Chapter 6

Drop the Horror

“Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before recognising our dishonesty and living with it the best we can or we can begin the effort to change the way we live and think ” Wendell Berry

Now that we’ve noticed the two ‘horror stories’ – ‘Nature is our slave’, and ‘Productivity (alone) is success’ – that are weaving the narrative of separation and maintaining our deadly economy, we can start to do something about them.

These harmful horror stories show up all over the place, from blockbuster films to board games and museum exhibits. We need to spot and reveal the way these horror stories are showing up, so that together we can let go of them.

While we’re doing that, we’ll also notice where the healthy ‘love stories’ – ‘Nature is our family’, ‘Wellbeing is success’ – show up, so that we can carry them instead – more on that in the next chapter.

“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories”

As storytellers and story carriers we have immense power and therefore responsibility. What follows below is just the beginning of a process that we hope can continue well beyond this site.

“Revealing the system
to itself is a powerful change-making device”

The approach we’re taking here is grounded in an understanding of culture and system change.

Experts in these fields recognise the importance of revealing what we’re getting wrong, whilst highlighting where something better is already happening.

“You can never direct a living system. You can only disturb it. How do you disturb a system? By introducing information that contradicts old assumptions. By demonstrating that things people believe they can’t do are already being accomplished somewhere.”

Our economy is a living system – it’s just us, designing things, making choices, telling stories – so that’s how we’re approaching it here.

It’s quite easy to spot the ‘horror stories’ in our culture, and see how they are influencing the choices we make together.

Below that question are a few examples of where the ‘horror stories’ are appearing in our culture, which are also stored in our Library.

As we noticed these examples, a question came to mind for each story, which might help you on your own journey:

If we keep telling ourselves to fear, control and destroy the natural world, why would we look after it?

Sometimes these stories are subtle, sometimes they are obvious. Sometimes they come packaged up with really good intentions, like the advert below to encourage children to eat more vegetables:

Sometimes their intentions seem less good, like the 2023 superhero movie ‘Shazam! Fury of The Gods’, where the main villains plant a tree to take over the world, and do so in a baseball stadium.

So as well as being a the horror story about destructive nature that must be defeated, it also seems to suggest that “evil women are planting trees to take away things you love”.

Which of these other examples below do you recognise? Can you see what their stories are doing? Can you think of any more?

source: Universal
“The romantic European image of the knight slaying the dragon is actually a hidden reference to the systematic genocide of what were called pagan peoples” Tyson Yunkaporta

source: LadBible
Source: The Sun

source: The Metro
credit: Design Museum
credit: NATV

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them”



Let’s move on to the second horror story:

If we keep telling ourselves that productivity is all that matters, what happens to our life?

The story that productivity – working hard to get more stuff and more money – matters above all else, is very common in popular culture, especially in the West. It is arguably the root of the ‘American Dream’, which Hollywood sells around the world (as the literal ‘Dream Factory’).

Such as in the 2006 film ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, where Will Smith works extremely hard to protect his son, all alone, by getting a job in finance. Presumably because “there is no such thing as society”, as Margaret Thatcher famously claimed.

‘Rags to riches’, ‘push it to the max’, ‘more more more’, these are all expressions of this productivity story, and are very common in adverts, which so often tell people they lack some product, and that with it they will be happy, or free, or powerful, or able to be themselves.

As with the first horror story, sometimes this sneaks into other stories that have good intentions, or that might be carrying other stories that we might want.

Apple’s award-winning advert ‘Escape from The Office’ is focused on people working together to take on oppressive power – which is a great story to tell!

But it’s also a story about people working all hours of the day, including in the bath, to win clients for a new tech company.

credit: Apple

As before, see which of these you can recognise, have a think about the question we posed above, and see if you can notice any more examples of this horror story…

credit: Bronnie Ware

credit: Ad Brake via Boneshaker

“A man motivated by interest cannot be a man of reason”



source: Vale Life

Destroying ecosystems in 2020 to move faster via HS2
source: Byline Times
Source: The Mirror
credit: Joshua Coombes, Do Something For Nothing
source: Local Futures
source: Bloomberg Wealth/ LSE
source: Imperative 21

“Did you know some people are so poor that all they have is money?”


Bob Marley

source: Guardian
source: Oxfam
credit: Parley

“We might be living in a horror movie right now, but we are the ones writing the script, and we’re the ones who will decide how this movie will end.”

This is just a starter exercise to spot and reveal the ‘horror’ stories in our culture.

Before you read on to explore how we might carry the love stories instead, what other examples of the horror stories have you noticed? 

Next Chapter

Chapter 7 - Carry the Love »