Transforming the Narrative is one of the key pillars of activity at Life Itself along side a Culture.
Any social or political envisioning is constrained by an invisible frame: the narrative or worldview in which it is conceived. This narrative includes a host of implicit values and views, most importantly its view of the nature of human beings.
Our work in “Transforming the Narrative” consists of a combination of think-tank like research, analysis and convening to catalyse conversations for a new narrative together with political and cultural advocacy to translate that into concrete social and institutional change.
Situation: “the past is dying and the future is not yet born“
Our default narrative – i.e. individualistic, technocratic materialism for individual and collective wellbeing – is exhausted: no-one thinks doubling GDP will double contentment; and/or not working e.g. the climate crisis.
At the same time, there is no clear, powerful alternative replacement narrative that is widely vocalized (and accepted) – and even the need for this is debated (cf the culture wars).
There is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction but without an alternative this does not lead anywhere and results in a sense of resignation or reaction; and finally, there is a general disdain for politics and collective action.
Overall, there is growing sense of crisis.
The default is a continuation of the current trajectory and that has major issues – it’s unfulfilling and even risks catastrophe (e.g. climate crisis, runaway AI). This continuation is not inevitable: we could create new narratives, we could take actions collectively … but we’re not.
The crisis story and associated fear and resignation freezes us, or leads to reaction, or techno-magic. Furthermore, we have a lot of existing beliefs/assumptions which limits space for imagination (“blindspots”).
The new narrative must be onto-socio-political in nature (not technological), and that is harder to envision and share – and less directly enrolling – but it is possible.
For this to happen people have to be able to hold that new narrative at the same time as being in the current one – which is hard. Plus, they must:
- Be able to see a path to here to there
- Whilst still being anchored in our old beliefs and blindspots
- And this a collective problem and so this involves a switch in belief-equilibrium which is not easy and is complicated by the need to co-exist / evolve within the existing paradigm
Finally, we imagine (and believe) together and so we need a space in which this kind of imagining can happen and be taken forward into action. However, there is no obvious space for that at present. Furthermore, this process needs some strongish “guidelines”/principles that shape that space both to spur creativity and limit destructive debate.
How do we create conversations, initiatives and projects to transform the narrative [i.e. for a socio-cultural-political paradigm] in the most effective and skilful ways possible and cooperating with core principles of wise action and cooperating with and enrolling others in this program such that a wiser and weller socio-cultural-political narrative emerges and is widely adopted.