The American dream is fundamentally about growth, about hard work paying off in expansion of personal and aggregate affluence, i.e. more and newer stuff that makes us look and feel good. Growth is fueled by demand and sustained through cash liquidity, often as debt to banks. Debt continues to crush countries like Greece, and its burden threatens to undo the American dream. Growth is driving a rush for more cheap dirty energy, like hydraulic fracking and tar sands oil. Growth, which is the direct result of consumerism, sacrifices the difficult-to-restore ecosystem in the interest of short term gain. It only takes a few days of bull dozing ‘useless’ dirt while mining for gold to destroy an ecosystem that took centuries to build. Permaculture enthusiasts seek to raise awareness and bring health to our planet, which is already a certain percentage dead.

Reversing the symptoms and manifestations of the consumer illness is important. It doesn’t, however, undo the root cause. What drives the destructive behaviors are deeply ingrained worldview assumptions about our entitlements as communities, and what we value as individuals (or what we believe gives us value). For some, gold or diamonds are a differentiator and it imputes value to them, so they pay a high price for it. If no one valued gold or diamonds, they would be cheap. If no one liked football, we wouldn’t have a billion dollar industry. If we valued old cars over new, the yearly release cycle might not be there. What drives all this consumerism is obviously what we covet, which is driven by our values. As long as we compare each other, there will always be a need for differentiation between us. One tactic is to shift the dimensions of comparison so that so we can covet what’s good for us.

If our values are not compatible with sustaining our habitat and indeed our race, can we change them? If so, how do we change them and what values should we have? The short answer is yes, there are value systems that are synergistic with a healthy environment and personal satisfaction, and we can discover and adopt them. At some point we can compare them. To start, however, I’m more interested in the dynamics: how does the mythical mind work? And how do we become proactive in creating myths.

I will argue that we re-program ourselves by shifting our worldview, using the dynamics of myth. (Note the ‘Dynamics of Myth’ is the title of a book I wrote with early thinking on the topic and published on Amazon Kindle). We shift our worldview by changing the myths we buy into – this is fundamentally a cultural endeavor with the value-import of religion. That means art with a shared purpose.

We have to first discover what we should believe – exercises in mythic awareness can help here. Once we know where we want to go, it comes down to the mechanism of our reprograming, which I argue is actually art created locally around a shared story. This is not unlike the dynamics of the Renaissance, where locally minted doctrine changed the shared story, and local art infused the lessons and values into the psyche of the faithful.

However, recreating a hierarchical religious order patterned after a Renaissance religion is not what I have in mind. A mechanism to dictate myth ex-cathedra would be handy, I must admit, since getting people to adopt an ‘objective theology’ is much easier than getting them to immerse themselves in a subjective mythology of their own invention (even though we do it all the time, whether by believing in Santa or by suspending reality during a super hero movie). Somehow acknowledging a belief system came from a prophet makes it easier to suspend disbelief.

So, you might ask, saving the planet has everything to do with getting people to make up stories, enchanting them into believing the tales long enough to create rich art, and use that program new default behaviors of the next generation? Simply put, yes.

Simple is rarely easy.

This blog will explore themes around these assumptions, weaving purposive art into culture and exploring what is worthy to value an economy. It’s an ambitious endeavor that cannot, by definition, be completed by an individual. I therefore will consider it a success if you also engage with me constructively on these topics.

— Roy Zuniga
Ballard, WA

copyright 2012 Roy Zuniga – All Rights Reserved