With Ekrem İmamoğlu’s win following the highly politicised mayoral elections in Istanbul, the capital of Turkey and where Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had long held, the defeat explains a new beginning in Turkish politics. İmamoğlu and the win of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) undermined the legacy of Erdoğan’ seventeen years of power. Despite clear corruption by Erdoğan’ party members, at the onset of his defeat blasted rhetoric that blamed organised crime for his loss in Istanbul and demanded a re-election, only to lose a second time by an even bigger margin. In similar vein to Nicolae Ceaușescu who for a number of years held power in Romania only to appear a crazy old man prior to his death by execution, this defeat is indicative of a new political dynamic that offers an alternative that neutralises Erdoğan’ once convincing power. Read More
Following an invitation to speak at a conference for emerging leaders, this article is a developed version of the speech I gave at the dinner.
My parents grew up in extreme poverty in a tiny village as ethnic and religious minorities who experienced discrimination and the threat of violence and their identity and cultural heritage heavily controlled by politics. Both were only primary school educated and started work almost immediately since children were viewed as an economic asset unlike most of the western world where they are seen as a cost. They migrated to Australia in 1968 and worked in a labour-intensive environment with little English and a weak understanding of the education system.
They were in survival-mode. Read More
I think I have made a serious mistake, I thought to myself as I was crammed into a mini-van on my way through the Sinai Peninsula with two other women, both from South America. It was deep into the evening and there he stood at the van entrance, his eyes gleaming at me suspiciously as he held my passport in one hand and an AK47 in the other. My heart was racing, my mind thinking about the reality that it was just three girls surrounded by all these men. We could get dragged into the desert, raped and murdered and no one would ever know. Kidnapped, maybe sold into sexual slavery! Read More
“Make sure,” he said, pointing out into the middle of the bus, “to not give in, okay!” He was one of those tour guides where I was not entirely sure if he was honest or just believable because he spoke with confidence about things we knew nothing about. It seemed as though anything he said – even if it was absurd – must be true only because he said it loudly and with a firm expression. He was the expert after all. “No one in Jordan steals!” was one such comment. Read More
Our conception of reality is regulated by language that enables us to explain and articulate the dichotomy between our inner feelings and personal responses interacting with the expectations and ideas of our social environment. Ethics is an example of this interaction, but some would argue that our motivations remain inherently selfish and that moral behaviour is willed by self-preservation rather than empathy. It is a very lonely domain where we are essentially separate from the world around us despite being materially and physically connected.
As most of our understanding is conditioned – where we are prompted to respond or react to what we have been taught as right or wrong – how we interpret experience is modeled not precisely on what we feel but rather what we are told to feel, automatically initiating feelings of fear or anxiety or even happiness when we think we are doing what is wrong or right. In psychology, this triptych is explained in the Freudian model of the psyche where the ego – like language – functions as the mediator between our raw, innate drives that conflicts with the superego or our moral conscience as enforced by our environment. As most of our lives is dependent on this determined method of ‘thinking’ which is really just automaton prompts conditioned by our social environment, how to think for ourselves, to really interpret and understand our own feelings and experiences lacks capacity.
When we experience anxiety or depression, they are opinions or decisions and ideas that stem from this real self but because the mind has never been independently used before, one cannot explain or consciously understand why you feel the way that you feel. We are told that one way is the ‘right’ way but our feelings or emotions are speaking something else. How do we develop this capacity to articulate and interpret our own experiences and feelings separate from those unconscious prompts that we have been taught to believe we are supposed to think?
Although our minds and our language develops within that determined landscape and therefore much of what we perceive and accept as reality is socially constructed, our brains have the cognitive qualities – imagination and the ability to calculate and reason – to learn and develop new words, education broadening our ability to construct ideas of the world around us independent of our own small environment. We have a chance to transcend that determinism or our initial conditioning and start using language or words as an independent medium to channel these feelings into reality and communicate it to the external world.
Language and how we speak and communicate requires order, the properties in discourse need to follow rules in order to make sense when one speaks, a pattern of logic that can adequately explain in a one-directional arrow of time an experience or an idea. I feeling space cannot words list down happy. For something to make sense, there are language rules that can piece the fragmented together into a sequential order that can make sense of experience. There needs to be a beginning, middle and an end where narratives have a temporal organisation.
Storytelling is the vehicle that enables words to explain our own personal, fragmented experiences into an order that contextualizes this relationship between us and the world. It cohesively patterns and organises who we are into a directional plot that we then understand not only how to explain what we feel and who we are to the world, but also better understand what we want and desire outside of what is socially constructed.
There are many different ways this can be achieved. We may have images that make little sense and therefore drawing it can enable someone to tell a story of why that image is there, to use language to explain and make sense of it. Fictional tales, poetry, metaphors and parables are all symbolic of storytelling that can articulate subjective thoughts a person may have trouble piecing together.
Have you ever spoken to someone who is not really listening to you or does not really understand you? You feel alone. When you tell your story to someone who listens, you are acknowledged, there is value and a real connection. Sometimes, those connections are false, fake, where we present ourselves and explain our stories to fit into the socially constructed landscape because a person has yet to use their own mind and so remain perpetually blocked from ever attaining the cognitive capacity to articulate their own identity.
Whether the properties of this interaction is fictional or real – there is some validity in solipsism – as though fiction and reality are like two magnets that repel one another where we never really connect with anyone, the practice of storytelling is a way to increase and broaden our vocabulary so that we can better explain this relationship between ourselves and the world around us. This, therefore, enables us to understand others and therefore is the beginning of empathy, or appreciating what is moral and valuable and therefore storytelling is the beginning of love.
Storytelling is a form of connecting and explaining experience into a temporal order, developing and broadening our ability to use our imagination that functions as a medium to connect and understand those around us. As we increase our vocabulary, we are strengthened with the linguistic tools to better interpret our own feelings and experiences. The best way to heal, to feel valued and acknowledged, to have a sense of purpose and connection is only possible through storytelling.
For centuries, from Aristotle to Confucius, Aquinas and Thoreau, moral philosophers have endorsed the idea that a balanced, moderate regularity of character is an important step towards genuine happiness, that excess or deficiency of any sort and the failure to attain a principled attitude toward guiding and cultivating the self toward this mean will lead to the reverse. Thus, one who leads a life attempting to walk down this dutiful path toward a balanced and constant frame of mind is demonstrative of a noble and even a superior person. As said by Socrates, “with his eyes fixed on the nature of his soul, naming the worse life that which will tend to make it more unjust and the better that which will make it more just… all other considerations he will dismiss, for we have seen that this is the best choice.”[i] This choice to lead a life of virtue and justice and abandoning all that is vulgar, vulgarity being interpreted as “the masses and the most vulgar seem – not unreasonably – to believe that the good or happiness is pleasure. Accordingly they ask for nothing better than the life of enjoyment,”[ii] will allow one to adopt a standard that will link them closer to what is beautiful, namely love and honesty.