Narratives, which are often based on metaphors, are important. Indeed decisive in policymaking and strategy. ‘The metaphor’, Spanish philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, once wrote, ‘is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities…. Its efficacy verges on magic’. How one uses metaphor can define the results that are created. As we know from many studies, if crime is described as a friend then there is greater likelihood of subjects arguing for jails and punishment. If we present crime as a social problem, then the intended policy result is more likely to be increased funding for education and poverty eradication. In the USA, if one argues for welfare, then interest in the legislative bill drops dramatically. If one suggests charity for the poor, then it goes up. The welfare discourse creates the image of the person who does not work hard, indeed, games the system; the other of the innocent poor.
During the Brexit referendum campaign, the Leavers focused on ‘taking charge’ and it is ‘not fair’, thus evoking a strategy of empowerment. Stories do not describe reality, they create reality. Stories create us. They matter. We should not be surprised at how well campaigners do as they argue for ‘law and order’ – this is code for spending on the military and safety for those who feel threatened by changing demographics supported by ‘liberal elites’. In the recent 2018 mid-term American elections, Trump focused on the caravan of asylum seekers moving toward the US. He wished to evoke himself as the protector of the nation against the unclean outsiders in contrast to weak Democrats, who would allow them in and thus endanger society. Immigration is one of the clearest battlegrounds of a story.
Indeed, most battles and visions are metaphorical. Each perspective tells a different story. Every world religion has been based on challenging the dominant narrative and creating a new story. And there is no way out, in the sense of a world outside a story, even if some argue for a meta story of stories, for even that becomes a story.