May 17, 2013

Myth-using a good word

I always kind of cringe when I hear the word myth used to signify commonly held but wrong belief, as in, for example, the myth of welfare dependency. I think of myths as stories that provide meaning to life. The word itself means something like plot in Greek. The more I think about it, though, wrongly held beliefs often do function as a kind of myth that does tell a story and provide meaning, even if it isn't accurate.

Today a friend of mine produced a well done blog post titled The "Welfare Dependency" Myth in West Virginia. It does a good job of pointing out that widespread dependency on such kinds of aid for families has in fact dramatically declined..

Still, the delusion of widespread welfare dependency does function as a dark myth that gives meaning to mean-spirited people who like to bash the poor, most of whom are seen as unworthy. This kind of myth justifies cutting such programs, sometimes even by claiming that this would really help poor people in the long run.

Since myths are something we apparently can't live without, the only viable course seems to be to come up with a better one.

I'VE BEEN THINKING THIS TOO. From the same source, here's another post about how Medicaid expansion can help deal with substance abuse, a major factor in prison overcrowding.


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