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Gaiman Not Gingrich

May 15, 2017

 

Millennials aren’t fooled by the misdirection. The dominant lens of cable news does not fool New Copernicans. Cable news assumes that politics is the big story and that politicians are the cultural change agents worth watching and talking about. To New Copernicans this is a false lens, a distorted priority. They’d prefer Kendrick Lamar to Newt Gingrich. And it is not just the difference in their perspectives as much as it’s the difference in their mediums. For New Copernicans, story trumps policy, culture politics, and imagination reason. They’re with Emily Dickinson who wisely observed, “Imagination lights the slow fuse of possibility.”

 

This is also why New Copernicans don’t do “isms.” Worldview talk leaves them cold. Worldviews are abstract, cognitive, and academic. New Copernicans prefer the messy ambiguity of lived experience to systemic reification... to use a Marxist academic word. An idea is reified when it is made up by someone, becomes accepted, and then the fact that it was made up by someone is promptly forgotten. It’s the fallacy of treating a made-up abstraction as if it were real. A lot of the time, political talk completely misses the human reality on the ground.

 

You may want to talk about immigration policy, but one only begins to sense how far the policy talk is from real life after one has ridden “the Beast” and trekked through the desert following a paid coyote as was depicted in Al Jazeera America’s “Borderland” (http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/al-jazeera-america-presents-borderland.html/). Abstractions don’t cut it, because people and reality are not abstractions.

 

This is why social scientists don’t use “worldview” talk in favor of a term like “social imaginary.” Social imaginary is the taken-for-granted assumptions we have about the good life as derived from story, myth, fables, films, pictures, and most importantly experience. It’s Joseph Campbell and Neil Gaiman. Those who shape and curate the social imaginary are the storytellers, poets, artists, advertisers, filmmakers, and musicians of our time. The change makers we should be watching are "storytelling cultural creatives.” The average person may decry the influence of the two coasts—New York and Los Angeles—in our national conversation, but this is where these storytelling cultural creatives disproportionately reside. It’s not their political influence there that matters as much as their role in shaping the social imaginary everywhere.

 

It is sometimes acknowledged that politics is downstream from culture. Politics is an epiphenomenon of culture and an ephemeral one at that. The power of culture is its power to define reality, our taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of the good life. Consequently, the power of an organization and its network of people is not its volume of output, but its ability to shape the definition of reality among those who curate the public conversation, the national gatekeepers of the social imaginary.

 

Here storytelling cultural creatives rule. This is a world owned and navigated easily by New Copernicans. Watching cable news can leave you discouraged. But if this is mostly a false narrative, misdirection, then there is much more for which we can be optimistic.

 

 

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