My discussion with Napoleon's soldier in Bratislava, redux
As waves of populist fable break over the jetties of what we hoped were safe harbors and, as autocrats around the world breach the breakwaters of democracy, we hardly need Napoleon to remind us that, "History is written by the winners"– and rewritten by those working their way to the top. National myth is tweaked to provide an identity crutch by those who would keep a populace lame, a security blanket to separate us from "the others", the folks different from ourselves who are identified as the threat by the mythspinners.
Despite being an expatriate, I have resisted the temptation to be an ex-patriot, so while I want to call folks around the world to examine their national myths, I need to begin with my own civil heritage in the USA and its myth of greatness. Even Donald Trump wants to "Make America great again!", or at least ride on the sentiment that it is or should be "the greatest country in the world" and would remain so if his rhetorical fixes are realized. Or, at least he counts on that sentiment remaining anchored in the gringo soul. Yet history and facts, rather than being structured to produce that sentiment, require examination and, where they suggest decline or challenges, should be accepted as strategic starting points. Here is a recent post that has a good summary of contemporary claims of US dominance that are not supported by reality. What would such a list look like if your culture were under examination?
How we use the internet may make us or break us as both local and global communities. We all have the power to examine our myths, debate our truthful stories, listen rather than echo the dominant sales pitch. Human epistemology is not fixed but growing and changing via our connections and our technologies. Our dominant stories remain stories. Yes, they can be accepted as standpoints, but they continue to be spun as well as being vulnerable to replacement. In a generative world, there is no absolute truth, but an absolute necessity search for, define, and refine what we call our "search for truth."
At a recent conference I met a historian interested in facing the contradictions of presumptive myth and we began to discuss the creation of a new diversiDebunk game in our diversophy® series, a game that enables players around the world to question and challenge myths with hidden or avoided, but well-researched historical facts, often unpleasant ones. I'm hoping that examining our suppressed roots and our stories, though surprising and discomfiting, will make us stronger, more empathetic and active citizens with a strategy that penetrates and takes us beyond our current myths.