The Dangers of a Single Story
Politics and Activism

The Dangers of a Single Story

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They say that all stereotypes are based on truth, but what they neglect to add is that there are other truths. Those single, defining truths mark a single story for an entire thing, person, place, or culture. Though telling a truthful story, other truthful aspects are neglected which is no different than lying by omission.

When one looks at an orange, one might classify it as a fruit- that’s not wrong, but there is so much more that defines the orange- citric, tang, sweetness, all of these factors make up the identity of the orange. This concept is easy to accept, for most cultures are familiar with oranges and know they are more than just a fruit. But in regard to foreign concepts, it is hard for clashing cultures to place an identity to something that they only know the stereotype for.

Thus, it is important to educate one’s self about elements of foreign cultures that defy the accepted stereotype. I recently read aThe graphic novel called Persepolis. This book highlights aspects of the Islamic Revolution that are not so publicized, yet nonetheless important from the headline news. It shows an insider’s perspective on a situation made public, a situation foreign cultures could only perceive from a limited outside eye.

Some of the most relatable aspects of Persepolis are in the start of the novel. Young Marji finds herself in a situation in which she is unsure where she should stand, “I really don’t what to think about the veil. Deep down I was very religious, but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde.”

Marji doesn’t know much of what is going on, she is conflicted with what she is told- and she is being told different things from different sources. One from society, promoting a mold for the nation, and one from her family, promoting freedom from the cookie cutter the government is trying to mass produce. Marji is just trying to find where she stands, and at this point she doesn’t even know half of the situation nor is able to comprehend it.

Much like the reader, we only know what we heard and we can’t even relate because it is so vast from the culture in which we live. Thus, as Marji matures- so does the reader, and the two grow together to become educated and able to establish their own stance on the matter.

A single story offers singularity to an idea- defining it for one thing, one purpose. Though the truth a single story is based off of may be accurate, it neglects the rest of the facts- thus lying by omission.

It is so important to be educated, just about everyone knows that, but it is even more important to be educated with entirety and accuracy. I can't say that I am now completely informed about the Islamic Revolution, nor that I am going to pursue a path to be. However, this experience taught me about the power of empathy in storytelling - and I think it's a lesson with lasting impressions.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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