Manifest for a Story Revolution (II)
Start writing the stories our planet needs right now!
We are calling writers, game designers, movie makers and other narrative designers. Start helping to create the world we desire. Design narratives that help bring a healthy planet and humane global society about. We only win, when everyone wins.
This Manifest was preceded by Towards a Story Revolution that shows how current paradigms in storytelling are harming our society. This one is followed up with 10 Tips for Narratives That Shine, adding to this manifest.
This is the ‘Gentle Revolution’ Manifest for Stories Our Planet Needs Right Now. Here is a set of principles that should help you create them. If you have additions please add them in the comments.
“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew” ~ Marshall McLuhan
The ‘Gentle Revolution’ Manifest for Stories Our Planet Needs Right Now
I. Create narratives that are bedded into reality as a whole.
Show the truth, not calming propaganda. Show interconnectedness between one persons fortune and many other people’s sweat, sickness and exploitation. All wrongs are also systemic wrongs, where one wrong supports other wrongs. Share weavings of interconnectedness, not naive blind bubbles of distraction. Show how individual stories are related to those many others and how our world is one interwoven place. Look more at nature. A forest is an intricate deeply interwoven community of many different life forms more alive than any big city. Big cities are not pinnacles of civilisation, but concrete wastelands too often contributing in destroying our collective nest, earth. And we can only see that, when we understand the whole. So be inclusive to all that lives, other humans, animals, all forms of life. And they all share this one planet.
Consider: Compare Systems Thinking with ecological thinking, with deeper philosophical and spiritual texts. Find the overlaps, find mythical stories with this awareness and find the serendipities in your own life. Some hippies claim ecologists lack depth, and they claim hippies lack grounding, and the believers keep demanding we all follow their understanding. As narraters we can help them become aware they all are saying very similar things in different languages. Help them find each other as part of one global experience, where diversity is an asset, given the million different tasks that must be resolved to help us forward.
II. Create narratives that deepen our connectedness with the world around us.
Show that we are part of nature. That we’re all crew of planet earth. Show how all people matter, could matter, not just the ‘leaders’ or main characters. Show that a healthy planet is a fundament for everything else. Tell stories that help deepen the sense of the connection. Tell stories that help your audience find it. And do something with it, for it.
Consider: those that live in cities too often see the city as the world. They may not feel, nor sense nature degrading around it (yet), but their personal awareness, and effort is needed when we want to restore nature better. Those rich enough to live in compounds, with airco’s, may damage more than the poor, yet will discover this way later, because they tend to buy personal solutions, not help with the collective ones. How to wake these rich up, without scaring them away?
III. Create images of a world you’d love to live in and show how we can get there.
Show lives that put simple loving experiences over hard work for more stuff. Show success not as getting rich, but in building meaningful relationships. Show stories of inspiring changemakers collaborating to make a difference that matters.
Consider: Go to Google Images, and type Solarpunk, to understand what many desire. Check Regenerative Design as a philosophy making that possible. It asks: How can we have human activity that actually makes nature better? It is possible. If only we had narratives helping us find the will and the examples. that’s where you come in and I am writing this. ;) How do we get
IV. Show stories of humans working together to make shift happen, and or solve a huge international crises.
Show the best of humanity successfully facing current day issues, including some stepping stones the narrator believes will bring hope. Create narratives that (start to) help change systemic wrongs, not just individual cases. Show how money in politics and media allowed to lie hurt society as a whole. Show collectives filled with normal people winning the day together. Like, how did slavery end? How did women get the vote? How to get the news honest? How to get money out of politics? How to get the rich to pay taxes?
Consider: Right now there are millions of ordinary people outside the system trying things out, working on solutions. I call them the Gentle Revolution. They are not in the news, as they have no drama. They aren’t seen by politicians, as they don’t fit a side, nor create much problems. They aren’t of much interest to corporations, as they often are no customers. They are busy making the old paradigms obsolete with new solutions. Put these people and their actions in the light. Show their resolve, hard work, solutions. It will bring hope. Check a game like Terra Nil, or documentaries about such people.
V. Show how and what we have to resolve within ourselves to make it work.
Show how even many well intended people (not one evil crook) can create mountains of hurt as well. Show how that can happen to all of us, when we don’t have some bigger perspective, no empathy, just follow rules (order is order), or cling to an ideology over effective pragmatism. And I don’t mean soft core Christian movies here, I mean hardcore Charles Dickens for our times. I mean social conscious narratives, or satire of people willing to self reflect and seek answers together that work.
Consider: What if instead of SF that either blasts into tech overdrive or near death dystopia, there were some novels of getting to a greener world, like Zodiac by Neal Stephenson, or about much greener worlds, threatened by human greed? The world we thought we saved could be under threat again from. the same patterns as we have now: meddling politicians bending rules for profit, merchants hiding side effects of products, etc. And rich consumers willing to look the other way, as long as they can gratify any desire. And all the mistakes religion & spirituality can make to make people protect the environment, so that they resent being ‘good’. All that is a problem now, can also be transferred to a world with lessons learned, and lessons still to learn. Or one can write books that propose all kinds of solutions, with insight of how people may corrupt decent plans.
VI. Challenge your audience to rethink, wonder, question their own convictions.
I know, I know your audience often wants more of the same. And or your producers. hey, let’s not change a success formula. And yes, the next Hallmark movie prefers to have no surprise at all. Meanwhile the big productions always claim something is ‘totally new’. Their makers proudly claim, “.. this, what we offer, has never been done before.” Sigh. Start with convention, then move into really new territory, beyond gimmicks. Let players stumble over expected tropes. Like, let players kill all monsters in an action RPG and then discover all nature dies, because the monsters mattered for the whole ecosystem.
Consider: Take this movie synopsis: a young black slave woman escapes and hides, while being wounded, in a convent. To keep her safe the nuns dress her as one of their own. Paralysed in one leg, she is being nursed back to health by another young sister. Over time they get close together and form a relationship. Then one of her former masters recognises her when the nuns visit a market. Later her three worst bullies descend upon the monastery. She wants to fight them off, as she didn’t take her vows yet. Through trickery she takes them prisoner and wants to kill them. The abbess stops her. Then the abbess together with all other nuns confront the three men with such clarity that the men leave in shame. Easy to follow story no? But what if I would have said, come see a Western movie about a black invalid lesbian nun that doesn’t end in a shoot out? Would that have sounded feasible? A theatre teacher once taught me, to take your audience to a strange land, start with the cliché, a place they know. from there you can lead them anywhere. Narrators, start with clichés alright, but don’t stay there. Go beyond to help us see with new eyes. Surprise yourself and your audience. Use the other principles to find meaningful and important places to go.
VII. Diversify paradigms within your narrative.
Series often put one tension at the core. Is your audience stupid? Do they need to be stupefied with simplified realities? Take Game of Thrones. After series one we already know, it’s all about who ends up in power. All moves are strategic. Same with so many other series, scheme within scheme and everyone vies for ‘our’ heroes to end up on top. In reality some don’t care about power. Some challenge power. Some walk away from power. The whole chess board politics is a saddening game driven by human ape rock addictions. Why not tell how to liberate us from such addicted people? Why not make it a tension between those who want to lead and those with the integrity and wisdom, who deserve to lead?
Consider: Tension can be so much richer than all striving for the same position. As if leaders with real integrity, like Vaclav Havel or Nelson Mandela aren’t great examples what real leaders should look like? As if their lives weren’t filled with the drama of being surrounded by petty forces blind to their people’s needs. Why not add such heroic people in the mix, people who are not more of the same? Or when a story is about love and who gets who, why not add some racial colour, immigrant backgrounds in the mix? Or work life struggles? Your narratives will be richer, less one dimensional because of it and will feel more real. Because they are.
VIII. Stop protecting what damages. Stop advertising what has destructive sides, hidden in the shadows. Rather expose them.
Not all that glitters is gold. Stop making corporations with great profits, crony capitalists into heroes. Especially when they can’t be honest exactly how and where those profits come from. Who will end up paying the true costs of their extractive behaviour? Don’t protect economic interests, political colours over what is essential and true for all of us. Don’t make corporate games all about growth, add consequences for environmental destruction. Not as a mandatory add on or gimmick (like Civ VI), but into the core of the system. Show steps forward and if you want action, show how to bring down corporations who put greed over our collective future. Show how to change laws that protect polluters into laws that makes them pay. Make narratives that make real criminals, real polluters and profiteers worry, let alone look in the mirror.
Consider: I know, many are caught in a double bind. Either I do as requested and keep my job, or I challenge my boss and lose my job. Millions are so caught. That’s not freedom at all. But given our future, your boss should be worried too. He he/she should worry her/his own boss, let alone her grandkids. Many jobs in Capitalism have become financial slavery. And staying silent in the face of evil, is condoning it. Find those who agree, unite, unionise, protest, or, as many software specialists do, join real projects in your free time, until they can sustain you. And study Russian moviemakers during the cold war. Learn from them how to sneak in messages your own bosses don’t want to hear.
Tell a good one!
Note: The follow up article is 10 Tips for Narratives that Shine.
This article is partially a reiteration of a previous one: https://medium.com/the-gentle-revolution/a-new-heros-journey-cdd8ca77a7d3 That one has some story concepts as examples at the end.