What does it come down to? You know … “it“.
As individuals we are story tellers. (If what you are doesn’t matter to you then you should adjust your tin-foil helmet and until you do just find a quiet place and try not to cause trouble.) That means our “internal narrative” is what runs society. (Like the little voice in your head right now that’s telling you this is hippie bullshit … or wondering what I’m going on about.)
“History” is the story that historians agree on. Made up of facts, most of the time but not always, and strung together in a way that makes some sort of sense to most people most of the time. Usually in a way that’s useful to those with the sort of clout that lets them have historians hired and fired. (“The nail that sticks up gets hammered” … the sort of thing we learn, yes? What side our bread is buttered on? Keep that in mind … it’s going to come up again.) But my point is: it’s a story. How does that matter? Well, because the sort of story that’s used to describe history (“A country we cannot travel to”) is the same sort of story that’s used as current events unfold.
Cuba’s revolution was bloody and undemocratic, and Cuba’s Castro was a blood-thirsty tyrant, so the most powerful economy on the face of the earth turned it’s political power to destroying it. Chile’s revolution took place through the ballot box and its leader was a mild-mannered bespectacled economist … so another reason was found to crush it: “We cannot allow a country to vote itself communist”, as Henry K. put it. The bottom-line? Folk bought into it. Or, at least, a lot did. And those who didn’t buy it, well, knowing what side your bread is buttered on and all that. Hard to fight a good story, isn’t it?
And stories matter just as much in the contemporary scene: those who had the ear (some would say “held the strings”) with President Bush talked about how Iraqis would welcome American forces as liberators, with flowers. So post-conflict planning went down that road. The museums were not secured. Government institutions were not secured. The army’s hundreds of tons of weapons were not secured. The story was a fiction. It was a “nice” story, and a “useful” story, but it didn’t hang together the way a good story should, because it was anti-realist propaganda. Useful? For sure … millions have been made by those with the political clout to make and break careers.
Let me put it to you this way: how would you feel if everyone around you were fools? I mean, could be shown to be fools? (Many many many people wouldn’t care. Really: if they don’t care about that, what else don’t they care about?) Well, good news is that this isn’t quite the case. We may lie dozens of times a day (studies show), and we may most usually be motivated by motives of image-maintenance rather than integrity (There’s those dang studies again!) but usually most folk have some reason to be doing whatever it is that they’re doing … and those reasons are, most times, pretty sensible. But guess what: if you ask folk about those reasons, folk kinda fall apart. Fact is, most folk have pretty strong and clear opinions about most things most times. And something like 60% can’t say even one thing to support those opinions. More: most of the things that are said in support of personal opinions are either illogical or flat out wrong.
So how about this: I suggest that we focus on how individual citizens feel about the decisions being made … I call that “discource on public policy”, even “participatory discourse” or “participatory deliberation”.
Now that’s not real likely. Know why? I can tell you. Cuz we don’t even agree on the facts. We can’t even tell a story. We can’t tell our story. That means we can’t make our own history. And that’s a very sad state of affairs, I think. I think that should worry most folks … most of the time …
Is that just me?
My Participatory Deliberation” … not as sexy as dating sites and videos, but somebody’s gotta do it. And I figured that somebody had to be me. But you can help, if you care to.