Call me a villain: Russia and Ukraine and the power of storytelling

Image credit: Jernej Furman | Flickr

As the war between Russia and Ukraine shakes the world, I want to bring some reflection about the concept of “good” and “evil”, and the power of storytelling and creating escalating narratives.

Media programming and storytelling is a strong force. According to the mainstream narrative, Russia is portrayed as evil and Ukraine is the victim, while the US and the rest of Europe are the “good guys”, who are trying to help.

Without going into a deep political and historical discussion about what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine, or drawing strong lines of what is considered moral or just, what I would like to ask you is to deeply consider how are you interacting with the information crossing your path?

There are obvious players involved in an unleashed war: Russia, Ukraine, and NATO.

Whenever strong language and powerful storytelling tools are used in media, whether it be the news, catastrophic images, personal tragic stories of fear, links to horrific historical events, or quick posts and calls to action in the palms of our hands, it’s important to try to look at information critically.

Ask questions and try to imagine as many perspectives as possible.

For example, in mainstream media, Russia, as a whole nation, is painted a monstrous villain. This labeling is also used to justify any severe economic sanctions, closing Russian Flights in Europe, foreign companies leaving Russia, Russian athletes being banned from international competitions, etc. Even international freelancer platforms are banishing Russians so they can’t find online jobs.

There are 144 million human beings in Russia.

Few of them are playing an active role in this conflict.

Yet, they have to feel the turmoil of decisions of government and political forces around them.

Economic warfare, protests, boycotts, embargoes, and sanctions cause massive suffering, imposed poverty, and starvation for the most vulnerable.

If you want to see some examples, please have a look at what’s going on in Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran.

So be careful of the narratives that you are being exposed to and how you react to them.

There is usually a great deal of power, control and manipulation behind the stories that are presented to you. Fundamentally we must remember that we are all human.

So how can we find the mental space to explore our common links and cultivate compassion?

Take some time to step back and think critically. What are you learning? And what type of story are you creating for yourself?

For example, in a recent article by Charles Eisenstein, we are reminded that the power of storytelling can create a field of peace or a place of reckoning.

Now that an international narrative is building up such momentum, Eisenstein points out that it will be very difficult for the upcoming parley between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky.

Each leader is building a robust set of beliefs in which his side is in the “right” or “good” that are emotionally charged. These are extremely difficult stances to diffuse with dialogue alone.

For Zelensky, the narrative of righteousness is simple. Foreign troops have invaded his territory and are killing his innocent people.

In the case of Putin, his plea for righteousness can be constructed from a historical narrative of NATO expansionism, missiles aimed at Russian targets, having freshwater canals restricted, economic oppression, and the killings of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, etc.

In these cases, Eisenstein reminds us that each side in this powerful political interaction will have to fervently believe that they are both right. They need to draw a line between their sides and justify their stance and any resulting actions.

In this situation and mindset, life becomes dichotomous. Victory needs to win over injustice.

It leaves very little room for understanding and peace and for the complexity of our interactions and needs. Peace is not impossible.

However, building strong political rhetoric and international media narratives makes it more difficult to listen and understand the honest intentions and situations of others.

Unlikely though it may seem, there is still the possibility of peace from this meeting.

If they make peace, both Zelensky and Putin may face major criticism from militants in their own countries and abroad, who will accuse them of compromise and weakness.

It’s difficult to empathize with someone you believe to be a monster.

Peace means that these parties may find empathy and understanding of their position, which will make it more difficult to interact with them in similar situations.

If you’ve been following the Out of the Box Group discussions, great points are arising around this topic. Members who have gone through their journeys to understand their inner worlds and sense of “good” and “evil” and storytelling in more depth invite each other to make sense of these uncertain times.

For example, one member of the group chat wrote that:

“The Russian army is killing Ukrainians who only want to be free from hundreds of years of Russian oppression, including the genocide of millions. They revolted several times and recently democratically elected their leaders.

“The Russians on the other hand elected and have kept in power a dictator who is ruthless and now oppressing most of them. We, humans, don’t learn from history, repeat our mistakes, and innocents suffer and die. Unfortunately, for now, there are no easy solutions and we can only hope for the enlightenment of our leaders and that they prevent a true earthly catastrophe.”

Everyone can come up with or support a reason why bombing, fighting, violence, shooting, and killing by their side are regrettably necessary.

And what Rudá Iandê keeps bringing the heart of the discussion is this key point:

“What I seek to discuss here is some aspects of human nature, rather than the war itself. So if we can’t change what’s going on in the world, we can at least navigate it keeping some sanity. Politicians and corporations of all nationalities tend to be blinded by money and power and disregard people while they plot their big strategies.

“Looking back in history, the economic embargoes have only helped to consolidate more extreme and dangerous dictatorships across the world, apart from creating unemployment, poverty, and starvation.

“The only ones capable of making the change are the people. For that people must have enough material and intellectual resources to flourish. Isolation and poverty make it much easier to be manipulated and controlled.

“Yet, we don’t need to play this same sick game. We can protect ourselves and not let any ideology poison our hearts. We can keep our mind open.”

The current situation appears devastating and precarious. Some people have had to completely uproot their lives to take asylum.

Women and children have been granted permission to leave Ukraine, Meanwhile, men between the ages of 18-60 have been asked to stay and take up arms.

What would you do in this position? If you were in that situation, what beliefs would dictate your actions? Would you be able to distinguish from your primal emotional reaction or be able to act from a place of inner judgment and authenticity?

When you can’t control the situation around you, you always have the power to look deep into your heart and act from there.

You always have the personal power to act from a place of integrity and justice, that you have formed yourself from a true voice of wisdom from within. Even when it goes against the mainstream narrative.

As Charles Eisenstein reminds us, “Every time we let go of self-righteousness, we strengthen the field of peace. Every time we resist a call to arms, every time we put ourselves in another’s shoes, every time we act from the knowledge that we are not separate, every time we look for someone’s humanity and divinity when it hurts, we tilt the course of distant events into alignment with those choices.”

To look within is difficult. It’s hard work.

Our minds are deeply programmed to be triggered by emotions and stories.

The more we can carve away the divide between each other, the more humane we will become. It’s not about “us” and “them”, “friend” and “enemy”, “good” and “evil”.

It’s about how we treat ourselves and one another.

We face the necessity to find new ways of looking at one another, not as the other, but as fellow humans. This will need a new and unfamiliar storyline.

The truth is, most of us never realize how much power and potential lies within us.

We become bogged down by continuous conditioning from society, the media, our education system, and more.

The result?

The reality we create becomes detached from the reality that lives within our consciousness.

Rudá Iandé is going to ask you to look inwards and confront the demons within, before pointing the finger outwards. It’s a powerful approach, but one that works.

As Rudá reminds us, the myth of good and evil is a powerful force. I think we can see the current conflict in the eyes of our knowledge. He devotes a great deal of time to helping you explore it in the Out of the Box Program, in the chapter: Media Programming and Modern Myths.

So if you’re ready to take this first step and align your dreams with your reality, there’s no better place to start than with Rudá’s unique technique.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

Look around, read, speak, reflect.

Be aware of what you are being exposed to.

But remember to first, look within and inquire into what fuels and forms your fundamental beliefs.

So, what can you do next?

pexels andrea piacquadio 3880943 Call me a villain: Russia and Ukraine and the power of storytelling

Have a closer look at what stories and beliefs you have already formed.

For example, take a moment and reflect on how you are learning about the current political conflict:

  • Are you gathering data from different sources of information?
  • Where are your news sources based?
  • Who funds them?
  • Are you looking at compelling images that are stirring up emotions?
  • Are you reading deeply into facts and historical interactions between all the parties involved?
  • Are you conversing with people who have been in similar situations?
  • Are you looking at celebrity social media using sentences to invoke you to act or think in a certain way?
  • How are you trying to understand a situation that is happening globally and perhaps new for you to understand?
  • Are there other examples that you are looking at to compare?
  • Are you reacting to the sensation and emotion that is being plastered around your world?

If we put aside the passion inspired by the media, we’ll see that this conflict has extremely intricate and complicated reasons.

Keep a watchful eye on what information crosses your path, and how you process it within. Keep a loving and open heart.

Also read: What is propelling the protests in France?

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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