Talkin’ ‘Bout My Freedom… A Season of Rebellion
” We refuse to be
What you wanted us to be;
We are what we are:
That’s the way…it’s going to be… You don’t know!
You can’t educate I
For no equal opportunity:
Talkin’ ’bout my freedom,
People freedom and liberty!
Yeah, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long:
Yes, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long:
Rebel, rebel! “- Bob Marley
A Crisis of International Proportions
It rained today… In the place where I am now writing this piece the grass all around is a brownish green. It has been reported that the rainfall deficit for the last month is just under four inches. It started raining overnight, and the system that is bringing this well-needed relief will continue its presence for the next few days… And so, around here, there is renewed hope for everything that grows, the grass included. We all enjoy the sunny days of Summer, but no one wants a protracted drought under the influence of which things wilt…and die. It has been a long hot summer, and one in which the themes of wilting and dying have predominated in the experience of many.
All over the Globe that we share we are witnessing what seems to many to be an interminable drought of reasonableness and compassion. The season of wilting and dying is expressed in the suffering, displacement, and killing of many.Thousands of men, women, and children, have had their lives shattered as a result of heated conflicts that seem to have no end in sight. The need for showers of hope to green again the scarred landscape of war-torn countries is acute. This is the reality in Iraq and in Syria, in Nigeria and in the Central African Republic, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, in Kinshasa and in Libya… the list of places goes on and on.
The number of dead from these conflicts in just the last year exceeds a quarter of a million people. All over Asia and Africa and Europe, people displaced by these conflicts are on the move daily in desperate search of a place where they can again hope for some stability for self and kin. Their collective desperation is exacerbated by a drought of workable ideas among those who lead. This desperation is worsened by a drought of moral rectitude on the part of those who see war as the only solution. Combined with a drought of economic opportunity in the circumstances created by strife, multitudes come to believe they have no choice but to succumb to their role as victims.
Tyrants and Warlords
There are no easy answers, much as we would like there to be. Digging into the anatomy of conflict is an exercise in exploring the uncomfortable underground of the human psyche. The motivations of the primary actors in the tragic dramas of death and destruction are at times perplexing, as perplexing as the contradictions in the human psyche itself. What moves us to act out our abrasiveness in the tragic ways that we do? At what point in the experience of being human do we settle for the idea that it is ok that “the good suffer with the bad”? Where in the dark recesses of our consciousness do we build an existential monument to the idea that it is acceptable to blow up women and children? What kind of person chews on the roasted limb of some creature while he wallows in the blood of innocents? What kind of human being virtualizes rape, and murder, and the conscienceless exploitation of those who can’t or won’t defend themselves? What kind of human-being “brands” another, marking him or her for ruthless exploitation? At some point, as individuals and as societies, we must face these questions with the force of a civilized morality. We must face them with a view to effectively resolve the many contradictions in our ways of seeing things.
Not all villains roam around the earth as bloody brutes. Some indeed present themselves as “respectables” among us. They sit on the boards of giant corporations. They occupy the halls of our congresses and parliaments. They are the genteel-appearing bastions of industry that many idolize in ignorance. Instead of the cliched fatigues of brutes, they wear the teflon suits that appeal to the superficial sensibilities of many among the masses. But, by their deeds we know them. They deliberately reduce workers to chattel by refusing to pay a fair return for work done. They build their estates at the expense of the lives of impoverished workers. They bask in the glow of material “success” while the masses are left to scrounge for the “crumbs” that fall from their tables. In many instances they appear to keep their hands clean while they harvest the “blood diamonds” of an iniquitous underworld. They share one particular feature of the human experience with tyrants and warlords… Heartlessness. They don’t give a damn about anything or anyone except themselves and their brash ambitions.
The Clash of Antagonistic Ideals
We need a revolution to change the circumstances of our dehumanization. The revolution must begin with a more dynamic sense of our potentials as human beings. At some point it falls to each person to make a decision as to whether he or she will continue to permit the kind of victimization that robs one of one’s true humanity. This is the seminal moment in which every true revolution begins. It begins with the idealization of the notion that one can own and control the circumstances of one’s life. It begins with a rejection of victimhood.
The culture of oppression takes root with the imposition of ideas that limit the rights of the oppressed to a life characterized by the essential qualities of liberty. A life in which the pursuit of happiness is claimed as a human right. Thus liberation must begin with the rejection of ideas that limit one’s right to life fulfilled. The clash of civilizations has its genesis in a clash of antagonistic human ideals… A clash of opposing aspirations. A revolution is inevitable when the hopes of a determined group breeds despair in another group which is equally determined to claim and live out their perceived potential. Every struggle begins as a clash of ideas competing for supremacy in the common experience of peoples. First the ideas… Then the fists.
The conscientization described in the preceding paragraph leads to the determination to get rid of the spiritual, cultural, and physical shackles that weigh down the dispossessed. It expresses itself in the determination to collectively work for the change necessary to live into the new reality of a life liberated. This new consciousness is powerfully articulated by Marley when he declares: “You can’t educate I For no equal opportunity: (Talkin’ ’bout my freedom) Talkin’ ’bout my freedom, People freedom (freedom) and liberty! Yeah, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long: Rebel, rebel!”. Marley, in the powerful anthem called “Redemption Song”, calls us to live into a revolutionary consciousness. He reminds us of the responsibility that we each have to personalize the work of personal redemption when he channels Marcus Mosiah Garvey: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds… “.
The Season of Rebellion Beckons
The Season of Rebellion comes. It is inevitable. The contradictions inherent in the perpetuation of hope and despair in our social and economic relationships must be resolved. The societal dysfunctions bred by this antagonism cannot be wished away. That resolution of which I speak must necessarily lead to a better world in which the hopes of some do not breed despair in the lives of others. The prophetic vision of a more just society fuels the fires that burn in the hearts of displaced and dispossessed people everywhere. That vision is the tip of the burning spear that threatens the old status quo of the cultural and economic domination of the many by the few.
Those who have ears to hear can hear even now the voice of the prophet Amos as he declares: “… let Justice roll down like a river, and Righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” An economic culture in which CEO compensation increases over nine hundred fold while the average worker barely sees a five percent increase must be rehabilitated. A political culture that perpetuates the cult of vampires must be obliterated by the cultivation of enlightened self interest in all our economic relationships. We cannot continue to accommodate corporate greed while people are left to subsist on a less than livable wage. The militarization of the police to suppress the just rebellion of people against the brutality of law enforcement must end. The use of the police as enforcers for a parasitic political culture must cease. The injustices that find expression through racism, sexism, and genderism, must be exposed for what they are… Injustices.
The Season of Rebellion beckons us into a new, more liberated sense of ourselves. It calls us to be the definitive architects of our destinies. As architects we reject the world imposed on us. We claim with our every breath the responsibility to build something new with our own hands and hearts and minds… Something more in keeping with our own needs and aspirations. As the prime movers in the new, more hope-filled world we desire, we look forward to that more fertile earth in which we can realize a greater rootedness. And so we live in anticipation of the showers that will “water” our just aspirations. By the same token we rise up in affirmation of our own fecundity, and against every dried out idea that would suppress our innate abundance.
In closing let us be inspired by a poetic flourish… Hear the drumbeat in some verses from my poem “Drought Broken”:
“Speak my heart…Shake my world
Shake my world of its complacency…
Rid my world of its indecency…
Speak my heart… Cause the spark that starts a fire
Build a ladder that takes me higher
Higher than the fear
That keeps my soul impounded…
That keeps my spirit grounded…
Speak my heart…Cause my feet to listen
Inspire my hands to clear the way
That leads to the place where the lightning is stored…
Speak my heart…speak and I will listen
Awaken now… And quicken the living and the dead…
Break the drought that makes of my world
The valley…of the shadows of death
Break free my heart
And quench this parched place in my soul…
Guide my feet to the place
Where living waters flow”