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(108,903 posts)
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 07:05 AM Jan 2013

Everything We Tell Ourselves About America and the World Is Wrong


Every culture has a Story of the People to give meaning to the world. Part conscious and part unconscious, it consists of a matrix of agreements, narratives, and symbols that tell us why we are here, where we are headed, what is important, and even what is real. I think we are entering a new phase in the dissolution of our Story of the People, and therefore, with some lag time, of the edifice of civilization built on top of it.

Sometimes I feel intense nostalgia for the cultural mythology of my youth, a world in which there was nothing wrong with soda pop, in which the Superbowl was important, in which the world’s greatest democracy was bringing democracy to the world, in which science was going to make life better and better. Life made sense. If you worked hard you could get good grades, get into a good college, go to grad school or follow some other professional path, and you would be happy. With a few unfortunate exceptions, you would be successful if you obeyed the rules of our society: if you followed the latest medical advice, kept informed by reading the New York Times, and stayed away from Bad Things like drugs. Sure there were problems, but the scientists and experts were working hard to fix them. Soon a new medical advance, a new law, a new educational technique, would propel the onward improvement of life. My childhood perceptions were part of this Story of the People, in which humanity was destined to create a perfect world through science, reason, and technology, to conquer nature, transcend our animal origins, and engineer a rational society.

From my vantage point, the basic premises of this story seemed unquestionable. After all, it seemed to be working in my world. Looking back, I realize that this was a bubble world built atop massive human suffering and environmental degradation, but at the time one could live within that bubble without need of much self-deception. The story that surrounded us was robust. It easily kept anomalous data points on the margins.

Since my childhood in the 1970s, that story has eroded at an accelerating rate. More and more people in the West no longer believe that civilization is fundamentally on the right track. Even those who don’t yet question its basic premises in any explicit way seem to have grown weary of it. A layer of cynicism, a hipster self-awareness has muted our earnestness. What was once so real, say a plank in a party platform, today is seen through several levels of “meta” filters to parse it in terms of image and message. We are like children who have grown out of a story that once enthralled us, aware now that it is only a story.
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Everything We Tell Ourselves About America and the World Is Wrong (Original Post) xchrom Jan 2013 OP
K&R DeSwiss Jan 2013 #1
... xchrom Jan 2013 #2
Yeah, but if you happen to realize this consciously you are thought insane if you mention it Fumesucker Jan 2013 #3
nicely put. nt xchrom Jan 2013 #5
Yes, well put. I might add, "and the man claiming to have sight would be king and he'd poke out the rhett o rick Jan 2013 #19
ive known "America" was a farce sense birth willhe Jan 2013 #4
they talk about freedom in the world but dont want it for everyone in america. Flashmann Jan 2013 #7
+1. SammyWinstonJack Jan 2013 #8
The 1% want and have unlimited freedom, supported by the blood and guns of our soldiers. nt valerief Jan 2013 #10
What we're really trying to free from the clutches of the despots Jackpine Radical Jan 2013 #26
Exactly right. Everybody born into any of the underclasses always knows that the stories are lies. Egalitarian Thug Jan 2013 #34
Please...Like all of us, you didn't know anything "at birth". whathehell Jan 2013 #36
K&R newfie11 Jan 2013 #6
Bloody well written! nt Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #9
Isn't it, though? Delphinus Jan 2013 #20
autoxchromeDURec KG Jan 2013 #11
I grew up believing it too. zeemike Jan 2013 #12
Powerful...thanks. Faryn Balyncd Jan 2013 #13
Other than someone feeling depressed, does the author offer any concrete examples? randome Jan 2013 #14
It's not unproductive to arrive at the scene of a massive automobile accident obamamyprez Jan 2013 #18
Did you read it? tama Jan 2013 #22
at the same time live outside of America JCMach1 Jan 2013 #15
It angers me when lessens learned are allowed to fall by the wayside... socialindependocrat Jan 2013 #16
I grew up in a bubble that lasted until elementary school obamamyprez Jan 2013 #17
This message was self-deleted by its author rhett o rick Jan 2013 #21
Eisenstein is a rare bird. GliderGuider Jan 2013 #23
Another piece by Einstein JReed Jan 2013 #28
True. But change happens superpatriotman Jan 2013 #24
Charles makes that point in his talks GliderGuider Jan 2013 #25
Equality only looks equal to one looking down on others. n/t RKP5637 Jan 2013 #27
All of America is based on myth JReed Jan 2013 #29
Our brains are not the boss! nt gulliver Jan 2013 #30
I adore Charles Eisenstein. Question for those who click on this post.... OneGrassRoot Jan 2013 #31
+1 xchrom Jan 2013 #32
We have finally qualified and quantified our very existence Rex Jan 2013 #33
Yes! whatchamacallit Jan 2013 #35
k/r marmar Jan 2013 #37
K&R woo me with science Jan 2013 #38


(27,137 posts)
1. K&R
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 07:31 AM
Jan 2013

[center]I Pledge Allegiance
To The

And To The
That Is America


(45,851 posts)
3. Yeah, but if you happen to realize this consciously you are thought insane if you mention it
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 07:57 AM
Jan 2013

Erasmus said that in the country of the blind the one eyed man is king.

Erasmus was a flaming optimist, in the country of the blind the one eyed man is thought to be mad.


rhett o rick

(55,981 posts)
19. Yes, well put. I might add, "and the man claiming to have sight would be king and he'd poke out the
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 11:22 AM
Jan 2013

eye of the one eyed man. And the blind would call him Cheney."

I am being flip, but what you wrote is very thought provoking. If we consider today's society as blind, how would we know which of the many claiming to have sight are true?


(97 posts)
4. ive known "America" was a farce sense birth
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 08:04 AM
Jan 2013

being of african descent america has always been a myth. ive always look at the hypocrisy of this nation in every situation including the mythology of its democracy. when they talk about bringing democracy to the world ive ask myself who wants this shit.

how ironic is it that they talk about freedom in the world but dont want it for everyone in america. america is at the bottom for everything good and up top for everything bad

the right cries about the constitution like they cry about the bible.

they are quick to bring the I but forget the first damn word of the consitution is "We". like the bible they talk about it but ignore all the teachings of whom they suppose to follow. all they have is thou shall not murder(babies) and anti-gay. nothing else. thats there whole existence to stupidity


(2,140 posts)
7. they talk about freedom in the world but dont want it for everyone in america.
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 08:52 AM
Jan 2013

Usually,the places to which we want to bring freedom,have some resource,(oil),that we want...Same with countries that are supposed threats to the world.......North Korea,for instance....If there were oil fields there,we would be bringing "freedom and democracy" by the truckload....It should go without saying,that the folks who operate under that mindset,mostly have a little (r) by their names..........


Egalitarian Thug

(12,448 posts)
34. Exactly right. Everybody born into any of the underclasses always knows that the stories are lies.
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 04:47 PM
Jan 2013

Less well-known is that most born into the ruling class are taught that the stories are lies so that they will be better prepared to carry the power they are born with forward.


(29,131 posts)
36. Please...Like all of us, you didn't know anything "at birth".
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 09:42 PM
Jan 2013

When you're old enough, you might try travelling to other parts of the world.

Then you might learn that this country is far from perfect, but not that much

farther from it than other countries in the world.


(18,998 posts)
12. I grew up believing it too.
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 09:47 AM
Jan 2013

But that was in the 50s when the illusion was rampant.
But that was soon changed by my experiences in the real world and a bullet from the Grassy Knoll.
Then I opened my eyes and looked around and noticed that it was just a fake and a fraud run by fakes and frauds.

Most people just sleep walk through life cause they are so busy with life...and it makes it easy to perpetuate the illusion.

Faryn Balyncd

(5,125 posts)
13. Powerful...thanks.
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 10:20 AM
Jan 2013

...But the new mythos has not yet emerged. We will abide for a time in the space between stories. Those of you who have been through it on a personal level know that it is a very precious – some might say sacred – time. Then we are in touch with the real. Each disaster lays bare the real underneath our stories. The terror of a child, the grief of a mother, the honesty of not knowing why. In such moments we discover our humanity. We come to each other’s aid, human to human. We take care of each other. That’s what keeps happening every time there is a calamity, before the beliefs, the ideologies, the politics take over again. Events like Sandy Hook, for at least a moment, cut through all that down to the basic human being. In such times, we learn who we really are.



(34,845 posts)
14. Other than someone feeling depressed, does the author offer any concrete examples?
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 10:24 AM
Jan 2013

There is a lot that needs doing in the world but to say that 'everything is wrong' is kind of unproductive.



(33 posts)
18. It's not unproductive to arrive at the scene of a massive automobile accident
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 10:48 AM
Jan 2013

with wreckage, carnage and death, to look around and say, "Something has gone terribly wrong here". That is where we are at, America has been wrecked.



(9,137 posts)
22. Did you read it?
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 01:55 PM
Jan 2013

What kind of threads you would like to see woven into the new story of people? What does your heart say?


(27,594 posts)
15. at the same time live outside of America
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 10:29 AM
Jan 2013

For an extended period as I did the last decade in a dictatorship and you realize there are some very exceptional things about America. They are just not always the official story.


(1,372 posts)
16. It angers me when lessens learned are allowed to fall by the wayside...
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 10:30 AM
Jan 2013

Also grew up in the 50s:

My mother would mention the depression every now and then
I would ask if it could happen again and she said, no, the government made laws that will stop that from ever haoppening again.
Look at us today!

the government made laws that stopped monopolies.
Over the past 35 years I worked for a large corporation.
In the 80s they said that the larger corps. would buy out the smaller ones and we would end up with 3-4 major companies in our area
I wondered what happened to the anti-trust act?
Now look at us.

We have been sold out by our elected leaders and now it is going to take the next ten years to get things back on track again.

We are working now to stop the wealthy from gaining enough control to tip the country past the point of no return.

We have allowed the wealthy to take more than their share over the past 35 years.
It is not asking too much for them to get the economy back on track.

We need to acknowledge that the Republicants are still feeding money to the wealthy every chance they get.
and, they are stopping the banks from being devided and/or prosecuted.
We need to stop the lobbyists and the flow of pay-offs back to the members of congress who are playing the game.
special interest groups are not the American people.

The economy will grow because of the middle class!



(33 posts)
17. I grew up in a bubble that lasted until elementary school
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 10:41 AM
Jan 2013

Upper middle class neighborhood that was like living in that famous Seurat painting. My first notion that something was wrong was when I saw the bodies on the TV from Jonestown. That image has stuck with me. It all kind of went down hill from there. Then I remember in junior high drawing pictures of mushroom clouds and thinking that nuclear war would be pretty cool, at least the zombie apocalypse aspects of it. It was Ronnie Rayguns presidency after all. It's depressing when I realize that a Democrat has only been in the Oval Office for 16 years of my lifetime and I'm nearing 50.

Response to xchrom (Original post)



(21,088 posts)
23. Eisenstein is a rare bird.
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 01:58 PM
Jan 2013

In my opinion, Charles Eisenstein is one of a small handful of contemporary thinkers who really understands What's Going On™. Fortunately, he is also one of an even smaller handful of contemporary writers who can express it so that your heart can hear. This piece is pure triple-distilled Eisenstein, one of his clearest expressions yet of what's happening right now.

I urge anyone who hasn't read it to spend some time with his book "The Ascent of Humanity". If you're interested in how and why we've ended up in this pickle, it's a must-read.


(6,257 posts)
24. True. But change happens
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 02:19 PM
Jan 2013

Our species is evolving. We are germs living on an tiny organism in an ever-expanding universe.

What the author is experiencing is called 'growing up' or 'peeling the onion'.



(21,088 posts)
25. Charles makes that point in his talks
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 03:17 PM
Jan 2013

He feels that humanity is moving out of its adolescence and into adulthood. Such times are never free of drama.

It's just too bad that as teenagers we trashed the place so hard...



(149 posts)
29. All of America is based on myth
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 03:59 PM
Jan 2013

Most Americans know that the framers met for three months in closed session, but this is generally forgiven on the grounds that the then Congress of the United States had not commissioned them to write a new Constitution, and neither revolutionaries nor counter-revolutionaries can do all their work in the open. What few modern-day Americans realize, however, is that the framers did their best to ensure that we would never know the details of their deliberations. All the participants in the convention were sworn to life-long secrecy, and when the debates were over, those who had taken notes were asked to hand them in to George Washington, whose final task as chairman of the convention was to get rid of the evidence. American's first president, it appears, was also its first shredder.

Fortunately, not all the participants kept their vows of silence or handed in all their notes. But it wasn't until 1840, a half century after the Constitution was put into effect, with the posthumous surfacing of James Madison's extensive notes, that the American people could finally read what had happened in those three crucial months in Philadelphia. What was revealed was neither divine nor diabolical, but simply human, an all-too-human exercise in politics. Merchants, bankers, ship-owners, planters, slave traders and slave owners, land speculators, and lawyers, who made their money working for these groups, voiced their interests and fears in clear, uncluttered language; and, after settling a few, relatively minor disagreements, they drew up plans for a form of government they believe would serve these interests most effectively. But the fifty years of silence had the desired myth-building effect. The human actors were transformed into "Founding Fathers." Their political savvy and common sense were now seen as all-surpassing
wisdom, and their concern for their own class of property owners (and, to a lesser, extent, sections of the country and occupational groups) had been elevated to universal altruism (in the liberal version) or
self-sacrificing patriotism (in the preferred conservative view).

The founding documents were designed to reign in the "mob" - the mob that had actually fought and won the Revolution.


(22,925 posts)
31. I adore Charles Eisenstein. Question for those who click on this post....
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 04:31 PM
Jan 2013

(Thanks in advance to xchrom for permitting me to post this in response to his OP)

Below I'm pasting something I wrote in a separate DU group earlier today. For those who resonate with xchrom's post here, perhaps you'd be interested as well. Reading Eisenstein's latest made me focus on this even more and put it "out there."

Visionary storytelling has been in my awareness for several years. There are so many creative people on DU, people who share a similar worldview, that I've always felt this group -- anyone who stumbles upon this post and resonates -- is where the storytelling can begin.

Lately, however, what I can't get out of my head is TRANSFORMATIVE STORYTELLING.

The Charles Eisenstein blog post reminded me of this, and I was hoping to engage some of you in fleshing this out further.

Regarding my desire to engage in visionary storytelling, this excerpt of the Eisenstein piece speaks to that:

What about a world where we know that our daily activities contribute to the healing of the biosphere and the well-being of other people? We need a Story of the People that includes all of those things – and that doesn’t feel like a fantasy.

Yes, that's precisely what I've said previously myself in trying to engage others to tell such stories, stories which can provide a blueprint for our future. Such content is what xchrom, marmar and others often post about, which I appreciate tremendously.

However, it now makes sense that visionary storytelling must wait until the transformative stories can be shared. We can't see the "how's" of moving forward...not in a clear, unified, PRACTICAL way which inspires us to join together en masse. We're in between stories, as Charles wrote.

To me, TRANSFORMATIVE storytelling can open hearts and minds, and provide a way to connect in a profound, human/humane way. As collective transformation takes hold, we can then begin to envision the future and our way forward -- as individuals and as a society -- more clearly.

I feel compelled to make Transformative Stories part of Wishadoo in 2013. I've never interviewed people before and don't know that I have the skills to do that effectively, but I'm thinking one way to move forward with this is to interview people around the world about their transformative stories...people who were profoundly changed by something or someone in a positive way, and their story can contribute to the collective opening of hearts and minds.

I'm not sure that I actually have a transformative story, per se. Well, that's not true, now that I think about it.

I've always been empathetic and acutely aware of others' suffering, so unlike Mr. Eisenstein, who said he felt the world was fine and would be fine during his childhood, I was aware of the suffering and disconnect all around as early as I can remember, which was a VERY early age.

There was one pivotal moment in the 4th grade, involving racism and degradation of another child, which I witnessed up close and personal. That singular event kicked my desire to have others wake up to have more respect for human beings and life in general into high gear.

Maybe I should write about that as my first transformative story?

Maybe that is how I should frame this Transformative Storytelling Project:

What stories do you have to share which opened your heart and mind, and could help others do the same?

Do you have any thoughts? Is this something you'd like to be a part of, creating blog posts at Wishadoo to share your stories?

I'm thinking stories which accompany Wishlist posts would help that tool gain momentum and humanize the various needs, wishes, hopes and dreams shared there.

I've always known that people need to open their hearts and minds before the practical tools offered at Wishadoo can be appreciated.

It seems Occupy stories are part of this as well...that I should reach out to the various Occupy networks regarding this project. Speaking of which, check out www.occupycompassion.com

Sharing any thoughts that come to mind as you read this would be most appreciated.

Thanks much.



(65,616 posts)
33. We have finally qualified and quantified our very existence
Tue Jan 1, 2013, 04:46 PM
Jan 2013

and now crave more. Someone once told me evil is not cruelty, but indifference. The more we become like computers/machines, the more we change the entire dynamic of the human race.

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