THE DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY
I suspect that the first TED Talk I’ve ever watched was by the renowned Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie, entitled, “The Danger of a Single Story,” given back in July 2009, Oxford, England.
Now, Adichie is not, and has never been – at least to my knowledge – a Jehovah’s Witness, neither does she say anything in this particular talk that specifically references Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nevertheless, the substance of her talk finds particular application in the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consider the following.
Chimamanda Adichie: Her Talk
Her eloquent discourse talks about people who are brought up with, uh… well, a single story. She talks about a white American child who had been brought up with a certain picture, or idea, of what Africa is all about, namely, the poverty, poor education, illness, archaic lifestyle etc. So this American child was then baffled when she ended up sharing a dorm room with a Nigerian child, namely, Adichie, and slowly came to discover that her perception of Africa was, not necessarily untrue, but, more correctly, incomplete and one dimensional.
This American child was raised with this “single story” of Africa, a story that, at least up until that particular time, she had apparently not bothered to interrogate or establish its veracity. Nevertheless, she (the American child) was as much a victim of this misinformation as the actual subjects of the information.
The Basic Theme of Adichie’s Talk
Now, is it a lie that there is poverty in Africa? No. Is it a lie that there is, perhaps, an education deficiency in Africa? No. But – and here’s the point – is that the whole story? Is that the complete picture? Hell no! There are highly educated (black) people in Africa. There are, likewise, “stinking rich” people in Africa – billionaires for that matter, in a Forbes worthy kinda way. Is every person in Africa riddled with pestilences? No. Absolutely not…
The point is, the reason why this American child had a default perspective of Africa is owing to the narrative – namely, through the American media et al – the she has been consistently marinated in, the narrative that Africa is this-that-or-the-other, generally couched in terms bordering on the negative. That same single story kept being recounted to her as staple, to the point where it became settled in her mind as being the ultimate truth. In Adichie’s own words: “What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.”
Now, if you don’t already see where I’m going with this or how this applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses, let me put it black and white, let me break it down for y’all. But before delving into that, I think it would not be unfair to say that the vast majority of Witnesses – ±8 million at the time of this writing – occupy a childlike (“submissive”) position in the organisation, that is, relative to the Governing Body – 7 men in Brooklyn, New York, at the time of this writing.
Watchtower’s Single Story
The Watchtower – the Governing Body specifically – isolates its global members. It practices its own variation of keeping its members “separate” or “no part of the world.” And for those members that they succeed in convincing to do this, they keep them occupied with “Watchtower ideology” through relentless meetings and literature. The Watchtower effectively tells them what to think and how to feel about the outside world. In so doing, the Watchtower is effectively promoting this single stereotypical story about the image of the “world.” And for the most part – it would seem – the rank-and-file members happily accept what is advanced by the Governing Body without really exercising the appropriate level of circumspection.
Now, the things that the Watchtower says about the world, the violence, immorality, drunkenness, etc., may be not be “untruths” per se, but – and here’s the point – do these stories present the full (and fair) picture of the world? Do they present the complete image of this world? Nay, says I, that would be an over-generalisation! Heck, is violence, drunkenness and immorality absent among Jehovah’s Witnesses? Would it be an untruth to say that it exists in their ranks? If I said Jehovah’s Witnesses commit immorality, would I be lying? No! However – and this is the point – would I be giving you the complete picture? Pas de tout. Not at all.
To quote JFK: “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” The single stories channelled by Watchtower (God’s so-called “channel of communication”) are oftentimes slanted in a way as to make them “mythical.” It takes a thinking Witness with a strong mind, and balanced outlook, to escape these mythical cobwebs and make what may initially feel like a daunting paradigm shift.
Adichie sums it up nicely:
“So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become. It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. […] Stories too are defined by the principle of nkali [“to be greater than another”]: How they are told, who tells them, when they are 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.”
So, the “single story” may not be a lie, but its insidious danger lies (excuse the pun) in the fact that it is a selected truth that is deliberately, or otherwise, divorced of its full and necessary context. And this, my people, is the danger of Watchtower’s arsenal of single stories.
 TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of a short powerful talk. It is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. TED believes passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, they’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long. TED’s agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation. See https://www.ted.com/about/our-organization.
 The views expressed in this article, particularly those pertaining to Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not necessarily those of Chimamanda Adichie.
 Gerrit Lösch, Samuel Herd, David Splane, Stephen Lett, Geoffrey Jackson, Anthony Morris III, and Mark Sanderson.
 John 17:16.
 In fact, not too long ago, a number of bethelites in Krugersdorp, South Africa, were given the boot for reportedly engaging in extramarital activities – high-ranking people, people you see in magazines. So yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses do engage in immorality; it would not be a lie to say so.
 “Daunting” because of what Watchtower consistently demonises as the crime of “independent thinking.”