A question posed. Why is it important? Why do we have to tell the stories of minorities? Why should we care? What makes national minorities a priority and why should we know about them? If we focus on national minorities and indigenous people, perhaps other minority groups will suffer. Or worse – if we keep telling the stories of minorities – won’t we forget to talk about ourselves? The majority is just as important as the minority, right?
Important questions. In order to reflect upon these questions, one has to try to see the bigger picture. One has to avoid falling into fear. Avoid falling into feeling threatened and avoid thinking that there is only room for so many stories.
In my world, there can never be enough stories. Every story has a place, just as every human being has a place. Think about it. You, yourself, have an uncountable number of stories you could tell about yourself. And when you find your audience, they will listen. No matter how many other stories they have heard, from other people before you – they will hear you as well. There is room for every story.
We humans set ourselves apart from animals in many ways, but one of the major differences is our ability to tell stories. That’s how we have managed to learn from our mistakes, from history and that’s how we actually get to know each other. Without storytelling – who are we?
Stories that are seldom told, are those of minorities. Somehow, history has pushed them so far down the ladder of importance, that their stories have disappeared. When they try to tell their stories, the majority look the other way, not wanting to take in the fact that these stories contain truths that are uncomfortable. Truths that urge the majority to change the way they look upon and treat the people owning these stories.
So, when the majority finally decides that a minority story could be told. The majority tend to want to tell it themselves. To actually let the minority tell their own story is usually looked upon with suspicion. Why should they tell their story – how can they be neutral in telling their story? It seems they are so upset, so violated, so ill-treated… no, they can not possibly tell their own story. Let us do it for them.
To this I say – what the….. ?! How is it possible, that the majority think they have the “neutral” way of telling whatever story? What makes them more capable of telling the stories than the minority? And what makes the majority think they know what kind of stories the minority would like to tell?
This baffles me over and over. That is why I am an advocate of reference groups, dialogue and including minorities – or whoever actually lived the story – in the process of telling it. Without that insight, that deep knowledge, how could anyone at any point ever tell a story the way it should be told?
So, why is it important to tell the stories of the minorities? Of the indigenous people? Of the ones without voices, without power?
Well, because it tells us about ourselves. About the world we live in. It gives us perspective. It sheds light on how scars are inherited through generations, and why conflicts are so hard to resolve. It moves us forward. Makes us better. With us – I mean everybody. It is healing to be able to tell one’s story. And if you really listen, it is a blessing to receive another human beings’ story. A gift.
To recognize those who have never been recognized. To be part of this big, amazing pool of humans who inhabit the earth together, longing for nothing but being touched to the heart by a co-inhabitant, is pretty wonderful.
Let the stories in. You will not be poorer for it. You will be richer. We all will be. And one story does not override another story. It adds on. It makes the puzzle come together.
The minister of culture in Sweden – Ms Alice Bah Kuhnke – is also an advocate of dialogue. I met her during a screening of a series with and about Sami history that I have been the project manager of. This tv-series had never become reality without the Sami themselves. During the entire process of making these programmes, we have had continuous dialogue and reference group meetings to discuss the content, the interviewees, the themes and the outcome. It has been fantastic, it has been hard, it has been rewarding and it has given us a foundation to build upon. Relationships have formed and trust has been established.
As Alice Bah Kuhnke said:
Keep working this way. Dialogue is the way forward.
And I ask – what is the alternative?