Growing up in the 80s I had plenty of childhood misconceptions about the world. I recall glimpses of the Iran hostage crisis on the black and white screen of the console television that my father had purchased second hand. Those days of tubes, my dad knew how to repair them. Built-in speakers, the wood was elegant. It was a piece of furniture.
For a time I thought our President had been taken hostage. Who were these unruly people that wouldn’t negotiate? My father, like many fathers, was an avid world news watcher. He would be very focused—one didn’t interrupt. I don’t recall asking him for an explanation. Local news was a different story. It was once Reagan was elected that I got the story straight.
Once Reagan was elected the Cold War was at a tipping point, and the age of Nuclear threat intensified. I was beside myself over it as a child. The fear got to me as a child, I was an easy target having a gentle loving nature. I was fiercely loyal to my parents, and when those post-apocalyptic movies started showing on CBS, and NBC count me among them who lost sleep over it. A mind of 10, 11, or 12 years still has a long way to go in the developmental process, the distinctions between reality and scripted drama were blurry for me. But I did learn at that tender age of the ways the mind can run off with a thought or an idea, while the you who you are sits there helplessly along for the ride, screaming at the mind to stop I don’t want to go there! All of that propaganda begged for you to imagine. I imagined my parents, my sister and I trapped in a fallout shelter, rationing our cans of corn. Would we have enough water? How would my Mother bathe herself? And if we thought it safe to go outside, and our hair started to fall out, my loved ones coughing up blood? Oh no, no. I don’t recall confessing the sleepless nights to anyone, not even my mother.
School began teaching us of our enemy—the evil Communist Empire, Russia; the former Soviet Union. These people were bad news. If we for a minute trusted them, they would deceive us. Itchy Russian fingers hovering over the RED detonation button. I still hold a grudge. All those years of my youth spent fearing THE END. Bullshit scare tactics, fed by our wild imagination.
My father often hushed us, our fears, with logic. I began to understand what propaganda was, my father told me so, told me that this wasn’t our first Red Scare. He never spoon fed us any idyllic fluff either, these people want to protect their country, as much as we want to protect ours was the gist of his riff. I wouldn’t say he led us to believe that he was pro-communism. Not by any measure really. He knew the direction communism would take, eventually. All people with power have money, and they wont share their power, not because they don’t believe in power-sharing, but because they don’t want to share what they consider to be their money. My father held us to understand that if a person with elitest qualities saw a way to further his gains, then no matter what system of government and economy he lives in, it will fall prey to his greedy ways.
Power brings money, and money brings a soothing honey coating so thick that you’re ok with whatever so long as you can have all those things of material comfort. WHATEVER.
And war? As much a necessity (it has been known to free people from bondage), wouldn’t solve anything. War will perpetuate some other conflict further down the road, when most will have forgotten the intricate details given four, five paragraphs down the report in the ‘Sunday Times’—all that stuff still being reported in the ‘World Newscast’, as families broke off into their own debates. Not us though. We might ask some questions during commercial breaks, but make it quick, news will be back on in one minute and thirty. As the sun waved goodbye to Third Avenue, the full article was read or heard, until the the closing sentence had been consumed.
People enjoy safety in real life, but want to be scared shitless by entertainment. (Oh, to understand that junkie status.) What we’ve got going for us these days compared to the 70s and 80s is the proliferation of the internet, and the overwhelming access to information; the rapidity with which it flows. It is overwhelming though, so now access to the Truth is more than we bargained for. We get scared, same as a mouse that gets the rug pulled from over it. Stunned into hopelessness, helplessness; becoming minimalists in proactivity. When we knew less we were always marching—dedication to the cause with an adamant religiosity.
I find it interesting when people ask me why I think its taken black culture so long to create a new legacy for themselves. This question comes with the obvious caveat “notwithstanding systemic practices that have worked against them at every turn…” I could reply: “Its The Stunning stupid!” The stunning is contagious, it is also inheritable. My father attempted to educate me in such a way that, when the truth was revealed, the stunning wouldn’t knock me off of my feet. He attempted. His temporal talks were not a regime of ideas placed upon my shoulders, yet his messages were a bit authoritarian. Like any brown child of post-modernity, raised in relative comfort, I would rear my horns up at such cumbersome ideas directed at me: Things are better, look at us, my father knew this was my general logic without me having to say so. His confident leaned back, crossed leg posture probably was a turn-off to my sensibilities. Even more recently he warned about that tricky mortgage your brother Luis got himself into, that bubble is going to cause him big trouble. But I suppose once you’ve seen the same old, same old culture dressed up in fancy new digs, talkin in a bright new lingo, yet still sayin’ and doin’ the same things they’ve always been saying and doing, you get a bit of casual posture.
I got a little fluffy in my ideology, and when things didn’t work out like my big dreams said they would, I stutter-stepped a few times. Maybe I’m still stutter-stepping a little. I got stunned. At least now I’m aware enough, enough that I’m working on always remaining objective. Giving credit where it is due, I didn’t get stuck, stuckness equals death. In stuckness, cultures die, all hope is lost. In individuals we see Mayan reenactments all of the time. It is a sad, sad thing to see individuals give-up. With my most humble gaze upon our cities and towns, I find it remarkable that an ethnicity imported here for forced labor, would create its destiny of freedom on the very same soil that formerly considered their brown skin like the hide of chattel. And like any community, has suffered the consequences of short-sightedness, swallowed by the bite of victimization, but the wound wasn’t deadly. Our story hasn’t ended, the words “The End” were never said authoritatively, and we’re still here. This here-ness, is a testimony to the determination against all odds. So what is it that we as a country can’t overcome, prey-tell?
Operating at a personal code-red existential level may be new for many generations, and cultural groups affiliated by class, ethnicity, or political, and social ideology— but for a good number of us, we’ve either been experiencing this process, or have inherited this profound knowing through a transferal of storytelling; emotions and human experience. Between the temporal and spiritual there is knowing. Some come to an intellectualized knowing and others choose the spiritual path, and these days as science and spirit touch fingers, we begin to join the two. The existential crisis is that delicate space between the two, between the known and unknown, as you teeter—attempting not to get swallowed up by fear, utter shock, and disbelief. There is no right or wrong about Existential Crisis, it is however, a most unfortunate relationship to life to find yourself in. Up until more recent times (since WWII), most of America hadn’t known crisis at this level, lucky them. But as money (read: the Earth’s natural resources that create wealth) becomes ever more precious, those with power are manipulating the flow of it through business, politics, and war. So precious, that they go about it wantonly, expanding the scope of those who will find themselves in the wake of their destructive path with an aim less targeted, more widespread. Unfortunately, more Americans are waking up within that space of crisis. Those with the power and money have that us vs. them mentality. When the resources get tight they invoke the power of their influence, any thing or one standing between them and that thingness, will find themselves opposed.
That process manipulated creates more of the unknownness. When the American Dream is solid, people are happy; they can go about their lives with confidence, even remain on guard of their liberties and pursuit of happiness; watchdogs, protectors of their dreams. And what happened? They, the ones who control the money, manipulated the seed of the dream. Propped up mortgages, phony from the beginning, pulled the plug extracting millions of Americans out of the comforts of their dream. Like the end of a relationship, someone is on their sofa numbing themselves with materiality—which they delivered right to your front door. Is this Dream even ours to begin with, is it truly co-authored? As we supposedly come through this tough economic time—it is referenced in past tense these days—is this a chartered agreement or is the autonomy we perceive as authentic and mutual? Probably a bit of both.
The worry-of-our-time. By the time we’ve identified a time of existential crisis the ideology of fear is already firmly rooted, and matters less to compare and contrast specified events and how they’re so similar in effect or causes. The stunning has already set in. The events didn’t cause a damn thing all by themselves, but the choices people make did. Those are the actions. I’m not buying into blame the event. If you bought that jar of apple sauce, it is open and you are spoon feeding yourself like a hungry little baby. Give it up to the event, give it up to the last day on the calendar.
I am not a spokesperson for brown skin people, but if I was, I would say something like this: Beg our pardon, but how can you all decide that now is a good time to come to a helpless and stunned perspective about the direction our country and the world is headed? No such thing as too late.
How the story is told to us; the spin—the pessimistic or optimistic full of life perspective, is a particular determining factor in how we relate to life and do our meaning-making. When one person gives up, any brown person can tell you, it is not the giving-up of only one soul, and typically has a reverberating generational effect.
How we deal with the challenges that we all played an implicit role in creating, makes all the difference in and for the world we live in. The postmodern self looks for answers in a self-therapeutic fashion, whereby existing in a vulnerable space, as there are as many ways to provide self-therapy, some of them only aid as much as objects can, while others pass the temporal space, and touch the spirit. However altruistic this process, if it gets lost in a dewy-eyed vision, the veneer you pierce is probably only one of object comfort. You can paint a room as many shades of peace as you please, but if you don’t change yourself at a deeper level, that room will still resemble a war zone muted with a powder blue. The American Dream certainly succeeds at visually making things appear to be OK. I know that idea guided my father’s choice on lecture notes. He hadn’t lived in relative comfort for most of his independent young adult life, had known what it was like to be left out of The Dream. He wanted me the individual to be fortified—to know better. While trust is important to any level of mutuality, trusting at a level of naiveté serves less towards the good of an ever-evolving life, and more towards a susceptibility to being deceived, shocked, and stunned. When we leave ourselves vulnerable, we are blind to the corruptibility of our highest intentions.
What’s happening now, I would hope, is what happens in the ephemeral geography of post-corruption reflection. We look at the vulnerability of our ideology. We see that we must take greater charge and responsibility of our own destinies. The two-foldness of our action, both mends the past and creates a way out of being stunned into stupefaction.
Yet, if people don’t want to change much, then the world’s not going to change much. And that sounds like something my father would say. I think he is right.