Friday, August 13, 2010

Of Myths and Men

The weather is hot and muggy.  I hate hot and muggy weather.  The cat woke me up earlier than I wanted to wake up.  The household's main computer seems to be dying.  In the midst of the morning fog caused by heat, rude awakenings, and fear of impending financial failure caused by tech failure, I came across the following tweet:
Madville Times: Daugaard Perpetuates SD Teacher-Pay/Cost-of-Living Myth: Myth, Dennis. Myth, myth, myth.
My enthusiasm rose.  The word myth is repeated 5 times.  I love myths.  I teach mythology.    I use this handout for my class; it asserts "in general, myths are metaphorically and symbolically true, but factually and literally false."  Myths are great adventure stories with symbolic meaning.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to read an analysis of a modern Heracles destroying a symbolic hydra.  I didn't even get to read an analysis of Thor kicking the dwarf Lit into the fire of Baldur's funeral pyre.  Instead, the article is about Dennis Daugaard justifying teachers' low salaries by claiming that South Dakota's cost of living is low, so it all balances out.  The Madville Times debunks the claim here.

I want to cling to the idea that myths have symbolic truth.  In this situation, there's little symbolism to examine.  Either low coast of living makes up for low pay or it doesn't.  The stats say it doesn't.  Therefore, this claim isn't really a myth.

Daugaard's claim is propaganda.  According to Merriam-Webster.com, propaganda "is the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person."

Daugaard is obviously spreading the information or in this case misinformation to help his cause of being elected.  He's been part of the current administration and it serves his cause to have people believe that South Dakota has a low cost of living and, therefore, wage earners need less to have a comfortable existence.  If voters are comfortable or believe they are comfortable, the incumbents have a far better chance of holding power.

Less charitably, Daugaard may intend to injure teachers.  Teachers as a group probably lean Democrat.  They constantly remind the Republicans that South Dakota is last in teacher pay, but the idea that a low cost of living makes up for the low pay allows workers in other occupations to view teachers as whiners and complainers who have three months off with pay.

The great myths showed flawed people doing awesome deeds and experiencing heart-wrenching failures.  The deeds and failures reveal a little truth about the human condition.  Daugaard's claim doesn't fulfill those criteria; it's merely self-serving propaganda

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