Monday, August 16, 2010

When Narratives Attack

Everybody's got one.

A narrative, that is. For reasons we will get into later, human beings are narrative-producing machines. Narratives are how we understand time -- how we link together experiences into a coherent and meaningful stream.

In order to do this, we must ignore the vast majority of "reality," sometimes appropriately, sometimes not. Just like the historian, we must select from the infinite pool of facts those we consider relevant. Thus, there can be no objective history outside the narrative, for it is the narrative that tells us what is relevant and historical.

As I've mentioned before, everyone comes into therapy with a narrative of their life. In fact, to a large extent, they come in because the narrative is "broken," so to speak. Either it's no longer making sense, or has run aground, or is unfulfilling, whatever.

The problem is, one's true narrative is never linear but multidimensional, both vertically and horizontally. For example, we have a conscious and an unconscious mind, a right and left cerebral hemisphere, an emotional nature and an intellect, spirit and psyche. Each of these can have different agendas and be at cross-purposes with other dimensions.

Freud focused on the conflicts between instinct, conscience, and ego, but there are also potential conflicts between, say, intellect and self-image, archetype and culture, self and ego, conscience and desire, biology and economics, spirit and tenure.

We call someone "insane" when their narrative has completely broken down into fragments, or when a part has hijacked the whole. But most people are more or less insane -- or perhaps unsane -- in the sense alluded to above. The opposite of this state is what we would call integration, in which all the parts are harmoniously participating in the narrative (a narrative which is meta-cosmic in nature).

In my experience, most people have to amputate certain parts of the self in order to keep their narrative functioning. When the pain of this amputation becomes too intense, that's when they come in for therapy (or experience a "breakdown" of some kind).

But most people do not seek therapy. Rather, they may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, or distract themselves in work, sex, or power games, or act out in some other manner. The list of ways in which people may pull the wool over their own eyes is endless.

What we call the "news" is nothing but a narrative. But most importantly, it is just like the narrative of a neurotic person, who is neurotic precisely because of his defective narrative. Thus, when things happen outside the narrative, he doesn't notice them. Or, if he can't do that, he might aggressively attack or devalue them.

From a psychological perspective, this is perfectly understandable. For example, if your self-image is invested in the idea that the world is catastrophically warming, you will be threatened by evidence that it is not.

The other day, Taranto made the point that "for white liberals of a certain age (read baby boomers), an important part of their self-image lies in the assumption that conservatives are racist."

The point of this self-serving narrative is obviously not to describe reality, but rather, to feel good about oneself. It is auto-therapy, as is so much of the liberal narrative. For the liberal, everyone who disagrees with him is racist, misogynist, "homophobic," "Islamophobic," "anti-science," contemptuous of the poor, etc. In each case, the characterization is simply a transparent projection deployed for the purpose of maintaining the self-flattering narrative.

If you want to know why the culture has become so "divisive," this is why. Liberal elites are so threatened by the collapse of their narrative on every level, that they cannot help lashing out in a primitive manner.

Thus William Kristol writes of "the Agenda Project," a major progressive group which "has launched the 'Fuck Tea' project," the purpose of which is to "to dismiss the Tea Party and promote the progressive cause."

"The 'Fuck Tea' movement -- that's what the left has come to. They can't defend the results of Obama's policies or the validity of Krugman's arguments. They know it's hard to sustain an anti-democratic ethos in a democracy. They realize they've degenerated into pro-am levels of whining and squabbling. So they curse their opponents."

That's about as primitive as one can get and still remain in the realm of language. The only thing left after "fuck you" is violent action. But it is critical to bear in mind that state violence is different from personal violence. The state is a giant bully that has a kind of infinite reservoir of violence behind it, so it needn't necessarily behave with overt violence, since merely the threat is usually sufficient.

Change can be progressive, or it can be violent. Organic growth is a kind of change, but so too is a bullet to the head. Our Constitution is supposed to protect us from the violent predation of government, which is why it is Job One for the left to transform it from a document that protects us from the state to one which defines what the state can do to you.

Thus, "If a judge (or ultimately the Supreme Court) says the Constitution allows the government to force you to buy health insurance, then it’s a done deal, regardless of whether the Constitution says so or not. Under such a scenario, the Constitution thus becomes a tool for social engineering rather than a protection against government excess, as it was originally intended."

And "as the ruling class has more and more isolated to themselves the power to dictate what is and is not an appropriate use of the blessings of liberty, we have seen a corresponding decrease in the actual liberty we enjoy."

So in Arizona, a judge says that the people have no right to protect themselves from illegal aliens, while in California another judge decides that henceforth marriage will means something it has never meant and cannot mean. It is not so much that marriage between two men is "illegal." Rather, it is impossible, like being the father of your mother. But what is the left but violent insistence on the possibility of the impossible?

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. Whatever happens in November, it certainly won't be a cause for joy. Transient relief, maybe, but not joy, because when narratives break down, people are truly capable of anything.


Van Harvey said...

"The list of ways in which people may pull the wool over their own eyes is endless."

Or by trying to be cool,
The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity
"...Churches like Central Christian in Las Vegas and Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., for example, have online church services where people can have a worship experience at an "iCampus." Many other churches now encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services.

But one of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before?

Sex is a popular shock tactic. Evangelical-authored books like "Sex God" (by Rob Bell) and "Real Sex" (by Lauren Winner) are par for the course these days. At the same time, many churches are finding creative ways to use sex-themed marketing gimmicks to lure people into church.

Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, Georgia, created a website called to pique the interest of young seekers...."

Hard to see what might go wrong there...(omg).

Beyond ugly

Gagdad Bob said...

Related: Obama, pretend synthesizer.

Van Harvey said...

"Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. Whatever happens in November, it certainly won't be a cause for joy. Transient relief, maybe, but not joy, because when narratives break down, people are truly capable of anything."

Nothing lasting or worthwhile will occur unless we the people re-educate ourselves, pick up the various fallen threads of liberty and weave them into our becoming self governing individuals again. One thing that does give me hope is that this hasn't been any kind of a hard sell within the Tea Party people. In St. Louis, and by all reports nationally as well, there is a veritable hunger on the part of people to regain what they've allowed to be lost.

But anybody thinking that this election, or any other, is going to 'fix' it for them, is in for a rude awakening, as well as anyone thinking that Education means passing 'fill in the blank' or 'bubble test' exams... seeing the 'correct answer' and actually incorporating it into your life, making the word flesh, ain't easy. Better gno the tale well before trying to tell it.

As long as we don't worry about being 'cool'... we just might be able to re-establish the narrative worth retelling.

Gagdad Bob said...

Truly, we need to ditch the Marxist counter-narrative and return to the American narrative.

Gagdad Bob said...

Obama is the Troll-in-Chief. his narrative is not America's narrative.

Verdiales said...

St. Augustine knew the feeling, had his crisis, and found himself in the narrative of divinity:

"I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting, and oft repeating, "Take up and read; take up and read." Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon. For I had heard of Antony, that, accidentally coming in whilst the gospel was being read, he received the admonition as if what was read were addressed to him, "Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me." And by such oracle was he forthwith converted unto Thee. So quickly I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I put down the volume of the apostles, when I rose thence. I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell, - "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended, - by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart, - all the gloom of doubt vanished away."

Confessions, Chapter 12

Deleuze and Guattari would nod and say Augustine was defeated. Schizoanalysis:


Anna said...

wv: joyedi

Just saying. :)

I've been MIA/stealth for a while... but another wv has jumped out at me. Caught me by surprise.

Yes, out with the Marxist counter-narrative and its dictionary of redefined terms, such as, Capitalism is a system based on licentious greed.

Gagdad Bob said...

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves provides a wonderfully clear and scientific anti-left narrative.

Gagdad Bob said...

The left's narrative doesn't speak to or for us.

Anna said...

bh wrote: "It gets in the way."

Like gravity gets in the way of your plans to fly after you jump off of a cliff?

wv: deans

mushroom said...

I'm about to swear off vacations. Not only am I now a week behind at work -- but I have all the OC stuff to read.

I have to agree, unfortunately, about November. As Van says, I do see the encouraging signs of people realizing we should be responsible and self-governing. What I suspect, however, is that we will get another financial "October surprise". Some may be scared back into dependence on the false hope of government.

Anna said...

bh said: "the agenda is our pathway to power and plenty."

Do you mean 'the fight' (against reality?) itself is the yielding element, of power and plenty? The whole point is that there actually *is* something to fight for, that it is not just illusion with a complimentary counterpart of fighting as inherently the reward, in itself. The way you said the exact opposite of the truth is uncanny, like you you were trying to be contrary.

Anyway, yes there really is something to fight for. It is not in vein. But since you read this blog, you have already come across that. Do you think there is something to fight for, or that meaning is only found in the heartfelt, earnest effort of... nothing?

Re the cliff...
Remember - don't ditch the hang glider just yet, until you really don't need it.

But seriously, The Constitution doesn't get in the way, it gives an open way. It gets in the way of things it should get it the way of, like "the violent predation of government" and other things that would close an open system. It protects the open space worth protecting. It works with reality to achieve something real - real flight. Not pretend, not artifice.

Sal said...

Of course there's no problem with that, that's how the Tea Party believers can justify themselves taking unemployment. After all, THEY are taking it for the RIGHT reasons. And THEY are looking for work. The liberal people on unemployment though, well, they are just poor stupid people who are just looking for a government handout and they will drain the system dry. They should most definitely not be able to take any more unemployment because you know, they aren't looking for jobs. And they love welfare. And they hate god and babies too, so they deserve to be unemployed.

(Yes, this is sarcasm)

I got the above in reply to a comment on a mom blog re: where unemployment actually comes from and why limited gov't folk (ie. Tea Partiers) are not necessarily hypocrites for using such.
I offer it b/c it was so out of proportion to what I said that I found it startling. And I don't think it makes any logical sense.

My life is really circumscribed and quiet, so an exchange like this is rare for me.

In case they wanted to continue the debate, I went in search of the Van-hammer about 'So, are you saying you don't believe in private property?" but couldn't find it.

Gagdad Bob said...

Not for nothing is "moonbat" derived from Monbiot.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"From a psychological perspective, this is perfectly understandable. For example, if your self-image is invested in the idea that the world is catastrophically warming, you will be threatened by evidence that it is not."

Aye. Anytime one shows evidence that proves a hollowed narrative of the left wrong they take it as a personal attack on them.

It also explains why they get so hostile whenever you point out the truth, even when it's obvious.

This is another reason why many on the left irrationally lash out at words, indeed, language itself.

For language represents reality, therefore the very meaning of words must be eviscorated. Only then can leftists insert whatever narrative they want.

By doing so, leftists can hide their true intent inside seemingly "good" words that they hijack, in effect, turning them into pod words that appear to say one thing on the surface but actually mean something alien (their intent) on the inside.

They must do this because if they say what they mean, they would never get the support they need to implement their hideous, anti-reality agenda.

When the word they hijacked becomes too saturated and too many people begin to rwalize what the left really means when using the word, they simply hijack a new word.

Liberal don't work so well? Let's try progressive. Wanna demonize those who are wanna uphold the law and are anti-ILLEGAL immigration?
Call them anti-immigration and racist.

Leftists don't care about the dmage they do to language as long as they can still use it to get what they want.

The lies don't bother their concience because the ends always justify the means in their mind, even if the ends they want will never be reached.
Afterall, since they are opposed to reality, it's obvious they will never achieve their utopia using their methods.

And when they fail, and they will, they will blame those of us on the right, because they can't possibly blame themselves for their own failures. It MUST be someone elses fault.

Those on the left that begin to question the insanity of doing the same thing over and over, expecting the results they want rather than the hell that always occurs are the one's that have glimpsed reality and perhaps get a thirst for the liberty and freedom they have given up.

Gagdad Bob said...

If only it were still so easy for liberals to control the plantation.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"I offer it b/c it was so out of proportion to what I said that I found it startling. And I don't think it makes any logical sense."

Hi Sal!

This out of proportion and over-the-top projection type of tactic is often used by lefties to shut a debate down although it could've been a hyper-emotional knee jerk reaction.
At any rate I think you'll find that the person who said it won't be receptive to any truth you or anyone else might provide.

To say it doesn't make any logical sense is a very nice way to put it.
Personally, I think it's batsh*t crazy. :^)

Of course, given her deep attachment to her deranged ideology it makes sense she would behave this way.
Sort of like Maxine Waters using several decks of race cards to defend her crimes. Didn't see that coming.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, the Van-hammer is awesome. It's worth it to watch the virtual jaw dropping alone, usually followed by silence or "void" rage.

Leslie Godwin said...

Happy Anniversary, Bob...You are such a blessing to me and Tristan...
Mrs. G

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Happy Anniversary Bob n' Mrs. G!

Jack said...

Happy Anniversary! I hope you had a great day!

Cammie Novara said...

"Narratives are how we understand time -- how we link together experiences into a coherent and meaningful stream." I am completely in agreement with that. There's a really fascinating debate that I thought would be of interest on evolution vs. intelligent design going on at

Jules said...

Nice post... instructive as usual. Thanks from an Aussie Paratrooper.