Yesterday in the weekly SSDP/UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) chapter meeting, each group member shared their story of “why” they are involved in drug policy in 2 minutes. The stories that emerged were powerful.
Our UNAM students arrived to SSDP and drug policy in very different ways. One student spoke about his fathers’ alcoholism and attending ALANON (family and friends of alcoholics) and how after hearing about addiction and drugs from that group, he realized that he needed to investigate more. He wanted to find out about the science behind addiction and the differences between drugs. He began to study these issues and realized that the discourse needed to change, and that led him to SSDP.
Another student spoke about having many family problems as a child and becoming depressed. He was very unhappy and as a teenager, attempted suicide several times. A few years ago, he went to the desert and has a transformative experience with peyote that led him to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Peyote served as a means through which he was able to view his own life in such a way that it did not impede him, but rather spurred him to become more proactive. Overcoming this challenge and the subsequent decision, led him to SSDP.
This method of personal narrative (all under 2 minutes) comes from having taken a class with Professor Marshall Ganz at the Kennedy School of Government. Marshall shared with us the power of storytelling as a means to attract new people into a movement, while also creating a strong sense of self. As we first explore “the story of self”, as described above, we are then asked to begin creating “the story of us”. By creating a strong bond between members, we become a more sustained and focused group. It also forces groups to question their own values and motivations for becoming involved and clarifies the way forward.
Finally, we move to “the story of now”. This begs the question of why now? Why is the issue ripe and why must we pursue it immediately and urgently? In the drug policy reform movement, the now surrounds us every day. In Mexico, we see it in the over 50,000 people killed since 2006. We see it even more clearly now that the primary cause of death among young people is violence related to the war on drugs. We see it in villages that are abandoned because fear has permeated. And we see it in the military, which is now present throughout the country. We witness daily that we are a country at war. While we see it every day in Mexico, each group must also think about the now on a local basis: who are the players? Who is open to reform and how do we partner with them?
All of us have different reasons for becoming involved and as activists, we must articulate these stories in order to build the movement and motivate change. As Marshall says, “Public stories combine a “story of self”, a “story of us”, and a “story of now” into a call for action.” Click here if you are interested in learning more about Marshall Ganz’ course or feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is wonderful to be part of this movement!