An Age of Ideological Narratives
This world is filled with people who have their minds full of subjective perceptions. Though many argue that there is something called objective reality, it always remains an illusion. We form our subjective perceptions based on the environment in which we are born and brought up and the dominant narratives that circulate in our society.
A Battleground of Narratives:
In this world, there is nothing exact, nothing perfect and nothing that could be termed as absolute truth. It is just a battleground of numerous incompatible narratives. Your ideas depend on which color, creed and nation you belong to, which religion you follow, which ideology you subscribe to and which profession you practice. In essence, what you speak, write and profess depends on how they can serve your self-interest. So, everybody is trying to peddle a narrative that serves their self-interests. Your success, either as an individual or as an organization, depends on how effectively you peddle your narrative.
Digital Era Empowered the Ordinary:
Gone are the days when people would feel that anything in print is objective and therefore sacrosanct. Behind the cover of sanctity, people, who would claim themselves to be journalists, would peddle their agenda-driven narratives, which were readily believed by the gullible masses as there was nobody to contest their stories. But the advent of digital age broke the monopoly of print and empowered even the ordinary mortals to express their views. All the media — whether it is print, electronic or social — looks like a war zone where people who subscribe to a wide variety of ideas and ideologies are battling it out to gain upper hand over their rivals. And this appears to be a never-ending story.
No Concrete Solutions; Only Narratives:
Let’s scrutinize the variety of ideas that are in circulation and how people are pushing their narratives. When someone asks about the most pressing problem the humanity faces, we get a wide variety of answers. Right from climate change, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Islamist terror, crisis of capitalism to population explosion.
Many say that our progress and prosperity solely depend on the economy. That magic number called economic growth rate should keep going up and up and should never slow down. Your primary identity in modern-day society is that of being a consumer. It is your responsibility to earn more, buy more and consume more. The moment you reduce your consumption, the economy will slow down, people lose jobs and there will be unrest. Some others, who link economic growth to environmental degradation, brand this consumerism as an unsustainable pursuit of material things, which pollutes what we eat, drink and breathe. They say that climate change has already started wreaking havoc. Many others, however, vehemently deny the very thing called climate change and junk it by saying that it is alarmist propaganda by socialists. This cacophony of contrasting narratives left people puzzled and clueless.
There are many who say capitalism has no rival and socialism can’t be revived. But if capitalism is such a perfect system why do we have recessions, stock market meltdowns, bailouts of big business at the cost of ordinary people and so on and so forth? On the other hand, if socialism is an alternative, why did it collapse in the former Soviet Union in the first place and why it stayed only for namesake in China, and above all, why the Bolivars are thrown in Venezuela on the roads? And if neither of these is perfect, and therefore can’t ensure human welfare, is there a middle path? We don’t have answers. And all the eggheaded economists only peddle those narratives that serve the interests of their patrons.
As far as religions are concerned, humanity started its journey with paganism. Once religions were invented people started following them feeling that they are superior. There is an intense rivalry among various religions to prove that theirs is the true religion and therefore, humanity’s salvation lies in accepting their religion. They also scare the people if they don’t accept their religion they are destined to burn in hell. The supremacist tendencies among religions and their efforts to win souls through conversions have transformed clergymen into soul-harvesting salesmen and the religions into big businesses. The expansionist tendencies manifested by religions are triggering conflicts all around the world which has the potential to snowball into a clash of civilizations. The emergence of Islamism has bloodied various parts of the world and continues to pose a serious threat to humanity. Again, humans, despite inventing many God technologies, have no way to know whether the ever-elusive God will manifest one day. But the conflict and bloodshed in the name of God appear to have no end. So, many say that the only solution to the problems of religions and God is to go back to our pagan roots. But is it a true solution? Well, we again have multiple, conflicting narratives and we don’t know what is true and perfect.
When it comes to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nations which possess them don’t want others to procure them. There are multiple nuclear-armed counties and the proliferation of nuclear arms is continuing ceaselessly. Many rogue nations resort to nuclear blackmail when the world community points to their terror tactics. There are many who say nuclear arms are not meant for use as they only act as deterrence but still can’t resist from nuclear saber-rattling. Again, humanity is clueless as to what is the exact purpose of keeping WMD and how to overcome this problem.
Now coming to population explosion, many leaders in the third world say that their population is their strength and use the term ‘demographic dividend’ very often. But how much population? Population is often seen as a force to run the economic machinery. The greying population is often seen as a liability and young, skilled population is seen as an asset. Some developed countries, which don’t have enough population to run their economic machinery, are welcoming immigrants. Many people, however, highlight the fact that the teeming millions are only exerting ever-increasing pressure on limited economic and livelihood opportunities. Moreover, the progressive people in developed countries who keep small families are resenting the demographic invasion from the third world, which has become one more cause of conflict. So, whether more population is a boon or bane remains an unsolved question.
The humanity with its pagan roots once believed the flora and fauna that shares the mother earth with them had souls and peacefully coexisted with them. But after the advent of organized religions, which professed that the flora and fauna are soulless objects, people started exploiting them indiscriminately which resulted in the destruction of biodiversity. And now we are forced to recall our pagan roots nostalgically and accept the fact that the welfare of humanity depends on conserving biodiversity and peacefully coexisting with other creatures.
Strong Narrative Manufactures Consent:
So, humanity does not have a clear-cut idea on how exactly it is going to solve these pressing problems. Many say that humanity has never been so selfish, which made them lead their lives as if there is no tomorrow depriving the future generations a habitable earth. It appears that there are no solutions that can solve our problems with mathematical accuracy, and people are only arguing for their respective positions.
Out of this seemingly ceaseless ideological conflict, which brings out contrasting narratives, one party ultimately emerges victorious. That party which peddles its ideas in a more articulate manner, that party which controls the mass media, and that party which claims intellectual superiority over others emerges victorious and manages to impose its view on the entire humanity. So, what ultimately counts is how well you peddle your narrative to manufacture consent.