The power of the story

Jamaica concluded its most recent general election last Thursday. The recounts are on going and at present the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has won more seats than the People’s National Party (PNP). While many have started to dissect the loss for the PNP, attributing it to many different factors including better use of social media by one party and voters staying home, my take on it is that the party that told the better story won.

Before anyone accuses me of wanting to comment on a process that I was not a part of, note that for the first time in my life I voted in an election. I must say also that while I have faith in particular representatives on either side, I have no faith in either party as a whole or its leadership at present.  And while I had sat on the sidelines before, thinking that things will not get better irrespective of the party in power (and having not been dissuaded from that view by either party while they were in power between 2007 and now), this time I felt I had to make a choice of the lesser of the two evils in my mind.

But back to the story. The JLP told the story of prosperity. The story that even though you come from humble beginnings, you can aspire to and achieve the house on the hill that everyone is talking about while living right here at home. No need to go to Canada etc. The story, that if we get elected to power we are going to help you to the prosperity you seek by raising the minimum wage and the income tax threshold. It told its stories on the highways and byways, on talk shows and on social media.

The PNP on the other hand, told the story that the international community thinks we are great and doing a good job with the IMF deal. We are awesome and you know it so we don’t need to convince you by doing the debates, notwithstanding that during her term the country’s Prime Minister rarely faced the press. If the people overseas are singing our praises then automatically you must sing it too. It also cast doubt on the story of prosperity that the JLP had painted. It inadvertently said that you can’t come from humble beginnings, aspire to and achieve the house on the hill that everyone is talking about. If you did, then it was because of something untoward.

And while neither of these stories is potentially a best selling novel, there is one that is much more appealing to the average man who is not going to dissect and analyse the plot; whether the sequence of events make sense and the characters engage the imagination.

One must not discount the power of a story. Stories are the best way to teach, persuade, and even understand ourselves (Psychology Today). Many people were brought to tears by Kelly Clarkson’s story in her recent performance on American Idol of her song “Piece by Piece”.

Lessons get taught to us through the stories told to us by our elders. Sometimes we learn the lesson from just the story but the more adventurous ones among us, must live the story. Stories are also dangerous. The wrong story told too many times, believed by too many people can lead to disaster, think about “Chicken Little”. A negative story only does harm.

As we move forward as a country with the leaders we currently have, what will your story be? Will it be a story of apathy? Will it be apolitical? Or will you play an active role in the story? Will you be the change you wish to see by either getting involved yourself or committing to keeping the leaders we have accountable? Let’s make out stories count.






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