Sunday, 17 January 2021

The Long Road To A New Story


It seems like I've spent weeks like a rabbit caught in the bright glare of American politics and the endless rolling news-cycle which seemed to twist and turn on the hour. Throughout it all, since the elections results issue which seems like years ago now, I kept getting a story in mind of a small boy who sees his honourable father murdered and his village burned down, he's then cast out into the cruel world to wander. In other words it's the beginning of the heroes journey which runs through almost all fictional works from one degree to another.

If you've followed my work for any length time you'll know that I've long been fascinated by what George RR Martin's Game of Thrones had to say about power, at least in the series before it became crap, I never read the books. Martin, as a true postmodernist, subverted out expectations and broke the rules on how fantasy and story should be put together. 

But what's any of this got to do with America and the end of the Trump era? 

Well what we're looking at is a narrative that for millions of Americans has been killed off early or subverted.

People don't live according to facts and empirical evidence but narratives and stories that act as a framework for understanding the world and having reference points, in fact many of them we take for granted without even thinking about it. But some people have noticed and they entered academia and became lauded cultural and philosophical figures based around their canny knack of deconstructing the stories we live by.

Sometimes though, a story will be just killed stone dead, beheaded, if you like.

Martin did this in Game of thrones. Ned Stark was the archetype of the honourable man in fiction and legend, he wouldn't be corrupted. He went to the viper's nest of the capital and swiftly uncovered the evil scheme and plot at its heart and he flatly refused to back off. Ned Stark was brave, honest and decent, and he was publicly executed for it at the season one finale.

You may think you've invested in the good guy, an archetype we're all familiar with, but in this world he dies.

This isn't supposed to happen of course, you can't just kill off the good guys, not only because they're the good guys, but because the story makes no sense, how can the evil incestuous murderers actually come out on top?

Luckily for the Stark family the oldest son Rod was a skillful general and great warrior and he immediately waged war on the families that set up his father. Finally it began to make sense, it was revenge story and though the going might get tough the elder Stark son would eventually avenge his father for himself, and the family. We were in familiar territory again, until he was also betrayed and savagely murdered, along with his mother, Ned Stark's wife.

And it's here I think we can begin to think and ponder a little over the situation in America because from the perspective of at least half the country, the good guys lost. Though Trump was no Ned Stark lets be clear about that the story was clear.

Americans, especially working class white Americans, were sick and tired of Globalists and urban politically correct elites bullying them and changing the country in ways they hated. Somebody had to do something and Trump was it.

Trump would restore pride and clear out the swamp, he was funny and drove liberal elites insane with his brash and loud bombast. It was a joy to witness. He was also of the elites themselves, he was a rogue billionaire that turned on his own for the greater good of the USA.

A wonderful story, and an addictive one as well. 

And now it's over and for the sake of going along with the myth, the good guys lost.

It's jarring to people. I'd argue that it's especially jarring to people in the western world, and then America at that, that what they'd invested themselves in culturally and politically for half a decade is over, the bad guys won. 

What happens now? what can happen now? grit your teeth and prepare for the backlash seems to be the new normal. 

 And the backlash duly arrived, though to call it a backlash is an understatement, feeding frenzy would be more accurate.

Mainly there are two wings of the backlash, the coordinated and strategically planned higher ups pulling the plug on a movement based mainly online, and the rabid psychotics cheering it on in a foaming wave of blood-lust and fury, finally achieving their own catharsis and satisfaction as their own story reaches is victorious climax, like a collective woke orgasm.

One wing of the backlash is rational and calculating, unfeeling, the other a hysterical mob. 

The elites of Big Tech and Capital throw the mob the heads of the defeated, you wonder how far they go, but then realize there really isn't any limit when they're declaring a sizable chunk of the MAGA base to be domestic terrorists. 

The mob wants blood, and by giving it to them the elites entrench their own positions still further because they completed the story, they delivered the happy ending, from their perspective.

All that's left for the losing side is to the flee city, to get the hell out and keep your head down.

But before people get too despondent it's worth considering once again George RR Martin's story structure. It's certainly true that he subverted the traditional fantasy genre tropes but he did it early on in the saga. The ending remains a mystery.

The youngest of the Stark children were cast alone out into the world to begin what is known as ''The Heroes Journey'' in fiction.

In other words Martin swept aside and destroyed traditional archetypes at the beginning and having his heroes begin from a place of complete defeat. They would have to unlearn what they knew about the world, they were existing outside of a narrative which had already been destroyed.

Without the protection and sound moral codes of their father the world would be a cruel and harsh place and they'd have to adapt to survive as the hunted and vulnerable.

The baying mob and cold calculation of the elites astonished them, as did the complete lack of integrity shown by the tech oligarchs and cooperation who went after the MAGA movement. 

The double standards shown to a movement which was largely the creation of the elites vs how their own were treated speaks for itself.

But this also reveals a certain naivety of Trump's populist movement, an expectation that the basic fundamentals of liberalism and western democracy or free speech would be upheld, when they weren't.

Like Ned Stark they marched into the capital, took on the system, thinking that common decency would be enough. That somehow the elites would listen and respect them.

 Those delusions have now been dispelled, and a harsh world awaits for those about to be hunted.

In my view the end of Trump also signifies the end of the populist surge which began in 2015 so it isn't just Americans who're feeling like they're slipping into some grim winter.

The danger though is that people have no way to react to these circumstances except despair and, in many cases, probably suicide. 

The irony of all of this is that ending what are called ''Meta-Narratives'' is seen by the postmodern left as an act of liberation.

The individual will be free from, say, Christianity or traditional sexual mores or respecting the history of the nation and so on.

Such stories are seen as oppressive to the individual, they hamper the true nature of the individual expressing themselves.

The death of populism presents us with something similar, the old assurances are being swept away and the system revealed itself as never before, in one sense that's a good thing, but on another it means we're  about to be scattered to the four winds and cast out into the wasteland.

 It seems to me the human mind has always had a need to reframe great events into myths and legends and stories because they give context to a situation rather than despair and confusion. They teach us that what is happening has happened before, and will probably happen again.

The end of populism, crushed by the system, marks also populism as something which has become, as opposed to something which is becoming. 

The seed planted in the ground has is something becoming, it has an energy and dynamism to it, potential, growth and vitality. The flower is the plant become, it can only wither and decay.

When we look a again at Joseph Campbell's monomyth and the heroes journey we see more than a betrayed and lost farm boy in exile with the evil empire victorious, we see the boy becoming.

My personal favourite trope of this kind is in Frank Herbert's Dune, the path that lay before Paul Atreidies, his Becoming, is so radical that it changes the reality of the universe, but his journey begins with utter defeat and betrayal.

On the other hand liberal globalism is on the cusp of a thing Become, completed and revealed, finished, in all it's repulsive power and meaninglessness.

Maybe the era from 2015-2021 will be seen as something similar, a prelude, the defeat and betrayal, and maybe when the despondent young men wondering if they're going lists right now return to the citadel they too will have become so radically different they too will change reality.

Whatever the case may be, the road ahead is long, and full of dangers.....  

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