This country is not experiencing a political crisis; it is experiencing a social narrative crisis. We are in a radical transformation of the story of the identity of the United States from “we the people “to “I the individual.”
All of the language of the constitution speaks about and serves the rights of the collective “we.” The conversations that fill our lives and the media now are all about the rights, entitlements and polarities of the individual and how each is separate and apart from the other.
Rather than sharing a unifying ethos that recognizes that we are stronger and more fulfilled together, we are consumed with the perceived micro differences between us. We obsess about individuated identities and what divides us, not what unites us. Polarization among even the like-minded and demonization of all who have different views are perceived as the “Other”and hence a threat to your personal entitlements has become common in our current way of life.
These socio – cultural positions that pit the entitlements and needs of the One against the desires and benefits of the Many fracture the structure of the foundation of social community. They foster the rise and empowerment of self-centered individuals solely motivated by their own egoist and power-centric agendas.
Most important, they are antithetical to all of the values embodied in the United States Constitution. When our representatives in Washington place the wants of the individual above the needs of the collective and the community, they violate and blaspheme the Constitution which they are sworn to serve.
This shift in social narrative from one of collective magnanimity to one of personal aggrandizement goes to the heart of what motivates us as Homo sapiens. We are driven by story; it forms and defines our social behavior more than any other aspect of our lives. Throughout history, when a collective narrative shifts to one of power based individuation enforced by violence, society inevitably shatters and fragments.
More than any other president, Donald Trump understands the power of shifting the social narrative from the collective good to individual empowerment and entitlement. He understands it’s ability to convene people around selfish righteousness and fear and the belief that they are better and more entitled than the other.
Trump’s understanding of this is not intellectual in any way. It is instinctual and primal, the same as a bully understands his ability to provoke, intimidate and dominate by constantly attacking and not relenting until the victim succumbs. Our response to these aggressive actions goes deep into our DNA; they are in fact how we became the dominant species on the earth.
Until we understand that this is both his tactic and his appeal, those who oppose him will have no power against him because he is controlling the shift in the social identity narrative. Once his egoist-individualism position is comprehensive and pervasive throughout all of culture, he will control it’s identity and there will be little hope to reclaim it within our lifetimes.
We are the consequences of the stories we tell the world about who we are and what we believe. The power of story to shape our lives has become so ubiquitous we do not even recognize it as it does it’s work. It’s agency is so deep in the DNA of Homo sapiens that we surrender to his will as a matter of evolutionary course.
in modern China, the people did not change, the land did not change. It is still the land it always was, the people who inhabit that land are still the people who always have. What happened is someone to told a new story that everyone believed and they followed it.
So as Tolstoy said: “What now must we do? “
We must meet the bully where he is: on the primal, not intellectual battlefield. He cannot be reasoned with, he cannot be made to understand a different point of view. He will not become compassionate or empathetic or generous of heart. Like all bullies, he must be overcome and dominated into submission.
Let us remember that this situation and the answer to it was what gave us the Constitution of the United States. This young nation was in the same position: being bullied and dominated by a hostile, aggressive subjugating outlier.
We responded with a new narrative to oppose theirs, one that embraced all, welcomed all, recognize the rights of all (except slaves) and one that took a collective stand against an individual dominance. we became, “We The People.” As Jonathan Sacks writes in his 2007 book, “The Home We Build Together,” there’s only one historically proven way for people to build community across difference. It’s when they build things together.”
In the American revolution, England was not beaten by military victories. England was beaten by a more powerful, emotional, unifying and highly motivating Story. May we always remember that in all aspects of life, the one who tells the best story wins … and that it does not matter if that story is true or not.