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Friday, September 17, 2021

The truth is buried in narratives, but so are lies

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Whenever something happens, or an incident takes place, and people are called to account for the happening or incident, there will be a narrative (a story). The narrative or story is simply what an individual or group of people think happened. Since human beings prefer to be seen in a positive light and try to avoid anything that will soil our reputation, or affect us adversely, it is not uncommon for individuals or groups to rally around a narrative or story that favors them, solidifies their reputation or saves them from any adversity. Some wise person said that “we do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

The whole country can witness an incident or a happening and our narrations or story of what happened will be different. This is because what we see is often shrouded in the peculiarities of our minds. And the mind, as pure as it may be, is often a victim of some form of bias. The narrative bias is just one such bias. We all desire to be perceived well by others and this desire can increase even more if we are in the business of making people think we are the best to tell them how to live (otherwise known as politics). I’d think that is also the case when we are in positions of power or aspiring to be, we want to be perceived well by those to be “followers”. The more people think well of you, the better your chances of getting them to trust you and trust your narrative.

Our believability index is often influenced by our perception of the narrator of events. If Imam Alagie and a rapper named Z-Killa both narrate the same event in which they were implicated in theft, many will probably just believe the narrative of the Imam because of the reputation of imams. It does not mean the imam is telling the truth about what he said. He has a reputation to maintain and that must be kept in mind at all times.

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Many people will lie if they have reason to. It all depends on what motivates them. Whenever we tell a story of what happened or give a narrative of an event, we usually formulate a narrative that conforms to that which motivates us. What motivates us may differ in each individual, but I hazard to guess that not many of us will willingly tell a story that makes us look bad or potentially get us in some form of trouble. And to satisfy what motivates us, we may exaggerate our role, omit key facts that do not put us in good light, we may justify our actions, we equivocate (change subjects),we may deny parts or all of the story, we may blame others for what happened and sometimes, we just straightforward lie about things. What action we take to satisfy our motivation depends on what we wish to accomplish. If my motivation is to come across as a hero to Rohey, I’ll claim that I was with the firefighters leading them as we put out the fire, when all I did was call the fire service.

Our minds, susceptible to biases as always, can be manipulated such that we believe our own lies to be an exact representation of events. There’s no stated narrative or story that is devoid of a motivating factor. The trick is in knowing why the person told the story the way they did. What are they hiding? What are they exaggerating? What are they simply lying about? What are they justifying? What are they denying? And above all, what do they stand to gain if you believe their narrative? If you can answer these questions as much as possible, you’d be getting closer to the truth.

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