Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dumbed-Down Parables

David Gergen, a political commentator who worked for several presidents including Ronald Reagan, writes approvingly about Reagan’s ability to communicate with the public through stories that were, effectively, parables (in “Eyewitness to Power”).

I agree with Gergen’s analysis of Reagan as a talented and skilled story-teller, which contributed in no small part to his becoming known as “The Great Communicator.” However, I think that Reagan often used dumbed-down parables that would be easily accepted and responded to by the electorate, rather than giving them the parables that actually described the situations they were in and what should be done about them.

Such parables are like junk food; cheap to make, buy, and eat, and they may make you feel good going down, but later on you get digestive problems, like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems, especially if you make a steady diet of them.

I’m all for parables, analogies, metaphors--which are both expressions of how we think, and food for thought--but they need to be ones which help the receiving mind adjust to the reality of its situation, not pretend to adjust while really avoiding it.

Of course, adjusting to reality may make us feel worse, at first, even though it’s better in the long run, while settling for a pretense will make us feel better at first, and worse later. I wrote a song about that, called “I Must Be Getting Better ‘Cause I Think I’m Getting Worse.” It’ll be on the CD I’m completing work on now.

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