Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jesus Saves, Kill Sodomites: a note on narrative function

  A narrative is a distributed locus of stability.  It is a structure that inhibits variation.  It is an agglomeration of acts in the metaverse from which stories can be derived.  A story evolves by natural selection from a narrative, and is distributed about one or several related time lines, with a coherence selected by its environment as a recognised conformity, at least partial, to the social, political, economic, technical and ethical situation at the time of its telling.  If I said, sethren, tell me about Romeo and Juliet, you’d tell us a story.
  The acts recounted in a narrative are disposed far more at random.  They are only loosely connected to any time line, and their beginnings and particularly their ends are inchoate.  They contain stories, often repeated in different forms, with variations, often inversions, often in your face contradictions.  They may contain tropes of extraordinary beauty.  Between the stories is a huge amount of what appears to the recipient who is not of the culture of origin of the narrative to be junk.
  Within a narrative is often identifiable a claim of exceptionalism, ownership or being absolutely right about something.  Examples of narrative are the Old Testament, British  neo-liberal, in fact all neo-liberal Economic Policy, American Foreign Policy, Mein Kampf, The Book that shall be Nameless, any collected folk tales of a single ethnicity— particularly English, Facebook, any Imperial History, Bollywood, "African Culture", Coronation Street.  Some of these would be better company on a desert island than others.  Anybody who tells you the Old Testament is a great work of literature hasn’t read it.  It has the odd beautiful trope, and a few good stories.  Most of it is junk.
  As in the genome, narrative junk may not actually be junk.  It will have some complex quasi-epigenetic function in the evolution or the originating culture.  It’s just that if the originating culture has no presence in your ideoverse, the junk won’t function because it is unattractive to the resident subset of Evoculture.  It does not signal to enough resident demons any potential for alliance and proliferation.  This in no way discourages Bible study classes of a fundamentalist bent all over the world, where instructions as to the necessity of genocide merely set a big screen flashing; Jesus Saves, Kill Sodomites.
  The evolved function of a narrative is to fix, in a photographic sense, and make permanent a landscape; a landscape either social, geographical, historical, political, economic, ethical, religious, or various combinations of all these things. 
  Narratives relate strongly to the survival of the originating and onward-transmitting hosts, their human population.  The more complete and coherent a culture is, and the more the case that a human carrier of that culture can be fully educated in every part of it, the more these components of the narrative can all be present and fused.  I know very close to nothing of the Australian Dreamtime before the interlopers arrived, but it sounds like the most complete narrative that has survived so far.

No comments: