I, too, am a different drummer

This system, capitalism, is literally driving everyone insane and then the crazy people who love it and force it on us all make more money off of our crazy.

Crazy begets crazy. And, then, at some point, everyone’s too crazy to do anything remotely sane. Like… leave.

I just finished reading William Melvin Kelley’s ‘A Different Drummer’. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. It’s probably available in your library loan system, as it was initially published in the 1960s. Unfortunately, the tale is still relevant and chronicles the mentalities of your average American neighbor.

The ending was hard to read. I couldn’t get used to reading the n-word over and over and over, again, but I could wrap my mind around why it was there. The ending was impossible to wrap my mind around.

It began a deep confusion and wailing within me, because it was just incomprehensible that the Black people at the end would be so stupid. But, it’s not incomprehensible, at all, really. I watch people. I see how often we choose the stupid action over the smart one. I’ve come to almost accept it must be normal to do so, since I see that, in general, we choose the most unintelligent options, as a society, and no matter the hue of our skin.

That the victim becomes its own oppressor is the most stunning aspect of most victim/abuser stories.

Currently, in our culture, we are seemingly obsessed with superheroes. There are regular heroes (always a sacrificial lamb, if the signs outside of hospitals and nursing homes these days are to be trusted) and then there are superheroes. They are the preferred kind, because they aren’t truly risking anything. They have their own stories and reasons for why they do what they do and those stories don’t really have anything to do with us. It’s as if having super powers puts you in a bind — be good or be evil, but you have to be something other than simply alive. You have to be selfish. And, you will be celebrated for it, because we love outlandish narcissists.

The messages of ‘A Different Drummer’ are compelling, and the writer does a wonderful job of throwing our lack of completion into our faces. We are not superheroes, certainly. We’re not even regular heroes, most of us, which is why we’re constantly searching our environments for validation.

The story allows us to contemplate just how incomplete we are as humans, if we give ourselves the opportunity to do so. Surely, we can all see at least a part of ourselves in at least one of the book’s characters. But a part would be all we’d be able to see, because we’re only allowed a glimpse into the characters, themselves. The people we are allowed to see most fully are a child and a coward. This isn’t going to offer us as much introspection as we deserve, unless we think about the world we are currently co-creating.

After reading the book, I searched for reviews of it. I wanted to know what other readers had thought of the story. I found one reviewer who was disappointed in the ending and who thought we, the readers, deserved better. But, the ending was historically accurate. Should the book have shielded us from reality? I was curious about how that particular reviewer identified racially. It seemed like such an immature response that it could have only come from someone who identifies as white.

That’s the power of capitalism: it compels us all to objectify one another. Some of us are better at it than others. Practice makes perfect. What is better practice for objectifying human beings than slavery? Who has practiced it more savagely than the American whites? Even today, the ideas and flawed concepts that allowed slavery to become white supremacy are gripped tightly. The greatest export of America is racism and the vehicle upon which it travels most expediently is capitalism.

I found the author’s placement of ideas most Euro-Americans seem to consider radical (anarchy, Marxism, communism, desegregation, and true liberty) to be quite interesting. The book never delved too deeply into those topics, but can you write about white supremacy of the Southern variety without bringing them up?

The enslavement of my ancestors and the take-over of our land was and is the backbone of today’s capitalism. The racism toward my ancestors was one of the vehicles upon which that capitalism was allowed to spread so easily and globally. I can’t help but wonder if the racists of America understand this connection better than the anti-racists. I often believe they do, which is why they refuse to unhand the tenets of white supremacy. Even the “libtards” enjoy shopping and shopping, as we currently enjoy it, is not possible without the foundation of slavery. Call it sweat shops, call it exploitation, call it whatever you want… it is enslavement. And, we all enjoy it in one way or another.

What will become of the experiment known as America? Without racism, what happens?

Perhaps we shall find out in my lifetime.

suffer the children

A culture that doesn’t recognize children as part of the collective is a culture prepared for its own demise.

In the United States, we still view children as property. They are like furniture: you can do with them what you like, including removing them from one family and giving them to another, at will. Their feelings don’t matter much and what’s in their best interests is only significant from an adult’s perspective.

There have always been adults in the USA who rallied against this domination and oppression mentality. But, since most of them do so from a distorted understanding of childhood, themselves, they often produce just as many problems and issues to overcome as their counterparts.

This is because viewing children as “other” is always detrimental.

Children are not fully-grown humans, but they are humans. And, their needs are the same needs of fully-grown humans: food, water, shelter, care, fun. These are the needs of every, single human on Earth, and some of the grown humans are constantly devising new ways to deprive other grown humans of those needs. And, when the grown humans are denied, so are the still-growing humans.

That’s how it works. And, most of us know this. It’s astounding how many fully-grown humans say they are working for the betterment of the situations of other humans. There are many, many non-profit organizations set up to offset the harm of for-profit organizations. But, like anything set up to counter a thing, they present the same harms.

Because the problem isn’t in the answer, the problem is in the question.

We are constantly asking: How can we make this better? And, the answers we devise are varied and multiple and, once implemented, bring more harm than good.

We see this over and over and over, but we don’t stop asking that question. The question leads us astray time and time, again, but instead of putting down the question, we dig in deeper.

This is the behavior of fully-grown humans who never experienced an appropriately human childhood. It’s tantrum behavior. It’s immature and irrational behavior. It’s reactionary.

But, if your childhood was spent reacting to the whims of the adults around you instead of forming thoughts about your life and experimenting with and discussing those thoughts with the children and adults around you, all you know and habituate are patterns of reaction. You don’t quite learn the difference between responding and reacting. You see them as the same thing, both valid.

Earlier today, I read that people cannot think in solitude. I would have laughed if the author hadn’t been so disturbingly earnest. The article was about the importance of schools, the necessity of schools.

But, schools have never been a necessity. Schools were derived as tools of indoctrination, and indoctrination promotes reaction not response.

Schools are not necessary, even in so-called advanced civilizations, because they don’t provide a single, human need… in a well-formed society. In a well-formed society, everyone’s needs are met: they have nutritious food and clean water, they have comfortable shelter from the elements, there are humor and games, and affection is the norm. In a well-formed society, this is all a given, not something to be earned, because well-formed societies recognize that human needs are human rights. None of that requires schooling and the younger humans will be educated in the needs and desires of that particular society, the one to which they belong.

The belonging is crucial. When we create schools, have we created spaces in which young people learn how to belong to the human family, how to belong to one another? Or are those spaces dedicated to teaching them how to belong to companies and organizations and put them in direct opposition to the human family and even one another?

Isn’t it time that we fully-grown humans started re-educating ourselves and re-examining our motivations, so that we don’t keep asking problematic questions?

When all your needs are met, “doing better” is a foreign concept. We have normalized the ridiculous, because that’s how we were taught. But, maybe it’s time to center our cultures, societies, and communities (and everything they produce) around the greater good of the younger of us. Imagine how much of what we’ve normalized will become obsolete in that world, a world where the needs of the children are truly prioritized and viewed as the needs of humanity (because they are).

We have been raised to normalize a false sense of progress. The fully-grown humans are not so fully grown… yet.

To fully grow into our human potential, we will need to prioritize a fuller human experience. That, like our lives, begins with youth.

photo courtesy of these children in Ethiopia and Trevor Cole of unsplash

answered prayers

Life is funny. It’s also amazing and beautiful. I think that when we don’t focus upon beauty, it’s harder to notice it in all the nuance of living. To focus upon something is to notice it more often. And, just because you’re noticing something now doesn’t mean it wasn’t always there. Attention is a gift that we get to use as we wish.

I’m going through a phase of maturity. It’s funny how we talk about that with kids, but we don’t discuss it with adults. We love watching children mature and we expect it, but when it comes to adults, we expect the opposite. We expect stagnation. Long, long years of stagnation until, suddenly, the adult is “old” and we expect them to have gained wisdom worth sharing with us.

What is wisdom but the result of maturity?

I made two prayers in deep earnest this past week and I’m glad I have the clarity to see that they’re being answered. It used to be that I would pray and then spend time feeling despondent because I thought my prayers were being ignored. Back then, I didn’t understand that answered prayers don’t always look the way you want or expect them to look. I mistakenly assumed that if a prayer wasn’t answered the way I wanted to see it, that meant it hadn’t been answered.

Part of maturing is understanding then accepting that things don’t have to be the way you want them in order for them to be true.

I think our societies and cultures are going through a maturation phase right now and I’m not sure how we’re faring. There is a lot of pushback against progressive, humane ideas and there is also a lot of nonsense being promoted as progress. Diversity of thought is still one of the things I find most interesting about humanity. No one is creating these things we call thoughts or ideas; they just descend upon us. And, we nurture them and take their growth and assimilation very personal. But, they don’t even belong to us!

Maybe our maturity doesn’t belong to us, either. Maybe maturity is a function of grace. I can accept that all I’ve done is prayed to be a better person, to have more clarity. I just desired and asked and focused. I accept that I haven’t done anything wholly unto myself.

That is maturity. Accepting that we aren’t living this life by our power alone is maturity. It’s humility. I used to think humility meant thinking I am less than, but now I know it simply means knowing that I am not all there is, that I am not the most. And, not being the most does not inherently equate to being less than.

For years, I could not understand or accept that. But, through grace, I now understand (and I don’t mind understanding or standing under something, because I know the power of bridges) and accept that humility is about perspective, not size.

With that humility, I can see answered prayers with more clarity. When I ask for support focusing upon my business endeavors and an opportunity for community disappears from my life, I don’t have to lament the loss because I remember the prayer. I am humble enough to accept the rationale that the more time I spend in community, the less time I’m spending on my business endeavors. I can greet that shift (because it’s not a loss) with a “Hallelujah”.

With that humility, when I ask to more fully understand why something happened to me in the past and I keep feeling the urge to watch YouTube videos that touch on more fruitful ways to move through loss and purpose, I understand that my prayers are being answered.

Some would call it coincidence, but I’ve lived enough to accept that there are no coincidences. There is only grace.

In this moment, I appreciate the divine guidance of my life. I appreciate the prayers that have been prayed for and over me. I appreciate the clarity and insight and maturity and humility I have been able to apply to my vantage point.

What a beautiful lens grace and humility and maturity create. It reminds me of those oft-lamented rose-colored glasses.

If this is what wearing rose-colored glasses is like, I’m okay. I’m going to rock these babies!

Image source unknown.