File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 398

Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 01:38:48 -0600
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] The down-side of storytellers

Karen Armstrong's writing does a good job of explaining why religions/ 
stories get developed,accepted and popularized at specific time and in  
specific cultures

Speaking of stories, beliefs and shamans, has anyone her seen the  
astonishing 1977 movie, Chac: The Rain God

I was in Berkeley when it came out. My friend, mime, dancer and mask  
maker (introduced to me by Ken Feit). Leonard insisted on taking me to  
see it. The very shooting of it was controversial, and the story has  
stayed with me. If you can find it I'd say watch.

My sense of Clastres is he was arguing for anarchy.

I think Kerry was an easy target because people could sense that he  
went to Viet Nam primarily so he could eventually run for president  
(JFK's life was his model, but his war was far different than JFK's,  
so he had to rescript his hero plan).

- m

On Nov 23, 2008, at 1:13 AM, The Independent Eye wrote:

>> According to the theories of the great anthropologist Pierre
>> Clastres, the origin of the State can be traced, in large part, to
>> the spinning of swift boat stories on the part of the
>> shaman-become-leader-of-people.  The shaman would seduce part of the
>> tribe with stories of a "land without evil", a "land of peace" and
>> "of plenty", which only he knew how to reach and which could only be
>> attained by following him.  In this land, everybody would have to
>> work together, abandoning their tribal ways, under the despotic
>> direction of a new "knowing" caste, a caste of priests, who had the
>> monopoly of knowledge and the sole ability to organize  large-scale
>> agriculture and trade.  It is by the agency (or with the help) of
>> these idea, argues Clastres, that we transitioned from "savage
>> culture" to the early State society.  And it seems that to this day,
>> like good children the the State,  we still spin, and fall prey to,
>> the same tales - the tiger will lie down with the lamb, all
>> differences will be erased, "altruism" will prevail over
>> "selfishness", milk and honey will flow in the rivers, evereything
>> will be plentiful and free - if only we subject ourselves to one
>> "leader" or another, one "re-education" or another,  one "for our own
>> good" or another.  And if the promised land somehow doesn't come on
>> this earth, then that must be because the earth is essentially evil,
>> but we can certainly look forward to achieving the promised land in
>> the (eternal, of course) life-after-life - if only we....
> I haven't read Clastres directly, only commentary on his work.  But
> for me, the speculation outlined above isn't demonstrable.  It's a
> vast leap from the tribal shaman to a priest caste, and the idea that
> an organized priest caste preceded and initiated the development of
> the "state" rather than growing as one factor in an agriculture-based
> concentration of resources -- where's the evidence for that?  Nor can
> I think of sources -- perhaps there are some -- for the idea that the
> idea of heaven or other utopias originated on the tribal shamanic
> level, that shamans became "leaders," or that shamans (be they
> prehistoric or present-day) simply make up stories  -- a la Karl Rove
> or the Swift Boat Veterans -- to hoodwink their people.  Shamans are
> integral with their tribe and would generally find themselves tossed
> over a cliff if they pulled this kind of stuff -- primitive people
> are not necessarily stupid people.  If this is part of Clastres'
> thinking, it's basically to discredit Marxist ideas of economic
> causation in the rise of the state, but I don't buy it, unless
> there's a ton of evidence I know nothing about.
> Only point in commenting on this is what it says about stories.
> Sometimes, yes, stories seem to pop out of the air, e.g. Joseph Smith
> transcribing angel-given golden tablets, or Mohammed transcribing the
> Koran from psychic dictation.  But in fact stories are only
> crystalizations of narratives that are in the air.  It's a political
> commonplace that you can't make a campaign attack stick unless it
> fits a "narrative" that seems true, so you avoid hitting McCain with
> the Keating scandal because he's established a persona for integrity
> that's too hard to crack.  Why could Kerry be swift-boated?- maybe
> because somewhere there's an instinctive distrust, an old hangover of
> resentment at his anti-war activities, maybe just because he looks
> too Hollywood, I don't know, but in fact it made a good story that a
> lot of people really wanted to believe.
> Some stories fly, others die stillborn.  Why is A Christmas Carol an
> incredible moneymaker, while his second Christmas book, The Chimes,
> is nearly unknown today, though in his time it was equally popular?
> We did a stage adaptation of it, and it's been produced three times
> with moderate success, but it's definitely not going to make us rich:
> it's grimmer, even seeing imminent revolution, and it's not about a
> rich man who undergoes a transformation but a man who's the poorest
> of the poor but carries all the social attitudes of the rich.  That's
> not the story we want to hear right now.
> So I don't think a slick priest got anywhere by making up a
> pie-in-the-sky heaven with a good story to sell it, without it being
> a story that was already in people's minds, waiting to be told.  The
> storyteller has great power, but only if telling what people already
> believe - just doing it with surprise, originality, sublime poetry or
> dancing girls.  In political theatre, that's called "preaching to the
> choir," but in fact all storytellers preach to the choir.  It's only
> the choir that will listen.
> Peace & joy-
> Conrad B.
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