Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Perils of Embracing Everyone Else's Stories

The stories we embrace define us.
Movies and novels in today's world have taught us that almost all disagreement must end in some sort of emotional, verbal or physical violence. Pay attention to the next book you read or (more likely) the next movie or TV show you watch. There is a fairly consistent message in the stories we tell each other in our sadly post-modern culture that says that disagreement must always end badly.  

As a result of this endlessly repeated "moral of the story", we find ourselves in a culture in which we are unable to talk to one another unless we all agree; usually with whoever has the most authoritative manner. More than anything else, I think this probably explains the Donald Trump phenomenon in this election cycle and why his supporters react so violently to anyone who opposes him within the ranks of conservatives.

If we don't agree with the leader of the group or if we're the odd man out in the consensus of opinion, we will almost inevitably find ourselves cast into outer darkness by the group or shouted down into silence. And that's the preferable result. In some discussions, you can find yourself pounded into submission with physical intimidation and/or physical violence. 

We have a really difficult time "agreeing to disagree" these days. In the days where our conversations were longer and friendships more highly valued and resilient, friends often had disagreement. In the "life sucks and then you die" social environment of the post-modern social media driven world of today, however, if someone disagrees with us, we simply block his Twitter feed and be done with him. After all we have a pool of 988 "friends" and we'll very likely find someone among those friends who will agree with us all the time - until he doesn't and we cut him off. 

Even if we say we agree to disagree, these days that's usually a signal that we are going to cut off that relationship if they ever fail to conform to our worldview again, whether we actually "agree to disagree" or not.
Our stories that we share among ourselves in a culture - the ones we like and return to in our minds at least - determine how we see ourselves as part of the mob, the herd or the community. So long as we remain submissive to the herd, those narratives hold a powerful sway over us. Deviate from the herd and it becomes a lonely world very quickly.

One of the reasons Christians like me and my real best friends are such a sore thumb in today's world is that we have chosen a different set of stories - Abraham and Moses, Joseph and Jesus as opposed to Star Wars, Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. Not that there aren't some good stories outside of Scripture, but you have to separate stories you simply hear or witness from stories you embrace at least if you want to retain your own individuality. If you accept the stories that flow into your head through the media as "what everybody knows", it does not take long before you are manipulable by leaders who are loud and authoritative. Those guys are difficult enough to resist in any case without us programming ourselves in advance to blindly follow our fellow buffalo in stampeding over the cliff.

We were once taught in our youth, the value of thinking for ourselves. One wonders what they are teaching in schools these days.
I suspect it is not independent critical thinking or logic. That's a formula for creating individualists and that would be a real problem for "progressive" collectivists. The last thing those guys want are buffalo who think for themselves. A buffalo with a mind of its own can be a very dangerous beast.

Tom "Buffalo" King © 2015

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