Stories

Human beings make sense of the world through stories. To understand another we need to understand the story they tell themselves. We live in, and in some senses we actually are, a story within a story within a story.

We have individual, family, national, super-national and religious or philosophical stories which define our understanding of ourselves, our place in the community, our community’s place in the world and the world’s place in our universe.

We do not like to test our own stories, but they are constantly challenged by external evidence and by contradictory narratives. Humans are prepared to fight and die for their stories.

People, nations, religions, philosophies, even super-national entities, can all be understood as stories. It is a common denominator that allows them to be compared. World events may seem chaotic, but an understanding of the participants’ stories reveals meaning.

For example, the EU has a clear story that is accepted across continental Europe. It saved the continent from the despair of war and dictatorship and in doing so restored the wounded pride of Europe. The EU story transcends the warped national stories that had revealed themselves as nightmares. However, the EU’s story contradicts the UK’s story. In the UK story, the UK as a nation stood heroic and proud against the continental nightmare. The UK is not ashamed of the conflagrations: we actually take pride in the UK’s role. There is a contradiction between the EU as a story and the UK as a story. The Brexit vote was not caused by this, but without that contradiction the Brexit vote would have been unlikely.

The role of narratives is to some extent already recognised. How often do we hear that Islamic fundamentalism cannot actually be ended because it is an idea? We suspect this is too defeatist. We need to (i) understand the relevant story; (ii) analyse its strong and weak points; and (iii) devise ways to help the story develop in a new direction or if necessary replace it with a more convincing story.

Part of this website will be aimed at putting down in black and white what we take important world stories to actually be (story of the US, story of France, story of Israel, story of fundamentalist Islam, story of the UK). Hopefully you can help us correct our mistakes. Together we can then analyse them and consider how they might be made to serve the ends of a more peaceful world.