Tell me a story

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” Dr. Howard Gardner, professor Harvard University

All leaders are storytellers. They have to tell good stories to convince incredulous neighbors to give them money and support them. Their appeal stems from the shrewdness of their speakers and their power of persuasion.

To be successful, a leader needs a good vehicle and a weak scapegoat. Scapegoats are more important than battle horses. A leader has to emphasize that what is happening to you is not your fault. Somebody else is responsible for your misery and these people need to be punished, banned or even killed. A good scapegoat is a dead scapegoat!

Christianism had a good run. After been persecuted for years, the church leaders managed to deflect popular vindictiveness towards the Jews. Then, like octopuses, they grabbed entire countries and kept them in their tight grip for a long time.
They had good stories about a mysterious figure called God and two retirement places called Hell and Paradise. It was very popular. Many people bought it.

Monarchs also did well with the “divine right” fairy tale. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God.”
I am your King because it is the will of God. You have to blindly obey me and pay taxes to subsidize my castles building hobby and entertain my mistresses. God said so!

Then communism… Everything you have belongs to everybody. We are all equals, but some of us are more equal than you. Comrades Lenin and Stalin said so. And it is unhealthy to contradict a great leader or his followers.

Antisemitism… Jews are responsible for all the calamities happening to good people. They are greedy and will take everything that you possess… including your AK-47. They are responsible for climate change and they are also conspiring with aliens for the invasion of earth and the enslavement of earthlings. You have been warned!

Islam… The tales of a Thousand and One Nights… women are inferior and need to be kept barefoot and pregnant. Don’t let them drive!  Do not trust anybody except your religious leaders. And some of them do not preach the true religion. Any deviationist, especially any Jew, deserves to be killed. God permits and condones it.

A dash of truth is the perfect seasoning for all these beautiful stories and make them palatable. There were some good Christians, some decent monarchs, some honest communists, some moderate (?) anti-Semites and some nonradical Muslims, but take every story with one… no, five… no, a thousand grains of salt.

“We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.”  Denis Diderot


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