A short course on peaceful but determined activism
Narratives and Counter Narratives
When politicians or activists talk of narratives and counter narratives they are essentially using ‘grown-up’ words for telling stories, which are simply personal or collective versions of the course of events.
Thinking in terms of stories can, perhaps, be useful, as our lives are often understood as continuous narratives/ life stories and we often take decisions on the basis of our experience of many episodes; rather than on the spur of the moment or solely on the basis of the evidence right in front of us.
In recognising the media, politicians and even ourselves as long immersed in many personal and collective stories we can see the opportunities for extremists to take fictional episodes and to present them as ‘more or less’ fact - often simply by floating a false equivalency based on the subtle biases identifiable within all stories or narratives.
Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution. Issues-focused activists are not aiming for a perfect, unattainable truth or to simply take down an opponent. Instead building consensus relies on developing and using authentic narratives, which in turn rely on and continuously review firm/ scientific evidence.
Narratives and opposing counter narratives gain authenticity through careful research. While messages might be distributed in parts by leaflet or meme, there first needs to be a pool of checked and clearly connected information in place. This type of ‘resource’ can be worked up in a variety of styles, portions and sequences to carry messages across a range of media both in the form of explanations and as statements.
The following short selection of examples of basic narrative content covers a range of styles where the information has been prepared to the point where a post, a poster and/ or a series of memes can be scheduled for distribution with only the addition of a suitable image to each example. Equally, a series of related topics might be combined to outline a broader campaign on an overarching basis.
More detailed references and extra sources can be pulled in as requested or called for, but for the most part the shorter the post the more people are likely to pick-up on some or all of the message and, potentially, connect to issues and solutions.
There are exceptions to keeping messages short; particularly with extended narratives and when adding depth to move from messages further into raising issues and discussing solutions.
Public Costs, Businesses Benefits
Despite the huge benefits companies and corporations receive from working alongside public services, some are now saying they don’t want to pay their way at all. That’s right, they are seeking no taxes for corporations, which in some cases already receive huge public subsidies. Here are a few of the benefits companies currently enjoy that predatory corporations and their lobbyists seem determined to bleed dry.
- A supply of healthy employees able to deliver on a regular and reliable basis.
- A trained and educated workforce provided by schools, colleges and universities at affordable, pooled cost.
- Fixed minimum profit contracts, which guarantee consistent, short and long-term payments to corporate contractors.
- Massive public subsidies for economically out of date fossil fuel industries.
- Public contracts that support private sub-contractors.
- Low wage costs to employers through workfare and tax credits.
- Publicly funded transport systems to deliver materials, goods and employees.
Over 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children have gone missing in Europe over the last couple of years. None of them was old enough to terrorise anyone. Some will have died quickly, some are rumoured to have gone to organ harvesting - but many are thought to have been forced into various forms of prostitution and slavery:
UNICEF said in its report, entitled ‘Danger Every Step of the Way’, that “some 7,009 unaccompanied children made the crossing from North Africa to Italy in the first five months of 2016, twice as many as last year.”
Most of them are forced to rely on human smugglers, often under the so-called ‘pay-as-you-go’ system, according to UNICEF . . .
“And the stories that they have told us are really quite striking. The children have gone through various forms of abuse and exploitation at the hands of smugglers and traffickers very often.”
Who is responsible . . . you’ll have to decide that for yourself, but the actions of far right wing politicians and media outlets seem telling.
What are the practical effects of xenophobia directed at unaccompanied refugee children across Europe . . . looking at just one area of their experience:
If 10,000 kids are held in extremely abusive conditions every day for a year that’s 3,650,000 days of abuse inflicted on them in a year.
If a mere 1 hr/ day involves being forced into the very worst acts. That’s still 152,083 hours of the most horrific abuse a year, because Britain wouldn’t take a fair share.
Want to know more or to do something about it - please check this source.
Brexit was made possible through years of media channels and opportunistic politicians profiting from scapegoating Britain’s European partners. As a result, there is an entire mythology of false news undermining any reasonable on-going debate. For some no facts or sources will do, but others may be open to taking a look at a handful of myths, which underpin their opinion. A picking list is one way to present this:
The War on Science
Extremists find it useful to discredit reliable information to make it easier for people to swallow their false arguments. As a result, science and expertise is under frequent attack by people who use science or technology to prosecute their agendas. What they are really saying is ‘I should get access to science and technology, but it’s not for others’.
Attacks on science usually involve claiming science is taking a fixed position, which is a denial of the fact science is by its very nature about testing itself.
Gaps in what is known and areas where results haven’t quite been as hoped for or need more work are also targeted.
Taking debate away from isolated examples and anecdotes calls for presenting a wider picture. In the case of the benefits of modern science, technology and medicine it’s not that hard at all to point to significant benefits on a grand scale.
Human Life Expectancy over the Last 5,000 Years
Bronze Age and Iron Age - 26
Classical Greece - 25 to 28
Classical Rome - 20 to 30
1900 world average - 31
1950 world average - 48
2014 world average - 71.5
X-rays, polio jags, modern dentistry or anaesthesia - extremists need to be made aware of what they are trying to take away from themselves and others - time and again.
“Europe is not a market, it is the will to live together. Leaving Europe is not leaving a market, it is leaving shared dreams. We can have a common market, but if we do not have common dreams, we have nothing. Europe is the peace that came after the disaster of war. Europe is the pardon between French and Germans. Europe is the return to freedom of Greece, Spain and Portugal. Europe is the fall of the Berlin Wall. Europe is the end of communism. Europe is the welfare state, it is democracy.”
- Esteban González Pons on the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome
Fascists would like us to believe there's only one form of nationalism and, despite all their own flag waving, try to get us to forget civic nationalism is the sensible, zero-tolerance of fascism default of any civilised nation or society.
Going to a national museum; supporting a national team at the Olympics; or having a national strategy on equality or national parks - these have no equivalence to promoting genocide - absolutely none.
Nationalism can quite clearly be about building a nation and protecting cultures in partnership with other nations. While manipulative attempts to boundary the word national or nationalism as automatically of an ugly, ethnic nationalism is, unsurprisingly, a longstanding standard practice for fascists.
“Civic nationalism is a . . . non-xenophobic form of nationalism compatible with values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights.”
“Civic nationalism is the form of nationalism where the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry, (see popular sovereignty), to the degree that it represents the “general will”.”
- The Economist
“Nationalism is a slippery concept, which is why politicians find it so easy to manipulate. At its best, it unites the country around common values to accomplish things that people could never manage alone. This “civic nationalism” is conciliatory and forward-looking - the nationalism of the Peace Corps, say, or Canada’s inclusive patriotism or German support for the home team as hosts of the 2006 World Cup. Civic nationalism appeals to universal values, such as freedom and equality. It contrasts with “ethnic nationalism”, which is zero-sum, aggressive and nostalgic and which draws on race or history to set the nation apart. In its darkest hour in the first half of the 20th century ethnic nationalism led to war.”
Once you have a pool of content to draw on it becomes straightforward to turn narratives into posters, memes and banners. The following examples show a handful of the countless options.
The role of technology in promoting civic engagement and activism is a less clear than we may wish to think.