The Myth and Culture podcast revisits ancient myths, once treated as irrelevant to modern life, and demonstrates their interconnectedness with contemporary culture, business, politics, and society. Join renowned mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik in conversation with Jerry Johnson, a writer & speaker on Western Philosophy, every fortnight, as they skillfully reframe the hot-button issues of our times to uncover the myths that drive our lives.
Talk of money is in the air, what with demonetisation affecting us all in our daily lives. Devdutt and Jerry use this opportunity to talk about the philosophical, mythical and cultural meaning and significance of money. Money, says Devdutt, is also a myth in which both the giver and receiver have to believe in the value of what is being transacted. But myth is not fiction; it is a reality lived by the people who believe in it.
Is Liberty is primarily a western notion? No, says Devdutt, as he reminds us of the deeply libertarian nature of the Shramanic Parampara or the hermit tradition in Indian philosophy, from which Buddhism and Jainism also originate. But unlike the western notion of absolute liberty, the Indian notion of liberty is counterbalanced by the shravaka or the householder traditions, which emphasize the importance of duties and responsibilities.
What is more important—equality or justice? In this episode, Devdutt tells us that this question itself is a western one. Greek mythology and enlightenment philosophy values justice while Abrahamic mythology and socialism value equality. In India, both equality and justice are important at different times and in different places. While the west has a fixed worldview where everyone must agree to one final truth, India because of its polytheistic beliefs allows for different perspectives and different truths to co-exist together.
“Be proud of who you are” is flashed across ads, motivational posters and self-help books. We have all heard of people who claim to be proud of their nation, their gender, their sexuality, their caste, etc. While some of these ideas such as gay pride and dalit pride have led to progressive movements and empowerment, other ideas of identity based pride boost regressive social formations. In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson explore the different contexts in which the concept of pride can be deployed.
In this new episode Devdutt Pattanaik speaks to Jerry Johnson about different ways in which people express nationalism. Is patriotism merely one’s love for country? Or does it need to have a more legal and political definition? They discuss the birth of patriotism and nationalism approximately 300 years ago as a means to bind societies together over boundaries and the urgent current need for healthy patriotism.
We think Bollywood is very hero-centric but Devdutt Pattanaik argues that in Bollywood heroes do not undergo a journey and a transformation in the classic sense, but essentially stay the same (many also mainly play themselves in every film, but that’s another story). In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson talk about heroes, hermits and martyrs and what makes them who they are.
We believe that anger validates us; it helps show us as passionate, involved and even becomes integral to our identity. But to believe that if you do not argue you submit, if you don’t fight then you are indifferent or complacent, is a limited binary worldview that is not reflective of a more complex reality. In this episode Devdutt Pattanaik speaks to Jerry Johnson about how eastern mythology teaches us to accept things as they are rather than constantly attempt to mould them to our expectations.
The feminine and a masculine instinct, the aggressive nature and the nurturing nature have always co-existed and a balance of these two forces is essential for harmony in society. But are masculine instincts becoming more desirable and is femininity seen as a sign of weakness? In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson talk about the conflicting instincts and the consequent fall-out of male dominance.
Do societies really believe in equality as they preach or are there undercurrents of authoritarianism (and inequality) underlying the democratic facade? In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson talk about the history of democratic society and how the world has seen a shift in ideologies over the years. The duo also discusses how the right and left both use authoritarianism to subdue individualism.
Can true freedom of speech exist in a society obsessed with political correctness? Would the world be a frightening place if the predominant tendency in all social discourse revolved around being sensitive and politically correct? Does freedom of speech include the right to offend? Devdutt and Jerry argue that inadequate self-regulation in public discourse leads to greater dependence on external rulebooks, which stifles conversations and the free exchange of ideas.