The Next Conversation: “Creating New Narratives – What Do We Do Now, Part 2”

Event Date: Tuesday, January 31, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle.

The Summary

This time, we’re looking at how to create progressive narratives that become everyday common sense. Read on below for details.

The Guests

We’re working on gathering the guests. Stay tuned.

The Story in Detail

We ended last year’s conversation series with “What Do We Do Now?” We packed the house, and it was a great rousing conversation. The only rule was to focus on solutions and the future, not to rehash the past year.

One of my favorite comments came from a woman who asked that people show common respect for people who especially deserve that and are not likely to get it. She referenced young African-American men specifically.

Another comment came from a man from Russia, who recalled that when Putin’s power grabs were becoming apparent, the streets of Russia’s big cities filled with people in protest. But then Putin’s government cracked down and effectively ended those protests. After that, the opposition had no structures and no ideas for moving forward, and the opposition dissipated. The United States is different, he said. We have the ideas, institutions, and tools for mounting an effective opposition. All we need is the will.

For January, we’re going to stick with the “What Do We Do Now?” theme, with this question: “How do we create powerful and effective new narratives?” How do we control the definitions of everyday life? It’s a critically important question, and here’s why:

In the months and years to come, people will need to get engaged and stay that way, at multiple levels: locally and nationally, organizing with friends and strangers, building connections, applying legislative pressure, holding the press accountable, taking to the streets when that makes sense strategically.

But one of the activities that is especially well suited to the artists, writers, and performers on this list is messaging. A whole lot of political power comes with whoever controls the messages. It comes from narratives that are so effective that they come to be taken for common sense. They become the dominant story.

A good example, from the Right, is the idea of political correctness. Political correctness is a cynical, sarcastic notion that cultural sensitivity is by nature excessive and bad. One can’t be just a little politically correct; it’s all or nothing. And determining who is politically correct is never the province of the subject of the epithet; it’s a privilege that is always appropriated by the critic.

And yet, over time, through incessant repetition, it has come to be seen as a given; the very existence of political correctness is not questioned.

At the core of any fight we get the sort of culture we want, where compassion and decency are the norm, with equality of opportunity and systems that are healthy for all living things, is the need to populate the culture with stories, ideas, even just phrases, that are so effective that they become the dominant narrative. Rather than being seen as the position of the Left or the progressives, they come to be taken for granted as the truth.

How do we do that? That’s what we will talk about. Come.

If you want some background on my thinking on this, I posted an essay, “Creating a New Narrative” a few weeks ago. And note that these ideas are very (and I emphasize “very”) loosely connected to notions of cultural hegemony. Here is a good definition.

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