Narratives Matter

An excerpt of a new book appearedin Salon this week, provocatively titled “Why Most Narrative History is Wrong. The book is similarly provocative, alleging in the subtitle to reveal “the neuroscience of our addiction to stories.” Naturally this caused a series of knee-jerk reactions that spawned long Twitter threads. I had a similarly impulsive response to the chapter, but also wanted to response to it in good faith before returning to a point the author and I actually agree on, that narratives—the stories we tell ourselves—are fundamental to human societies, because my distaste with this piece emerges from the consequences of this point.

below the jump

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Nazi Germany

On this day seventy years ago, the National Socialist German Worker’s Party put out an official statement in regards to a well-loved children’s story and song about Christmas, put out just one year previous. It was bad enough that Saint Nick was the patron saint of Moscow, but this song was seen as contrary to the Nazi agenda since Santa, aka Saint Nick was now being led by a reindeer with a bright red nose. This could not stand.

To counter the influence, but to also stand with their agenda all of the stories in Germany were replaced with a new story: Adolph the White-Nosed Reindeer.