History shows us that narratives change, they are man-made and are impermanent. We have the terrorist who becomes the freedom fighter and later president, we have the imperial power which becomes the brutal enforcer from whom massive reparations are sought, we have the sporting hero who becomes the vilified drugs cheat, we have the powerful CEO who becomes the bung taking corrupt one feathering the nests of his pals now fearfully avoiding the press. Whatever the story of today is, it will not remain. Those in power have control of power and temporary control of narrative. In our times those narratives are way more volatile than previously, the tide can switch sharply. Yet those in control or imagined control of the narrative fail to see things through the lens of history, time and again this kind of thing plays out. For some the narrative is way more “important” than others. For with narrative comes reputation, good or bad.
Humans are fickle beings.
Yet people will stick with their narratives even when they know them untenable. There is that last gasp effort to cling to that narrative at whatever cost. That narrative frames the “world” for them and it is through the narrative that socio-political ordering is maintained and sometimes enforced. There is often a belief in the permanence and “justice” of a narrative which is unwarranted. History looks unfavourably on these narrative clingers. They are the resisters of change, the impediments to societal evolution. Their status, their rank, within the dying narrative must be clung onto. And only when the tide has started to change do the rats abandon the sinking ship of narrative. Quickly they re-write their own narratives to avoid going down with the stricken vessel. “Everyone else was doing it” and “I was only following orders” are the oft cited echoes of a dying narrative.
These narratives, they are on all sides. And there is expedient buy-in to them, so long as that narrative suits and is workable, it holds, even if there is a cost associated. As the narrative starts to fail it takes ever greater work and effort to keep it alive, nobody wants to sign the do not resuscitate order. And so, the number of plasters, the number of sutures to the narrative, rises. Soon it is fit to explode, the fingers are crossed, and yet more time is devoted to narrative maintenance. Eventually it fails the MOT and there is a stark choice, do we put more effort and money into this vehicle or buy a new one? We must pay for the vehicle to be disposed of but when it no longer works, with sadness we eventually say goodbye to it.
Why do we cling to these narratives when they are well past their sell by date?