The Primacy of the Story


Karl Marx wanted a philosophy for all of life. Not an abstract philosophical splitting of straws, disconnected from reality, but a comprehensive system of thought. Don’t think of Marxism as an economic system alone – it’s a worldview, a whole way of thinking. It’s more than an idea, more than any fact. It’s a story about an eternal struggle, the cycles of history, and the oppressed rising up against those more powerful. It’s a story we can tell ourselves that explains the world and our place within it.

Soviet poster, 1963. Photo by Jorge Lascar

Therein lies much of its power, because human beings are all about stories.

Advertising targets this aspect of human nature. Did you know that advertising offers you a story to tell about yourself? Here’s one I’m sure you’ve heard before:

“Once upon a time there was a man who Dared to be Different. He drove his car boldly through wild wastelands and flooded rivers, and stood upon a high mountaintop, experiencing a sense of exultation in his conquest of the wilderness. Life in all its opportunity was spread before his feet.”

We’re meant to resonate with that story, and want to put ourselves inside it – by buying the car. It doesn’t make sense. We end up living in the city and driving shiny off-road vehicles to our office jobs. But we’re human beings and we don’t care about making sense. We’re all about feelings, and we’re all about stories. Those things make sense to us.

Stories are powerful – they shape the way we see the world. Stories operate at a level more immediate to us than truth or facts, because stories are our way of interpreting dry data and integrating it to our lives. The same facts and circumstances can appear in a very different light depending on the story you tell about them.

Marxism is a very satisfying narrative, a story about the brave resistance who band together in solidarity and compassion with all the oppressed, taking part in the great struggle of history. To be a Marxist is to put yourself inside that narrative and identify yourself with its heroes, while fighting its villains.

Ever wonder why they’re so blind to reality? They’re wrapped up in their story. To them, you’re not just a random, mild-mannered schoolteacher who happens to think immigration should serve the interests of the host country. You may not realise it, but you’ve been cast as the Racist, and the Nazi – characters in their story – while they themselves are cast as Indiana Jones. It doesn’t matter what they do when they’re fighting Nazis. And they don’t have to look outside the story to ask themselves what’s really going on, because they already know. The story makes sense of it all for them.

Laugh at them if you like. But you must understand that they’re human beings, and it comes with the territory. Perhaps it’s their way of finding purpose, and understanding existence. Animals might be content with food, water and sex, but we are self-aware, Pygmalion’s living statue, seeking to understand the world in which we’ve found ourselves.

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” said Jesus Christ, two thousand years ago. You can argue, if you like, about what exactly will fill the hunger we have in our souls for something more. Perhaps you don’t think it’s the words of God. But it’s easily demonstrable that our needs stretch beyond the material.

We need something to live for. Our culture tells us to live for happiness, and we reply “Great, but what exactly is that?” But it shrugs its shoulders and says “I give you prosperity, not philosophy.” It is materialistic, hedonistic, and postmodern.

Postmodernism hurts, because it’s the loss of a story. It hurts us to feel that we are random molecules, fragmented and alone in a meaningless universe. No meaning, no purpose, no point. That way lies nihilism, the ideology of suicide. The dark irony of our materialist culture is that while it’s great at supplying our material needs, it can’t do a thing about the inexplicable hunger in our souls.

Christianity is also a story. Being a Christian ties you into the great narrative of creation and redemption that overarches the entire history of the world and stretches into eternity itself. At a guess, I’d say that radical Islam is also a story – one about brave freedom fighters that battle degeneracy and evil, and after dying a glorious martyr’s death, achieve paradise. There’s something to be said for a story that places you in the middle of a cosmic struggle between good and evil. It gives you a sense of purpose. Sometimes people die for their stories. Why not? Stories are more than life itself. Man does not live by bread alone. What is life if you have to live alone, in exile from your story?

Now in case an atheist was to say to me, “See how foolish religion is, and what atrocities it drives people to commit,” I would reply that atheists are not exempt. They too need a story, something to hang their lives on. Some take up the story of the great struggle between Religion and Progress. “Religion poisons everything!” they proclaim loudly – which is demonstrably false, although the phrase has a nice ring to it. You know when you hear it that they’ve found their story and cast their characters in it, heroes and villains alike. Atheists need a story as much as anyone else.

Not all stories are created equal. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not keen on the story of the great struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, played out in our times by unkempt students with megaphones outside the state library. Chances are you think that story ill-founded and destructive. And I’d agree with you. But you must understand the name of the game. Because stories can trump facts, if you want to fight a destructive narrative, then you’ve got to build a convincing story of your own. Conservatives have been fixated on facts, logic and truth, and perhaps we’ve forgotten that we’re dealing with human nature. With our somewhat naïve faith in reason and the moral high ground, we’ve forgotten that it’s not just about what you say – the facts – but how you say it. A compelling narrative resonates in a way that pages of statistics really don’t.

I ask you, then, who are we? What is the world? What should we live for, and what is our role in these times? We have no choice but to accept one or other interpretation in answer to these questions. So choose wisely, and create well.

Last week I rewatched the musical Into the Woods (would definitely recommend). In the words of the witch, “Careful the tale you tell … that is the spell.”

It’s your XYZ.

  • Warty2

    I rather think we’re ALL wrapped up in our individual stories and sometimes that’s the very thing that separates us off from those around us. People sometimes call this phenomenon ‘a bubble’.
    I was listening to Brendan O’Neill being interviewed on the Rubin Report the other day He apparently identifies himself as a Marxist Libertarian, a contradiction in terms I would have thought.
    So yes, Marxism does have an appeal . . . to the young, just as many forms of utopianism do. The Marxist form is really a type of Robin Hood field of thought, that advocates stealing from the alleged ‘rich’ and redistributing the booty amongst the not so rich, regardless of whether they have done anything to earn it.
    If you stop to think about it, then of course they haven’t earned it, the group they name call the ‘bourgeoisie’ earned it, usually by being enterprising.
    The ones who inherited their rubles are simply fortunate, but no more so than the bloke who wins the lottery, who, when he wins it, apparently moves from the group called the proletariate into the another group, the aforementioned bourgeoisie.
    He is then subject to all the envy and name-calling the Left can muster. He is the same bloke and the odds are he’ll end up back in the proletariate again after he’s blown the lot on all the toys the bourgeoisie apparently like to indulge in.
    Hilarious really.

    (An ironic version of The Communist Manifesto, entitled ‘Mind Your Own Bloody Business’).

    • Daniel Watts

      It’s the inheritance bourgeois that I can’t quite place as yet. I cannot accept them as deserving when they wake up in the morning having ‘earned’ more money in their sleep than, let’s say some brickies labourer slaving his arse off in the elements wearing down his only body.

      • Warty2

        As the masturbating Welshman said in ‘Notting Hill’: “tricky”.
        Actually, there’s nothing tricky about it at all. If you are not breaking the law and you are not conning someone out of their money, then largess ‘out of the blue’ should be nobody’s business other than the beneficiary.
        If mum or dad fall off the perch and you inherit gazillions than good luck to you; it’s no different to winning the lottery, other than the fact you probably know it is coming, whereas with the lottery you don’t. Deserving isn’t a factor in either, other than it being covert envy on the one judging whether or not the recipient is deserving.
        The politics of envy, though, would like a piece of your inheritance. They tried to bring in the death tax, but it was an electoral mine-field. They succeeded over in the UK, but they are 90% socialist over there anyway.
        What can’t you place?


        • Daniel Watts

          I think it’s the fact that they have never done a good days work yet regard themselves above welfare recipients. Trusts are tax evading vehicle as is negative gearing. Blame the game not the player, eh?

  • Taipan

    The most important story is one of survival. Will Australia survive the 21st century? The existence of Australia should be paramount. The first problem with that story is that many don’t realise Australia is under threat.

  • killer3000ad

    Everyone is the hero of their own story. I Think alot of socialists/Marxists see themselves as the next wave of freedom fighters against Nazis and fascists and since that story needs this enemy to be an ever growing threat to justify their existence, the socialists/Marxists naturally see this enemy everywhere or create them where they don’t exist.

  • fimbulwinter

    The only story Marxists have is a deluded drug fueled high where up is down, down is up, man is woman, woman is man and everything is lovely and colorful and there are unicorns in a big single race, single sex Utopia where everyone gets free stuff and has lots of bum orgies. This is the story that plays over and over in every liberal retard’s head.

  • Mattys Modern Life

    There was once a civilisation that was strong and intelligent, it brought freedom and prosperity wherever it went. It taught other civilizations how to get wealthy and it even ended slavery!

    It wanted nothing more than to grow and bring peace and prosperity to all on Earth.

    But in the shadows was a group of people that hated it and wanted it destroyed, they didn’t like this civilization being so influential for they wanted to be the ones with all the power and wealth.

    So they spread themselves through the civilisation and placed themselves in key positions of power and influence, they used their positioning to open the borders of the civilization and let in an army of people who didn’t share their culture, values or heritage.

    This group told everyone in the civilisation that any criticism of their strategy for power and destruction was evil, they used words like “racist” and “sexist” and “xenophobe” to silence dissent.

    For a while the people of this civilisation believed the lies and propaganda until one day they developed a technology that allowed them all to talk to each other for the subversive group had taken control of all means of mass communication. They made it near impossible for people of the great civilization to talk about the threat.

    But now they could all talk about it openly and they did and they realised they were being attacked, their existence was now under threat. So they kept talking and talking and did all they could to wake everyone up from their propaganda and hedonistic induced slumber.

    Soon many, but not all, were woken and they were angry. Their civilisation was born in war and fire and once again they had a fight on their hands, this time against a subversive power hungry group infesting all areas of it.

    A fight they were determined to win.

    That’s where the story begins.

    To be continued…

    • Taipan

      Join the Resistance…

    • Bucky Redux
      • Jai_Normosone

        The ones with the guns are now the wrong colour. Once upon a time, they would eat each other after using spears – now they have worn-out knock-off Kalashnikovs to carry out their tribalism.
        I prefer the good-quality long-rifle for the sole intention of hunting. Hunting animal poachers and slavers.

    • Jai_Normosone

      That is an excellent way of phrasing it as it is vague enough to allow the reader to determine who or what the problem group is without you actually saying who you believe the problem to be.
      I can guess at least three different sections of society that could be placed as the culprits according to this… 🙂

      • Correct, there are a number of culprits, you could just say “the Left” and this encompasses various subversive groups.

        The true enemy however, is the State and the enslavement it creates.

  • Jai_Normosone

    This paragraph puts a new angle on the mentality of the people that carry the torch for Marxism:

    “Ever wonder why they’re so blind to reality? They’re wrapped up in their story. To them, you’re not just a random, mild-mannered schoolteacher who happens to think immigration should serve the interests of the host country. You may not realise it, but you’ve been cast as the Racist, and the Nazi – characters in their story – while they themselves are cast as Indiana Jones. It doesn’t matter what they do when they’re fighting Nazis. And they don’t have to look outside the story to ask themselves what’s really going on, because they already know. The story makes sense of it all for them.”

    It answers the question of why they believe that everyday people who just want to go to work and pay their bills and be left alone are labelled as hate-mongers when the people dare say anything contrary to what the idiot/Marxist sees as the truth.