Following on from this post, where could we start, if we wanted a theoretical understanding of oppression that was broader than economic oppression? Marx claimed to start from labour, and we’ll need to find an aspect of life that’s similarly fundamental. I’m going to see what can be done by starting from how people ‘make sense of’ the world, not just theoretically but practically.
I’m going to try to trace out how this might provide some understanding of patriarchy and human-supremacism (aka ‘anthroparchy’), though I hope it will also provide insight into other matters, and will try to lay out how in future posts.
Let’s try to make a very very broad comment about how people understand the world: people like stories. Narrative structures are more emotionally satisfying that static structures or structures that don’t resemble action, so people tell stories about their lives to make sense of them.
Can we then make any very very broad comments about narratives? Are there any shared features of all stories? Well, stories need a hero, and they need the hero to be driven to action in seeking something they do not already have. So there’s a basic division between the seeking hero and the sought prize, which may be a state of affairs (e.g. safety), or may be concentrated into some particular item (e.g. the grail), or personified into a person (e.g. a princess).
But of course, just as there would be no story if the hero already possessed the prize, there would be no story if they had no difficulty in attaining it. So there’s another basic division between the protagonist and the antagonist, between the hero and those forces that they must struggle against. Often this is personified in the figure of a ‘villain’, though sometimes it is something less personal (e.g. a mountain that must be climbed).
So we can say that there are three broad ‘roles’: hero, villain, and prize. There are also, of course, background characters, minions, sidekicks, etc. etc. And we can take a sort of axiom that, other things being equal, people will cast themselves as the hero in their own story.