課堂筆記 The Danger of a Single Story

What are some of the things that Chimamanda Adichie says about the concept of 'a single story'?
A single story is incomplete.
A single story makes a stereotype about a certain group of people.
I's not enough information.
I guess the danger of a single story is that it leads to bias, so it's dangerous.

Last week we defined 'default' as "something that is set up and recommended for you."
Is there any similarity between the idea of a single story, and the idea of a default?
Well, a single story is set up, but it's not 'recommended'.
Sometimes it is, but it's not part of the definition.
I was thinking about the culture default. Like for instance the other day I read an article about African, and it was like, "Africa, land of darkness", and I was thinking is that like racist code? Because like, Africa is a super bright and hot country, and also has like deserts in it. But every famous novel about africa is like "darkest jungle" and stuff. I feel like any writer (John Locke, Joseph Conrad) can go there and have like two weeks experience touring around and then they think can write a novel and define Africa for the rest of the world. But what I really want to know is, why did John Locke make that stuff up? He's a smart man who wrote lots of smart things about economics. Why the lie?


Exotic. Exoticism.
People use this to talk about foreign countries. Why don't we say, "Exotic Kenting"?
It's exciting, unfamiliar.
Exotic is a racist buzzword. Like in the US, Asian women and Hispanic women are commonly described as being exotic, or having an exotic look.
If somebody is 'exotic' they can't be like you. Exotic is not native to our own country, not normal, not...
So why won't we say Australia is exotic?
Exactly! Because it's full of white people. The only 'exotic' thing is aborigines, but of course saying that's full of racism.
Talking about countries as 'exotic', it's hard to say for sure it's racist, but if you describe people as exotic, I think it's racist.

Chimamanda Adichie also talks about 'pity'. She felt pity for the family of the house boy, because of the single story of poverty, or lack. Her roommate felt pity for her, because of the single story of Africa as catastrophe. She says, "Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity."

How do you define pity?
Feel sorry for someone.
I feel like pity involves a power imbalance. Like, I can't pity you without feeling somehow that I'm also better than you.

Is there a difference between pity, sympathy and compassion?
Sympathy has less power imbalance, than pity.
I agree with that.
Sympathy is translated as tong li shin, so it's kind of equal.

Wait, What is empathy?
Are sympathy and empathy more similar than sympathy and pity?
I think so, yes.
This is how I understand the western ideas about this:
Pity is distant, it's feeling bad for people you don't have much connection to.
Sympathy is feeling bad for friends, but you're not personally involved.
Empathy is really feeling what the other person feels, and compassion is the expression of empathy.
I think there's a translation confusion with these words between chinese and english, that's been my experience.

Does 'pity' have room for dignity on the part of the pitied person?
If a person was sitting here and we were pitying them, do they have dignity?
Of course they have dignity. We're not giving it to them, but they have it.
Oh, good point!

She says, "Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity."
What does this mean, then?
She feels her roommate feels that she herself is superior to the speaker, and also she the roommate, wants to cover that she feels that she is superior to her, because it's 'well meaning' pity.
Why does well-meaning cover it up?
Because she's the roommate and wants to cover it up.

What is authenticity?
Her professor compared the story she wrote to the single story he knew about Africa, and pronounced her story 'inauthentic'.
A single story is not enough, but even with multiple stories, how does one get to authenticity?
Who gets to define what is authentic? For example, who gets to say what is authentically Taiwanese? Authentically USAian?
When someone writes the story, there has to be a subjective element inside. Even if we're seeing the same city, we see different things.
So the authentic viewpoint is mine and yours. Separately and together.
I think any description is neither good nor bad. It's just it.
are you talking about authienticty as good or bad?
No, it's just real. No judgement, I mean.
I was just thinking about John Locke, was his story authentic?
No!
It's obviously not real.
It's just like when we were growing up in Taiwan, we were taught that the china is so poor and we need to go help them and they have nothing to eat but tree bark.
What? Really?!
But what I heard is, they have nothing to eat but bananna peels.
But they don't even have bananas in the north!
They tell North Koreans that the rest of the world is burning up in nuclear fires.
But what do they say when foreigners come there?
I don't know, that's a good question!

Talking about the power implicit in stories, Chimamanda Adichie said:
"It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. ... Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of [power relations]: How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.
Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person."

Do you have any experience of a person with power over you (a parent, teacher, boss, government official, immigration or police officer) defining your story for you, or telling you who you are without regard for your own opinion?
Some experience of your own narrative being taken away from you and defined for you?
I was a very silent child growing up. Whenever someone visited our house and asked a question, my parents or grandparents answered, and I don't say anthing.

How did you feel at the time? How did you feel about it later?
Sometimes I thought, "that's not true", but I still wouldn't say anything.
Why didn't you say anything?
Cuz I was very shy.
Is your shyness inborn? Were you born shy?
No, I was taught.
So you were trained to be silent.
So that's the result of education.
What do you mean by that?
A lot of Taiwanese families don't allow kids to speak up when adults are talking.
"Children must be seen and not heard."
You're not allowed to have your own opinion, because you are young, and inexperienced.

"How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power."
What does she mean by that?
How textbooks are written, is one thing, how you manipulate history, how you want your people to know about their history.
Re: authenticity, "who tells them", I was thinking, authentic is, "Is it your story to tell". It's not saying that a white person couldn't tell an authentic story about black people, only that it would be much harder to.
Is it possible for a white person to authenticlaly tell a black person's story?
You know what, you're right, no it's not possible. That was racist of me, huh.
Can a rich black person tell a poor black person's story?
No.
Why?
Because he didn't go through the same growing up, the environment.
So everyone should just stick to their own dang stories.
You can't experience others' experience, exactly the same experience.

But when I saw the original sentence, what I thought about is 'terrorism' and the US.
Please say more.
Because I read this book about, the title is, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman." And it talks about how the US uses its power and tells everybody that the other country they are communist and terrorist, but actually it's not like that, and then they go and try to, they want that territory, or they want some advantage from that country, and they make this story up.
They're doing this with Iran right now.
Also in the book, it happens in South America.

put somebody on the spot = make them the focus without their permission
discriminate against somebody. (you need 'against' in that phrase)

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