What are we talking about? Who’s ‘we’ anyway?

Telling stories
Popular consciousness might be defined as a common understanding of the world through stories. Stories percolate through popular consciousness by many means - some by deliberate manipulation, some more haphazardly, orchestrated by a diversity of intention, different strands of narrative intertwining to create a matrix of understandings. There are the big, global stories - and cinema has been a major carrier of these - and I think all the big stories, including the fascistic ones, are powerful, glamorous, seductive.

The different strands of media tell a multiplicity of stories. They feed into, nourish, are supported by and/or undermine each other in a turbulent and unpredictable dynamic. Human beings understand themselves and their place in the world in relation to this network of global and local stories. These stories are what make our lived experience coherent to us: they give us a set of reference points, a point at which we can weave ourselves into the matrix of imagination and lived experience, an anchoring point from which our own stories make sense.

Some stories we perceive as true, those told by the apparatus of journalism. Stories about spirituality and ethics are told through the impulse towards philosophy and religious faith. And art tells mythical, poetic, emotional stories, and combines the subject matter and the methodology of all the other storytelling systems, to encompass stories about the divine, the mundane, the global, the domestic, the silly, the funny, the playful, the pleasurable, the serious, the totally not-funny at all, in a network of transcendence and integration, driven by metaphor.

But if the stories of a whole group of people are missing from popular consciousness, our understanding of where and who we are is skewed. The implications of this are massive. It is not simply a question of limited imagination - or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, limited imagination potentially has deadly serious implications. If, for example, the stories of half the population are missing, this has enormous consequences for the conditions under which they live their lives - and there are enough highly visible current events right now, the summer of 2004, to make this statement without even evoking the obvious example of the history of feminism and women’s rights in general.

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