Monday, January 18, 2010

The Power of a Story

Thanks to James for this : Dominion Over the World (II): Why the Stories We Tell Matter So Much
James said it was good and indeed it is, so I must share the info.

It is about the narratives or myths we believe as a society, as a nation. And how these narratives work for and/or against us. The whole China censorship mantra story got me thinking this one had to be brought to light.

An excerpt to whet the whistle: regarding the myth of America and how this myth, this narrative, this fiction pans out in reality;

The myth, narrative or belief:
The belief that the original vision still exists today flows into the other parts of the enduring myth: America remains the final, best hope of mankind; America is essentially pure in purpose and motive; America has only liberty as its goal, for itself and for the rest of mankind; America eschews all forms of power over others.

 The reality:
If events of the last few years have proved nothing else, they have proved that this myth is no longer true. We invaded a country that did not threaten us; we have established dominion over it; we will leave only when that country will do our bidding, in all the ways that concern our leaders. Such purposes may be described in many ways; liberty is not one of them. (A knowledge of history, and especially of the Spanish-American War and its aftermath in the Philippines, should have established these facts long ago.)

But to see and acknowledge this changed reality, one must be willing to face the facts squarely, and one must be able to appreciate their meaning. This is why I stress the power of narrative, and the power of myth. Once it is embedded deeply enough in the national psyche, the myth cannot be dislodged. No matter that a mountain of contradictory facts has arisen, the myth will prevail. And the full truth is worse: the new reality, a reality which contradicts and undercuts the actual founding principles at their root, is justified in the name of the myth. Even torture, we are told, is acceptable if we practice it -- precisely because we practice it on the myth's behalf. We may even torture, and the inhumane and barbaric become virtuous, because we act in the name of liberty -- the same liberty that is now vanishing into memory within our own shores.

These stories shape our reality so much so, that even horrendous abuses are justified in the name of the story.


  1. I hope I have done justice to what this man wrote, though I do not think so.

    He really put it all much better then I did.

  2. I like this a lot.

    - Aangirfan.

  3. Hey aangirfan.

    It is really good, really good.

  4. More from Arthur Silber; he has written a new piece on myth and violence while commenting on an article by Jeff Nall entitled, "How Obama Betrays Reverend King’s Philosophy of Nonviolence"

    It shows clearly how a national myth is used and reinforced to destroy the thing it purports to uphold - peace.