‘The Single Story’

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There is this Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s short video on YouTube where she talks about what she calls ‘The Danger of the Single Story.’ The delightfully eloquent and coherent lady she is that was some real talk from her. I’ve to confess I just can’t have enough of it and watch it over and over again. These past few days I can’t help thinking about the overall context of that talk the damage ‘the single story’ is causing to my country. As an eventful as the past couple of weeks have been there were agendas which flung us to the extremes possible; agendas where emotions dictated conversations and arguments with reason locked and the key thrown away.

There is nothing better than holding deep and spirited discussions in such crucial matters as the release of those high profile prisoners. But the question is have we indeed been discussing about the guys’ released from detention ready to listen to other points of view? The fact is most of us have already signed and sealed our decisions. We even supported or condemned the move using every heavyweight term they could think of or supported it without any ifs and buts. Through all this it’s hard to find who’s actually looking at the bigger picture. I mean, what matters is not the champagne corks popping up in some households and the gloom descending on others.

But when we should have gone further and looked at the issues thoroughly without skipping any word or punctuation mark most of us are nowhere near to genuinely say, “Ok, let’s hear what you’ve to say on the issue.” No! What we expected was something like, “OMG! I never thought of it from those angles. I think your views are the right ones!”

I can tell you what is holding back the overall progress of this country of ours, ‘the single story,’ that’s it! Things are either ‘good’ or ‘bad;’ personalities are either ‘angels’ or ‘devils;’ ideas are either ‘perfect’ or ‘complete nonsense.’ That’s why our use of the wrong, unsocial and immoral adjectives has jumped every red line possible. A few days back a couple of us had to intervene to save a very strong and long-lasting friendship from breaking up over the issue. Friends for over three decades what should have been a lively heart-to-heart discussion between the best of friends degenerated into accusations and eventually name-calling. Both already ‘loyally’ clung to their preconceived ideas leaving no space to hear the other’s point of view. Neither of them was willing to acknowledge we’re living in a largely grey world and looking at it otherwise would benefit no one. We failed to mend fences, but at least we stopped the unnecessary heated arguments and the two have stopped talking to each other. Sad! And just because both clung to ‘the single story.’

Let’s look into the softer sides of life and talking about the ‘single story,’ you can say your girlfriend or spouse is the most beautiful woman, or your boyfriend or hubby was the most handsome man on planet earth. Now we might not join as cheerleaders calling your lady the nicest words the Webster fellow never thought of. “What you call her beautiful! What kind of world have you been living in! I tell you that she is not the type of girl I’ll take to the movies.” Who cares! Who cares what kind of girl you take to the movies or not! You can’t prove that the guy’s girlfriend isn’t his Cleopatra. There can’t be ‘the single story’ problem in matters of love. (What the hell am I talking about!)

“Look if you call that guy handsome than there must be a number of screws missing from your mind. Why, what’s handsome about some guy who looks like Rommel’s hangman craving for a few more necks! I wouldn’t sit with him for a cup of tea.” Who cares! Who cares with whom you sit for a cup of tea or not!” The lady said, “He’s the most handsome two-legged mortal who’s every other lady’s dream man.”

But when it comes to issues of such national importance, issues that knock on everyone’s doors and the outcomes of which would spare no one, a little rationality would go a long way in chipping away at the right edges. Look come to think of it over the years we’ve been riding on single tracks of our own and failed to see the others. Not that we don’t know there are other tracks, but that the only track worth mentioning is our own; the only view worth the light of day is only our own…’the single story.

Unfortunately, many of us in the media business can’t claim a better spot when it comes to the scourge of ‘the single story.’ We’re in it neck deep. We don’t seem to have spleen enough to break out of the box and say; “I want to know everything about this issue and only then will I go into the studio or pick up the pen.”

Ephrem Endale:Contributer

THE ETHIOPIAN SUNDAY EDITION 16 JANUARY 2022

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