As we enter 2023, little feels certain. Communities and families are continuing to perform the difficult balancing act of meeting their basic needs, while many life-saving pandemic-era supports, such as the child tax credit and the eviction moratorium, have disappeared. Many people are navigating caretaking duties with a hope and a prayer that essential goods and services will become more affordable. We predict 2023 will be full of stories about the search for stability in such precarious times alongside ongoing narrative battles to define safety and security.
In conversations about stability, we will find competing narratives around personal choice, self-preservation and the role and responsibilities of government. While safety and security conversations may seem straightforward, they often contradict themselves. We can expect competing and contradicting stories within these conversations as people navigate the need for safety from violence and the desire to be free from violence as they move through the world. Because of this, how people make sense of crime, harm and the role of the police is complex. Many stories, especially those that center white people, focus on perceived external threats of crime and violence, while stories about and amongst Black, Brown, and LGBTQIA+ people grapple with this notion of safety alongside the very real threats to their security posed state-sanctioned violence.
We will see an increase in stories that focus on neighborhood and community safety alongside stories about economic security and precarity. Just as we’ve predicted in The Multi-Polar World, ongoing economic, climate and war-related crises will contribute to this uncertainty, and influence a sustained increase in cost of living stories in the U.S. and abroad. These stories will play out differently depending on race, class, gender and geography.
NARRATIVES AT PLAY
- Everyone is responsible for meeting their own needs
- Everyone should be able to have their basic needs met
- The government is responsible for meeting our needs
- We take care of us
- Public safety can be reimagined
- Law and order are central to a stable society
Crime wave stories, while prevalent over the last year, are not the most salient conversations. Conversations about defunding the police operate at a much higher volume, but the stories and messages within them are polarized. This narrative contest is an opening to elevate radical visions of public and community safety, rooted in abolition, that go beyond police reform and the reallocation of public resources.
Connect a sense of security and stability to progressive policies. It might feel like the window to transform society into one that prioritizes the needs of everyday people came and went, but there is still an opportunity to dream and scheme on what economic security looks like for our communities. Draw and deepen narrative connections between unemployment, housing and financial relief stories, and stories about the boom in union organizing, critiques of the wealthy, and climate and racial justice work. Advance the narrative that a less precarious future with safety and security for all is possible.
Don’t focus solely on the narrative contest around safety. While we're contending for power around safety, we need to connect it to economic security. Take advantage of conversations about organized labor and workers’ rights to make connections to the immigrant rights movement, connection stories about established unions to the self-directed organizing migrant workers have done around wage increases, wage theft, and workplace safety. Failing to connect conversations about safety with labor precarity leaves an opening for conservatives and moderates to elevate stories rooted in neoliberalism that link corporations and U.S. global competition to the health of the economy rather than workers. The Republican Party will use that opening to continue to appeal to Black, Latinx, and AAPI voters, leveraging concerns over the economy and warping progressive policies by reducing them to red-baiting tropes.
Use narratives rooted in personal responsibility and choice to shift the framework towards systems change. Many of the stories about precarity, safety, and security are rooted in people’s personal experiences, hardships, and the search for well-being. Take these stories as an opening to weave people’s experiences together and connect their issues to structural solutions, like the development of a robust social safety net and policies like housing for all. Do not negate people’s lived experiences while you are making these connections.
The Right will continue to amplify xenophobic narratives within stories about drugs. Watch out for stories that make an explicit connection between drugs, crime, and Black and Brown people. This frame, which relies on narratives of economic security and personal well-being, acts as a wedge to divide working-class communities and communities of color. Instead, persistently and consistently advance pro-immigrant narratives, as well as elevate stories of harm reduction efforts and the importance of ensuring healthcare for all.