as underlying stories, broadly held understandings of the world. Myths have an important sociological function, helping us to understand ourselves as part of a wider human story, and where we fit within it. They shape our aspirations and give us meaning.
The myth I’m particularly interested in is the idea of progress. (Again, by the ‘myth of progress’ I don’t mean that progress is false, but that it is a shared story that underpins much of our politics and our expectations.) I’ll say more about progress specifically another time, but as a little introduction to the idea of myths and how they function, here’s a little video on mythology.
It’s from Jonah Sachs, author of the book Winning the Story Wars. He believes that as many of the traditional myths, including religion, have eroded in recent times. This has greated a ‘myth gap’, with people hungry for meaning and purpose. That can easily be exploited by consumerism, with marketers playing on people’s fears.
As you’ll see in the video, he also sees marketers as the answer, and encourages them to tell more empowering stories. I’m not sure that Nike and Apple’s marketing teams should be considered a satisfactory equivalent to the Greek myths, the Upanishads or the Old Testament, but it’s an interesting line of enquiry. I haven’t read the book, so I’m posting the video to open the idea of myths and how they function, rather than to endorse his conclusions. See what you think:
See also: The Myth Gap, by Alex Evans.