Saturday, October 13, 2012

Controlling Stories – Are Just That

Cultures have controlling stories -- stories that powerfully impact how a people think, and believe, and act. These stories are deeply embedded (and ingrained) in the culture. One way to spot a potential "controlling story" is to keep an eye out for words or phrases that when they are used they seem to invoke something much larger than the mere meaning of the words themselves. They (upon further investigation) invoke a whole story that has impacted and continues to impact the culture. Think of Jewish people - and the word "Temple," or "Holy land," or "Torah." Or take the Metis people of Canada - and the word (person) "Louis Riel." Take the folks of the United States - and the word, "tea party." Take the people of southeast Montana - and the word "Custer." Take the people of Russia - and the word, "gulag." You get the point. Some words only capture little stories - like the word, "malarky." But other words capture stories that are much larger and longer lasting. (Mind you, I am not predicting how large or long lasting the "story" behind "malarky" may be or how much impact it may have.) 

The point is that these culture-controlling stories are so embedded that it only takes a symbol, a word, an allusion - and everyone immediately "gets it;" that is, they understand the conversation at a deeper level than any outsider. Because they are connected via story.

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