Posted: 26th January 2023
Creating narratives, creating realities
By Natalia Italiano
In recent years we have been hearing more and more terms such as: digital literacy, media literacy, technological literacy, computer literacy and we have even heard talk of emotional literacy which, in my view, can be considered a real achievement in a society where, sometimes, taking care of people, their health, their well-being and their happiness seems not to be a top priority.
Participating in the European Future Narrative project has triggered a process of transformation in me that is as powerful as it is exciting, I would say magical. I approached the fascinating world of Futures Literacy for the first time. From minute one I saw an important opportunity. To train my capacity and competence to better realize the role of the future in what I see, live and do in the present. This is indeed a unique privilege. In doing so, step by step, I have changed both my conception of the future and my awareness of what I myself am capable of doing now, in the present moment. By detecting the sources of my fears and my desires, by analysing my thoughts and learning to get along with them, by analysing the narratives I tell myself daily, I have learned to create and visualise a range of images of the future that, surprisingly for me, turn out to be totally viable and achievable. From this awareness, from this analysis, I have started to activate myself.
I have started to think and calibrate decisions and to accompany them with concrete actions that can only be taken now, in the present moment.
This whole process represents an invaluable tool and it is impressive how it can be applied not exclusively in the personal space of each person, but also in many of the external areas that influence people’s daily lives. From a very small-scale application that can only be confined to the personal sphere of any one person, it can be used on very large scales and produce enormous benefits in the long term.
A review of the current social, employment and economic models and of the very value system on which today’s society is based, for example, may be the key to shaping, by drawing all the figures we want, that future which in the eyes of most people generates uncertainty and constant challenges. This review process involves a new way of dealing with emerging challenges and also to try to address as coherently as possible those challenges that we can define as structural to the environment in which we live. This much-needed transition will be based on criteria of social justice, people’s physical and emotional well-being, planetary care and sustainability. It is important that both the people who form part of society, as well as public and private institutions and, in general, all agents active in the social fabric, are aware of being able to approach these challenges with full awareness of the new possible futures that can be created by assuming the uncertainty that the future itself implies and producing changes through transformative actions.
And dealing with this scenario and with this need for change, what role would narratives play?
Assuming the importance of narratives that guide us towards a reinterpretation of past events, allow us to come to terms with the way we perceive our present and lead us to imagine scenarios of possible and viable futures (including concrete actions and changes necessary for these scenarios to become reality), some appreciations must be made.
When we talk about narratives, what do we really mean?
There are large-scale narratives that are repeated through different media that, often unconsciously, condition us and make us position ourselves in a certain way in a certain situation; there are internal narratives that are those self-dialogues or mini-stories that we often do not share with others but are so present in our inner self that they can play a very important role in our very way of being and acting; and of course there are more “superficial” narratives, more visible and more objective data.
It is necessary to analyse all these narratives in which we are immersed and detect those that can continue to be nourished because they potentially generate benefits, and to try to transform those that clearly do not have any positive effect on people and the environment in which we move.
Nowadays there are many trending topics that we hear about on TV, in films, on social networks or by word of mouth in places of social aggregation or common spaces. Among these, it is both recurrent and necessary to mention sustainability, a multidimensional concept. When we refer to one of the different facets of this important term, environmental sustainability, I automatically think of a concept that has been greatly altered by the disconnection between humans and nature that has taken shape in recent years. Too often I have heard children utter phrases such as “the planet is dying” or “the planet is burning.” If I stop to reflect on the focus from which these children are expressing themselves, fear, worry and dread represent the predominant mix. This mix is the result of the narrative in which they are immersed, dominated by feelings of unease and uneasiness and possibly also by a lot of uncertainty about how this situation might evolve. There is definitely something true in this picture, but I have often wondered whether, in the face of this uncertainty, we are aware of the new possible future scenarios and, consequently, of the possible actions or changes that we can trigger from the present. And narratives play an important role in this. How would children’s reactions change if instead of an alarmist and frightening narrative, they were exposed to more positive messages underpinned by more hopeful sentiments? And how would people and all the agents involved in the system react if other types of relationships between people themselves and between people and nature, much more balanced, harmonious and respectful relationships, were prospected?
Stories can help to facilitate a transition towards more respectful and harmonious models. They can contribute to recovering that necessary connection between living beings, society as a whole and nature. And we must be aware of the ability of each person to imagine possible futures, to generate debates to analyse the present scenario, to think about what we want for the future and from there, to create a common understanding of the mission we want to carry out and to start shaping this future through common and individual changes and actions.
By changing the narratives today, we begin to change the way we think and act. Let’s share and hear stories, let’s interact with people, Let’s read, let’s try to get out of the boxes someone have assigned us, let’s prick that bubble that cuts our wings, let’s wake up that little one that sleeps inside each one of us and let’s bring out creativity, magic and imagination. Let’s design fairer, more sustainable, more beautiful, more magical futures. And from these designs we keep moving, acting and interacting with all the illusion, affection and charm that we have stored in each of us.