Beware of Myths!

By Bernie Bell

Some years ago, a friend sent me a link to a film, called Zeitgeist, and recommend that I watch it.  I did, bit by bit – it would be too much to take in all at once. I then gave him my responses to the film – bit by bit – here’s what I said about myths……..

Myths – beware of myths – look at them very hard. Trouble is, eventually they become accepted as ‘what is so’.  Always be wary of a person or organization which tells you what they want you to hear, rather than ‘what is so’ – or, as near to ‘what  is so’ as possible.  This applies as much to daily life, as to big world issues.  There’s a lot of it about.  BUT also beware of the myths, about the myths.  They can be as misleading and dangerous as the myths themselves.  Looking for the real and the true, in all areas of life, is what matters.  A very difficult job, but very, very necessary. Myths – very worrying things.”

More recently we recorded, then watched, a programme presented by an art historian named Richard Clay, entitled ‘21st Century Mythologies’.  He’s a very good presenter, and I hope he does more – he simply presents – informatively, and without ‘guff’.

With the help of other people, he presents to us – Myths – myths about Plastic, Money, Signs, Wi-Fi, Copyright, The Madonna, Guns in Movies, and Race.

As with my response to Zeitgeist, as sent to friend Steev, I’ll give my responses to the different sections of the programme in a similar way, for anyone who is interested!

Plastic – this is most excellent – about how plastic started as such a wonder-material – we didn’t think it through – and now….  This is a good, hard look – not only at plastic – but also how it can make us question other things which are discovered, hailed as the answer to our problems, and un-leashed on the word without enough thinking ahead or research into possible consequences. Watch it, and see.

Money – when reading ‘Primitive man as Philosopher’ by Paul Radin,   and discussing the book with a friend, one comment I made was…..

“I’ve never really understood why gold is so valuable.  It’s beautiful, so are many things.  It’s rare, but so are many things.  It’s another one of those things, which mystifies me – why is gold so valuable, and why will folk do such extreme things, to get it?  Never understood that. It looks to me, like it’s all just what’s been put onto it, by people, it’s only valuable, because we’ve told ourselves, and each other, that it is so. Maybe I am primitive!”

And now, money is plastic!

Signs – again my ramblings started with a book –

“Mike found a book called ‘Alphabets, hieroglyphs & pictograms.  The Story of Writing’, by Andrew Robinson, in the Stromness Red Cross Shop.  I’ve been having a look at this, not so much reading it, as it’s not a book you just read, as such.  I know I go on about writing at you, and this book has sparked it off again.  It’s a bit ‘coffee table’, but not too much so, and has much of interest. 

Why do I go on so much about writing?  I suppose because it’s communication, it’s a way that peoples, from any time, any place, can hope to communicate and connect with, peoples from any other time and place.  The different ways of approaching this, are so varied that, even though we’re all people, we don’t always see what the other people are trying to tell us.  It’s an interesting book.  It even has a section on the Profession of Scribe, the importance of the people who could use those marks to communicate.  And, modern ‘hieroglyphs’, as in, signs for how to wash clothes etc.  A bit like the modern symbols of power mentioned in the book of that name – such as a Police badge etc.”

The book I mention is  ‘Symbols of Power: At the Time of Stonehenge’ .  Less coffee table – more archaeological!

And, more of my musings on the subject……

Wi-Fi – this section of the programme is just…. plain……. scary – have a look.

Copyright – or, ownership.  Previous thoughts on copyright, and Banksy…….

“We have a book by  Banksy, and I like a lot of what he does. Some of what he produces is witty, funny and/or clever. I do like his rats.  What I noticed is the number of images of his pieces, where folk are walking past them, and they don’t appear to even notice them. People really don’t pay attention to what’s around them, do they?

But – I also noticed the usual ‘warning’ at the  beginning of the book, about copying anything from it.  I thought, what a little hypocrite!  And, I emailed him, thus……….. 

“My husband bought a copy of your book ‘Wall and Piece’ in a charity shop yesterday (published in 2006). I’d had some idea of what you do, but only vaguely. I likes it – especially the rats.

But……at the beginning of the book, you say “Copyright is for losers”. ( I’d say that it’s for mean people and scaredy-cats, myself).  That statement is then followed by the usual copyright baloney! 

If that book had been published without the copyright baloney, sticking to what you had said there – the publisher would still have made lots of money, you’d still have made lots of money,  but you wouldn’t have been a hypocrite.

Fact is, if I want to copy something from that book, I will.  Fact is, if I want to copy something from any book, I do – so sue me!

So, what’s with the double standard there?  The rest of what you do is clever, funny, disturbing, disheartening, heartening – good stuff. I was becoming a ‘fan’, then I read the copyright baloney.

Take it easy.”

I didn’t get an answer.

I wonder, would quoting the ‘warning’ about re-producing something from the book, count as breach of copyright?  The little hypocrite.”

Madonna – our changing perceptions of The Madonna, or Woman – not the popular singing person – though, in this section of the programme, a young woman does point out that we are all, always performing – presenting an image, a myth, of ourselves to the world and other people. 

Folk might think they know me, from what I write. They will know something of me, but I don’t even know, or understand, myself and what I do, or why I do some of it.

Guns in Movies – Guns=Power.  As one young woman in the programme says – “It’s all about the penis.”  And, one way or another, I guess it is.

Race – described in the programme as the most pernicious of all myths. I’m not sure about that – some of the other myths have done, and are capable of doing, as much harm as the myths about racial inequality. 

What’s referred to as racial prejudice, is often colour prejudice.  If someone with a fair skin moves from, say, Eastern Europe or Ireland, by the next generation the accent has gone, and it’s harder for people to point the finger.  A shading on the skin is easier of the bigots to see and react with their pet myths about it.

I grew up in Bradford, in Yorkshire, where you can get purely racially Asian people who talk with a broader accent than me!!  I suppose that’s why I don’t understand colour prejudice, my friends were, and are, from all sorts of countries, like the Liverpool song says “There’s every race and colour of face, and ever kind of name, but the pigeons on the pier-head, they treat us all the same”.

Myths – much food for thought.

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