How Language and Story affect One’s Identity and Ability to Succeed

The development of language and its use when relating mortal experiences still ranks top amongst the most significant advancements ever made in human history. Over the years, it has managed to morph into a blossoming form where authors use language to tell stories from their perspective. While the initial objectives were noble and primarily centered on it as a conduit for the dissemination of ideas, it is now emerging that a writer’s story can also impact the audience profoundly. A conventional narrative repeatedly presented to viewers or readers is now thought to have a dignified impression and said to ultimately inform how individual see others and the world. Stories often revolve around a passionate topic that is dear to the author and may, in the process, enthrall members of the audience who end up adopting such points of view as typical truths. The danger of this singularity in a story cannot be stressed further. History is rife with instances when societies chartered a widely-accepted course which ultimately had adverse effects on segments of the populace.  One need not look far back than the early 20th century when fascism swept across Europe, engulfing the national psyche of most Germans and Italians. In Nazi Germany, for instance, Paul Joseph Goebbels was explicitly tasked with spreading harsh discrimination and a virulent strain of anti-Semitism through his aptly named Ministry of Propaganda. What soon followed was the systematic extermination of European Jews which now serves as a constant reminder of how the human condition is vulnerable to negative stereotypes. The purpose of this essay is ,therefore, to explore the effect of language and story with particular focus on the best approach to counteract the perils of the so-called “single story” phenomenon, technology’s role in helping or hurting human connectedness, human identity and how these stories influence our ability to succeed.

Firstly, the language that we encounter on a day to day basis and stories that they recount, directly influence our personality and identity. The prime reason for this fact lies in linguistic relativity together with the impression that structural differences have on our sense of identity and reality. A blurred line exists between a language and the culture it represents, which makes the shaping of attitudes and demeanors quite simple. The shift that occurs when a person encounters a new language may cause them to behave differently or even develop an altered perception of the prevailing status quo. Actions are thus equated to their semantic associations as described in the language being used and hence the expected change in demeanor. Furthermore, the actuality of events and constructs within different societies vary greatly. A reality that is commonplace in one region often diverges greatly from those found in other localities. An author using language to tell a story from their own point of view and presenting it as the only conceivable truth may inadvertently end up generating a warped reality.  In such an instance, the innocent reader becomes the victim of myths and misconceptions perpetuated through various forms of communication. New age writers now have to contend with this reality and its cumulative effects on different societies across the globe. Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, an award-winning Nigerian author, is one such individual. She acknowledges that, as a child, the language and stories she was coming into direct contact with were responsible for shaping her perception of authenticity. As an avid reader, she ended up imbibing every bit of information from American and British children’s books as universal truths. According to Adichie, her crayon illustrations were of white blue-eyed children playing in the snow and eating apples which was different from her actual reality back in Nigeria  (“Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story”). To offset the effects of the “single story” spectacle, she suggests that individuals learn to explore all available stories about a place or people to avoid developing a biased view.

The permeation of technology in virtually every sphere of life has seen a rise in its application and has played an active role in hurting human connectedness.  Evolution fashioned human beings to become social beings with the intent of having safety in numbers. Straying from the herd would have adversative consequences for band members who wouldsoon face a myriad of dangers. The preliminary objective during the formative years of technological advancement was to create an immensely interconnected reality where communication was now made easy. It soon became possible for a rancher in rural Iowa to contact a herder in the steppes of Mongolia, with the correspondence happening almost instantaneously. Many saw this as the dawn of a new age where barriers impeding human interaction would be torn down, in essence, creating a global village. The development of social media soon made it possible for groups of individuals to converse in a “chat room” and conduct real-time discussions regarding topics of general concern. A classic example of the power of social media is evident in the Arab Spring that swept across North Africa and parts of the Middle Eastin the last decade (“Dashed Hopes: Why Aren’t Social Media Delivering Democracy?”). The dissent expressed by Mohammed Bouazizi and his symbolic act in the resistance in the form of self-immolation resulted in a series of revolutions that ousted oppressive regimes. Social media became the principal driver of this these insurrections since they occurred in reaction to the success of others in countries around the same region. Human connectedness may be hurt when the powers that be powers hijack social media with the primary intention of starting campaigns of misinformation. The citizenry is thus manipulated and controlled by an entity with the aim of spreading a particular ideology that will eventually alter attitudes. From a political context, governments may use social media to impart political ideologies and remove power from the majority’s hands to an autocratic group. Powers William also seconds these sentiments and particularly believes that technology creates a chasm between human beings and the physical world at large(Powers) Interpersonal interactions become fewer, with individuals giving less to the world. Nevertheless, he suggests the application of seven philosophies and principles that may be applied to ease the overload.

Thirdly, the adoption of a “single story” may have negative consequences for a particular group of individuals and even go as far as determining their overall success in life. Researchers attribute this to stereotype susceptibility that affects the behavior of select persons when performing certain tasks. In the case of a worker in an in-group performing specific functions, any reference directed towards them using an out-group blanket reference ultimately has an antagonistic effect on their overall performance. An employer who negatively stereotypes African-Americans as being mostly unintelligent and with ties to criminal activities will hinder the performance of the employees in question. The perception that an African-American employee is dishonest and devoid of the skills necessary for the completion of assignments eventually affects their level of motivation. Also, the spread of prejudgments also makes persons from an in-group more aware of it and hence more likely to succumb to its identity. Negative stereotypes also have undesirable effects on persons living in the fringes of society since they may internalize these perceptions. An immigrant who is repeatedly told that foreigners are less skilled than citizens of their host country may end up accepting this distorted view and, in the process, limit their ambitions. The quality of life for persons associated with negative stereotypes also deteriorates and may be the reason for their ultimate demise. A familiar debate that still rages on is that on age and how it is a significant factor to be considered when seeking to recruit employees. In such an instance, the life expectancy of senior residence may reduce since aging is negatively stereotyped as being unable to provide vital contributions to society. William Peace, similarly, investigates disability as a negative stereotype and the effect it has on those that are physically challenged. The media exploits this marvel by basing the entire topic on physical traits rather than what they are capable of doing(Greene and Lidinsky). The author dissuades the application of this concept since they are capable of performing tasks normally carried out by non-disabled individuals.

In finality, language and the stories that emerge from it directly influence identity and our ability to succeed. Far-fetched realities are presented through language with stories that form the collective consciousness of the readers. Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi acknowledges this fact and urges minorities also to tell their own stories and forge their destinies. In an era where technology is hurting human connectedness, taking prolonged breaks to commune with associates helps in reducing countering this debacle, promoting a sustainable life. A single story should be avoided at all cost since it becomes the only reference point and drastically reduces chances of success.

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