Nations measure dominance militarily more than narratively. Count up the number of subs and nukes, or tanks and planes, guns and soldiers and we know who we can defeat. While armies claim victories, win territory, and ultimately prevail in battle, the final measure of success is how the story gets told. Try as they might, armies can’t control what they mean.
If a victory comes to mean that lives were lost for nothing, then they will have lost the war they won. If the war saved the land but made the homeland more damnable than before, no army can fix that. Lets look at some case studies.
Militarily, the US were winning the war in Vietnam. The Tet Offensive almost wiped out the North Vietnamese fighting forces. But the USA lost because the dominant story did not match the strength of their dominant army. The story became one of My Lai massacres and quagmire and the Pentagon papers expose of wholesale government deception.
Take the rich versus the poor- who has the better story? Jesus used one of his parables about Dives the wealthy man, and Lazarus the beggar, and demonstrated that comfort and luxury are no narrative match for the story of deep and desperate human tragedy. Dying because you ran out of chardonnay and caviar is no match for dying for lack of water and being starved in goal. Buddha’s story of enlightenment carries the same message. The religious traditions all teach that “God hears the cry of the poor, not the powerful,” and that there can be no justice without mercy, Hesed, Rahmah, Misericordia.
Israel and Palestine are a David and Goliath battle. In terms of military might, there is no contest. David might have stones but hardly a sling shot. But not on NSL, because here is a new dispensation of power. NSL’s Story to Story creates a different playing field.
One Fellow can tell of a 1000 year history of tragedy and hatred and pain, 6 million murdered in the Holocaust, and a tale of longing finally resolved in the creation of a homeland, a sanctuary of return, that welcomes the Jewish diaspora and now leads the world in innovation. This story of overcoming is a modern miracle of a people who battled the odds and won. It echoes one of the deepest human stories of homeland lost and found, and from it can come a deep hearted appeal to Shalom- “Let us all live in peace.” But the question persists “At what price do we defend our achievement and who pays the price for our peace?”
Another Fellow can tell of being shot and imprisoned, haunted and humiliated at a check point, of grandparents being murdered and dispossessed, 6 million refugees, and of repeated failed attempts at negotiation that seemed to end, and then incite more violence. This is a story of such intense pain, from which can spring a deep hearted appeal of Inshallah “Won’t God or anyone listen or care? Stop killing us. Don’t we have a right to our home too?”
Army to army, economy to economy, power to power, there is no comparison. Power is totally asymmetrical. But story to story, people are leveled to the same human plane. Stories cannot create a normalization program. They are intrinsically asymmetrical.
Who can truthfully tell the most honest and humanly captivating story? Who can move hearts and minds and capture consciences?
NSL coaches it Fellows to leave the propaganda and endless debates behind. An honest story will refute cheap answers. It will raise more fundamental questions.
The story that reaches deep into our hearts and memories is one that witnesses to the human condition that we all share. If history is any guide, the human story finally wins. The proud are humbled, the rich are laid low, the walls of hatred are torn down, tyrants are driven out and the citadel is reduced to ashes.
Posterity preserves this lesson- that all who act as dictators and gods, heartlessly murdering lives and destroying the fate of their fellow human beings are the ones that die inside because they murder their own souls, their humanity. Even if they create an empire, all empires built by the sword, as Jesus taught, will surely die by the sword.
We leave the guns and tanks and knives and stones behind. Violence never wins. Our weapons are stories because the story of power boils down to the power of a story.