Thursday, 7 January 2010

History or Memory

What is history but memory, a kind of bureaucratizing of memory rather, a rendering it official; though perhaps at times, or even often, the substance of this history just fabricated or warped memory, some story convenient for the teller, his story; a nice, simple version of events whose bold, clear lines and elegant delineations others go on to inhabit in all innocence, convinced by these smooth clear contours and the desire to be just so convinced - for who doesn’t yearn for smooth and clear contours; and so, all in all, a geometry of certainty invoking, most convenient for the teller, actions, logical ones, seamless extensions of those bold historical lines, and onwards these lines push out into the naked spaces beyond, facts built on fictions, the conjuring of the future by fraudsters of the past.

Too abstract? Well let’s say you want to undertake some actions, vile ones, and, however it relates, you have something or other damaged, or say knocked down. You claim someone else did the damaging or knocking down, someone nefarious, and now you want justice and to tighten up security, so this way in come your actions. Everyone, or as good as, believes you; and who wouldn’t, for you’re one in a position of authority - and what is authority? Something to which one stands in relation - and where is it one stands? Most likely beneath it, unless, that is, you’re the one actually with the authority. So there it stands above, authoritative, commanding; and so naturally everyone, having understood where they stand, believes you.

And also, along with all this authority, you have in your possession a whole army of storytellers, and all they’re ever waiting for, this army, is a story to tell, and now they’ve got their story and off with them - it’s your story and it’s they’re the ones who’ll tell it. And each of these storytellers seems to think himself an island, an autonomous kingdom, attached perhaps yes to a remote control, but at one end is truth and at the other end himself, and in whose hand anyway is it, this remote control, but his own, so of course he’s an island, independent and autonomous; and so he tells his story, his version of events, and it’s all about the way he tells it. Thus reality is presented - in black and white, or perhaps in colour, but all the same, in black and white.

A man weaves a basket, takes a good look round, steps into the basket and sits himself down. There he is, curled up, delighted with himself and his basket. He nods and smiles at passers-by.

Whatever about the basket, whatever that’s all about, the story flourishes, whole books are brought out, films produced. It’s evolving in all kinds of ways, growing ever more elaborate, organic, its dubious roots unnoticed - even if they are at times sticking out all over the place.
Masterpieces are produced, or at least proclaimed. ‘Chillingly prescient,’ ‘Deeply relevant,’ ‘A voice for our times,’ variously pronounce the various critics, those other members of the storytelling ranks. ‘The lives we live now’ is mentioned in some or other context – the masterpiece some invaluable help in this area. Oddly enough this ‘lives we live now’ seems to imply a singular phenomenon rather than a plural; that is to say, us collectively living this one life we live now. You might be at one end of this life, pulling away; but there’s someone else at another end, and he’s also pulling away; and so we’re all pulling away madly together, wherever it is we’re pulling it. There must be somebody somewhere overseeing it all, making sure we’re all working together, in tandem, and not some of us pulling against each other, in opposite directions, the whole thing being pulled God knows where.
But anyway awards are offered and accepted for these masterpieces, speeches made, photographs taken. There’s no stopping it, it seems, this story. Where is it all going?

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