Why Storytellers are the Most Powerful People on Earth

Our entire lives are governed by stories. From the idea that certain pieces of paper are worth “$20” to the belief that to live a good life one must follow their passions, the stories we believe shape the course of our lives.

Humans have harnessed this power to co-operate in large numbers and create ordered communities governed by a common set of beliefs and inter-subjective reality. The most obvious example of this is global capitalism. We universally are told to believe in a system of ‘credit’ and that by imagining coins and paper as having real value they can be exchanged for tangible goods. We are also told to believe in brands called “Google” and “Starbucks”, countries called “France” and “India” – beliefs that have such an overarching influence on our lives we tend to forget they are the product of human storytelling rather than scientifically discovered objective facts.

As individuals we are bound hand and foot by these inter-subjective realities. If you wish to disagree and not believe in money or government you won’t get very far. The only way to break free from such entrenched beliefs is to convince people on a mass scale to think differently. The most common way of doing this is by telling new stories.

From Jesus to Karl Marx, compelling storytellers have been able to shape and influence the direction of human history. Hundreds of millions of lives have been affected both for the good and bad by the beliefs and ideas of certain individuals.

It can be disorientating to think just how powerful these stories are. Yet it’s crucially important and relevant that we begin to understand the story of planet earth we are all apart of.  In the face of global challenges such as climate change, artificial intelligence and nuclear weaponry in the hands of man-children, most people feel they are at best unimportant extras in this precarious story of the twenty first century’s fragile fight for its collective future.

Powerlessness is also a result of the ruthless individualism and isolation which is at the heart of our fundamentalist beliefs in the modern economic system. The most powerful way we can counter these feelings and pave the way for change is to begin to tell better and more optimistic stories about what the future for humans could look like.

It won’t be the politicians, the engineers nor the scientists who will solve the crises the world faces today but the storytellers who give them the reasons why.

 

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A Very Nuclear Future: Friend or Foe?

 by Sujitha Parshi

 

“So much potential in that boy. I’ll tell you now, in fifty years if he isn’t at the top of his class, there really is no hope for humanity.”

Atom had felt proud. With gleaming eyes and a gap-toothed smile, he’d looked at his teacher, grateful for the compliment. It was a kind of proud he’d least expected from someone as flustered as Mr. E, what with him looking too tired to care all the time (having to deal with rowdy toddlers and even more aggravating parents will do that to you). It was the kind of proud he hadn’t felt in…well, ever. He had made an effort that day, well-groomed with hair slicked back, polished black shoes and even so far as getting his mom to match his tie with his loafers. Looking back on all the energy he’d spent into looking his ‘best’, he felt he got back his effort’s worth. After all, Atom was nothing if not thorough.

Which is why, seventy-one years later, he found himself bruised and confused and smack in the middle of a paranoid quarter of humans who wanted nothing more than to bury all mentions of him deep, deep underground (sure, he had his moments of puberty-driven insanity, but who didn’t). It was disconcerting. Atom split up his soul for them.

“Then why? They have to know; I am their best hope.”

The answer, dear Atom, is quite complicated. Let me start off with a few motivational statements (as motivating as I can manage).

In this age, when safe, clean oxygen needs to be imported from the smallest corners of a rapidly depleting safe-space, protesting clean, efficient nuclear energy is an exercise in self-destruction. Where, like most, this paranoia arises from popular, or rather, populous opinion, we have arrived at a point beyond which return is uncertain. It’s time we shed the cover of blind belief and think of the best way forward.

Now, here’s your reply.

At the moment, the world is powered by little more than environmentally-cancerous coal and dwindling reserves of oil, natural gas and combined efforts of renewable sources (You come a lagging last!) While the case against nuclear energy gets worse as days pass, the reality lies in the small but forgotten art of deep thought.

What makes nuclear energy efficient and reliable? Why, nature, of course. During meiosis, the cells in our frame split to form more cells, and then split again, and keep splitting to fuel the reactor that is our body. Similarly, nuclear energy is generated by the fission of enriched uranium-235 atoms.

2.8 million kilograms of coal is used to do the work of 1 kilogram of enriched uranium-235. If that doesn’t talk about waste of resources, then I don’t know what does. Considering the rate at which we are heating the very core of our planet, it won’t be long now for us to reach another catastrophe even Noah can’t survive. It also happens to generate the least amount of waste.

“Then what seems to be the problem?”

The problem, dear Atom, is that you’ve had a troubled life (Yes, people care enough).

The problem here is containment. When talking about nuclear energy, the first ping in your brain probably was Chernobyl, or quite recently, Fukushima. It’s a valid concern. Why would you trust something so evidently damning? The answer lies within yourself. For the same reason you’d trust the puppy that bit you while she was teething; it was young and we didn’t know how to contain it safely. It’s a mistake we have learnt extensively from. All energy sources rose up the ranks through trial and error.

Fukushima was a one-time thing. While a high magnitude seismic event affects any energy (source) reactor, nuclear reactors in particular are somewhat safer, after the Fukushima leak, in comparison. For one, other energy plants experience instant reactions while nuclear is more gradual. After the leak, there have been so many regulations and precautions taken, sleeping easy next to a nuclear power plant is more possible than any other energy source. For one, most, if not all, nuclear power plants have an automatic shut-down process that has succeeded the manual shut-down. Secondly, several layers of cooling systems encompass a nuclear reactor to ensure the rapid cooling of the atomic pile. Last, and at the very least, it is all a controlled process. Rest assured, they know what they are doing. (Also, this is where the scary part of the ‘gradual’ is eliminated since there is little space for a leak.)

“Hmm, so does this mean the protests outside my house will stop? I really need to get saving (the world won’t pause any longer without permanent damage). I’ve had to wait seventy-one years too long.”

Not so fast. There’s a long way to go, Atom, a very long way.

You are an expensive, little brat. Thanks to the general dislike and less-than-optimal production and usage. But once you match, or even surpass, the level of your coal compatriot, we can get around to calling you ‘cheap’ like we ache to. Even then, popular mentality isn’t changed so easy. It needs to start at the grass-root, with explaining what-the-eff energy production and consumption entails without mainstream media bias. Remember, Atom, the more neutral you are in your approach, the better you can expect people to think for themselves.

Anyway, that’s just some of the things that make you special. Don’t let it get to your head, though.

Besides, you are seventy-one years old, barely out of your diapers. Live a little (without killing and maiming others, of course). You can expect more than your share of presidential duties in the very Nuclear future.

“Yeah, yeah, you say that like it’s so easy. We’re living in 2016! For now, I have more than my share of activists to dodge.”

 

Sujitha is an Indian Student, Blogger & Contributing Writer to The Conversation Room.

You can visit her excellent blog here:

https://pompeiiresurget.wordpress.com/