WE live in the Age of Myth – a time when we lace political beliefs with religious fervour and turn secular leaders into semi-divine figures, worshipping them almost as if they were gods. We’ve long moved past petty fandom when it comes to politicians, we’ve now regressed to a primitive stage of blind devotion.

All sides spin their myths in the west today – left, right, unionist, nationalist, Tory, Labour, Democrat, Republican. We seem incapable of seeing our politicians for what they are: the most ruthlessly ambitious of our species, who if we’re lucky will turn out to be halfway responsible managers in government. Instead, we cleave our identities around politicians and their beliefs; an intellectual assault on them becomes an assault on us, disavowal of their positions is a disavowal of our sense of self.

Look at the leaders and the ideologies that we either have before us now, or which have been part of the political process over the last decade or so: Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit, Scottish independence, Alex Salmond and Alba, Donald Trump, Barack Obama – all these people and positions, whether you’re sympathetic to their aims or not, saw cults form and myths grow up around them. Even the Green movement – a relatively new force in western politics – is now in the business of mythology. Environmentalism has sprouted its articles of faith and idols to worship. Greta Thunberg – simply a young woman with brain enough to speak her mind – is, whether she likes it or not, transformed into a hero, totem, someone almost deified.

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We see the myth-making happening right now, once again, with Mr Johnson. A man who’s amplified climate-denial is today being transformed before our eyes into the saviour of the planet. In truth, Mr Johnson plays at environmentalism because he knows – like all successful politicians – which way the wind is blowing in terms of public opinion. He speaks of doomsday while flown by jet, and presides over political decision-making which endangers the environment.

Yet the myths are being spun. Just as the myths were also spun last week that Mr Johnson’s budget spoke of an "Age of Optimism". Britain faces real decline in living standards for nearly all of us – sparing bankers – nevertheless myth-makers tell us that we’re at a new dawn, a time of hope. It’s much like Brexiteers and their unswerving, truly religious, belief that political isolationism will lead to a greater tomorrow, instead of misery and belittlement for the nation.

Of course, folk on the left, and Scottish nationalists, rightly laugh at such myth-making, seeing it all as self-deluding lies. But the left and Scottish nationalists are just as culpable. Mr Corbyn was granted messianic qualities. His followers were just as blind, just as wrathful as any Johnson acolyte. Perhaps that’s why Sir Keir Starmer seems so ineffectual; he doesn’t have the necessary charisma required today to assume semi-divine status.

Among many mainstream SNP supporters there’s all but prostration before Ms Sturgeon. Alba takes hero-worshipping and myth-making one step further with Mr Salmond and its truly cultish atmosphere. Nationalists hold semi-divine beliefs that independence will change everything – that a garden of Eden will open up. Any argument to the contrary is seen as heresy.

On the unionist side, it’s just as bad, perhaps worse. The Union Jack is fetishised, a new golden calf; the Queen is almost godlike. The idea that the Union has failed is marked as blasphemy. The same was true with Remainers; while it was Brexiters who most wrapped themselves in myth and fantasy, Remainers were incapable of admitting any fault in the way the European Union was run.

COP26 is currently being mythologised by politicians who wish to heap glory on themselves. Those who’ve done little or nothing to improve the world now parlay their reputations into saviours of humanity. The UN summit needs the harshness of reality to succeed, not the false promises of myth-makers.


Greta Thunberg is transformed into a hero, totem, someone almost deified

Greta Thunberg is transformed into a hero, totem, someone almost deified


Glasgow is being mythologised. It’s a great city. It’s a pigsty. It’s a city of working class heroes and rebels. It’s sentimental and second tier. Pick your myth depending on what you believe to be true.

Britain is now returning to one of its oldest myths – the wicked French. A tangle over post-Brexit fishing rights is bristling with the arrows of Agincourt.

For the vast herds that worship on both sides of all our various political divides – left, right, nationalist, unionist, Remainer, Leaver – there’s no in-between point. There now exists no ground on which to discuss how we best live our lives with some inflection, gradation and refinement. All is either good or evil, black or white, us or them.

There is, perhaps, some very deep need being dangerously sated in this political devotion of ours. For its half million years on Earth humanity has always believed in gods and monsters. That effectively stopped just a few generations ago, when religion all but died in the west.

So now we live in an era of disruption and disbelief, while still in desperate need of something in which to believe. We can’t even believe in our own communities as we’ve atomised our towns and cities, villages and neighbourhoods. Many of us don’t even know the person who lives beside us.

Read more: From the SNP to the Tories, politicians are now a danger to democracy

In a world with no gods, humanity is now simply doing what we’ve always done – making new gods, replacing religion with politics. The same rogues have always ruled over us, though. There’s no pulpit or priests anymore to reinforce belief, instead social media is the new choir and congregation.

Our myth-making feels like a sense of collapse, of giving up. False beliefs fill spaces that would otherwise be occupied by despair. Myths are easier. Our billionaire gods prepare to leave Earth on their rockets pursuing the ultimate myth in space.

We’re now about to disappear into private myths. The creation of the Metaverse by Facebook will allow each of us to live imagined lives in a truly non-existent world. I can be the perfect me, on the perfect planet, while the real me in this rotten world goes nowhere.

What’s better? We must pick reality or myth.

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