Friday, July 22, 2016

Fear & Ignorance: Passed On, and On, and On...

Guilt is pretty useless, isn’t it? Forward motion requires more of a sense of confidence in who we are. Confidence enough to rise above the particulars of personal viewpoint and to at least try and understand the many viewpoints. What frightens me most of all is when I see violence following violence and hate following hate. Seems it’s one of the most vicious fruits of fear and oppression – the tendency to become like, to internalize one’s own rejection and subjugation, and to take on the aggression, the urge to destroy, the arrogance and self-centeredness of the oppressor.
Black Lives matter. Blue Lives matter. Are these really opposing statements? Or are they merely forced into opposition by our stubborn insistence that to take up one means you are senseless to, or even in opposition to the other? Or, worse yet, does our pain – whichever side we’re on – cause us to celebrate the pain of the other?
Of course Black lives matter, and of course Blue ones do too. And we do ourselves violence to hold to one and reject the other. If a life matters, and if a life should not be snuffed out merely because of what it represents to someone else, if it should be valued for the individual being that it is, with aspirations, needs, a personal history, connections, etc., then it must be valued regardless of what camp it superficially lies in.
It matters that, all around the world, people are killing others because of the pollution that exists in their own minds: because they believe something that has little or nothing to do with reality, beyond their interpretation of it: that a certain “other” people are a certain way; that certain acts are a requirement for a reward in some afterlife; that ‘my belief’ entitles me to end ‘your’ life. Insanity. Insanity passed from one to another.
This hatefulness seems to pop up everywhere. I cringe at the level of hate in evidence during the Republican National Convention: the determination to demonize every democrat and every democratic act as intentionally anti-American, anti-safety, anti-decency. And guess what? It’s no better on the Democratic side. My inbox is flooded daily by condemnations of any Republican and every Republican act as immoral, as intentionally oppressive, as though the Republican party is bent on removing all love and beauty from the face of the earth.
Really? Are we really so stuck in our own perspectives that we can’t even imagine the possibility of goodwill in our opponents? Is our fear of them so overwhelming that all we can wish for is for them to be silenced, removed, destroyed? Are the only worthy humans the ones who think and act exactly like us?
I’ve been reading Osho, a spiritual teacher. And a particular passage keeps coming to mind as I contemplate the various murders taking place around the globe, in the name of some insanity or another: judgements that certain others need to be controlled by lethal violence; acts of vengeance that target innocent surrogates; ideologies that promote bloodlust as service to God. All examples of “Murder in the name of ‘What I Believe to be True’”.
Here are words from Osho: 
There is a beautiful story. Whether it is factual or not does not matter; its beauty is in its meaning. One of the greatest emperors India has known was the Mogul emperor, Akbar. He can be compared only to one man in the West, and that is Marcus Aurelius. Emperors are very rarely wise people, but these two names are certainly exceptions.
One day he was in court talking with his courtiers. He had collected the best people in the country – the best painter, the best musician, the best philosopher, the best poet. He had a small, special committee of nine members who were known as the nine jewels of Akbar’s court.
The most important of them was a man called Birbal. Immensely intelligent and a man or great sense of humor, he did something which was improper to do in front of the emperor. Every emperor has his own rules – his word is the law – and Birbal behaved against something about which Akbar was very stubborn. Akbar immediately slapped Birbal. He respected Birbal, he love Birbal, he was his most intimate friend, but as far as the rules of the court were concerned, he could not forgive him.
But what Birbal did is the real story. He did not wait for a single moment; he immediately slapped the man who was standing at his other side. The other man was shocked, and even Akbar was shocked. He used to think that his man is very wise – “Is he mad, or what? I have slapped him, and he slaps the man next to him? This is strange, absolutely absurd and illogical.”
The other man was standing there, shocked, and Birbal said, “Don’t stand there like a fool, just pass it on!” So that man slapped somebody else who was standing by his side – and now the game became clearer: you have to pass it on.
In the night, when Akbar went to sleep with his wife, his wife slapped him. He said, “What is the matter?”
She said, “It has been going on around the city, and finally it has reached its original source. Somebody else has slapped me, and when I asked, ‘What is the matter?’ I was told that this is the game Akbar has started. I thought it is better to finish it, to complete the circle.”
The next day, first thing, Birbal asked, “Have you received my slap back or not?”
Akbar said, “I had never thought this would happen!”
Birbal said, “I was absolutely certain, because where will it go finally? It will go around the city. You cannot escape; it is bound to come to you,”
For centuries everything goes on being transferred, being passed on from one hand to another, from one generation to another generation – and the game continues. This is the game that you have to come out of.

A beautiful and funny story, isn’t it? It so illustrates the path we seem to be on. It’s been pretty well established, I believe, that the wars brought to the Middle East by the West, in our so-called self-interest, contributed substantially to creating the conditions in which ISIS could emerge. We in the West have been largely indifferent to the “terror” our weapons of mass destruction have brought to that region. But now that the terror has swung back our way, we want to up the ante. Now, we want to wipe them out.
Some elements in the Black community feel that we need to start shooting cops to somehow defend ourselves against the wave of ignorance and destruction that some cops are directing at unarmed and non-aggressive Black males. Really? I wonder how that’s going to turn out. I absolutely understand the rage and the frustration. But I don’t see how playing the “Pass it Along” game can possibly help.
Just because effective solutions are so incredibly difficult to come to, does not mean that reflex, impulsive, emotional reactions will save us. They won’t.
I wish I had the answers. But I don’t.
…to be continued.

Friday, July 15, 2016

My Generational Guilt

I feel such a need to act against the violence that threatens to overwhelm. And I do nothing. Have been unable even to write on it.
I’m steeped in guilt. About what I have not done. And generational guilt, about what we haven’t done.
Why are so many of ours locked away, with little hope of living a life they dream about?
Why are so many of us being murdered outright, in the name of law, and in the service of greed, gunned down by those sworn to protect us, and more grievously by ourselves, hate on top of self-hate? Let me not forget fear and shame and pride.
And why do we – in righteous pain from our dehumanization, seek to dehumanize in turn, as though becoming our oppressor is the key to liberation, rather than an act of self-enslavement to the very creed that has crippled us.
My generation has ascended on the bowed backs of generations before us. These backs were bowed in devotion and commitment as much as in suffering. It was defiance and pride and suffering and faith that brought us to where we are.
And whoever says we’ve come nowhere shrugs away as inconsequential the rights to speak what’s on our minds, to work for ourselves and to build and to own. All God given rights due anyone. But few in this world have them as we do.
The shame of it is we don’t use them. Don’t use what we have. Or else so many of our youth would not be killing one another, wasting in jails, hopeless.
That’s the generational and personal guilt I bear. I haven’t done enough. Not nearly enough. I’ve done some things that might appear to have been enough, but they aren’t. Too much of my energy and focus has gone toward enjoying all of what my father and his father’s generation’s suffering made possible for me. And I’ve done so little to pass this inheritance on, to the next ones coming. Maybe for the first time, we haven’t left those that follow with better opportunities than we ourselves had.
When I was in my teens, it seemed as though the world was truly beginning a transformation. Young Black men in particular were making first steps into every realm of activity possible. Gaining recognition and access.  No, it was never enough, always too slow. But I have only to remember the experience of my father and grandfather to know how valuable each small gain has been. I grew up knowing, believing that I could do what I wanted in life. Not that there were guarantees, or any expectation that life would be pain-free, but that there was opportunity – so much more than what my parents and grand-parents had. I/We haven’t done enough to pass it along.
To be continued...