Truth, Lies and the Power of Narratives

I’m taking a creative writing class and I couldn’t help but think of Nietzsche’s essay “On Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense” and his quote:

“What therefore is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms: in short a sum of human relations which became poetically and rhetorically intensified, metamorphosed, adorned, and after long usage seem to a notion fixed, canonic, and binding; truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses; coins which have their obverse effaced and now are no longer of account as coins but merely as metal.”

Everything is stories, and ultimately which stories become truth is more a function of power than “truth”.

Nietzsche said “All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

I’m also skeptical of the critical theory these ideas support.

At the end of the day, it’s all about networks, and networks are another word for “tribal connections”.

There is a famous paper by Stanford professor Mark Granovetter titled “The Strength of Weak Ties”.

“Private knowledge” does not exist.
In the sense that, all knowledge just like all language is a byproduct of social activity. Your network or tribe is a collection of individuals possessing varying levels of economic resources and social status/influence. It’s why education can be such a powerful instrument for socioeconomic mobility.

It’s why going to top academic institutions matter, in the sense that they connect you with elite networks positioned closest to power, ie economic resources and influencers. Inequality of opportunity is the biggest hurdle we face in rectifying outcomes.

But do we really want someone outside our tribe earning a spot that would otherwise be filled by our own tribesman, son or daughter? Are we willing to compromise with competency in order to provide opportunity to those we are most obligated to protect, ie our kinsman?

You can make an argument that education is education is education. You can become a relative expert in any domain in this day in age whether you learn from online classes, local colleges, or top universities.

But this misses the most significant point: knowledge is not enough. Your ability to execute is constrained by access to resources and networks.

So you want to engineer a billion dollar solution.

What is the problem? Who controls the market of that problem?

Certain problems are only obvious when you have a vantage point of seeing the entire system at work, and understanding the value of those problems within that system. This requires being in a place of privilege.

Even if your idea could revolutionize an industry, introducing it into the industry has hurdles. Who will buy it? How will it integrate? What is the value proposition? How do you deliver or manufacture?

How do you gain access to the people who have these answers, or the capital to realize these solutions?

Understanding how markets work and the relationships comprising them is why venture capitalists and angel investors are such a popular avenue. You can leverage their place of power.

There is a reason why there are so many entrepreneurs attended top universities, worked at top consulting companies, or private equity or banking, or even worked for a top corporation.

Being so close to those who own and oversea these networks and systems provides a unique vantage point to understanding where the problems are and the real value of a given solution.

Each tribe or network is defined by their “stories”, their experiences and exposures and the ability to identify as a group with these narratives. Protecting the tribe, and restricting access to a network is a means of self-preservation, and protecting individual identity.

Guilds, secret societies, associations, tradesman apprenticeships, social clubs— these preserve and protect knowledge and access to opportunities.

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