Power of Narrative

Throughout the history of the human evolution, societies have subscribed to an imaginary narrative in order to reach to a certain level of cooperation. The shift from being a nomadic forager to a farmer was the earliest event in the human history that necessitated to subscribe to a narrative. Settling down as a peasant had far reaching impacts as it not only reduced the turf of the farmers but also caused a shift in farmer’s psychology. To weather the bad seasons, the farmers had to have surplus. The anxiety for future was something that the humans acquired in this transition. It was in the best interest for a society to subscribe to an imaginary narrative so that the collaboration in the society achieves more than the sum of its members’ efforts. It was done to relieve the society from the anxieties of the future. There was a need for everyone to subscribe to laws, religion and shared beliefs so that none of the member acted against the interest of the society at large. The narrative existed in cognitive space of members of the society and was instituted by the societal structure for the society to flourish.

The power of narrative has always been influenced by the actors in society. The real estate bubble of 2008 is the most recent example. Case and Shiller who had been correct in picking up the housing bubble in 1980s had indicated towards a bubble in creation in 2005. They have been commissioned to carry out their study by none other than Alan Greenspan. Their survey pointed out towards a collective cognitive dissonance in public towards the housing market bubble. The public perceptions towards the housing market were built upon irrationality. The same kind of cognitive dissonance existed before the housing bubble burst in Japanese market. It was the time when banks were ready to give a 100 year mortgage for buying a property. Though Case and Shiller pointed out towards a bubble, Alan believed that the present market was different than the market in 1980s. He believed that because of secondary and tertiary market participation in CDOs, the risk was dispersed. But Alan was proved wrong. The risk was not dissipated but cascaded at an enormous speed from banking sector to the other industries. The government had to intervene and bail out banks (by Quantitative Easing). It was the power of narrative that made Alan Greenspan to blind to the mild tidal wave taking the proportion of giant tsunami that washed away the economic markets across the globe.

Just a few years back in history there was another event that was built upon the power of narrative that can also be termed as ‘cognitive dissonance’. The internet was new and nobody knew what it had to offer. The goggle had been in the market for a few years, but the market still wanted to capitalize the information that was offered free on goggle. Though Ted Turner raised the point that there was goggle, it ran counter intuitive to the idea espoused by the board that was gung-ho on the exploring a merger with AOL. The internet giant and TV giant were bought by the narrative to sell the media content on internet and the biggest merger till date became another victim of the wrong narratives. Quarter of trillion of dollars was lost in the failed merger!

​There’s another narrative being built up in India against the government that has been working quite seriously towards development. Wrong issues are raised to criticize the government, stall the parliamentary functioning or demean the country in the eyes of the national and international audience. The politics has gone down to mudslinging and opposition’s work has reduced to destructive criticism. India has already been victim to a wrong narrative that was propagated in 2004 elections, when actually India was shining but the facts were twisted and wrongly presented by parties in opposition. The mass campaign succeeded and a nation of billion was left to a meek president who was just a puppet in the hands of looters. The nation was ravaged for a decade. We lost a decade, the decade which could have been utilized to put us in the league of developed countries. This is the time that we need to really scrutinize the narrative that the opposition is trying to build up and be wary of not falling victim to the wrong narratives. 

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