Thursday, August 07, 2008

Save Me From a Narrative

A narrative tells a story. It presents a sequence of events usually in the order they happened. The "narrative" has become a way to describe almost anything political. It is the new popular way to talk about what candidates do, how the campaign operates, and even the way information is presented. There was a time when I really liked this word. I don't think I do anymore. Here's the problem, generally people who don't know much about politics or campaigns use words like ‘narratives' because they want you to think they actually know something. They are not sure what the narrative is, or if it is, or what it is, but they want to talk about something that is, and the ‘narrative' provides a way for them to do it. It's kind of a media word. It feels right but has absolutely no meaning or definition.

Anyway, I have a narrative I want to share. It starts the way all good stories should:
Once upon a time (I like that for a beginning), there was an attractive, some would say beautiful, maybe adorable, delightful, woman who crafted a blob with her husband. It was an entertaining endeavor filled with insight and illustrations and while it was sometimes controversial, it was always well intentioned (and pithy). Anyway, the female in our narrative was never quite sure what she wanted to do professionally when she grew up, so she decided not to grow up professionally and instead she worked in Presidential campaigns every four years. Well, as you can imagine this meant that she had to find other things to do in between the elections. " Oh my, oh my", she muttered after the results of every election was announced. Sometimes she worked in the government, you don't have to know much to do that. Sometimes she worked at a University or had her own business and once she even worked in television. There were many more jobs but they all revolved around who or what would happen four years later.

The man in the narrative (who was mentioned briefly but not described with as much accuracy as the woman), grew up in the west. No not like a cowboy because he was Jewish and Jews don't often want to wrangle a cow - they just want to eat them as a steak or a pot roast. He wanted to be a photographer, but that wasn't a real job (no Jewish mother wants her kid to have that much fun) so he majored in political science, pretended he was going to have a career as a ... who knows. He became a photojournalist and traveled the world. He always knew what he wanted to do when he grew up, which is why he didn't wind up in politics working on a Presidential campaign. Oh no, he is doing much more interesting things and if you were to go to, (I could just do a link but that's not how I'm crafting the narrative), it will take you to China. But you will not see Olympic Athletes or VIP's. No that's not part of this narrative. You will however see this important photojournalist unpacking his suitcases. What an amazing achievement. Not everyone can unpack that amount of stuff, but here's the really wondrous thing-over 100 people actually went to you tube to watch him do it-oh, and there's some nice music.

Where is this narrative taking us? It remains unclear. After all, what is a narrative but a story which doesn't necessarily have to have a point. And what is politics but an action that hardly ever has a point. But let's get back to the word instead of the action. I have no idea what it means when someone says, "he wants to be part of the narrative". What the heck is the narrative? I guess to be part of the narrative you have to participate. You need to get a job with the campaign, or write a blog about the candidate, or even become a pundit who doesn't have to know anything, but can talk about nothing and make it sound like something. To become part of a story you have to get the writer to include you. They are different because you can act to become part of the campaign narrative, but unless you are the writer someone else has to include you in a story. It used to be that we called a campaign a campaign, not a story. Like a good narrative, a campaign does have a beginning a middle and an end. Sure they both have characters and a plot. They are, as we say, synonymous. Hey, maybe we're getting to the point. If they are synonymous then we can say "he wants to be part of the story". If that happens then there will be no need to use the word narrative when you're trying to get people to think you know what you're talking about. What a bunch of crap. We all know that no one in politics knows what they're talking about. I would suggest as an alternative to not knowing anything, we all watch the photographer unpack his bags. Now there's something at least we know, he knows how to do. We’re just sayin...


Anonymous said...

Okay...A couple of strange things about this entry...

I cant get the vision of you chasing a confused, screaming Guernsey around the streets of Salt lake City out of my mind.

If you read your blob backwards and quickly, you can actually hear the Beatles' White Album.


Anonymous said...

He road a blazing saddle . . .

Politics hasn't changed since I witnessed my first high school student body election. They've all been the same since. Lies, lies, lies and more lies.

Now what's wrong with a Utah kid wanting to make pitchers. Pitchers are great. There are so many kinds. Everyone loves them, unless they throw that final ball a the bottom of the 9th that gets smacked outside the park which crushes a city 'cause the other team is going to the World Series.

When you can't rustle angus, making pitches makes sense!

Now what's important is what lies on your Chinese hotel bed as you unpack your bags!

I'm sleeping on the floor.