The State’s Heroes
2010/10/23 § Leave a comment
There is a genre of narrative which is primarily concerned with integrating a protagonist with “the world”.
Now generally people think of Joseph Campbell and his Monomyth when this type of thing is mentioned. Basically some shamanic-like journey is undertaken and the hero returns a changed man, if not changed into a man from a boy or some such.
Here the individual is psychologically changed and as a sign of this psychological growth [sic]he[/sic] is integrated with the wider world. Often the returning hero bear gifts and boons for his stay-at-home relatives. And commonly, as a sign of this successful integration, an entire kingdom is inherited, or the universe itself is saved from some great and evil peril.
I will leave those journeys of transformation and individuation to the Jungian psychologists and Hollywood movie makers. Here I want to mentioned a couple of thoughts about the ground to that heroic figure: the kingdom, the world, the state.
Basically I agree, as I usually do with, David Brin.
Alas, Campbell only highlighted positive traits, completely ignoring a much darker side — such as how easily this standard fable-template was co-opted by kings, priests and tyrants, extolling the all-importance of elites who tower over common women and men. Or the implication that we must always adhere to variations on a single story, a single theme, repeating the same prescribed plot outline over and over again. Those who praise Joseph Campbell seem to perceive this uniformity as cause for rejoicing — but it isn’t. Playing a large part in the tragic miring of our spirit, demigod myths helped reinforce sameness and changelessness for millennia, transfixing people in nearly every culture, from Gilgamesh all the way to comic book super heroes.
The state has co-opted early the story-tech of the reluctant hero on a quest (Brin mentions Gilgamesh), capturing whatever processes such narratives hold to it’s own purposes.
Basically, if you’re the rightful heir to a kingdom are you going to advocate a republic? If you identify with the rightful heir in a story will you even bother to vote?
In his article quote above David Brin goes on to champion science fiction as being one way out of this mess. Mostly because of the science in science fiction. Or rather the process of science, the methodology, not its facts and figures. Anyone can do the science, you don’t need the correct bloodlines, just a line of inquiry.
In science fiction, this pure science fiction, it would be the falsifiability and testability of hypotheses against it’s fictional reality rather than the testing of a hero’s true grit that counts, the change would lie in how people react to the confounding of human assumptions and preferences, by science.
The inquiry I’ll end with here though, is, why does the hero of change so easily integrate on their return with statist visions of the world?
Is just a form of invert egoismm, the state is the ego, the Kingdom is the King (in which case there has been no transformation at all)? Is it just habit, is it just the re-telling of the the big lie over and over again by organic Burkean Conservatives justifying their inherit goodness?
Surely there is more to the world than the state?
Or are many of us half-baboon in nature?