Opposing narratives first came up at University when I was studying the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Israelis and Palestinians both believed themselves to be the victim, and in the right, seeing the other as the aggressor, the problem, the threat.
Their common history was all seen through this lens. Attacks were seen as defence. Defence was seen as attack.
Wherever I look at the moment I see this, disagreements between opposing narratives.
Conflict between the U.S and North Korea – the U.S sees North Korea as a terrible threat to world stability and peace who needs to be kept in check. North Korea sees America as a bully, interfering, a terrible threat to their very existence, ready to invade at any moment.
In America conservatives see black NFL players not standing for the national anthem as disrespectful to the country, the military, rejecting America. The liberals see it as peaceful protest against ingrained unacknowledged racial injustice in their country.
Guns are the problem. Guns are the solution. It goes on and on.
In Australia at the moment, liberals see marriage equality as liberating for the LGBTI community, moving the country forward with equality for all. Some conservatives see same-sex marriage as a potential threat to freedom of speech, or to rights of parents. They do not see it as an issue of equality at all.
We are simply not on the same page. We are seeing the same thing through two different narrative lenses.
When you can only see through your own narrative, you are missing the bigger picture. You don’t have to agree with someone else’s perspective, but as the old saying goes “walk a mile in their shoes before you judge them”.
I’m not saying all narratives are equal either, some are twisted and self-interested, and wrong. But where did this narrative come from? What beliefs or experiences has this person had that have contributed towards their view?
How can you have a conversation with someone if you can’t even address the narrative that motivates their point of view?
People’s minds aren’t changed by arguing or insulting. Things change when people come together and try to understand why someone disagrees with them.