Interesting little post from 4chan:
How do you recognise a foundation myth? It fulfils three functions.
1)It explains the origin and structure of the world (and society).
2)It defines ultimate good and evil (and from those definitions are derived the values that are used to justify the holding of power).
3)It determines what is held sacred in that society.
For modern Westerners the story of WWII has become their foundation myth. It fulfils all three functions.
1)We live in the ‘Post-War World’. The lines on the map, the institutions, the sense of what era we live in, all arise from the starting point of WWII.
2)Ultimate evil is Nazis. Ultimate good is opposing Nazis. The values derived from these definitions are anti-racism, equality, diversity, anti-nationalism and so on.
3)The only thing that is held sacred, that cannot be denied or mocked in the contemporary West, is the Holocaust.
The problem is that all three functions are backwards or negative.
Instead of the origin event being one of fertility and new life, it was a conflagration of death and destruction.
Instead of ultimate good taking the central position in the story that slot is occupied by ultimate evil. Everyone knows that Adolf Hitler, the personification of evil, holds the centre point of the WWII story.
Instead of that which is held sacred being something mysterious and sublime it (the Holocaust) is an obscenity.
Having a negative foundation myth means the tree of life for Westerners is poisoned.
> Having a negative foundation myth means the tree of life for Westerners is poisoned.
People don’t realise it but the bounds of allowable thought and the orientation of ideas are all downstream from the myth of the society. As long as our understanding of who we are is determined by this negative foundation myth the only direction is down.
As far as I can tell the original write up on foundation myth is by someone going by the name of Emblematic.
Another interesting analysis to it is below:
The power of mythology (in modern globocorporate terms, of ad branding) is no trivial thing. Lose your founding myth, and you lose your identity. What has happened to White Westerners is worse: we have not just lost our identity but have been shackled to a new identity, a corrosive and malignant identity that threatens to subsume us in self-annihilationism. We have our new founding mythology, and it requires endless sacrifice with no hope of glory. How fucking depressing. And womanly.
The above is found on Chateau Heartiste here.
As someone who’s traveled around and lived in different countries, the initial post and above analysis feels pretty insightful and explains a lot of the cultural differences I’ve noticed between different people in the world. As an example using the same foundation myth line of reasoning, the Chinese also went through World War II, during which they fought off the invading Japanese.
To a degree, China and other nearby Chinese countries/territories like Taiwan and Hong Kong, do see their modern society as defined by WWII as well. The Japanese invaders, who performed their own share of atrocities to the Chinese population, are often depicted as the ultimate evil in their society.
Subsequently, values that allowed the Chinese to fight off the invaders, such as nationalism (let’s do it for our country!) and racial unity (let all of us Chinese stick together to fight off these Japs!) are considered good values among the Chinese, even though the same values are indeed looked down upon (increasingly so) in the west. I’ve frequently heard Western liberals proudly declare “Nationalism is a disease” and be uncomfortable around the idea of people of a race, especially whites, sticking together for whatever reason. Generally the Chinese are more fine with the idea of doing things that are the best for their nations and civilians, instead of feeling what appears to be guilt that compels them to provide aid to foreign nations.
The abuse suffered by the Chinese civilians at the hands of the invading Japanese, is considered by the Chinese as sacred going by the definitions put forth by the foundation myth reasoning listed above. It is the one event in their culture, no matter if you’re from China, Taiwan or wherever, that one does not mock. Similar to the west’s modern day foundation myth, the one event the Chinese see as sacred in their society is a negative one.
An interesting tangent to derive from this comparison, however, is that even though different nations/territories of Chinese people do see this particular event as the sacred existence in their society, they have different responses to it. Mainland China has for years emphasized the Japanese invasion and used it in their propaganda to manipulate and unite their own population. Due to this emphasis, the mainland Chinese population are much more likely to be hostile to the present day Japanese and are much more sensitive and easy to anger when it comes to international issues – to put it in more colloquial terms, they have some big chips on their shoulders and often a bit of a victim mentality.
To give a silly example, one time I was dining with an engineer from our company and a local factory manager in China. We were trying to pick the type of tofu to be used in our dish. When the factory manager mused, “hmm, maybe we should go with the Japanese style” the engineer angrily spoke up, “why the hell would we use the Japanese type!? We’re gonna go with the normal Chinese tofu!!” To someone like me, who was not born or raised in China, this left a strong impression. It was just tofu, man.
The Chinese from Taiwan, on the other hand, tend to be much more laid back and less sensitive when it comes to international matters since the government there does not emphasize on the Japanese war crimes as much. They are acknowledged and remembered, but not used in propaganda or overly emphasized. The Chinese from Taiwan are generally a happier people as a result, even when you take into account any differences in wealth and quality of life.
Even when one have a negative sacred existence/event in society, the way the rest of society treats that particular subject/existence causes differences in the way people react to it. Whereas the negativity and cultural pain resulted from the Japanese atrocities done over half a century ago is slowly fading and healing in places like Taiwan and Hong Kong, it remains much stronger in China. It’s as if China’s has done the equivalent of picking and poking at a wound, thus allowing it to fester for the long term without as much healing.
Looking at the different treatments and the results they yield, I can’t help but think of my own society’s sacred existence, the Holocaust, and wonder how we treat it. Do we tend to poke, prod and use it for propaganda & political gain the same as China? Or do we have a more healthy relationship to it like Taiwan?
This turned out to be a long post, but this foundation myth line of reasoning is fascinating when you use it to define and analyze a particular society/culture. When used right it can be used to look at many mentality and attitudes we take for granted and are subsequently invisible in our own society. As someone who’s traveled and lived in different places, I’ve noticed differences in people’s mentality and ways of thinking but could never clearly explain them away or understand why the differences exist, beyond a cursory “it’s just cultural”. The definitions and implications set forth by the foundation myth definitions gives me a pretty good structure to organize and analyze my own observations with. Hopefully it can turn out useful for you as well.