Friday, 14 January 2011

Metaphor: hunting, trapping, shooting, fishing, running, fighting over..

In the wake of the Arizona shootings and the targeting imagery used by Sarah Palin (the ignoramus hockey-mom talking about blood libel and looking to be presidential candidate again). I pick the following terms out of today's football gossip at the BBC Sports site:

a target for Liverpool

may also try and tempt left-back

also on manager Kenny Dalglish's list of targets.

wasting their time pursuing the Serbia international defender

to beat Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United to the signature of

Stoke are poised to swoop for Hoffenheim midfielder

Blackburn have won the race for

Diego Godin in the west London side's sights.

are hopeful of landing unsettled Tottenham striker

Mark van Bommel is being pursued by Tottenham and Aston Villa

still trying to prise manager Eddie Howe from Bournemouth

The image is of the player as a trophy animal, the club wishing to sign the player as a hunter of some sort: chasing, beating rivals to, laying traps for, shooting, angling, swooping like a bird of prey, fighting over.

What is the specific range of metaphors doing here? I don't think anyone thinks that Harry Redknapp (say) has gone out with a vast fishing net and 'landed' (say) David Beckham in it, or that he has actually grappled with the manager of the LA team to 'prise' Beckham from his physical grasp. No, the accusation against Palin doesn't work that way.

The metaphors above want to rouse excitement by association - and they do actually work pretty well. Football fans want to get excited, and do get excited by perceiving the teams with which they identify as aspects of a metaphysical struggle for survival and supremacy. They pay good money for it, they may even take physical action to achieve it. In an excited atmosphere where everyone is shouting, the most excitable do take physical action (the Liverpool fans ripping seats out at Old Trafford last week and throwing them at the United supporters below). It was ever thus. Nor is it, before anyone suggests it, just a masculine trait, not if one studies the behaviour of women at wrestling bouts. Men, having been hunters, have simply formalised these routines in a specific way.

We live by metaphor: metaphor doesn't say one thing is like another, it says it is another. It doesn't say, this is a figure of speech, it says this is where you are.

That doesn't make Palin guilty of anyone's murder, but it does perhaps demonstrate that she of the 'blood libel' is not best equipped to deal with metaphor. She has no idea of the origins of the term and can't be bothered to find out. 'Couldn't be bothered to find out,' is not a good epitaph to a presidential candidate's career.

It also suggests that one useful guide to sanity might be a basic understanding of the difference between metaphor and reality. That is where poetry comes in. The more a poem is aware of itself as a structure, the more the reader is aware of the poem as an act in a distinct sphere, the clearer that distance between reality and imagination remains. The metaphor can exercise its full effect on the imagination actually perceived as the imagination. It is, after all, a willing suspension of disbelief that makes art. That is how art humanises us and keeps us sane.


At the splendid Drawbridge, a piece, partly autobiographical, on Flight Path


Anonymous said...

"Mark van Bommel is being pursued by Tottenham and Aston Villa" I'm not sure which of Gower or Hoccleve (or even Chaucer, but I hope not) it was who referred to those who "hop alwey behinde."

George S said...

Splendidly pulled out of the memory bank! 'Hop alwey behinde' is a team of football gossip journos hopping alwey behind 'a reliable source' who is for ever hopping alwey behinde' the subject of the rumour.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Where do you think you are, Anonymous, Petticoat Lane?

Do you know, after all that, I think the hopping might be Langland..

George S said...

Let's check Langland there, Anonymous. Any idea where? Piers Plowman, but...

A note on signing in as Anonymous. It might be best to invent a name, as sometimes comments from Anonymous are automatically held over as potential spam by Blogger. This has happened before and notice of a perfectly good comment arrived weeks after the original post.

Nice to hear from you, non-Petticoat Lane Anon.

Gwilym Williams said...

A few days after the tragedy, a USA radio journalist in New York via phone link to Austria's FM4'Reality Check' programme, trying to explain the violence, said something to set me back on my heels: Wrestling is the most popular Cable-TV show in America.

I saw 'Bowling for Columbine' on TV a few days before the latest shooting. I hadn't seen it before, but obviously I had heard about it. I was shocked to see the fear on the streets on a daily basis.

Last night I saw an emerald green shooting star in the South and this morning a brilliant rainbow in the North. The times they are a changing. At least Ihope they are.

non-Petticoat Lane anon. said...

I've tried to track it down: the original reference was from somewhere in the letters of either Philip Larkin or Kingsley Amis. I suspect the latter, because "hop alwey behinde" was footnoted with the comment "want to B****R him, eh?"

George S said...

Oh, Kingsley! There you go again, you grown up schoolboy!

Gwilym Williams said...

Never thought I'd live to see the great Blackburn Rovers and a deranged Alaskan mentioned in the same breath.

George S said...

Good news, Gwilym. Blackburn have won the race for Sarah Palin, a right winger previously known for her exploits on the hockey field and the rifle range.

Gwilym Williams said...

We want our money back. She'll be as good as Stuart Ripley. Vastly underrated. I never understood why Rips was dropped by England after his debut. It was Jason Wilcox and Ripley made Shearer. Footolitics I suppose.

Gwilym Williams said...

never be as good

Gwilym Williams said...

As you know George, Rovers won the Premiership with the assistance of the eternal starlet Tina Turner. She is simply the very best! Wacko gunslingers like Frau Palin we don't need.

Mr. Philoctetes Digressius aka L. E. McKenna said...

It's like I told you many posts back, George, Americans are idiots. I can say that because I am one. I let you decide what "one" I am. I told my children that Sarah Palin was practicing hyperbole because she didn't want to admit - in what would have been much better taste - that, in light of the shooting, perhaps she could see where a politician in a position of great power could have chosen much better ways to express her disatisfaction than using target symbols. Sarah Palin created such overblown rhetoric because she didn't want to in any way address her irresponsible and rather distasteful behavior. Granted, I was a metalhead when the American Moral Majority went after Dee Snider (which prompted him to eat their sorry selves for lunch); so I'm not much invested in blaming violent metaphor for the acts of the nuts who try to realize them in actuality. But Sarah Palin is in a position she is part of a party - the Republicans and the Tea Party - who are supporting and inculcating irrational rhetoric and irrational actions. I attended a Town Hall meeting in Tennessee in which Tea Party members literally screamed at an elder Tennessee statesmen because he was 1) Democrat, and 2) supporting Obama's health care plan. It was behavior than in any other public or private arena the policemen stationed there would have asked them to be quiet and potentially arrested them for disturbing the peace, which admittedly is usually nothing more than a POP law (what we less cultured folks call P*$$ing off the police offenses). Anyway, when this kind of irrationality is the impetus for a party's coming to power, it reminds us more rational folks of horrible political moments of the past. Even without referring to the past, it creates in our present a politics based on emotion, mostly anger, and idiocy. America's right-wing resurgence is scary. I consider this shooting incident quite the omen. Some things just tend to go together, you know, like drugs and violence, prostitution and violence, and well, anger and idiocy and violence. And who's surprised when irrationality ends in death? Not I.

Gwilym Williams said...

Austria's best-selling Sunday newspaper has a "picture of the week" on page 3 of its colour supplement.
Today's picture is "Christina. As if Hope has died." and it shows a Reuters photo of a beautiful young girl. She is Christina Green. She is one of 50 of the USA's 9/11 babies known collectively as the 'Faces of Hope'. She was killed in the Arizona shooting in the Land of the Free.
Does this mean the land where almost every idiot is free to carry a gun? In Michael Moore's 'Bowling for Columbine' I saw that there are towns in the USA where gun ownership is compulsory, even a blind man must own one.
Perhaps Christina Green will be elected Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2011? If it would help they should do it. But maybe the situation is hopeless? It seems so from the outside looking in.

George S said...

Well, Philoctetes, I am usually the odd one out among my colleagues and friends in defending the USA in sometimes unpropitious circumstances, so have never regarded Americans as greater idiots than anyone else. In terms of Superpowers of my Lifetime, the USA has been, for me, much the preferable option.

But I quite see what you mean about the political temper of the times. It is taking me some time to understand why anyone should be in a fury about something as sensible as health care reform, and I can only think it is because of the value some Americans ascribe to standing on their own feet without government interference. They Want To Do It Themselves. I suppose there is a political argument for that, as there is for almost everything, but the way it is put you'd think anything different was a mixture of Fascism and the deepest dyed Bolshevism, which is, frankly, nuts.

I know a lot of people can behave like nuts given the circumstances. So you can tell me what you think the circumstances are. My guess would be a) the shock of a black president who is there to be blamed for everything, and b) the financial crash and the rescuing of the banks, for the first of which they cannot blame their own people so blame Obama, and for the second of which they blame Obama though GWB would have had to do the same.

Fact is I know far too many nice, intelligent Americans to think of the USA as an idiot country.

George S said...

Gun ownership is a strange one, Gwilym. I assume it comes from the same fiercely independent instinct I try to describe in my comment above, an instinct that says: I, not the state, must be the master of my own life and death. The key term here is 'state' which is here regarded as the antithesis of the the individual. The interests of state and citizen are assumed to be contrary.

The balance lies: Me (Honest Joe)-my folks-my folks' folks-my church-my community versus Those who are not my folks - their crooked ways - their desire for dominion - their institutions - their state.

Something like that, ending: So not only the cops should carry guns, but I should too.

It is a kind of frontiersman mindset. I will assume all responsibility for me and mine. Sure, there are folk who go mad sometimes, and kill a few, but mostly our folk is our folk and we prevent that, or, failing that, we try to shoot em first.

George S said...

Mr Philoctetes, I trust you will not mind me putting your blogs down on my own blogroll on the right.... I'll do it, and it you object I'll take them right off again.

Mr. Philoctetes Digressius aka L. E. McKenna said...

The "circumstances of behaving like a nut" are quite varied, George! But, for a short and quick answer, I think the very thing that made Americans dogged to the point of inspiring awe is what practically dooms it today: insistence on the practice of relying on irrational things for our perseverance, and I'm talking about religion. The biggest forms of entertainment in America are church (and I'm not being ironic when I say that), sports, and pornography. I could go on and on; how the average American spends less than an hour a day reading, how Americans vote for politicians for their faith rather than their voting record, how a murderer - who, while killing her, nearly decapitated a woman - runs one of the biggest evangelical churches in my home state, but, well, it makes me restless, and I'm not much good for anyone or anything when I start getting that caged feeling. Anyway, the current idiocy started when some nuts thought they had the same stones the founding father had when they threw the first tea party. Running around and screaming at folks isn't gutsy enough for me. But they actually appropriated things like the Gadsden flag (which, although I'm glad for the popularization of the flag - I've got a nice Gadsden flag clock now -, I'm upset that they've stripped it of any of its original meaning). Americans, for all their religiosity, are the most materialistic people in the world. And they're proud of it. I better quit, George. And I'd be honestly flattered if you added Mr. Digressius to your blog roll. I hope I'm up to the task of making my posts worth your readers' while.