It’s Time to Move from Me to We

Individualism has failed. Time for a new narrative of unity.

And it utterly fails to recognise that we don’t, in fact, live in a vacuum.

A similar narrative underpins the the global self help industry, valued at over $11 billion dollars in 2019. This one tells us that if things are not going well for you, it is entirely within your reach to change them. While self-help teachings can be hugely beneficial, they often distract us from the fact that many of our successes and failures are influenced by factors completely outside our control. Those who consider themselves self-made walk upon roads who were paved by many others who go unrecognised or under-appreciated. Similarly, those who are homeless, living in poverty, are suffering from ill health, or are otherwise struggling, are under constant pressure from a system that tells them that they are wholly responsible for their own circumstances, regardless of how others may have benefitted under the same system. The narrative of personal responsibility has played a significant role in the evolution of deeply individualistic societies in which loneliness, depression, anxiety, and othering are rife.

Ardern’s brilliant use of the phrase “team of five million” to refer to New Zealand’s entire population is one that will go down in history books as a grand, unifying frame that helped New Zealand eliminate the virus.

Think about that phrase carefully. It wasn’t an army of five million who were focused on conflict and fighting an enemy, it was a team — a group of individuals that came together to work towards a common goal. Meanwhile, Donald Trump cried “We will win this war” and Boris Johnson spoke of a fight in which each and every citizen was “directly enlisted.”

We have created a globalised world; consequently our greatest challenges are shared globally and we have a responsibility to cooperate globally to solve them.

I’m sure at this stage you’re thinking, Well, that’s all well and good for you to say Alina… But how do we do that with so many diverse interests, perspectives, and different belief systems?

Given that New Zealand has only 5 million people, the generosity displayed would be the equivalent of Americans donating US$430 million to the victims and families of the Charleston shootings. Imagine that. That’s the power of a narrative of unity.

Everyday acts of kindness, compassion, and unity transpire all over the world constantly. We have just become so accustomed to negative news reports and our affinity for conflict and drama that we don’t pay attention to them until a crisis comes along to completely disrupt the narratives underpinning our lives. Once the crisis has opened us up, it takes a concerted and conscious effort not to slip back into old patterns. I already see it, and it’s distressing to say the least. We cannot afford to let business as usual come back. Let’s keep these feelings of solidarity and oneness in mind as we move forward into a new global post-Trump era.

Storytelling | Narrative | Systems Change | Spoken Word | Currently writing a book on storytelling, narrative & systems change |

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