‘NATIONS TELL THEMSELVES stories,’ the Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole wrote recently. ‘They are not fully true, they are often bitterly contested and they change over time. But they are powerful: they underlie the necessary fiction that is “us”. And at the moment it is not quite clear what the Irish story is.’
This may be one of the universal truths of the early twenty-first century as globalisation and digitisation have disrupted the economic order everywhere, migration has changed national complexions, the collapse of the mass media has weakened the democratic feedback mechanism, and those once silenced or ignored by the mainstream are finding their voice.
In this rapidly changing environment, new stories are needed: stories that connect, engage, explain and challenge; stories that need to be nurtured, added to, discussed, debated and allowed to flourish; stories that are both specific and universal; stories that allow nuance, diversity and complexity.