In 2009, award wining Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED talk titled “The Danger of A Single Story”. Her deliberation was on the misrepresentation of Africa by telling one side of a story, the story of civil strife, death and destruction that leads to stereotypes.
Immediately after the TED talk I watched Just-a-Band‘s interview on NTV arts show InSync. The band guitarist Blinky Bill was asked why they do dance and techo type of music, he answered: “When we all do the same thing we stagnate and music becomes boring”. That’s when it hit me what The Danger of a Single Story meant. The idea of having only one story to tell, one idea to sell, one person to look up to, one success story e.t.c.
The danger manifests itself in the corporate world, where companies compete to make the same type of products, it becomes boring. Kenyan TV stations lead the pack, they are on a contest to replicate each other programme line-ups; it’s like watching the same channel with different labels. James T. Ellison puts it that “The real death of America will come when everyone is alike.”
On the tech scene, the success of M-PESA has “inspired” other developers to create M-solutions, and as Nassim Taleb explains such events are black swans and their success can never be replicated. When we all gravitate towards the same thing we cause saturation and later stagnation.
Even in architectural designs housing blocks are built as separate entities to avoid a single continuum that can be razed down in a fire outbreak as it happen in slums. In order to break this cycle everybody needs to have their own story, what’s your story?