Posts Tagged ‘dominant stories’

☞ This article is on vegan empowerment, but much of it has to do with narrative as a shaping device. One of the ways by which the process of empowerment or disempowerment could be viewed is by seeing it through the eyepiece of narrative. In this light, empowerment is the attempt to ensure that the dominant narrative that suppresses a person or group of persons is subverted and replaced by a narrative that views the person or group more favourably. The article views the narrative that substitutes the dominant narrative as the “true” narrative. It is of course “true” from the perspective of those who stand to benefit from it. From a more value-neutral perspective, what can be seen here is the dynamics of narrative in the dialectics of empowerment and disempowerment, where a group uses a dominant narrative to perpetuate its power, whilst another group tries to subvert this for its empowerment by introducing an alternative narrative. 

✲ “History is shaped not by weapons, or tyrants, or rebellions. History is shaped by stories. Beneath every oppression and every revolution are narratives that guide them: we cannot invade and take up arms against another without first believing the story that the other is our enemy who must be conquered, just as we cannot stand together in protest of violent invasions without believing the story that the war is unjust.

Dominant narratives are the stories told by the dominant culture; they define our reality and guide our lives like an invisible hand. And when the dominant culture is oppressive, so, too, are its narratives. Such narratives are fictions, constructed to delude people into supporting the dominant way of life even though that way of life runs counter to what they would otherwise support, and to silence the voices of people who seek to tell the truth. Thus, social change is made possible by those who challenge the dominant narratives, replacing fictions with facts by bearing witness to and speaking out against oppression. Revolutions that change the course of history are made possible by those who speak truth to power.”

✲ “Stories shape our lives, and our world, for better or worse.

When women believed the stories told by the dominant, sexist culture – when they looked at the world through the eyes of (sexist) males – they believed that their own personal deficiencies, rather than external power structures, were to blame for their lower social status.

Stories can be fiction or fact.

The dominant story of sexist culture – that women were inferior because they were overly emotional, weak, and irrational – was based on gross distortions of the truth about women’s true nature and experience. It was a fiction. True stories, on the other hand, reflect the authentic truth of our experience.

Widespread stories reflect (and reinforce) a widespread belief system, or ideology.

The story that women were inferior to men did not come out of nowhere; it reflected the widespread ideology of sexism. And the more men and women alike bought into this fiction, the more they reinforced the sexist system, playing out and thus confirming the stereotypes of dominant males and submissive females.

When we change our stories, we change our lives, and our world.

As vegans, we are largely aware of the fictions spun by the dominant, animal-eating culture; our advocacy is organized around providing alternative, truthful stories. But there are some dominant stories that many vegans remain unaware of, and these stories can cause us to feel disempowered and despairing and they can seriously undermine our advocacy. When we become aware of these stories, though, we can rewrite them, and transform our despair into inspiration and empower ourselves and our movement.”

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☞ Narrative is not only confined to literature and mythology. It is a very important means through which we perceive reality. Indeed, arguably, reality itself is not only perceived through, but created with, narrative. Narrative is certainly important in politics, as we have seen earlier on this site, in the case of Obama, who understood the importance of narrative and storytelling better than his Presidential opponent, Mitt Romney. With a view towards explaining the importance of narrative in politics, Philip Zack argues, as seen in the series of quotations below, that it is something that we cannot escape from. The perception of raw sensory data is meaningless to us, unless it is mediated by narrative. In this light, narrative plays an active and domineering role in perception, and in the construction or reconstruction of perceptions in the realm of politics.

Change happens in any field because someone offers a different story of how and why things are or could be. We’ve achieved change by stepping into the world of a different narrative and making it real through our words and deeds.❞

Vase

Photo credit: Sunil Photos

✽ ❝Everything we know begins as raw sensory data, a pattern of light and color, perhaps. We make sense of that data by fitting it into a story — that the pattern depicts an object, in this case a vase. What happens next is important: we remember the vase, and discard the pattern.❞

✽ ❝There are all sorts of stories: static ones such as what that vase looks like from different directions, dynamic ones such as imagining pouring water from the vase, and complex ones such as having our medical bills paid for by insurance provided by the company that paid us to make a thousand of those vases. Some of these stories are our own creation, but most of them come from other people in the form of memes, or contagious ideas. The world as we know it is a dynamic ecosystem of interlocking stories, some of which are built on top of other stories. And like the animals and plants in biological ecosystems, some kinds of stories can only survive by dominating others, while other kinds of stories are able to coexist and even support one another.❞

✽ ❝Thinking of stories as living things — which is a meta-story you may not have encountered before — gives us a way to evaluate the relative merits of competing stories such as these. Set them down in front of you and see how they behave, how they interact with other storiesin the narrative ecosystem. Stories such as those with arcs about gaining dynastic power at the expense of others thrive by destroying competing stories that are not of benefit to them. Their objective is to be the last story standing, as it were. They do not make good neighbors. In contrast, stories such as those in which people benefit through collaboration are strengthened by building larger stories in which our personal stories have a stake.❞

✽ ❝Politics in the US has become a contest between competing stories describing what our nation is about, what the role of its government ought to be, and what is important in life. Thesestories, however, do not exist in a vacuum, because the narratives have been manipulated, and the raw data that we attempt to fit into these stories has been intentionally filtered and curated to appeal to our desire to associate it with a particular story so we can forget the data itself and go about our business.❞

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