A New Narrative

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to isolate, drop out of the spinning hamster wheel that many of us were trapped in, and reflect. For some this forced reflection mode has been a blessing; for others, it has been a cruel punishment, since it forces some people to stare in the face of things they would prefer to avoid, such as: Who are we? What do we really want? What is the purpose of our lives?

John Micklethwait says: “One thing unifying an unhappy West is a profound sense of mystery. Across Europe and North America, people have an acute feeling that their world is accelerating away from them, but they can’t understand why. There is no narrative to explain it.” Rapid changes are frequently making people feel unsafe. Unsafe feelings might lead to “cramped reactions.” The consequence can be that polarization might occur.

According to Stephen Heintz, the president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, we are in a crisis “that stems from the growing obsolescence of three core operating systems that have shaped civilization for the past 350 years:

  1. Capitalism, fueled by carbon since the dawn of the Industrial Age and increasingly driven by global financialization; problem is that “our practice of capitalism is both putting the planetary ecosystem at risk and generating vast economic inequality.
  2. The nation-state system, formalized by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; The nation-state is “inadequate for managing transnational challenges like global warming.”
  3. Representative democracy is a system of self-rule based on Enlightenment ideals of freedom, fairness, justice, and equality.” “Representative democracy is neither truly representative nor very democratic as citizens feel that self-rule has given way to rule by corporations, special interests and the wealthy.”

The French scholar Piketty is focusing on this wealth issue. He points at the problem that inherited wealth is used as a means to buy influence. The American author Thomas Friedman adds to this how trends like globalization, digitalization, and the climate and energy transition are accelerating and deepening, affecting us deeply in our minds. The problem is that there is no universal narrative. The Israeli writer Hariri says that storytelling adds meaning to the bits of information we all get every second. This is what we want to do in this window of the website. We invite you to contribute to a discussion on the ingredients of such a new narrative.

We have our own premises about the content of a new narrative:

  • Narratives need to take into account the existence of different value systems in different countries and regions.
  • Narratives need to consider the cultural bias of the narrators.
  • We can agree on general narratives if they are acceptable across cultures and if we take the aforementioned aspects into consideration
  • There are at least seven larger clusters of cultures that can help us understand the multitude of existing cultures all over the world.

We invite you all to give your opinions. Please contribute with good arguments, not just one-liners.

Huib Wursten and Fernando Lanzer


Fernando Lanzer and Huib Wursten mention in their opening statement on a new narrative our forced isolation during the pandemic. A time to reflect and a time to appreciate what we have, and realize that we actually do not miss what we often did not volunteer for but what was thrown at us in the spinning hamster wheel. A time to reconsider who we are, what we want, what the purpose of our life is. In short, what is the new narrative of our lives?

Storytelling is at the core of our societies and telling and listening to stories help us develop the foundation of our societies. Stories can, however, be abused, and used for identity politics dividing “societies into ever smaller, self-regarding groups.” But, says Fukuyama, “by that very same token, the fluidity of modern identity makes it possible to create identities that are broader and more integrative. We need broader identities rather than narrow ones.” We need to continue encouraging people to develop empathy, close the divides and put differences aside. The ConnectUs Foundation’s mission is to contribute to understanding the fluidity of modern identity by facilitating storytelling. We aim to make cultural differences recognizable, understandable, and acceptable for everyone. So that we can more easily see what we have in common and put our differences aside. For this understanding we are guided by the framework of the seven culture clusters provided by Geert Hofstede and Huib Wursten.

One activity we have developed is the creation of the grass-root game Empathy Land. We did this together with teachers and children from the Gooische School and the Wijde Wereld School and psychology students from Tilburg University. An exciting and educational board game that stimulates storytelling and mutual understanding. By playing Empathy Land, pupils learn to discuss things with each other respectfully and to stand up for their opinions. How does that work in your family? We are used to this and that. Children learn to understand and, above all, accept differences. We don’t have to adopt each other’s customs but understanding each other creates solidarity and better citizens.

The research-based, bilingual, game is currently used in primary education, in the context of the citizenship education curriculum: about what you can do with your various freedoms and rights, for yourself, another person and society. The children develop empathy, learn to think critically and better recognize unfounded opinions and thus prejudices.

The game is already being played by university students and adults in family and co-worker settings. And there are only winners. Everybody arrives at Empathy Land, with players being on parallel journeys, looking for a way to connect their own individual searches for meaning, truth, and community with the larger story of our society.