Here is what I know: Today is Wednesday. Last week I said I would try to post on Wednesdays. I have been wracking my brains trying to come up with something to write about.
I’ve been a few hours wandering the corridors of the internet, searching out what people have had to say on such various topics as were wolves, vampires, and zombies. I was (still am) interested in how these creatures become metaphors in popular culture.
I don’t remember where I encountered the idea, but somewhere along the line, a thought has entered my head and taken up residence. This thought says that a work of fantasy, science fiction, or run-of-the-mill fiction, does not need to rely on metaphors.
To give an example of what I mean here, you should not need to interpret Lord of the Rings as an exegesis on World War II, the nuclear bomb, or even social class. The Lord of the Rings can and should be taken on its own, without referring to the context in which it was written to validate it as worthy. Obviously, people will draw whatever conclusions they will from the books, and far be it from me to tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t do. But I’m getting away from my topic.
Things like vampires and werewolves and magic rings have a bit of a force unto themselves, perhaps because they are nouns. Like coat hooks, we can hang ideas off them. And this is useful, even if it can be abused when we use the ideas we have hung up on the coat hooks to validate the books or movies or whatever as worthy. SEE LOTR example above.
What do I mean by worthy? I guess I mean something that makes it pass the gatekeepers to achieve cultural longevity.
Anyways, these coat hooks, these metaphors, these magic rings, they can fascinate people, especially if the ideas hung up on them are about fear. I don’t think fear is the only significant quality, but I’m just going to talk about fear right now.
So, we have a magic ring and people suggest that’s a metaphor for the nuclear bomb and because people who control nuclear bombs have terrible, destructive power, and such power corrupts, the bombs must be gotten rid of. So, it’s a powerful metaphor that way when we imagine the dark lord wielding this ring against us.
You can do the same thing with zombies and vampires and werewolves. One of the strengths of these metaphors is that by and large they can mean whatever you want them to mean. Mostly, though, I think zombies represent mindless hoards who threaten the established order. Like vampires and werewolves, they violate the sanctity of the human body with their bite.
So, that’s all great. Language is free and people can use metaphors like these as they want. Remember, I’m just trying to write a blog post here—fill some white space with some words…
My question is where is the metaphor for climate change?
I think it’s important to figure out why metaphors—coat hooks—are strong and viable so that anyone who wants to come up with a good climate change metaphor can do it.
But I also said that it’s not a good thing when we reduce art to the level of allegory. So, hold on, am I suggesting that we find a metaphor for climate change, a fearful allegory, and use it in a description of climate change? Isn’t that propaganda? Probably.
I don’t think I’ve talked about this in a very clear way. I can see where I’m going with this, but I don’t expect anyone else will.
But let’s say we’re looking for a metaphor for climate change and we want, because fear is powerful, to couch it in fearful terms. We know that the sanctity of the human body is something some people feel strongly about. We know that groups form by shunning and stigmatizing difference. Can we use those criteria to create a strong metaphor for climate change?
Is the problem with establishing a powerful climate change metaphor related to the fact that it’s hard to demonize a certain group of people who are responsible, because we’re all responsible? I mean, sure we can point to the nearest neo-liberal, but that’s just the clothes—that’s not the coat hook. (I feel like I’ve missed a link in my chain of logic somewhere, oh well.)
Okay, here’s my feeble stab at a metaphor, which is the coat hook and not the coat itself. I feel like this falls way short and at this point I don’t know quite what I was even aiming for in the first place. That said…
It’s a hideous creature called the dinosaur tree. Its bark is covered in ash-coloured feathers because dinosaurs are more like chickens than lizards, apparently. It walks along on tall spiky legs, that sink deep into the ground and suck up all the Earth juice. They have long, frond-like appendages, which they can use to make tools, touch one another, hurt one another. They have no mouths, only their sucking root-feet.
If you meet a dinosaur tree it’s going to gently push you over, then walk on you. It’s pointy root-feet will insert themselves in your body and suck up all your juices like you’re a strawberry smoothie. Then it will walk on, and after a while, you’ll get up, and you’ll be a dinosaur tree too.
People will come with chainsaws to try and cut you down, because they don’t like the wake of deep fissures you’re leaving in the Earth behind you, like bullet holes.
You’re not going to let them cut you down, are you? Can’t they tell you were once one of them? Nope.
Before they can cut you down, you walk all over them, and soon there’s a heard of dinosaur tree children following you.
Eventually, you and your dinosaur tree children grow so tall that you can suck the clouds dry of all their juices. It’s either that or starve, after all.
Once Earth is a bloodless rock, you strike out for Mars. It’s Mars or nothing.