So you haven’t read Roland Barthes’ Mythologies yet? Well, don’t worry, it was published in 1957 and I haven’t finished reading it yet, either. But I do find the gist very useful and interesting.
Roland Barthes would surely have felt the need to comment upon the latest Nobel Peace Prize scandal. If he would have been true to his Mythologies, he might (might!) have told you that:
Modern societies tend to create myths. Modern people will simply take something or someone and add their own connotation (story) to it, thereby often ignoring the “real nature” of the thing or the person itself or including it, but only as a useful feature of their myth.
Barack Obama is a person, he’s the first black American president and he is a modern myth. A huge, global one. Let’s just agree he can’t be considered responsible for most of the mythological content people around the world will invest into him, throw at him, dedicate to him. Yes, he does provoke some typical interpretations and projections because he is what he is, but we all do that. So do most celebrities, politicians, artists… They just need to live with it, right?
Yes and no. Let’s return to Barthes 🙂
In one of his essays he describes the myth surrounding Albert Einstein: though a dead scientist having dabbled with things no one really understands, he is quite a global figure and most people will claim they can name the gist of his scientific output: e=mc2. Einstein thus represents a myth of a useful scientist: we know what he claims, you see. Do we, though? Do you?
When the Norwegian Nobel committee stepped forward and announced Barack Obama as the new prize winner, the world stepped back and gasped: But what tangible things has he done? Where is e=mc2 for us to understand and to praise? We need words, quantities, documents, tangible things to be able to respect the un-noble decision! Wir sind das Volk!
Well, people of the world: next time you need tangible results, convince your doctor to measure your level of serotonin anytime you feel happy about Barack Obama. To Americans: … anytime you feel happy and proud you finally got to prove to the world you are not racist by voting for a black president. Convince all the other Obama fans to do the same.
Then the scientists around the world can pool the results and establish the raised levels of serotonin & Co. around the world that are due to Barack Obama. The most important ones can get the Nobel prize for medicine etc. Psychologists can write about the impact of serotonin upon depression, alcoholism, headaches… You name it. Writers can describe oppressed African women feeling their burden has become lighter when they think of Obama.
In this vein, the world finally gets its e=mc2 and Barack Obama can finally feel a bit happy about his prize.
EDIT: Have a look at Rachel Maddow explaining Obama Derangement Syndrome… (Tina, THX)