solnit: people live and die by stories04 Jan 2018
here’s another gem from rebecca solnit’s on being interview:
“behind those politics are stories. And what’s interesting is that a lot of people believe those stories. And we often treat stories like they’re very trivial, they’re story hour for kids or that — but people live and die by stories. And people died of vicious stories in New Orleans.” — rebecca solnit
it’s so true. it’s just unbelievably true. why is it that we treat “stories” like they’re not a big deal?
in my personal storytelling for social chance workshop(), i’ve been exploring this thought process. i have a theory that if we are strategic and intentional in our stories, even our own life stories, we can harness the true power of stories for change. because it’s obvious to me (via my css training()), that humans are story-telling creatures. stories are how we make sense of the world. at early ages, sweet stories are how we fall asleep. then stories become powerful lesson vehicles. they teach us and we teach each other with them. but for some reason, as solnit rightly identifies, the dominant narrative about stories is that they are “just stories.” what matters is facts and data and reality.
it seems to me that the increasing importance of stories shouldn’t stop as we get older. in fact, as we get older, we should continue to place more weight on the importance of stories because our reality IS the stories we tell ourselves and each other to make sense of what we see.
and, in reality, people around the world live and die by stories. the stories some of us have about safety allow the police to literally say they don’t know why they killed someone and yet our society doesn’t revolt. wealthy people can steal billions of dollars from the economy (i.e. other people) and get away with it. this literally kills people who are then thrown (deeper) into a cycle of stress and poverty. we also have a story about cancer that it can be “fought” and have created huge cancer industries to treat it. at this point, several of my friends have had cancer and more than 10 people i know have died of it. and yet, the story that we should treat cancer after people get it rather than figure out what causes it and stop that allows this situation to just get worse and worse.
we live and die by stories. they fucking matter.
extended excerpt from transcript
MS. TIPPETT: And that was because of the narrative they were working off, in terms of who these people were?
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. Well, the — all the clichés and — that surfaced in the 1906 earthquake, all the crap about human nature, about how we all revert, especially poor people, especially non-white people, how we revert to our savage social-Darwinist nature were aired. And the mainstream media, and this includes the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and CNN, and The Guardian, all the major news outlets. It wasn’t — were the unindicted co-conspirators, I always say. They start publishing all this garbage about how there’s mass killings in the Superdome, and that was just believed so much that the Federal Emergency Management Agency sends a gigantic tractor trailer refrigerated truck to get what turns out to be six bodies, not the 200 that are supposed to be there. There’s all these stories that people are shooting at helicopters so you can’t have helicopter rescues.
And so they mount a campaign not to treat suffering human beings and bring them resources, but to reconquer the city. Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana said we have troops fresh from Iraq and they have M16s that are locked and loaded… …and they know how to use them. It was — that is not a humanitarian effort. M16s are not how you help that grandmother dying on the roof. And those grand — some of those grandmothers died. And so, people were not a victim of a hurricane. They were a victim of vicious stories, of the media’s failures, of the failures of the government on every scale from the city of New Orleans that left prisoners locked in flooded jails, to the federal government.
And so that’s political failures. But behind those politics are stories. And what’s interesting is that a lot of people believe those stories. And we often treat stories like they’re very trivial, they’re story hour for kids or that — but people live and die by stories. And people died of vicious stories in New Orleans. And everybody could have been evacuated in 24 hours. Everybody could have been evacuated beforehand.
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