Monday, February 20, 2017

"Story of my life!"

Like a lot of people, I've been enjoying the Trump Presidency, if only for the joy of outrage and seeing people apoplectic at apparent brazen ignorance. A colleague of mine said that his election would be a goldmine for the comedians, but I contend that it is a self-mockery that cannot really be beaten. "You cannot write stuff like that!". You'll never meet a better mockery of Trump than himself. The only satire I'd laugh at would be to have him making sense and playing it straight. Have a comedian answer the question with a cogent answer.

As we have this kind of personality pushing the envelope of reality, it really does make me think about how beliefs and narratives work for people. Clearly some people are listening to his words and making sense of it all, which might strike his detractors as impossible. 

If there is anything that is true though, it is that a story matters, and we all have stories about ourselves and the worlds. We, after all, "aren't that kind of person" except for that time when you weren't. And it's the "story of my life" and we successfully fulfill our own prophecies both good and bad. I sigh a little when my family and colleagues say they are a particular kind of person or identify themselves as an agent in a recurring narrative. We do though seem to make a narrative of our lives as narratives make sense of otherwise meaningless events and actions. Our world too needs a narrative, and if there is a singularly big achievement that distinguishes Trump from other candidates it was that he wasn't just about what he was (which admittedly he did hammer on about). He created talked about a bigger narrative that more people found matching their own. Obama, being the speaker that he was, did something similar in a far more well-spoken way. "Fake news" may be an unsophisticated catch-cry but it does chime with the suspicions of many. 

The narrative doesn't have to be reality; in fact, by definition it's not. It should be in line with their aspirations or their fears. If want to lead my team well, I really need to project that my school is a body generally pulling in the right direction, that teaching is fun and changing lives, and that the job of teacher is special one. All or most of these could be wrong. The real situation must be textured, fractal and complex.

Narratives do have a rubber-meets-the-road element at some stage; ragged reality is bound to intrude at some stage. Apocalyptic cults meet that with the passing of their last day, after all. Invincible youths meet a sharp corner. And "winning" Trump has had moments where he met defeat. It's only cognitive dissonance or willful ignorance that makes him see his administration as a "smoothly running machine".

But narratives do shape the road because the road is partly paved by the humans who are participants from in some way. I think about this when watching cricket - the best chasers in cricket are not necessarily the most skillful but the ones who make the other team stop believing in their own winning narrative. When the bowler knows he cannot be the hero, that the ball will almost certainly go into the crowd, he's lost the game for his team. Sports games have their own narrative viewers give to them as well as what the players create, and the cheers or otherwise of the crowd may sway the players as well.

I remember hearing the theory that consciousness itself is a narrative. I like it. It fits my story perfectly.

No comments: