Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Danger of the Single Story

This is one of the ideas I've been thinking about for the last few years, but never quite successfully explained it in a few words. Here Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie completely nails it. This is the reason why I've enjoyed so much reading Al Jazeera news along with the BBC, New York Times, AllAfrica and LeMonde. There are so many wonderful stories and perspectives that can enrich our perspective and our learning.

Try picking a single story, and then reading about it from each perspective. Watch how each regards ideas and other cultures. How do Qatari journalists describe China? What do African journalists have to say about FIFA and the World Cup? The recent story about the Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri--was he kidnapped and released or did he defect and then change his mind? There are some vastly different perspectives on what happened. There are many stories to be told.

This isn't exactly what Adichie is getting at, but rather, an extension. I believe her comments are more specifically targeted to widening our perspective on other cultures and peoples, but I think the undertones of what she discusses is something that connects a whole host of culture-war creating phenomena.

A major, well-deserved shout-out to my roommate Sean who sent me this video. He is in Africa, by the way, in Cairo, studying Arabic. Thanks buddy!

What do you guys think? What have been some examples you've seen of perspectives that have been completely marginalized or undervalued? Is this, perhaps, one of the sources of many of our problems of international politics and the struggle for peace?