Tuesday, February 25, 2014

GPS - Governing, Pivotal Story-System


911. Nine-one-one (or nine-eleven). These digits and phrases have become a significant symbol in American. 911 is no longer primarily a symbol of how to elicit help when your cat is up a tree or your house is on fire. Today, it brings a whole different story to mind. Or, better yet, it brings a system of stories to mind. It brings a host of images to the collective national mind – images of two airplanes, one after the other, crashing into two of America’s tallest buildings. It brings images of a robust, young man in another airplane headed for Washington, DC quietly saying, “Let’s roll.” It brings images of smoke billowing out of once-thought invincible skyscrapers. It brings images of a dirty-faced fireman carrying a limp child through a surreal world of dust and ashes. It brings images of a nation forced into a collective, bowed-head moment of utter disbelief. That story (and all the related stories that make that story) may very well have become one of present-tense America’s GPS.

GPS – “Governing, pivotal story-system.GPS is a story-system because it is a collection of theme-related smaller stories that combine to make a single, larger narrative. It is what Halverson, Goodall, and Corman refer to as a master narrative. They (helpfully) draw attention to a particular distinction of narrative – narrative (they write) is a system of stories. More in-depth, they define a narrative as “a coherent system of interrelated and sequentially organized stories that share a common rhetorical desire to resolve conflict…”[1] They then proceed to define a master narrative as a transhistorical narrative that is deeply embedded in a particular culture. Deeply embedded – think of the following as possibilities: the Obamacare narrative (for Americans), the tearing-down-of-the-wall narrative (for Germans), or the Tutsi-Hutu genocide (for Rwandans). All these story-systems are narratives that have become (or are becoming) embedded in a society because of their historical and emotional impact. A GPS is a narrative (story-system) that is pivotal. Why? Because it is of crucial importance in relation to the development of something. A GPS is never neutral, inactive, or benign. Each one is powerful and active. Each is of crucial importance in the development of a society’s core assumptions about reality. A GPS is a narrative that is governing. Why? Because it controls the very thoughts and actions of an individual or a society. Since it is pivotal in the formation of presuppositional core assumptions about all reality, it literally sits in the driver’s seat of how people think and behave.

A GPS device is designed to help pinpoint location. Through triangulation it locates where one is on planet earth. Likewise, our "GPS" is similar. If one discovers a society’s grouping of GPS’s (since there is more than one that makes up the society’s metanarrative), that person is a long way down the trail of pinpointing that society’s core assumptions concerning reality.

[1] [1] Halverson et al, Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 14, 15.

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