The Single Story Myth

March 28, 2021- Chimamanda Ngosi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, poses some interesting points in a talk she gave on the TED Network. The notion that so many form their opinions of others, both individuals and groups, based on a single thread of information, bears careful thought. Ms. Adichie gives the examples of 1. How many people in North America refer to Africa as a country, and have the image of half-clad, uneducated people, who are uniformly engaged in endless civil wars. 2. How many Africans imagine Americans to be uniformly living lives of prosperity.

While there is some truth to a single story, as Ms. Adichie points out, it is seldom, if ever, the ONLY story about a person, group, nation, or continent. Baha’u’llah teaches us, and science corroborates, that every created thing, from an atom or molecule to the largest animal and tallest tree, is unique from every other of its kind. We recognize that no two grains of sand, or no two snowflakes, are alike. How much more is each strand of DNA, each virus, amoeba, frog, blue jay, spotted hyena, hyacinth, orca, or Douglas fir different from every other of its kind.

Further, how complex is each created thing, within itself! Every human being, therefore, is more than the sum of his/her parts. We each have more than one story, which is one reason why individuals who try to judge one another, always fall short in their estimation. I am not the same person who drove others to distraction, in times past, or even not so many years ago. Neither are you. While one has to make amends for transgressions and missteps, these ought not confine the person who has committed them. This goes double for groups of people.

Let us, therefore, give pause to the preservation of prejudices, either towards individuals or towards groups. Let us learn as many of each others’ stories as we can.

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