Myth

Myths are the etymology of culture.

Pre-Christian Greece was a great manufacturer of myths apart from being the cradle of democracy. It was not the only one. The land of the wandering Aramean proved a fertile stage for myths whereby an oral tradition established itself as written law. I do not aim at reinforcing the influence of universals such as the collective unconscious or of those myths that are supposed explain human behaviour in general; nor do I wish to define what an ideal democracy or a universally fair law would look like. I do want to grasp the extension of our cultural alienation instead, and the mythification of myths is a sign of that alienation.

When Claude Lévi-Strauss coins the term mytheme by analogy with other irreducible categories in linguistics such as the grapheme or the phoneme, he goes one step further binding mythology to the scientific endeavour of comprehending humanity. Historicist and behaviouristic models generally fail to grant the subject full recognition, whereas structuralism and psychoanalysis seem unwilling to resume the repetitive failures that founded them.

As we witness technology quickly reshaping bodies and reconfiguring relations, one can hardly presume to live in a temporality that resembles even remotely that of classical and even modern myths. There’s no trouble with Faust or Antigone, and there’s nothing wrong with quoting Sophocles or even Goethe, but if we are unable to recognise our own contemporary sources of understanding in the mortal palimpsest that is our body, then the fascination with tradition and the cultural fixation on explanatory canons may be itself tragic. Ourbody is being lost to technological extasy.

The complexity of political conflicts is cut down to digestible narratives of good and evil. (Were these ever true?) Even that godly justice of punishment and reward we encounter on classic myths denies the very possibility of justice. Indeed, the idea of a primal balance that would be interrupted –by fate, excess, impure action– ignores the fact that not only ethics does not depend on religious law but also does it require the sovereignty of the political over any religion for the sake of justice.

Terrorism is no other than a mass play on etymology for the sake of a meaningful, cultural genocide. How can there be any meaning when the body is alienated –to faith, work, healthcare– and even death is forced to exile? What’s the point in killing and dying for a myth when there is no redemption beyond meaning, and no meaning beyond the nonsense of being here?

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