Monoculture (The Archdruid Report)


I found this really interesting blog post, “The Twilight of Meaning“, about the impact of reading choices/options upon culture, society and economics. It was written by John Michael Greer, an American Archdruid… so having such a unique perspective on things really caught my attention. It’s a very detailed post, covering the impact upon American politics and America in general, but I wanted to highlight some specific points that hit me, that might also be of interest to other librarians.

The author talks about recently finding a copy of “The White Stag” (published in 1937) in the book sale section of his local library, which leads onto this train of thought…

  • When the author was younger “you could find books that old and much older, plenty of them, in small town public libraries all over the country.”
  • Nowadays, you are more likely to get “movie, toy, and video game tie-ins“. These are “all part of the feedback loop that endlessly recycles the clichés of current popular culture into minds that, in many cases, have never encountered anything else.
  • As a result of this “the threads of our collective memory are coming silently apart.
  • Without a sense of the past and its meaning, without narratives that weave the events of our daily lives into patterns that touch the principles that matter, we lack the essential raw materials of thought, and so our collective reasoning processes, such as they are, spit out the same rehashed nonsolutions over and over again.
  • … the awareness that the lessons of the past have something to teach the present—requires a kind of awareness that’s become very uncommon” and current ineffective solutions are based on “the feedback loop” and this leads to “a mental monoculture“.
  • The result is like taking a loaf of Wonder Bread and spreading something different on every slice, starting with Marmite and ending with motor oil; there are plenty of surface variations, but underneath it’s always the same bland paste.
  • To resolve the situation the author suggests people should “go looking among things that are older than you“. Even if it’s “the pablum of a different time, and will clash with mental habits tuned to the pablum of this time, with useful results.
So, if we don’t want society to make the same mistakes over and over again we need to ensure that these different perspectives remain available and accessible to all – whether it’s the narrative of a fictional work, the ideology of a non-fiction work, or any other work that causes us to think in a different way. They are all valuable in determining what could happen in the future.
I think the following quote from the post sums it up nicely.

The public library in Seattle, to my horror, once put up splashy ads asking, “What if everyone in Seattle read the same book?” Why, then we’d have even more of a mental monoculture than we’ve got already.

The full blog post is definitely worth taking the time to read.