Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous"

We are the stories we tell ourselves. Or, as Thomas King puts it: "The truth about stories is that that's all we are."

If I grow up being told I am a kind and generous person, always willing to lend a hand to help a fellow human in need, there's a good chance I will take this on as part of my identity, and become a kind and generous person. Certainly it is more likely than if I had been told all my life I am a mean and selfish goodfernuthin'.

If we tell ourselves that what it means to be human is to be a rational self-interested individual, for which the greatest good is to act selfishly in the marketplace of life, well then we should not be surprised if we become greedy self-serving assholes, gleefully counting our giant SUVs and plasma TVs while children die of malnutrition outside our gated communities.

If we tell ourselves a great epic story of the world as a Clash of Civilizations, we should not be surprised that our illustrious leaders invade other countries, you know, defensively, pre-emptively. Because it is our duty to shore up civilization against the invading barbarians who hate us for our... um... freedom to wear a bikini and watch American Idol.

What other stories do we tell ourselves?


Red Jenny said...

I seem to have forgotten to add the link, but here's a whole section of the Thomas King book - Definitely worth reading

Dr.Dawg said...

Thank you for the heads-up about this book.I'm studying narrative theory at the moment, and this seems worth picking up.

Red Jenny said...

He's probably my new favourite writer. The book is delightful to read.. He uses an easy to swallow format, relying on understatement and humour to get across some really important messages.