The above scenario represents a good example of how applications of language can evolve from one decade to the next and take its meaning from a generational context. It demonstrates as well how a lack of awareness regarding such evolutions can contribute to the stagnation of an abbreviated mind. At the same time, it represents a good illustration of what Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi refers to as “the danger of a single story” in her popular TEDx Talks video. In the presentation, Adichi recounts how the human tendency to focus on one facet of a situation, or of a person’s life, can lead to false assumptions and misconceptions.
The author acknowledged there had been times in her youth when she too had been guilty of reducing people’s lives to a single incomplete story. The problem with this tendency became more and more apparent when she later she traveled outside of Nigeria. Many people seemed to assume she had grown up impoverished and illiterate when in fact her childhood had been a relatively comfortable one and she had started reading at an early age.
Whereas a single incomplete story can often lead to insults and polarization, she observes the following:
“…Stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
Unique Era-defined Culture
Members of each generational group have been shaped by experiences and values that make it important for them to understand the differences, similarities, and vocabularies created by their unique era-defined culture. Because these multiple generations are sharing work space in offices, grocery stores, community centers, hospitals, college campuses, and elsewhere it is important to expand one’s knowledge about each. What, for example, makes one generation tick like a flawless vintage gold pocket watch, or causes another to simply shut down like an android humanoid suddenly deprived of its power source?
The destiny of the current generations, to paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt when speaking about his own while accepting re-nomination for the presidency on June 27, 1936, involves a great deal more than constructing pathways of understanding leading from one age-group’s idiosyncratic preferences to another’s. They also include the huge demographic racial, behavioral, ethnic shifts taking place as people from countries all over the world immigrate to different nations. Some, like the Asians and Latinos who continue to swell the United States’ population, make the move in search of better economic opportunities and greater political freedom. Others, like those in Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and various realms ravaged by military conflict across the globe, make their way to neighboring countries just to themselves and their families alive.
In regard to the United States, more and more political and economic forecasters have begun examining the potential impact of the current shifts in racial demographics. They prompt an important question: As the dominant numbers which have characterized and empowered the status of one particular group for centuries begins to dwindle, how are people of different national origins and socially-constructed racial categories likely to respond?
Coming up next: What does voting for Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson have to do with it?
(© 2015) Aberjhani