Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the famous Nigerian writer has given a talk in TED.
She points out the danger of a “single story” — about the danger of just looking at one story of an ethnicity or nation then labeling that group with that single story. Adichie grew up in a middle class family in Nigeria. She has received good education and was relatively well-off than many other Africans. However when she wrote a book about the middle class in Nigeria, the professor she knew told her, “There is no African Authenticity in the book.” By “African Authenticity”, the professor meant the book is about the middle class, not Africans. To him, the identity “African” means poverty and famine.
In fact when we examine ourselves, we do have the tendency of hijacking an idea of a group of people then we proceed on, saying, “All XXX people are YYY.” There we have the problem of stereotyping. This kind of stereotyping is prominent in the western world, while can also be seen in the rising far east now.
However, is stereotyping not true at all? When we say the Irish always get drunk and hit their wives, or even worse that Asians have smaller genitals, we are certainty stereotyping people. It is offensive and a kind of racism. Yet we cannot deny some do fit into the stereotypes. Might not be the majority but some do.
For example most Chinese do like to follow authorities, because it was taught by Confucianism. And some Asians do have smaller male genitals. It is related to genes(or plasticizers, as what happened in Taiwan.) While saying all Germans are Nazis is simply foolish and absentminded, some Germans are very disciplined and reliable. If we deny all the stereotypes, we are denying the possibility of them being true.
Therefore, it should done as what Adichie has suggested — the need to look at different stories. No single story is concluding. When we look at people, we should look at each as individuals, not as groups. For even each individual bears numerous of stories that shine through the night.
Yet group identity has long existed among us. We like to adhere together, to form societies and communities. The stress of individualism can affect the adhesiveness of society, especially on the concept of patriotism.
This era is an era of change. With the increasing emphasis on individualism, some of us look at this as a blessing of humanity. But some of the more conserved might think otherwise. As the global citizens, let’s enjoy the show and see how our ways will cross.