Wednesday, 17 June 2015

I Believe in Stories

A couple of things have left me wanting to write this post, but it's turning out to be one of the tricky ones where I don't feel very eloquent...

These are the triggers.
One: I've just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Two: A friend shared the Mama Hope video above on their facebook page.

I guess a nebulous connection is that they both challenge racial stereotypes and go some way to redefining the realities presented by fiction. But I've been mulling them both over and I think the broader point I feel so strongly about is this: I believe in stories.

We have a lot of information. And we have a cacophony of opinions. Stories, though, they do something else. Stories help us see bits of the world or ourselves that we can't necessarily take on board in the cold light of day. They create a more manageable ecosystem with a beginning, middle and end. Even the more thought-provoking narratives will have a limit to the number of tricky issues they throw at an audience. We never have to be completely overwhelmed in the way that life can make us feel. We get to explore new things (or escape familiarities) in the safety that comes from slight detachment: this is not, after all, "real life".

But stories are powerful. Repeatedly telling the same kind of story at the expense of others enshrines one view of normalcy and acceptability. The stories become a lense, a kind of shorthand for knowing the "real world". Narratives shape world views. World views shape attitudes. Attitudes shape actions. Actions shape cultures. And culture is the ocean we swim in and the air we breathe: we only notice it when someone cuts across it, exposing the construct and making us question the assumptions we didn't even know we held.

Stories are powerful.

That's why we need more storytellers. We need the playwrights, the scriptwriters, the poets, the novelists. We also need the honest people: the ones who say it like it is from their point of view, whether or not they use fiction as a vehicle. We need the truth-tellers. And we need them to come from every corner of society and of the globe. We really do. How else will we know ourselves? How else will we learn? 

How else will we change the world?

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