By Dr. Denise R. Ames
If you are like me, you are probably wondering what is going on today. I am trying to make sense of the turmoil, uncertainty, and rage. I find it is hard to get clear answers. Closely following and reflecting upon this time of unrest, I have found that the rhetoric emerging from the progressive left reminds me of the making of a mythology. In response, I am drawn to exploring how progressives are actually formulating a mythology, rather than devising a new form of reality-based governance. This series of blogs will explore the making of a progressive myth. Here is part 4 …
Humans are meaning-making creatures. We strive for meaning and purpose in our lives, and if it isn’t clear what that meaning is, we create meaning. Guided by what myths people value and elevate, we construct meaning and purpose in our lives. By unconsciously following our myths, people regulate and interpret their lives and find worth and purpose.
For many years, meaning for many Americans reflected the mythology of the American Dream. It was about having a family, participating in community life, and being part of a religious organization. I remember as a child growing up in the 1950s that my extended family was very important in my life. My grandmother, the matriarch of the clan, wielded power with resolve. Some Americans continue to hold this myth, but it no longer resonates with others.
But I have found that the meaning of meaning has significantly changed in the last couple of decades. The importance of family, community, and place of worship have eroded, leaving a vacuum in the lives of many Americans, especially the youth. Instead, we are left adrift in the search for meaning, and many people feel anomie as a result.
But the progressive left has risen to the occasion and sorted out what gives them meaning. This meaning is a vital component in their construction of a mythology. Many of today’s youth have struggled to find meaning in a world that rewards marketplace success to an elite few, in a crowded arena of professional strivers, or in low wage, dead-end jobs. I have empathy for their predicament. I am not surprised that many would gravitate to progressive left politics to assuage their lack of purpose.
Meaning for progressive leftists revolves around participating in a cause. It is a perfect way to belong to something greater than oneself, to a cause. And it is not just any old cause, but one that is righteous and elevated, they are on the virtuous side of history. Many of them look confident and righteous as they march down streets with fists raised or shout in the face of beleaguered-looking policeman monitoring their actions or admonish people in restaurants that they are not woke enough. They are adamant about fighting for a cause that they elevate to the noblest plane of action.
Their cause may be to defund the police, abolish ICE, open up national borders, fight for racial justice, Black Lives Matter, save the environment, promote equality, protect transgender rights, destroy capitalism, or any other causes that meet their amorphous standards. However, I would argue, that the causes are vague and the goals are unattainable but that is not the real point. The real point is to find meaning in the cause and have a purpose in life.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus. Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books