Lawrence Wallack is dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University and so called “father of media advocacy”. He wrote an interesting article called Retelling the American Story.
The theme of the article reminds me of an article incorrectly attributed to George Carlin that was forwarded to me awhile back called The Paradox of Our Time. The article was actually written by Dr Moorhead, former pastor of Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Washington. You have probably seen it. Here is one part:
“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.”
From Wallack’s article:
“Yet despite such incredible advances, we still face collective challenges that won’t yield just to technology. The economy has rarely been better, but we have 45 million people without health insurance, the gap between rich and poor as a measure of inequality is growing and is alarmingly wide, global warming has gone from theory to reality, and we’re in a perpetual struggle to find adequate funding for education. No amount of computing power will figure these things out for us.
These are the social and human inequalities that flow from how we organize our society, and that, in turn, is based on the values that guide our collective decisions.”
The article goes on to talk about telling stories to communicate deeper meaning, specifically two kinds of competing stories: Yoyo (you’re on your own) stories and Witt (we’re in this together) stories. The collective decisions of the US are driven by this dichotomy. The US seems to have come to an impasse, however, in facing today’s social problems. Is there such a thing as a Yoyo problem? Without a Witt perspective, is the widening income gap or the fact that 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance even seen as problems?
In order for the collective decisions of the US to be guided by Witt values, Wallack says we “need more stories that articulate the values of shared responsibility, obligation to the local and global community, civic participation, and an appropriate helping-hand for government”.
Wallack’s solution was particularly interesting to me because I’ve been inundated this year with the idea that it is in stories where we find meaning. It was a topic of a John Thomas sermon at Church of the Redeemer. Mike Metzger of the Clapham Institute wrote a great article called A Different Way to Discuss the Da Vinci Code, that it is in imagination where we find meaning. Even at work for the American Cancer Society, HR is holding workshops that will help staff better inform the public about the organization’s crucial work and to express the impact of what the Society brings to every community through personal stories.
It seems there is nothing left to do but to tell a story….maybe another time.