“warping lives in the service only of the story itself.”

January 9, 2008

An interesting bit of writing from David Aaronovitch in The Times, after Iowa but before new Hampshire.

When it comes to choosing people to rule over us, I have long suspected misogyny was even stronger than racism. Iowa has never elected a woman in a congressional or gubernatorial election. So sure, you can have the safe, smily, “witty”, mixed-race guy, but let’s not go for the scary woman. Who wants to be pussy-whipped by a Glenn Close or Meryl Streep career bitch every time there’s a State of the Union address? Shouldn’t they really (oh, whisper it) be at home with the kids?

He was also on Woman’s Hour this morning on Radio 4 (one of the best news magazines with a large male audience including yours truly) and expanded on the theme with some great examples of the way in which language can be used against women, that would not be permitted in the context of race. I will admit a shudder the other day when Edwards and Obama ganged up on Hilary in a debate – shades of playground there; I wondered if it would create a reaction among voters.

I watched all the debates this morning on CNN (the delights of satellite) over questions of tears, emotion, the youth vote etc. etc. I should also confess I cheered this morning as a long term Clinton supporter. This is not a Cognitive Edge position I hasten to add, but I like intelligence combined with a social conscious, some substance and a chance of getting elected. Neither by the way is this purely a matter for Americans, given the influence of the position in the world I sometimes wonder if the rest of the world should be entitled to a vote, or at least a veto into whoever becomes the new Caesar, especially as the world has been their Amphitheater in a few cases.

The other interesting theme here is the way in which people want to live stories. The comeback-kid story started to propagate, and it became the comeback-queen. I sometimes wonder if we are living in a world in which decisions are being made not on what is the best for a country, but what is the most attractive story? This is not just a concern about Obama who strikes me as very like Blair, saying whatever needs to be said (and saying it well) in order to get elected/re-elected but it is also about us, the electorates of the world. Are we examining the claims of those who seek to govern us, or are we getting swept up in a story, considered negatively here, as a way of avoiding responsibility?

Terry Prattchett has a great line here, in Witches Abroad:

It is now impossible for the third and youngest son of any king, if he should embark on a quest which has so far claimed his older brothers, not to succeed. Stories don’t care who takes part in them. All that matters is that the story gets told, that the story repeats. Or, if you prefer to think of it like this: stories are a parasitical life form, warping lives in the service only of the story itself.

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