National myths develop in a similar fashion. The theory that the first Thanksgiving happened the year the settlers arrived in Plymouth and that the natives welcomed them with open arms and provided the first meal is a lot more palatable and child-friendly than the concept that half the Pilgrims died the first year, especially children and otherwise frail individuals, many of them starving to death. The idea of Sacajawea leading Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Coast as part of an exploration of the American west is much more appealing than the reality of the decimation of the native cultures that we would carry out a few years later.
People would rather believe that their individual forefathers and the nation’s forefathers were noble men of adventure rather than blood-thirsty conquerors. Consider as well the need to understand the natural land forms of the country and the lack of scientific explanation for how these were formed. Without the knowledge of weather patterns and retreating glaciers, explaining the land of 10,000 lakes might require the invention of giant blue ox and the lumberjack that tamed it.
What better, and more fun explanation could there be for horseshoe shaped waterways, seemingly unconnected at least on the surface) to other bodies of water. And, without an understanding of genetics and birds’ migratory patterns and the development of species, Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman makes for a much more interesting explanation of the proliferation of apple trees in seemingly distant regions from one another. And, sometimes the mythology grows out of the reality.
There is a giant limestone cave along the Ohio River in Illinois that was used in “How the West was Won” as hideout for river bandits and others hiding from the frontier law. Local history tells us that myth, enhanced by Hollywood, is true. For several generations until near the Civil War era, the cave, known as Cave-in-Rock, was known to be a hideout for a counterfeiter and other various thieves and brigands. The legend surrounding the cave is greater than its real usage, but the legend is grounded in truth. The myth may then have grown out of the desire to keep people safe.
Much like it is hard to explain all the dangers of a local swimming hole to a child, it might have been easier to claim pirates ruled the cave than to explain that it was in a remote and hard to access part of the river and that it could provide a hiding place for evil doers. As science gives us a broader understanding of how and why things come to be, society has turned its mythology away from the natural world and begun to create myths about science and technology. We have, as always, a need to explain that which we cannot understand.
This need may stem from fear of the unknown or simply an unreasonable inability to admit that we don’t have answers. Myths may, in fact, stem from human pride more than from any other emotion, but whatever the cause, they are used to build a cultural identity. The blue ox, that made all those lakes, was probably an ox and a companion to a lumberjack as a way to make men in that profession feel more like they had an impact on their country. The concept that Americans were explorers, not killers and conquerors, helps shape our national image as industrious and investigatory peoples.
No one wants to be thought of as a murderous death squad that killed the natives via disease, war and forced relocation. In short, myths allow us to feel better about ourselves and to change the way that we feel about our heritage. They allow us to develop a national image, or a family image, more in keeping with what we would like it to be than perhaps with what it really was. The process helps us to identify what we want to be and strive toward it. 5. Discuss the role that symbolism and modes of communication play in the business world.
First, referring to Cultural Forms and Gift Exchange Rituals in the Workplace, how are symbolic elements used in creating the culture of corporations. How do they define what behaviors are considered appropriate and inappropriate and what persons are valued? How are cultural ideas, encapsulated in symbols, used by marketers to create the desire to buy products (refer to What You See is What you Buy, and Imagery and Symbolism) and at times used to change social values (Janus, Advertising and Global Culture)?
What are the kinds of social messages advertising symbols, including advertisements and brands, use to sell? Do these ad symbols simply reflect our current cultural ideals or actually change those perceptions and ideals? The use of cultural imagery to sell things is very prominent as discussed in the essay “What You See is What You Buy”. The reality is most consumers know intellectually that what they see is not what they get, but advertising relies on tricking the mind into believing things about a product that it neither does nor promises to do.
For years, our cultural fascination with the Marlboro man lead us to believe that he was somehow more masculine and more free, the image of a rough, trail worn cowboy, because he smoked Marlboros. Car dealers use the same basic premise by showing us beautiful people in sports cars or idyllic families in mini-vans, selling the consumer an idea more than an actual product. This is the same reason that adult beverage commercials advertise a party atmosphere or beautiful girls playing volleyball instead of the beer or liquor that they are actually selling.
And, it is the reason that even models for large size clothing are more slender than any person who would ever wear those clothe. Advertising sells us an imaginary look or product that has nothing to do with the item we are purchasing, but that are representative of societies image of these things, rather than the actuality of the thing. For example, the great majority of people who buy minivans are not idyllic families with 2. 2 children, a medium sized family dog and a mom that bakes cookies for the school bake sale.
But this is what society wants to believe about what the perfect family is and so we advertise it as though it were reality. Studies regarding literacy have shown that this trend can be very difficult for someone who cannot read the words on the package. For example, if a can of Crisco has fired chicken displayed on it, someone who cannot read the language might presume the can contained chicken. This appears to be why society has moved toward pictorial representations of food on packaging that are more representational of what’s inside, but for the great majority of forms of advertise, we sell an idea rather than a product.
Likewise, when involved in corporate gift giving, there is a ritual developing that is meant to imply a closeness of the company that does not really exist. The ritual involves a group donating to buy a gift for whatever the occasion is, a wedding, retirement or a child’s birth, with each person contributing an amount determined generally by their position within the company, not their personal relationship with the gift recipient.
Then, a card, usually purchased in bulk with no real thought toward who will be receiving it, is passed around and people are expected to sign it or make some pithy comment, again with no regard to their personal relationship. Next the money is given to some employee whose job description involves shopping, an administrative assistant or purchasing person, who may not know anything at all about the person for whom she is buying the gift. Generally, this leads to impersonal gifts given because the occasion demands it and not out of any real sense of community among the gift givers and the recipients.
This use of ritual is probably actually having a detrimental effect on society. The meaning behind the gift is lost and the recipient, as well as the givers, knows that the purpose is solely to fulfill a social obligation. Thus, the intended purpose of the gift—to make the company feel more like a family or a community—is clearly lost. While some people do not care about this loss of meaning, their greed or desire for the gift overwhelming the need for a sense of community, the practice is detrimental to society as a whole.
It means that the ritual continues even though the meaning behind the ritual is lost. At that point, it becomes a ritual for the sake of ritual and begins the degradation of society. Rituals must have a deeper meaning for them to be effective. If you do something just because it is what is done, then the meaning is lost and society has stopped thinking for itself. This ritual can also be demeaning for a new employee or for a temporary worker. Often, they are expected to give to the gift fund the same as anyone else though they are buying a gift for someone they have not even met.
And, it can be devastating for a minimum wage worker to be asked to contribute the same amount to a company-wide gift as the CEO is, knowing that the money makes a much bigger difference to him than it does to the other contributor. Likewise, imagine the joy of joining a company during the middle of your life. Your wedding is a distant memory and children are in school, but retirement is far off on the horizon. You are expected to give and give to gifts for other employees who will never be asked to reciprocate. The you-must-contribute mentality breeds resentment and anger, not a sense of community or unity.
Voluntary gifts to co-workers can also breed difficult situations. For example, forgetting to buy something for the new girl while you are vacation, but bringing something for everyone else, can cause hard feelings. Or, choosing to only buy for certain people, or the perception that you are buying better gifts for some people than others can be devastating to the corporate atmosphere. A better option for gift policies is to do so as a gift exchange with set limits at a time when everyone can receive a gift or to forgo individual gifts entirely.
Though forgoing gifts seems like a drastic approach for larger corporations, the simple truth is that the giving of gifts is likely to breed more discontent than it is to satisfy any perceived need for a spirit of community. Community building should be done via other rituals and shared experiences instead of using the ritual of gift-giving. In this environment, the only way the gift-giving model can work is for the person choosing the gift to strive to buy a special gift for everyone and even then, the process is probably not going to do anything to promote a better corporate environment.