The Leatherneck Clan and the Black Sea Men: Building a Mythology Generator for the Sustainability Age

Leatherneck Clan

Co-Authors: Willi Paul and David Metcalfe, with ideas from the Think Green LinkedIn Group

Picture Source


i. Primer

I. Introduction by David Metcalfe

II. Selected LinkedIn and other contributions

III. Examples of related Stories, Songs, Symbols, Spirits?

IV. Search engines and web sites

V. Mythology Generator for the Sustainability Age – Process steps or menu

VI. The Oil Spill Myth – “The Leatherneck Clan and the Black Sea Men”

x. Neil Young Song

* * * * *


What are some of the social and cultural impacts from the BP oil spill?

This environmental catastrophe has been a big wake up call for many people. Questions about our oil consumption and fossil fuel dependency have trickled into the mainstream conversation. People are questioning why are we drilling so deep in a sensitive and fragile ecosystem, and whether there might be other cleaner, greener sources of energy. That these questions are being increasingly debated in our public discourse is a silver lining on an otherwise extremely black and ominous storm cloud.

While it’s far too early to tell what the impacts will be from the BP oil spill, they will most certainly be far reaching. Some of them will be potentially devastating, particularly for the coastal communities of the Gulf of Mexico. One third of America’s seafood is produced by these communities. The indigenous tribe of Atakap have depended on the Gulf for hundreds of years. The economies of these communities are also heavily dependent on tourism. How will these people cope with the loss of their livelihoods?

Yet, in every crisis there is opportunity. Perhaps this is the time for these people to begin to build resilience back into their communities, to create a more vibrant and fulfilling localized culture that is not dependent on a global, oil-based economy.

Raven Gray, President & Co-Founder, Transition US Interview –, 6/22/10

I. Introduction by David Metcalfe

This article demonstrates the power of the Web to bring together disparate voices to build a single, multi-faceted, story. I had some intimations of what this kind of information hub could be during the 2008 election. There were a lot of independent websites where people could write up and submit their dreams about Obama. It seemed to me that beyond the curiosity factor, this could be a powerful litmus test for the nation’s collective psyche. The Arlington Institute was one step ahead of me, they host a dream database that serves as a sort of collective dream journal. When I saw that A.I. was already monitoring humanity’s dreamscape in order to drive forecasting reports I realized “Whoa…that’s an amazing resource…” Princeton has another program called the Global Consciousness Project based on experiments which have shown that changes in human consciousness seem to have an effect on Random Number Generators. They’ve placed RNG’s across the globe, they call them eggs, and they monitor these for abnormal patterns in an attempt to gauge changes in the “Global Consciousness”. Even Google is in on the game; using data from Google Trends, researchers Hyunyoung Choi and Hal Varian were able to produce more accurate forecasting reports in a number of areas. During the H1N1 scare researchers showed that it was possible to track the development and movement of the flu based on search patterns related to flu symptoms, medications and information.

All that is a side note to what I’m seeing here with Planetshifter, here you’ve got this litmus test for what folks in the sustainability field are thinking, through interviews, now through the LI group. Bring that together in a directed way and that’s a really nice tool for change.You want to build a Mythology Generator for the Sustainability Age? This is a great way to start.

So how do we build a story machine?

We’ve heard again and again that stories are the lifeblood of change. They give shape to the issues at hand, present powerful heroes and villains whose relationships help us coordinate our response to the situation and they allow us a safe place to work out solutions. Kids consume stories. Just look at what Jim Henson did with Sesame Street. He created stories dealing with everyday life that everyone could enjoy. He went from being an ad man for IBM to changing the way we relate to each other, just by telling a good story.

So where’s the machine?

Some people believe that the age of myth is over. Mass media has done a very effective job of redirecting humanities innate need to share experience through stories. Using the same techniques that were once used to bind society, Mass Media strips out the meaning for pure efficiency. There is rarely any altruistic or culturally relevant message being spread, and when there is it’s usually just a bit of spice to hide the bitter flavor of consumerism. With so many additives it’s tempting to idealize the raw reality of pure information, to idealize the “real”.

In a situation like the BP disaster it’s easy to think that simply showing the reality of the situation is an effective way to bring about change. The problem with this is that real life examples provide no direction for answers. A deep analysis requires more effort than most people are willing to put forward. Rather than finding solutions they look at pictures of oil soaked sea life and get angry.

Stories encapsulate meaning, they give a structure that can not only demonstrate the problem, but a way to explore solutions as well. While there’s no official group of “storytellers” these days, there is the ubiquitous proliferation of digital media platforms that allow everyone who has the slightest creative inkling to share in the task.

While reading a transcript from a talk given by Baba Rampuri at the 2008 World Psychedlic Forum in Basel this process was given a broader context. Rampuri talks about the role of the pilgrim, and the responsibility of the pilgrimage, in a way that shows how each of us traveling the course of our lives can share our stories to bring about meaningful change.

“Those who go on a pilgrimage become witnesses of mirrors.The main reason for pilgrimage is for darshan, The Beholding, and the resulting blessings. Darshan derives from drsh, ‘to see’, and is The Beholding, not ‘the looking’, as a tourist might do, but The Seeing. And, as the mirrors continue to reflect images deeper and deeper within, Analogy operates reflecting the macrocosm and the microcosm.

The World must benefit from his pilgrimage, so having had darshan, the pilgrim brings something back to his village. Pilgrims return with more than memories, something auspicious, that brings magic and prosperity home.”

A website like Planetshifter focuses real events, insight from thought leaders, and an intermixing of classic myths to bring this powerful process into the hands of kids who are already hungry for answers. Tools like Google Search, the real time web and social media help bring this process into immediate play.

Teaching kids how to grad a hold of these resources can help change the way we approach building a sustainable future. Down in the gulf of Mexico BP’s negligence has lead to an environmental disaster that will have lasting implications on our world. Kid’s need a way to build these events into mythologies and stories that can lead the world forward into the future.

What were the myths that we grew up with? The stories that shaped our lives?

How did we share these, build on them, create the future? Stories generate emotion, but they don’t stop there. They direct that emotion into patterns of behavior, new beliefs, archetypal examples. A story gives context to the event.

When people are faced with something as monumental as the Gulf situation it’s easy for the mind to put it on par with a natural disaster. The human actions that lead up to the event are overshadowed by the sheer magnitude of damage. This is where stories are best suited to act as guideposts. They take the reality of a situation, where technical details blur the ability to move forward, and bring it down to bite sized pieces that are able to be realigned towards actionable solutions.

William Gibson’s Neuromancer inspired a generation of computer scientists to go further than they had imagined in their development of the internet. They were limited by technical details, Gibson was free to use his imagination. His dreams became their reality as they worked to build the technologies and possibilities he described.

This process needs to become inherent in kids lives. Building advanced communications technology has lead us to a situation where we can easily reach across the globe with our ideas, but the physical reality of the world we are living in requires immediate attention. How will kids digest the BP oil spill? A round about foray of arguments, blame, finger pointing and regret? This will be based on the stories that they build for themselves around the event; even more so it will be built around the stories they are told about the event.

Delving into our mythic heritage

The BP oil spill can be seen as the many headed hydra that Hercules faces, Hercules as Campbell’s ‘hero with a thousand faces’ becomes Siegfried slaying the dragon. Siegfriend, who having bathed in dragons blood becomes immortal, the teeth of the dragon become his army. The outrage and gnashing of teeth is an impetus for all of us to raise up our collective voice to rebuild our society on a more permanent and lasting ground.

The oil spill is the beast at the initiatory gate of this century, the monster that needs to be slain, with many heads, of lies, bad business practices, inept management, political dissonance holding up the cleaning process, greedy lobbyists, etc. all the heads of the beast that have to be cauterized.

Siegfried plants the teeth of the dragon, the teeth are what bites, what kills, the issues that lead to the oil spill. These can also be “planted” to raise a new crop of heroes to face and defeat the monster itself.

The philanthropists are like the kings and princes, they must set out a bounty to kill the beast, a hall in which the heroes can gather (website/forum/events/etc.) and offer up a prize. Greek drama is accompanied by the voice of the Chorus, and here with the power of advanced communication technology, that Chorus is being realized.

II. Selected LinkedIn and other contributions

“Among our major tasks is the creation of ecologically derived human support systems—renewable energy, agriculture aquaculture, housing and landscapes. The strategies we research emphasize a minimal reliance on fossil fuels and operate on a scale accessible to individuals, families and small groups. It is our belief that ecological and social transformations must take place at the lowest functional levels of society if humankind is to direct its course towards a greener, saner world.”

“Our programs are geared to produce not riches, but rich and stable lives, independent of world fashion and the vagaries of international economics. The New Alchemists work at the lowest functional level of society on the premise that society, like the planet itself, can be no healthier than the components of which it is constructed. The urgency of our efforts is based on our belief that the industrial societies which now dominate the world are in the process of destroying it.”

Fall 1970 Bulletin of the New Alchemists

* * * * *

A good myth needs heroes, and right now this tragedy lacks heroes… either that or they’ve signed non-disclosure agreements with BP. There’s only the oil.

I don’t think we need to frame the Macondo Blowout in mythical terms. Its power lies in cold, sober reality. This thing is really happening. We made it happen. It will affect us. It will happen again somewhere else. It will probably get worse too, if there is damage to the well casings and the BOP collapses into the well bore.

This should be a time of profound introspection for all of us. You can’t make it larger than life, it’s already far too big for that. Absolute truth is a scary thing in our society. Catharsis is a frightening concept in a world where every problem is supposed to have a quick fix.

The most powerful way to use these events is to learn all you can and make sure others know the gravity of the situation, but is a lesson we must learn first before sharing it with others.

I honestly don’t think stories will save us. I think that we will only wake up, only really get it, when large numbers of people suffer. That will come, possibly within our lifetimes, when we start going to war over resources. It will come when desertification, topsoil erosion, and other factors force huge populations of hungry people into urban centers that can’t handle the influx. Already tenuous social orders will crumble and pressure will be put on larger nations to intervene, ostensibly for humanitarian purposes. This, of course, will provide an opportunity for them to manage the resources of their client states.

Americans, and other first worlders, will predictably insulate us, constructing elaborate cultural cysts to protect our quality of life, denying the problem until our own walls start to fall to the Malthusian firestorm.

I foresee either a massive die off or a profound shift in the quality of life for most of the world’s population before 2050. This seems to be the direction we’re heading unless we figure out how to live within our means with the world we’re given. I say we make painful choices now so we can avoid ghastly choices later.

The myth is a bygone concept in a world lacking a storyteller class, where ideas bounce around millions of minds in nanoseconds and corporate marketing takes the place of cultural discourse. There is no historical precedent for the way we communicate now. We’re moving so fast that it is becoming more and more difficult to process the rapid changes our culture is undergoing. You can’t have myths in a world with Google.

Instead, I look to real life examples to describe what I see happening. Watching the rig sink and the oil pour into the Gulf is like watching a drug addict choke on his own vomit. I worked with addicts at a homeless shelter, and you don’t beat an addiction by finding a closer, friendlier, more reasonable dealer. Overcoming addiction is a grueling process of introspection and self discipline.

We are all addicts to oil. As long as we keep our dealers close, we’re not going to look seriously at alternatives. Like citing the disaster in the Gulf as an example of the consequences of our collective addiction to oil? Well, first, you need to make it personal. As a Floridian, I see this thing as a crime. I feel personally wronged that my beaches will be ruined, fresh seafood will be a memory, and my state will most likely slip back into a recession. Naturally, I feel threatened, violated, and downright mad. The fact that it has no end in sight makes it worse every day.

Emotion is key. Nobody cares about a story if there’s no heart in it. With one’s emotion, if it be true and compelling, comes empathy from another. No matter where you live in the US, you look down South and you see our lives being ruined, and you share our sorrow, our helplessness, and our anger. You recognize that what is happening is wrong on so many levels, and you share our pain.

So, what to do with all that emotion and empathy? Where does the story go now? If you can direct it towards a task, you can accomplish great things. Thomas Paine could tell you about that. Of course, read up on Joseph Goebbels to see the dark side of mass communication.

Getting back to my example, will people view the oil spill as some sort of natural disaster, an inescapable by-product of modern life, or as a senseless waste that reflects the ugly side of modern energy policy? Will we finally wake up to the unsustainable nature of our consumption? In the span of 4 days in 1979, the nuclear power industry evaporated because of an accident resulting in zero loss of life. I’d say Three Mile Island is the best example, and one whose results I would like to see replicated.

Think Green LI Group – “How can we collaborate and transform critical events into contemporary, universal stories (myths)?” ( W. Paul) 6/10

Posted by Chris Robinson

* * * * *

I certainly believe stories can help ordinary people to understand complex problems and climate change is both an extra-ordinarily complex and extremely simple problem at the same time. Solving it strikes right at the very heart of what it is to be human and requires us to decide whether to listen to our animalistic greed instincts or our human traits of love and co-operation.

To explain where I see the possible solution, I used the myth of Hercules to provide 12 “Labours” (or “Labors”) for individuals to engage with to reclaim a safe climate. You can see an outline at

Posted by Harold Forbes

* * * * *

The Native Americans used stories and myths to pass on their knowledge and values. I often refer to things as “illusions” because that makes impossible for people to disagree without agreeing.

Posted by John Crockett

* * * * *

I was taught that ‘Cowboys and Indians’ is the all American myth that underpins American attitudes of ‘go getting’, ‘fight for the prize’, ‘every man for themselves’. That would need a major rewrite to teach ‘Together Everybody Achieves More’ and ‘We value the Earth more than consumer items’

Posted by Sydney Charles

* * * * *

What’s the difference between a story and a myth? Stories have very specific characters and plot. Myths are larger than life, easier to find analogies to lots of other situations. Or myths are about larger-than-life stakes–they’re particularly powerful for giving meaning to everyday events.

I disagree with the idea that modern myths have no power. People are hungry for myths–why else so many new and resurgent religious movements, or so many popular movies focusing on larger than life heroes? The fast pace of information just makes people more desperate for something that feels like a solid foundation. And modern life should be easy to mythologize, because the stakes are so much higher than they’ve ever been before *outside* of myths.

Posted by Ruthanna Gordon

* * * * *

None are so blind as those who refuse to see. Lessons of history, stories, myths and legends will never ‘save’ the like of these. Maybe that is a good thing – kind of a literary Darwinism?

Meanwhile embedded within the roughly 7000 disappearing languages spoken around the world today that are not derived from a Latin/Celtic root is a rich verbal history. Contained within this is plenty of myth, some surprisingly consistent despite vast geographical isolation, and lots of knowledge that never makes it into a Google search or appears on You Tube.

If we really want some answers it is time to take the blinkers off folks. To quote Einstein (warning, history content): “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Chris – I hear you. As you point out the message, the moral of the story if you like, has to resonate with an audience far distant from your neighborhood. With Three Mile Island (and other nuclear accidents) there is a powerful invisible menace that can sneak into our homes and steal the lives of our loved ones while they sleep. What better mythic bogey man could you want? Trouble is, the oil spill doesn’t conjure up the same kind of bogey man (though I agree it should) as the silent invisible horrible death of radiation – specially not for folks far away from the Gulf who can drive their SUV across town to buy fresh seafood flown in from… you name it. See where I’m going?

I’ve been trolling the dusty vaults of memory searching for a template myth for the Gulf disaster.

Posted by John Cameron

* * * * *

III. Examples of related Stories, Songs, Symbols, Spirits?

Pilgrimage, story, community renewal through storytelling – Baba Rampuri

The Story of the Hummingbird

Transmedia Practice: Theorising the Practice of Expressing a Fictional World across Distinct Media and Environments

Pervasive Games: Gaming in Physical Space

Partners in Play:”the trend of the future is experience economy”

King Midas

Leonard Cohen – There is a War

Leonard Cohen – The Old Revolution

IV. Search engines and web sites

Joseph Campbell Foundation Magazine

Society for Storytelling

Rock music and mythology

Encyclopedia of Myths

V. Mythology Generator for the Sustainability Age

Process steps or menu:

1. Define current event, players, short and long-term impacts, artistic, religious, ecological, political, spiritual implications

2. ID historic, literary, mythic precedents that relate to event

3. Chart all possible paths and outcomes from event

4. List universal lessons

6. Draft myth story line using new names, place(s) and symbols from world mythology

7. Check piece for universal not local or real reference(s)

8. Simplify and finalize myth

VI. The Oil Spill Myth – “The Leatherneck Clan and the Black Sea Men”

For as long as the Sea was clean clear and full of life, the sea turtle clan and their spirit guide Slena swam and birthed for their young on sandy beaches without concern.

The turtles lived along side their ocean brothers and sisters in peace for eons, taking what the sea offered and blessing the ecosystem with the wisdom of birth cycle, stewardship and unselfishness. They often saw the land boil-up and slide hot molten rocks into the shoreline, and understand the land and sea are working together in the great building process.

A one year-old sea turtle, a from the leatherneck clan named Grassie, lives in what humans call The Gulf of Mexico. Her Mother insists that man is not their enemy and shows her the way to the white sand beaches that will one day be the birth place of her young.

A few turtle years ago, huge man-made steel skeletons with hoses penetrating the sea bed came and Grassie was confused. “This is not the way of the clan or the sea, Slena!” she said.

“This is the way of the Black Sea Men,” relayed Slena. It was not long before the leatherneck clan witnessed the pollution from the oil mining in the Gulf. Black globs of pre-fuel started killing the corral beds and choking her fish friends.


Then Death came to the ocean and took the life and breath from the creatures. The Black Sea Men set the water on fire and tar balls coated the shores of the Gulf. Thick killing oil hangs under the surface like an iron curtain.

Slena asked the planet to remain calm as the devastation wrenched control over the beautiful balance.

Grassie paddled south to One Island to work on a solution. Other turtle clans were already there, safe for now from the Gulf stream now toxic with human folly.

“We need to plug that damn leak,” she cried!

The turtles decided to travel under the sea floor and find the end of the drill pipe at the source. Then twist the end of the pipe to stop the upward flow of the pre-fuel. Very dangerous but time was not to be lost. Some clan will not return from this hero’s task.

“May Slena be with you,” one old green sea turtle cried.

* * * * *

The crack at the bottom of the earth is now bubbling black when once it was gentle wave. Grassie’s rescue team entered the cavern and headed to the north channel. They carried strong cord made from sea wheat for the rodeo of their lives.

As fate would have it, there was an air pocket above the extended pipe and the turtles wasted no time in fixing multiple lines to the sucking pipe. Then all of the turtles swan in a counter clock wise in a slow, painful twisting motion. They could not break-off the end of the pipe!

Finally suffocated but victorious, the turtle engineers closed the pipe of the Black Sea Men and slowly swam back to One Island.

It took men 15 years to clean up their Gulf and the eastern seaboard but the turtles are the stewards.

* * * * *

Neil Young: Love and Only Love

Long ago in the book of old, before the chapter where dreams unfold
A battle raged on the open page
Love was a winner there overcoming hate
Like a little girl who couldn’t wait.

Love and only love will endure
Hate is everything you think it is
Love and only love will break it down
Love and only love.


About David

Specializing in the Unattended, Invisible and Overlooked
This entry was posted in Essays, Myths and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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