Happy Birthday Kate Dillon
Tomorrow’s qualitative methods lecture, to be given by Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh, is on the topic of “Bonapartism and popular political culture.” This sounds exceptionally esoteric, following four classes divided between the broad areas of Foreign Policy Analysis (woe to anyone who wrote the take-home exam on that topic) and Institutions. That said, holding “a general discussion about the role of myth in politics” sounds like a particularly interesting way to spend a couple of hours. It’s more in keeping with the kind of social and historical examination that Bryony and I were talking about yesterday.
The OED calls myth: “a popular conception of a person or thing which exaggerates or idealizes the truth.” I don’t know if that’s the most useful definition, largely because of the difficulty of accessing a ‘truth’ that exists independently or is particularly important. One of the examples given seems to illustrate this point:
Disraeli set himself to recreate a national political party out of the wreckage of Peel’s following. A new myth had to be evolved.
Without knowing anything about the situation being described, the dynamic can be recognized. The need to create a new story to replace or update an old one is a frequent and comprehensible thing. It’s part of what makes politics such a maddeningly difficult thing to deal with.
Myth – whether in the form of national foundational myths, justifications for state authority, or narratives about national history – seems to have played a fundamental role both in domestic political development and the development of the international system. The social role of myth, it seems, is to serve as a heuristic for justifying and understanding. Just think about Canada’s self-definition as the peacekeeping ‘helpful fixer’ or the American conception of being the ‘city on a hill.’ Neither has always reflected reality; it may be more useful to think about them as touchstones of national identity. That doesn’t mean they are always automatically accepted, but rather that they provide a data point that is always within the range of consideration. Myths provide a hook upon which other ideas can hang, as well as a barrier behind which complexity can be concealed.
Bloggers’ gathering reminder
To remind everyone, the second Oxford bloggers’ gathering is to take place next Tuesday at 8:00pm at The Turf. I hope I will get the chance to meet a few more of the people whose posts I have been reading.
- As I have learned through clips on the Comedy Central website, The Colbert Report is brilliant: a worthy companion to The Daily Show. I especially like the hubris of the segment: “Bring ‘Em Back or Leave ‘Em Dead.” I recommend having a look.
- My brother Mica is still seeking advice on his video production efforts.
- In a cross-over I never expected, Bill Emmott – editor of The Economist – has a letter in this week’s Savage Love. Since both are publications I read weekly, I was entertained to see them thus paired. In the spirit of Mr. Colbert, I give a tip of the hat to each of them.
- Removing dust blotches from every single photo of the day is really annoying!
- I used to consider Xanga to be the very bottom of the blogging barrel, in terms of the overall level of quality of sites hosted there. MySpace has absolutely shattered that record. I have never seen a MySpace page that is even tolerable, much less attractive. They tend to have complex, garish backgrounds that do not scroll with the stuff in front of them and include that sin of sins: embedded music. It’s like being thrown back to the Internet circa 1995, and it’s an ugly ugly experience.