Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gladiators Don't Beg

Prominent observers of the experience we call life, from playwright William Shakespeare to militant cultural icons like Tupac Shakur and Dr Dre, have noted that persons who are filled with fear die many times before their deaths. The courageous die once; and then they live forever in the wind that drives men to act against the brute force of tyranny. They thrive after death in the unwavering spirit of the courageous. Ultimately, it is not the grace or mercifulness of others that the survivor of a dog-eat-dog world should seek. A person who would survive the injustice of others must treasure above all things, the authenticity of his or her own being. We must not bow before the cruelty of the wicked. We will never go begging at the feet of a presumptive conqueror for our humanity, or for our salvation. We must make no excuse for our determination to live and be free to enjoy the bounty of this world which we have all inherited simply by being born. We must come to possess, and cultivate in ourselves, the  certainty of our personhood beyond every idiosyncrasy, whether they be differences of race or national origin or gender orientation. We must know the truth of our authentic humanity as a fact of our being; and must allow no cultural deception to separate us from this truth.

There is a culture of lies all around us. Some persons and groups create falsehoods in order to justify the advantages they seek. All power relationships in society as we know it are based on one lie or another, all designed to create and maintain certain advantages. The lies about variations of color and national origin and gender are designed to create and maintain a culture of racism, sexism, and other vain exceptionalisms. Superiority and inferiority complexes are created and maintained by even more sophisticated claims about differences which are nothing more than occurrences of nature. People claim advantages based on color and creed. They demand obeisance from others who have not cultivated the defensive and offensive technologies to repel these demands. It is the existential responsibility of every human being to create and maintain the resources necessary to defend and maintain one's life, and the lives of those who depend on us for sustenance and security. This is, as it should be, the first principle of survival... Of life. It is as much the basis of survival of the individual as it is of nations... Self-defense. It is our most sacred responsibility. It is our solemn right.

The liars among us are hidden in plain sight. They require others to supply their lives and labor to them so that they can be rich even as they systematically keep others impoverished. They are in our economic institutions and businesses. They are among our politicians. They proliferate among the actors in law enforcement. They are religious and some are not. They claim allegiance to gods, and they are atheists. They are straight, and they are gay. They are black, and they are white. They are Jews, and they are Gentiles. They are Christians, and they are Muslims. They are male, and they are female.

Ever so often the time comes when the lies that deny the humanity of others are exposed for what they are. In those times the earth shakes with the sound and fury of the ensuing struggle to authenticate the common humanity of all. Nowadays the revolution is televised. Nothing is hidden in our brave new world in which it is given that we all know what is going on... Even in the uttermost parts of the earth. Through the advent of the information super-highway we are able to witness the contradictions of being as they are expressed from neighborhoods in the Middle East to cities and towns in South Africa; from Pakistani byways to the streets of Ferguson and Tulsa.We are now able to witness "Man's inhumanity to men" with a stunning immediacy, and we sympathize and empathize with the oppressed as they assert their humanity in the face of those contradictions.

When a man puts his bony knee or booted foot on the neck of another and presses... When the oppressed utters the words "I can't breathe..."; and the oppressor's response is "F-ck your breath!", ... In that very moment the oppressor forfeits his humanity. In the existential moments that follow, we must make the ground shake to displace the atrocity at hand. It is for this reason wars are justified and fought. That very ground under the broken neck...the severed spine of the oppressed, must become the sacred soil in which a revolution is bred. The time for treating our humanity as a product of the oppressor's benevolence is over and done with.

 No civilization has ever survived the mistake of relying on the benevolence of others for its survival. The same is true of individuals and communities. We survive by assuming the role of gladiators in our own lives. It is our responsibility to physically, spiritually, economically, politically, and culturally assert and take control of our destinies. There comes a time to rise up and claim our rights as human beings despite the odds stacked against us. We declare that time to be NOW! With the indomitable spirit typified by the heroic black gladiator in Pompeii; with the whole world crumbling around him he declares "I die a free man!". With a broken sword at the throat of his beaten adversary, he states with emphasis something that every warrior worth his salt will attest to...  "Gladiators don't beg."

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