A Single Story

I sincerely apologize to the online community for sharing a single story. I feel as though I have deceived every reader, sharer and consumer of my work. It was surely accidental but it happened all the same. As I’ve learned, a creator must always take responsibility for what they create; so this is me, swallowing my pride and taking responsibility for what I have created.

Several weeks ago, I gave a speech to my class about the gulags in North Korea. A few weeks later, I blogged about the political situation in this nation and the horrific atrocities that have been afflicted upon its people. I shared a single story about a people I have never met, a nation I have never visited and a life that I have never lived. It is an arrow to my ego to admit that I am not the expert that I wish to be and to recognize myself as speculative and naïve, yet it must be said. I regret the words “return to their people the life they stole, the liberty they withheld and the pursuit of a happiness that is not brainwashed and fabricated.” It was not my place to paint such a picture of the nation because in truth, the people of North Korea are probably extremely content and to be even more truthful, I don’t know. I don’t know if they are happy or not, scared or not, angry or not. But I shared a single story. I shared a single, 2-D reflection of this nation, that will feed into a single reputation of crazed, demential and blind worshippers. I apologize to the people of North Korea. I’m sure I will have received a few skeptics and cynics who will ask, “Why bother with such a post? Who cares? It doesn’t matter.”

But it absolutely does, not only for the sake of my integrity as a writer but also for the way that these people are perceived. I have always found it difficult to share word of a human rights violation without judging where my judgment is not due. The information I have previously written has never been false, but not painting the entire picture is hardly any better.

Please let me clarify. The people of North Korea do not live a life that is a consistent line-up of public executions, arrests, concentration camps, poverty and hunger. That is merely a single side of the paper, which does not apply to every citizen in the country. Those images are not what the people of North Korea, the livers of these lives exclusively see. They see a place where their children grow up, where their leader takes care of them, where they love their country. There are billions of facets of wonderful, bursting bubbles of life and joy that we don’t get to see because of restrictions on the press, but that does not mean that they are not there.

The danger of a single story is the feeding of stereotypes, a hidden bias, a sole and immediate way to look at a person. It means narrowing and closing minds. I promise you, Reader. That is the last thing I would ever want to do.

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk "The Danger of a Single Story," the inspiration for this post