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Archive for May 22nd, 2012

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.  –  John F. Kennedy

Yesterday I defined a “myth” as “a framework or paradigm used to explain and interpret observable phenomena in the absence of (or contrary to) hard data, usually via the involvement of a supernormal force or entity which is not discernible by ordinary means and therefore must be taken on faith.”  Some myths arise naturally, while others are specifically designed by rulers, priests, politicians or other would-be dictators as a means of social control.  For example, Alexander the Great’s successor Ptolemy I of Egypt combined the Greek god Hades and the Egyptian gods Apis and Osiris into a new god named Serapis, so as to have a deity all his subjects could worship; half a millennium later the Roman Emperor Elagabalus combined the Roman Sol, the Persian Mithra and the Syrian El-Gabal into a single god named Sol Invictus for much the same reason; and 13 centuries after that Catholic priests combined the Blessed Mother with the Aztec mother-goddess Tonantzin to produce Our Lady of Guadalupe in order to convert the Aztecs.  Similarly, the modern Swedish government has created a mythology of “state feminism” to control brainwashed “feminist” women and to suppress men and uppity women.  In my column of one year ago today I discussed a study which busted that particular myth wide open (though as I discussed yesterday, that won’t stop true believers from embracing it); today I’d like to observe that anniversary by sharing two other articles which bust modern myths, and one in which ignorant modern busybodies “bust” an ancient one.

Let’s start with one I myself have busted before: the “disease as punishment for sin” narrative, which holds that prostitutes and other people with “immoral” lifestyles carry more venereal diseases than those who simply “fall” into extramarital sex on occasion.  This is of course related to the ridiculous notion that only “bad girls” make rational decisions about sex, with predictable results:

[According to a new study] people who cheat on their partners are more likely to have unsafe sex than those in open relationships who don’t need to hide their sexual straying…[they] were less likely to use condoms, and less likely to discuss their history of sexually transmitted diseases…compared with people in open relationships who had sex with someone other than their primary partner…The results suggest those who are unfaithful have a higher risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, and possibly transmitting it to their partner, than those in open relationships…The researchers found that 48 percent of unfaithful people reported using a condom  during their sexual digression, compared with 66 percent of individuals in an open relationship…34 percent of unfaithful individuals reported talking about their sexual history and previous STD testing before engaging in sex, compared with 63 percent of those in open relationships.  The cheaters were also less likely to cover or sterilize sex toys before using them, compared with those in open relationships.  Previous research has shown unfaithful people do not accurately perceive the effect their cheating will have on their partners’ mental health, and the new results suggest those who cheat also misperceive, or do not accept, the physical health risks of sex outside their relationship…

A great deal of the basis for “trafficking” mythology lies in myths about international migration, which are more prevalent now than at any time since the 1910s.  For example, everybody knows that the US is being flooded with ever-increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants, right?  Wrong:

…Douglas Massey, the founder and co-director of  Princeton’s Mexican Migration Project…[demonstrates] that…

• We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants.  The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s.  The massive influx many have written about never happened.

• Net illegal migration has stopped almost completely.

• Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.

• There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home — not because more are sneaking into the country.

• And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.

…If Congress had done nothing to secure the border over the last two decades…there might be as many as 2 million fewer Mexicans living in the United States today…heightened border enforcement…[shifted] the problem.  Unable to cross where they traditionally had — into California and Texas — Mexican migrants instead…[made] the dangerous Sonoran Desert crossing into Arizona…then moved on to other states.  Arizonans who complained during the 1990s and early 2000s about a surge in illegal migration were not imagining things.  But it was the American government…that…had channeled the flow of migrants into their backyard.

…migration traditionally was seasonal and cyclical.  Young men would head to El Norte in search of agricultural or construction work, earn money, and then return home.  But when it became too risky and too expensive to migrate seasonally, migrants simply chose to stay in the United States.  Because they no longer were returning home regularly, they could look for work farther from the border.  They also settled down and had families, which made them even less likely to leave…

Behold the Law of Unintended Consequences at work.  It is literally impossible for a government to stop or even control complex and widespread social phenomena by passing laws, especially prohibitionist laws; such legislation never stops what it’s intended to stop, and invariably creates a host of new problems.  But that never stops lawheads, who are always looking for something to ban…even if their target has been around for thousands of years before they were born:

A photograph of a naked woman and a swan was taken down after a police officer complained that it appeared to “condone bestiality”…the Scream gallery in Mayfair had exhibited the [depiction of the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan] for a month with no complaints from the public…But a Metropolitan police officer…saw the Derrick Santini image from a bus…and two uniformed officers went to the gallery…“They said the photograph suggested we condoned bestiality, which was an arrestable offence”…said [Jag Mehta, the gallery’s sales director].  “It’s crazy.  Perhaps the cultural references were lost on them.”  As the exhibition was already over, they took down the artwork…“We would of course have fought to keep the piece up otherwise.  If anyone wants to view it, we still have it at the gallery” [said gallery owner Jamie Wood]… Miss Mehta said the myth of Leda’s rape by Zeus was an acceptable form of erotica in Victorian times.  However, this argument failed to impress the police.  “They said they didn’t know anything about the myth,” she said.  “They asked if we had had any complaints and we said quite the contrary.  Lots of people were intrigued by it”…

Somehow I’m not surprised that the coppers were unfamiliar with the myth, or that their perverted minds saw only ugliness and sin where everyone else saw art.  But that’s what happens when two mythologies clash…especially when one set of believers is willing to threaten the other with violence in order to impose its own mythology on everyone.

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