I See Stories Everywhere….
This is not a brag. Just a statement of facts. Or, to be more precise, I can see the construct of story overlaid or transposed or bolstering situations or events. Sometimes the stories are scaffolds. Sometimes the stories are frames. But some aspect of story is almost always discernable (I’m talking about the constructedness of story. The manipulation. Because, at its heart, the story is a manipulative device. The story is never neutral…. Not in the writing of it, nor in the reading of it.).
The past few days of Storied “Reality” has been a bummer. I tend to think that a great many writers are depressives or melancholic or curmudgeons of some kind or another. This might be just neurotic egocentric projection of the worst kind…. But then again, maybe not. Clearly there’s something shared at the core of 1) Spending a lot of time alone with one’s thoughts and writing them down on paper, and 2) Preferring a book over conversation with a person (not always! but enough times….). At any rate the past few days (from my vantage point in Canada) has seen a frenzy of media activity over Two Big Stories: 1) Royal Wedding and 2) Execution of Osama Bin Laden. The third Big Story has been the election in Canada.
Now, if they were “just news items” relayed in point form, perhaps. Or in the kind of language used in telegraphs (remember! Those Days?), then I would be able to decode the facts and integrate them into my understanding through a frame of my own (Oh, Virginia….). But the problem (not always, but sometimes I do wish I could unsee…. It might make life more pleasant… you know?) for me is that I can perceive the framework the news writer has cast and most of the time I Don’t Like It. Thereby, not only is the news just “naturally bad news” (say, fire guts a house killing all sleeping children), it’s also packaged in such a way that adds insult to injury.
1) Royal Wedding. I know there are a LOT of Anglophiles out there (One of my sisters is an Anglophile, bless her twisted little soul.) but, really, people. Ultimately this is just another wedding between two straight people…. I know, I know, he’s a Prince. So this is where the overlay of other Stories begin layering and framing this common heterosexual event. The Fairy Tale (Girl wins the Prince’s heart with true love– this also dovetails with a story about class, as well as feeds into the “I want to be a princess” narrative.) has come alive with this wedding formation. Watch for a slough of common girl-becomes-princess films pop up at a theatre near you. This wedding was also being framed as the New Beginning after Dianna’s Tragic End. So that the Fairy Tale can continue, for the next generation. And that this Story can be carried forward once more. What for? My conclusion, here in the midst of my curmudgeonly forties (i.e. I might change my mind later, who know?), is that it’s all for economic gain. Marriage is embedded with economics. From the sale of wedding dresses, to the forming of families, to the paying of taxes…. I think family units are easier to appeal to (and control) as consumers. And, if not as family consumers, than as people looking to forming a couple (this shampoo will make your hair beautiful and sexy, therefore, appealing, instead of just clean…. Hahahahaha!), which, the story goes, will one day lead to a family where you will live happily (whilst paying taxes and buying Large Things such as refrigerator, stove, washing machine, used Volvo, and a house). Is this not the middle class dream? And, yes, I’ve dreamt this dream as well. I took the baited hook and swam and swam for many years without noticing the hook. <wry grin, next to the awesome scar in my cheek. Very macha!)
2) Execution of bin Laden. I won’t go into how the stories were constructed and used when he was alive. I’ll stick to the ones being formed now that he is dead. Bin Laden was the face of “ultimate evil” in terms of the general American imagination. I’m not saying that his part in criminal acts of violence, aggression and destruction were not awful and despicable. What I see is that upon his death, we have seen the unveiling of two different narratives. The first is a very very old story of Vengeance. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the lord, etc. An eye for an eye. Old testament variety. The vengeance story is still so very popular. It’s everywhere– in comics, in the Classics, in high art, low art, Vengeance might be hard-wired into our species…. A vengeance story is very cathartic for people. It serves as a proxy for the powerlessness we feel in our humble lives. Vengeance, however, is not the same thing as Justice. But a lot of people see it so…. So, immediate sense of catharsis for a great many people upon hearing that bin Laden has been killed. But then it’s the tale of transformation: the story of his Voldemort-ish type villiany becomes a narrative more along the lines of Halloween. Like Michael the psychotic killer, upon Bin Laden’s death, his evil continues. Even as Osama was the Face of Terrorism, now we are told that the evil has not died. That, in fact, terrorism will likely get worse and we must all be vigilant. Thus, the narrative of Terrorism continues and is a marvellous means of controlling public perceptions on money spent on war, weapons and never mind the man behind the curtain who can’t help you with your healthcare or you chronic unemployment…. (There was a marvellous editorial written by Kai Wright that articulated so well why “The Ability to Kill Osama Bin Laden Does Not Make America Great”.) Yes, Osama bin Laden was a hate-mongering and violent man. But he was and continues to be an effective narrative-shaping (and nation-shaping) device.
The election in Canada. Ohhhh, lordy, lordy…. What to say? First off, only 60 % voter turn-out? Harper truly does not have a majority government if 40% of the voters did not vote. He has majority of 60% of Canadians. That aside, there was a historic and amazing surge of the Canadian Left with the NDP now the official opposition. But with Harper holding majority in the House I’m sorely afraid. We’ve seen massive cuts to women’s programs, the arts, the health sector suffering over the past years…. I’m afraid that the erosion will continue, or perhaps the boiling…. Like frogs placed in a pot of water– if you raise the temperature slowly enough the frogs will not try to leap out of the water. They accept the incremental changes until they’ve boiled to death….
Well! Not all frogs, I say!!! In times of challenge there are always people who stand forth and fight. Step up and resist. Say, No! Like the amazing Dominican nuns, I so admire and respect their non-violent resistance!
And so the master narratives are played and replayed, claiming their top forty spot year after year, ages upon ages, the same stories. But alternative tellings also exist. They sing their power, they sing their colours, they sing their resistance for all who would hear them.
Let me turn to the small. The quiet. The subtle. The ironic. The bitter, the biting, the cheeky, the ugly. You are lovely. Welcome. Sit, eat at my table. We are alive. What a glorious day.