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Narratives

What a funny time we are having in news. I say funny knowing full well that there is nothing comedic about the state of affairs around the world. In Britain, we are dealing with the non-starter that is BREXIT three years after the referendum that has thrown this country into utter chaos. The government, and I use that term loosely, was forced back into parliamentary session. The Supreme Court ruled the Prime Minister’s move to suspend it was illegal. Behind the scenes I expect, there is a sense that no one really knows what to do and frankly, it shows. Ministers, many of whom have a genuine desire to do what is best for the country, are having to deal with a leadership that is basing its decision on ego rather than common sense.

Government is like the parental unit of a family, guiding the electorate towards a path of healthy growth, vibrant communal spirit, and a support system that enables people to live to their fullest potential. Yet so much of what we are seeing now is bitter infighting, a reluctance to compromise and reach out across the aisle and work together for the greater good. Instead it seems, the actual health and prosperity of the people these elected officials work for has been forgotten and left to the way side in favour of partisan politics.

In the United States, it’s a similar situation. There is a president under investigation for alleged unlawful activity involving a foreign state. Yet this impeachment inquiry, while good news for many who see Donald Trump as a destructive figure in a country struggling to find cohesion, is a symptom of a much larger problem facing Americans and the world. In fact, Trump himself is a symptom of a collective disharmony, a subconscious dis-ease of the path the country has been on. Perhaps his election, and now investigation, are good things to have happened because what was subconscious, what was once considered the under-belly—the racism, the class warfare, the flailing social structure—all needed to be brought out onto the surface and be seen for what they are—tumours on the face of society. Once they are out in the open, in the light, only then can we deal with them. With honesty. No spin, no PR, no bull.

A major contributor to what is facing our collective consciousness is a narrative that has been hijacked by those who believe in a world order that just doesn’t exist any more. And frankly, couldn’t exist if we are to live freely and happily. That narrative promoting inequality (both gender and racial), exclusion politics (that favours the privileged), and greed has tentacles in all facets of society. Unfortunately, the voice of that narrative is louder and more skilled at getting its message across. And when challenged, the claws come out. You can see it happening on the 24 hour news channels, that give airtime to people because they have a “controversial” viewpoint even if that viewpoint is damaging to the social psyche, even if that viewpoint is blatantly wrong.

I saw this happening when Greta Thunberg addressed the UN. Shortly after, a commentator who was invited on Fox News, called her a “mentally ill teenager.” This only shows a desperate and pathetic attempt to change the narrative, to redirect it towards his failing rhetoric, and the rhetoric of those who think like him. But there he was, given valuable air time.

On the flip side, in a bizarre case involving another channel-- the BBC decided to uphold a complaint against its own presenter Naga Munchetty who they claim "breached editorial guidelines..." It stems from a segment whereby Munchetty and her co-presenter were discussing Donald Trump's comments telling some lawmakers to "go back to where they came from." Munchetty was asked by her co-presenter about her experiences with racism and she described it. The BBC then said its guidelines "do not allow for journalists to... give their opinions about the individual making the remarks or their motives for doing so - in this case President Trump". The BBC has since reversed its decision.

Those of us who are people of colour will have experienced racism first hand. We will have been told to "go back". Our experiences aren't opinions. As journalist Afua Hirsch so aptly said, "Racism is not an opinion. It is a fundamental ideology that removes the humanity of people because of their race." News organisations hide behind the “all sides” argument priding themselves in being “neutral”. But neutrality is dangerous. Journalists aren’t meant to be neutral. They are meant to be truthful. And climate change, like racism, isn’t up for debate. How we tackle those issues could be, but their existence isn’t.

Narrative is important. Right now, the heart and soul of countries are being fought for through narratives. And it begins with us as individuals. Owning our story, our truth is crucial evermore so today when there is so much information out there fighting for our attention.

What is your narrative? How are you telling the story of who you are and what you believe in? Is it with a sense of defeat or is it confidence? Is it passive aggressive or is with intention? Are you basing it on what you see on social media instead of living your life first hand? How we tell our own story is important because if we don’t do it ourselves, and if we don’t do it well and clearly enough, someone else will do it for us, they will beat us to the punch. They will define us and our life based on their own perceptions. I encourage you to think about your own story. After all, you’re the only author qualified to tell it.

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