It’s amazing how unctuous we can be at times.Ã‚Â Well, I’ll speak for myself.Ã‚Â It’s amazing how unctuous I can be at times.Ã‚Â By default, I think so highly of myself.Ã‚Â Not necessarily because I just think so highly of myself but because I think so unfavorably of so much that I certainly can’tbe a part of that it allÃ‚Â must be beneath me.Ã‚Â
Well, that’s pretty much not true.Ã‚Â I’ve being realizing that I have this completely ignorant side to me.Ã‚Â Let me clarify that there will always be ignorance in the sense of not knowing something; omniscience is one of the many things we will always be incapable of.Ã‚Â So that’s not what I’m talking about.Ã‚Â I’m talking about the “that was so highly uneducated and/or inappropriate” ignorant.Ã‚Â Jackass ignorant.Ã‚Â The ignorant that immediately asks “what do you think about women with mustaches?” just as a woman with a mustache sits down directly in front ofÃ‚Â me.
Really?Ã‚Â Wow.Ã‚Â Yes…I did.Ã‚Â Ignorant.
But fortunately, I was with someone who isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m saying or being something completely out of line.Ã‚Â That’s a blessing…and just what I need.Ã‚Â Now that I unequivocally know that ignorance is a part of me, just as wisdom and open-mindedness are, I can begin to live a more full life, free of at least one delusion.
This past weekend, I attended a Sowing Seeds workshop by the Institute for Humane Education. The workshops are about introducing humane education practices into current teaching practices, activism, etc. It’s such a beautiful premise that we would all benefit from if this type of education were introduced to as many people as possible right now. Humane education is about nurturing what are considered the best qualities of human beings and providing students with the tools to act accordingly.
Throughout the weekend, we had a variety of activities to complete. One sticks out the most because of the profound epiphany it provoked. The exercise was about effective communication. We had to write a strong statement that we believed, e.g. “I believe everyone should think critically.” Our group members were to take an oppositional stance, whether real or pretend for the sake of the exercise. The point was to create a bridge of understanding between two opposing beliefs. The problem was that my group members were of like minds so I’m not sure it was an effective exercise for any of us…not immediately anyway.
In a moment of pure honesty, strength, and comfort, I confidently said, “I believe that white people can’t say that they aren’t racist unless they’re willing to give up their privilege and the wealth they’ve amassed from stealing from others.” I meant what I said and I was glad that I said it, but I didn’t think about the most likely reaction it would cause. Fortunately, I was in the company of like-minded people, but were I to say that the average person walking down the street, there would be no empathy or the most remote attempt at understanding; there would be defensiveness. And in the listener’s quest to validate that defensiveness, I’d probably get defensive and neither of us would be listening–we’d be defending. Communication ends when the receiver does not get the intended message. There’d be no communication and definitely no effective communication.
As I sat with the women in my group who were to oppose what I was saying, I could hear myself getting emotional inÃ‚Â my argument. I was “right” and that rightness certainly couldn’t be argued against because it was authentic, but what if I was speaking with someone less evolved? The goal of empathy would never be reached. The conversation that emerged wasn’t one of necessarily intended for the exercise. It was a very real and honest conversation about what white people with privilege can do. What does it mean to forsake your individual privilege as a white person? Are you ever to enjoy a life full of things you want? Do you constantly check for preferential treatment on the basis of race?
I don’t know. I have no idea. I haven’t considered the “what now?” effect of my question. Perhaps to start, we can as a collective openly engage in answering these questions and the ones they lead to. White, black and otherwise.
It was an aha! moment for me because in light of the Jena Six episodes, I’m hypersensitive about race, especially because people want to act like it’s a non-issue. Well, it is an issue. A deep-seated and ‘only ignored by white people’ issue. I’m sick of racial problems. Are they ever going to truly be a non-issue? Yeah…no. (The recovering cynic in me wins against the practicing optimist.) What I experienced that weekend, though, were a handful of people that really empathize with racial issues and don’t want to participate in a racist system…but don’t know how to escape it. That was beautiful and meaningful for me to see because as I was starting to take a more militant, Malcolm X-esque stance, I realized what he was coming to at the end of his life: even in our disunity, there are inherent unifying principles. White people are being lied to about their superiority just as everyone else being educated by the same sources are being lied to about their inferiority. It’s a big game that we’re all a part of. The real goal of the game isn’t to have money stashed away for rainy days and retirement, the big house, 2.5 kids, and a couple of cars; the real goal is to–as much as possible–create the world you envision for yourself and others. None of the other stuff matters.
I’ve been troubled with this Jena Six situation. For so much of the past few years, I’ve been trying to see things in a positive light. Then, something like this will pop up and I’m left with a slight feeling of ambivalence. On one hand, I’m deeply hurt and enraged, and all that “positive” talk is ridiculously not applicable. On the other, I’m aware that the energy of my feelings helps to manifest something in the collective conscious. So then what? Where’s the opportunity?
The Jena Six situation is a wonderful opportunity for people to realize that injustice, fear, and hate are a reality for most people in this country, especially minorities. Even when it’s not overtly directed, that injustice, fear, and hate materializes elsewhere, covertly, codified in laws, institutional practices and mores. I recall the days of the Civil Rights Era and Black Nationalism and wonder where the passion for human rights and civil liberties went. Nowadays, individuals are so concerned with their fantasies of themselves, their illegitimate sense of security, paying their bills, getting their 15 minutes of fame, and being politically correct (that is to say neutral for mass appeal) that they don’t really stand for much else outside of themselves. There’s no real push for solidarity or community.
There are people who actually think that there’s no such thing as racism anymore. Get this straight: the United States was founded on White Nationalism, an inherently racist ideology. Those are the founding principles, the interwoven principles, the acting principles, and the future principles. Nothing about that will ever change.
Now I know that that last paragraph may seem out of place for a blog focusing on seeing the good in the world. Know that the best good, the ultimate good, the highest good is the truth. The information disseminated on a regular basis in news papers and programs, magazines, television and film, and even historical and cultural texts, etc (especially historical texts) is not truth. One can never find liberation or actual progress in a lie.
What the last ten months have been revealing to us with regard to this situation involving black and white teenagers in the South is truth. Only in recent weeks has there been any mainstream media coverage. White boys hang nooses on a tree (to inspire what thought process?) and they get in-school suspension for three days, labeled a harmless teenage prank. I got out of school suspension from school for three days for fighting my sister and no one was remotely hurt! Kids get into fights all the time. So this kid’s in a fight, goes to a party that night, and yet the people he fought are awaiting sentencing which may be reduced to 15 years…?? If that doesn’t immediately sound wrong, then something’s wrong with you. Really.
“So where’s the good?” you ask. I’ll tell you. It’s in transformation. It’s in awakening. In knowing the truth and acting in observance of that truth. The tragedy in Columbine, in the deaths of September 11, 2001, and in the Virginia Tech massacre wasn’t in the deaths themselves. Death represents the death of the human experience only. It’s not that big of a deal…it happens to every living thing. The tragedy was that it didn’t change anything. It didn’t change how we interacted with each other, how considerate we were of the buttons we were pressing of others, of the nonsense that we give attention to instead of what we should pay attention to. It didn’t make us treat each other more respectfully because we’re all humans who feel and above all just want to be loved. We’re all looking for love while we go around hating each other. The Black family is in ruins so young Black kids join gangs and kill each other…looking for family. It’s such a brilliant idea, isn’t it? Kind of like warring for peace. “Well, people ain’t rested. They don’t want no peace.”
The opportunity that results from this trial is for Black people to re-member. Remember that you’re Black and re-member on that basis. Educate yourself on the system that you live in that educates you, your children, family, friends, and people. Then, take a stance. I used to hate when my mother would say, “If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem,” but it’s true. There is no middle ground; neutral is more often than not a lie.
This clip below features Muhammad Ali on a television show over 30 years ago. Everything that he said then is still true today.
There has to be a change. Please don’t let Jena Six be an incidental moment in time that made little impact. It will only be a waste if it fails to illicit a lasting change.
“God is Absolute Truth. I am human; I only understand relative truth. So, my understanding of truth can change from day to day and my committment must be to truth rather than consistency.” -Mahatma Ghandi
Fortunately for us, Michael Moore’s commitment to truth includes his consistent humor. Watching Sicko! was an important moment for me. It brought up the idea that we don’t value life. LIFE as a whole, not life for the people we think are worthy of it based on their doing what pleases us. The good that I found in Moore’s latest offering–also his most impactful–was not only truth, but shining examples of what’s possible. If Cuba can have universal health care, so can we. Moore was able to depict the characteristics of love and care from the countries he highlighted with universal health care. The doctors he spoke with wouldn’t turn someone away because they didn’t have health care and didn’t want to work within a system that allowed or forced them to.
There are free clinics in major U.S. cities, but most offer only primary care. To my surprise and satisfaction, I came across a health center in Chicago that offers a range of primary and specialty care services for the uninsured. The clinic, called CommunityHealth, was founded in 1993, and has served over 30,000 patients. Each year, they serve 6,000 patients, taking on 125 new patients each month.
CommunityHealth is funded almost entirely on public donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. More than 500 volunteers work with the organization, donating over 33,000 hours of their time in 2006. Moore would be proud.
To learn more about CommunityHealth and the work they do, visit CommunityHealth.org. If you, in fact, value life and would like to make an online donation to assist the continuance of the essential work of this organization, please do so here.
Reading Mike Dooley’s “Notes from the Universe” every week day morning does something to me. It fuels my enthusiasm for the day and reminds me of my individual power to make real the life I dream of living. Despite the fact that you know hundreds of thousands of people are getting the same emails, you feel like it was written just for you, giving the message added power.
Short, simple and direct, it usually takes only a few seconds to read.
I really mean that.
Whatever, whatever, whatever.
You can have it.
From neutral to optimistic in under 5 seconds. To start receiving these little gems at the frequency of your choice (up to 5 days per week) visit, TUT’s Adventurer’s Club.