I watched a TED video the other day about political activism by Dave Meslin called ‘The antidote to apathy.’ In it, he showed a list of scifi and fantasy films that all have ‘the chosen one’ as a main narrative trope: the usual suspects, really, so I won’t repeat them here.
He suggested that the very idea of the ‘chosen one(s)’ sends the wrong message. I tend to agree. I’ve talked about the idea that ‘save the world’ narratives also send the wrong messages over on sfauthoralliance.com. Both these approaches to storytelling share a similar feature: they support the establishment and its processes while disabling self-selected or self-appointed change agency.
This is exactly the kind of mindset we need a strong orientation for…
Submitting to the establishment’s selection processes
Self-selection is important for many things in life. Some of the best things that we can do with our time is to self-select and deliberately avoid asking for permission…
In fact, being ‘chosen’ is part of the establishment processes of exclusion. If you’ve ever been on the outside of an establishment organisation and wanted in (and who hasn’t?), you’d know that you can’t ‘choose’ to be included (I’m not talking about prison here.); you can only aspire to be and emulate the characteristics of those who are on the inside, essentially attempting to become an ideal aspirant, in the oft vein hope that you too will be chosen.
The spurious thing about successful entries, even entryism, is that the individuals readily become role models for success and emulation: their personality characteristics are deconstructed as are all their effctive actions along the road to success. It’s wrong to think that you can replicate the path to inclusion based on emulation, though; all you can do is provide yourself with greater chances … perhaps.
But, in competitive fields, that’s what hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of others are doing as well.
In the end, the promotion of and subjectification to models and correlating qualities supports the establishment by providing it with a range of more gifted and action-ready aspirants from which to select … through the bottleneck.
Does it really help the aspirant get selected, then?
You’re not chosen till your chosen, after all…
This knowledge is double-edged: it can be inspiring for some and disabling and demotivating for others, even some of the people who would be great in the roles in question. Eventually, it will be demotivating for everyone who doesn’t get selected beyond their personal threshold … or the threshold of reality. I guess there could be some people who will never get the message, but…
Self-selected agency and dynamic pathways
Activists, entrepreneurs and web developers, etc., don’t ask for permission … or at least they don’t ask for it in the same narrow kind of way…
That’s the great thing about an activity or programme that allows you to self-select: if you’re inspired and believe in something, you can just go ahead and start doing it. In essence you choose yourself, but in another way you don’t: you still need permission…
You still have to approach others to gain support: you need to find customers, visitors, or readers in the case of authors, etc; this is a kind of request for permission to be able to do what you want effectively and successfuly, which is evidently a marketing dynamic that contains a lot of learning and hurdles for each individual.
The fact is, you simply won’t be able to choose yourself to be chosen until you’ve convinced your target audience, etc., that you’re worthy of being chosen, period.
This may seem to get us back to the same problem, but one of the main differences is the breadth of the scope: if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, the scope is evidently very narrow; whereas for a webpreneur, there are almost limitless things you could do and avenues you could take, changes you could make, and people you could approach in order to carve out some degree of success for yourself over the long term.
In contrast, there are only so many times you can take the entry exam for Law or Medicine degrees, after which it would beyond just merely irrational to continue, right?
Writing self-selected agency into storytelling
Anyway, I’ve been sensitive to this for some time and ended up writing self-selecting agency into my first two novels in a deliberate attempt to steer clear of the chosen one narratives I love to hate.
I think the result is more interesting as it provides a bridge to the lives of everyone on the fence and also those who are already trying to achieve something a bit different to what’s commonly on offer. And it displaces the limiting aspects of the establishment orientation; importantly, once you have this mindset, you’ll naturally veer towards finding space for doing something important your own way, on your own terms, and, more extremely, set about disentangling yourself from those formal processes that require you to submit to narrowly defined requests for permission associated with established organisations and institutions. They can, after all, destroy you and your humanity…
You can probably tell that I don’t write ‘Chosen One’ SF. DAY ZERO is near-future, revolutionary, R&D SF:
Here’s Dave Meslin’s TED talk: