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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/6/13

The Narrative of No Escape

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The so-called 'Global War on Terror' is more unconventional than most people give it credit for. We're told that the enemy is not another nation, but rather a diffuse coalition of groups such as Al Qaeda. We are told that there is no concrete opponent with which to negotiate, and therefore this war cannot be ended by surrender, truce or victory. This is not a war, but a state of mind, a state of permanent warfare. It is an ill-defined conflict being fought in our name, underwritten with our tax money, and which will claim untold lives on all sides. This is not a conflict over land, strategic territory, resources, religion, or between supreme egoists vying for power for its own sake. What it is, is a story that has engulfed our world, a narrative that we're expected to become a willing part of. It is the narrative of no escape. And yet we must.

It's not like we have no experience emerging from engaging narratives. We do it all the time. Read a book, go to a show or a movie, or even immerse yourself in a role-playing game, and you have no trouble stepping out of the story while it's still going, or leaving it behind when it is through. But all of those things are safe narratives; they are not about you, but rather about someone else, even when you're playing at being them for the sake of the story. As long as the story is about someone else, it's a simple matter to separate yourself from the reality within the story. And that's what makes narratives such as the Global War on Terror so dangerous: they involve us; it's personal.

Storytellers have long known that to truly engage an audience you must draw them into the story. Showing, rather than telling, is a visceral way to accomplish this. When you observe or imagine a character's pain or pleasure, your brain models these sensations and you experience a delicious reflection of them in yourself. Like being pressed into service, your mind follows your body into identification with the character, and from there, into the character's narrative. Mischief managed, as they say. But there's a more direct way, and that's done by playing with your mind -- by convincing you that the story takes place in your own world, so that the danger exists for you as well. Horror stories excel at this, whether told around a campfire, on an old time radio show, or in the movies.

The thing is, stories actually do take place in our own world. Lots of them. But most people have an aversion to thinking about the small and large stories in our lives, and the ones we learn about in the news, as that kind of story. It's like Captain Barbossa said in 'Pirates of the Carribean', "You best start believing in ghost stories, Miss Turner. You're in one." So here's my question to you: can you think of yourself as a fictional character? This will be a lot easier if you can.

Each of us may be the protagonist in our own life story, but we also participate in other people's narratives. Any time you identify yourself as being part of some organization, or you subscribe to a set of beliefs or principles, you agree to participate in its narrative. I call myself a progressive, for example, so I'm a willing participant in that story, but I do not choose to participate in anyone else's religious narrative. And that's where things start to go off the rails, because narratives can also be forced on you. Continuing with my example, some people's religious narrative includes a story about those of us who do not subscribe to an organized religion, so even though I have not chosen to participate in that sort of story, one is ascribed to me anyway. People who subscribe to that narrative can now all make a consistent set of unsupported claims about me that could deprive me of life, liberty or property.

But in the narrative of the Global War on Terror, I could also be branded a terrorist merely for submitting this essay to OpEdNews. No proof is required. So could you, for the subversive act of reading it, and thinking dangerous thoughts.

The Global War on Terror divides the world up into two warring camps, 'us' and 'them', and to play the game you must be in one side or the other. As George Lakoff has noted, the mere act of using that phrase to describe the world causes you to participate in its narrative. Therefore, if we are to speak and act against what is done in its name, we need a way to refer to it that does not conjure its demons. The US was not in a war with Iraq, it was an occupying force. Calling things what they are is a step towards clarity.

So we need to go back to basics. A narrative has been imposed on the people of the world to accomplish one simple thing: to cause the world to transition to a state of permanent warfare, as distinct from war. The difference being that wars end. The beneficiaries of achieving this are those people, organizations and corporations that profit from the activities of warfare: the makers of weapons, the fuel and ammunition to make them work, and so on and so forth. They make their profit by being paid for their products and services by the government that the Supreme Court has given them permission to own, and the government collects that money from the people in taxes. The ultimate objective, then, of successfully carrying out this narrative of permanent warfare, is to extract every last bit of wealth from the people who ultimately create it.

Make no mistake: this transformation is not being wrought by the US government. (The 'government is the problem' narrative is just a diversion.) Rather, the government is being puppeteered by a cabal of the rich and powerful, just as the British government was used a few centuries ago to wring the wealth from the American colonies.

Ultimately, though, knowing that there is a problem is useless unless there is something that can be done about it. By learning how to step outside of yourself so you can see the various narratives that you are a part of, you can become an active participant in those you choose to be part of, and refuse to participate in the others. As long as you were reactive, you could not only be pushed around to suit someone else's needs, you were also eminently predictable. But now, when you're fed a too-convenient explanation for some horrific event, and told who to hate because of it, you can instead look at the true perpetrator of the subterfuge and not be taken in by the ruse.

Think of it as a kind of awakening. That's another narrative, one more suited to our needs. And as more and more of us wake up from the entrancement of this heinous narrative of permanent warfare, we become a force far more powerful than those intent on controlling us: We. The People.

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)
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