Yesterday I found myself in a co-working space eating chocolate-covered corn thins and discussing stories and their value in creating change. It didn’t feel a natural environment for me, but it did feel that the variety Londres can offer was a good thing. I think about stories a lot of course, but it’s good to discuss them with others. They can offer a way out of a situation, an exit from a tight spot.
They can also, however, be a distraction. Some stories people tell themselves are escapist, or end up being a trap. A common trap today is the individual’s story. I spoke to someone after the group discussion about the powerlessness he felt over housing. He had a story about what had happened to him, and it ended in helplessness. In theory he knew that collective action could be a path out of this dead end, but he didn’t know the story, or couldn’t bring himself to believe in it.
Escapist stories are also a double edged sword. I’ve enjoyed plenty of them, and while they can produce resistance to the banality and horrors of the real world, they can also foster a kind of disappointment that leads nowhere. Perhaps the worst stories are those about heroes, which infect our culture like a virus. The world is not made by heroes, it is made by everyday action. It can be difficult to feel excitement about that. It is easy for people to overcompensate for their perceived inadequacies by posing as heroes in their own minds. Our culture encourages it. This leads nowhere, or rather, it leads to the Londres of today.
Many residents of Londres are demoralised. It does not feel like their city. They need a story to believe, a story in which the city it theirs. Owning Londres ourselves seems a lot to hope for right now, but the exit from here is merely difficult, not impossible, and it will be a good story.