We live in times of ever-growing polarisation, manipulation, discrimination, and miscommunication, all driving a wedge in communities and society as a whole, and future collaboration and cooperation. Every day we see angry faces of protestors that give us disturbing images, in the streets, in the news, in social media. They are more than images: each face, each motion has a history. Every individual, every group cling to their history, because it is connected to their (and the group’s) identity or, as it happens currently, ‘identities’ evoked or created to arouse anger, fear, discrimination or exclusion. The challenging question is “Are we our stories, or not?” Looking at the contemporary context, we are. However, we could also propose that most of our stories are self-created, subjective realities (or ‘truths’), thus fictions, that remain intact through habit, group coercion, conditioning, and are driven by our intentions, which can have positive or negative objectives (e.g. consolation, manipulation). In the worst case they lack self-awareness and (self) knowledge and promote selfishness, segregation, separation, isolation, a potential for stereotyping and discrimination or exclusion.
The us-versus-them thinking seems to have become the norm (citizen-government, native-immigrant, environmental activists-big businesses, autocrats-democrats, etc.), sometimes leading to countries where all bonds to civilized (co) existence are broken. The global rise of populism and the accompanying misinterpreted nationalism and isolationism are the most striking contemporary phenomena, leading to (social) disruption and discord and alienation, which not only affect groups but also entire nations worldwide. There is often a huge gap between the ‘values’ we embrace and the way we actually live and speak–the norms dictated by dominant discourses.Justice for all?
Although the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”, the laws against hate speech (to preserve public order, and to protect human dignity) are difficult to enforce, and depending on the good will of national justice. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has produced country reports and several general policy recommendations, and therefore no hard obligations.
The objective of this strategic partnership is to develop counter-strategies and to explore methodologies to increase the narrative awareness skills and to improve the skills to generate alternative, desirable, authentic narratives to oppose these principles of manipulation and hostile communication. Monitoring the process of using stories is an important element in the design of the project, as we know that stories both can connect and divide, the latter in the case of wrong application of stories and storytelling.
- Common Ground, Common Future is a partnership between Storytelling Centre (The Netherlands)
- OsloMet University of Applied Sciences (Norway),
- CSI (Cyprus), Asociatia Psiterra (Romania)
- Youth Initiative for Human Rights Kosovo YIHR KS (Kosovo), and is made possible with the support of the EU, in the framework of the Erasmus+program.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. Project Number: 2019-1-NL01-KA204-060427