Since having discussions about the immigration "reform" proposals and the Duke sexual assault event, I have noticed a pretty disturbing trend, which I had noticed earlier and meant to blog about, but put it off and eventually forgot. I think now is a good time to make the post.
Note To The So Called POC Revolutionaries:
Hi, I hope this reaches you in good health. This note is pass on wisdom I've gained and hopefully help you to not make the mistakes I did AND perhaps accelerate our movement. First I want to warn you about some pit falls that most of us fall into when we get some knowledge:
1) "I am the definition of (consciousness, revolution, etc)." Yes, you read a few books, you know a bit more than most of your peers and you are fired up. You do not know everything. Please do not talk down to people you don't know. In fact, don't talk down to people in general. How will you know when you're doing this? It's easy: If you find yourself quoting stuff at people, stuff that wasn't asked for or is barely relevant to the conversation you're having, you're probably talking down to that person. They probably know it too. Furthermore, they will most likely avoid any future conversation with you because no one likes being treated like an idiot. Even idiots. As a part of this you probably have put yourself up on a pedestal. Probably didn't mean to do it, but you did. Problem with that is, your stuff is out for everyone to see and when you mess up, and you will, everybody will point it out AND use it as proof that you are full of cow manure. The solution to this is good old fashioned humbleness. You were once an idiot. It's OK. You are on a path, you want people to follow the path. You are not THE path nor the destination. Remember that.
2) "I know everything." No, you don't really say that, but you act like it. This is pretty closely related to number one above. What people with this problem do is act like everyone else is wrong and they are right. It spanks of arrogance and a lack of security in oneself. Think of the logic. No one person can know everything. Not even in the subject that interests them the most. So why act like you know everything? A sign of true leadership is admitting that one could be wrong AND admitting when one is wrong. Of course a large reason why people slip into this pit is because often there is a lack of leadership training among consciousness organizations. Often these organizations are simply places where everyone pats everyone else on the back rather than a place to further challenge their friends and ideas.
3) Group Generalization and Demonization: I'll admit that I fell in on this for a while. In fact I think it is pretty normal for those who are coming out of the cloud of disinformation that is in the educational system to demonize the group they see as "oppressors." The problem is that history and reality is far more complicated than white devils and sexist men (for example). Many people get stuck on demonization because it actually soothes their own damaged ego. It is a type of intellectual revenge to be able to turn the tables on the "enemy." The problem of course is that it often leads to sloppy, sloppy, sloppy scholarship and stagnant intellectual development. For example, many black people believe white people were running around Africa grabbing up people. That is simply not the case. Yet this myth persists because it is a means of understanding ones position in the world. Another one is the idea that Africans were all "peaceful" "sun people" and white people are "warrior" "cold people." There is plenty of history of not too peaceful Africans and plenty of history of peaceful white people. What you should be doing is being specific. Being specific makes you look more intelligent. When you look more intelligent, your cause looks better.
4) Name calling: Oh I think a lot of people fall down here. Most times conscious people are seen as being mad all the time. They are probably right. Often times I notice that persons who cannot defend their positions (even when they have the right one), end up name calling. Oh yes, your buddies will probably love you for "telling that cracker off" or whatever the opposition happens to be. Problem is, a lot of people who may have been with you may be turned off by your mouth (pen or keyboard). You simply never know who is in the audience and what they will respond too. Since even the most sailor mouthed person can understand to an intelligent and coherent argument, there is no need for the name calling. Worst yet, your opposition will use your sudden lack of vocabulary to smear you in the eyes of the audience. People will look at you and think that the foulness coming out of your mouth is indicative of what you stand for. Hey, I understand how easy it is. On occasion I've even fallen off that wagon. But be sure, you are being watched and listened to. Watch. Your. Mouth.
5) Putting Words in Peoples Mouths: I cannot tell you the number of times, I've had people put words in my mouth and then proceed to name call and generalize me on the basis of those misplaced words. This is yet another sign of intellectual bankruptcy. You do NOT want to get caught out there doing that, especially in a written forum. It will be pointed out. It WILL then take the conversation off track (which is sometimes the intent of such word placement) and the conversation will focus on your lack of integrity and by extension the integrity of the cause you stand for. If for some reason you have done this and it is pointed out to you, do not deny it. Apologize immediately and take back all comments made on the basis of that mistake. This is not a sign of weakness and will increase the amount of respect your audience will have of you.
6) Being Bitter: Folks, there is nothing and I mean nothing worse for a cause than a person who is bitter. A revolutionary is not defined by the strength or frequency of a scowl or the length at which one can complain about "the man" or how "stupid" "your people" are. People have their own problems and stresses. They do not need you to add to it 'K? What's even worse is that bitter people tend to ramble on and on about what bothers them. People really don't want to hear about all that. Lastly, being bitter is simply bad for your health. How do you know if you are bitter? If you can't take a joke, or have to point out that you have other interests or even a life and friends, you are probably bitter.
7) Mistaking what you want to be the case for being the case: I think this is a huge problem. So many people think that what they would like to be reality is in fact reality. For example, with the Duke issue. If rape is defined legally as involuntary vaginal intercourse don't have a discussion on the subject as if rape was legally defined as anything else. If you want to have a hypothetical discussion in which rape is legally defined as something else then have that conversation, but don't get mad at people who are having a conversation with things clearly defined. Another example, Islam allowed for slavery. So did Christianity, Judaism and just about every other religion. There are all kinds of people who get all bent out of shape because they choose to wish such things away. Don't be one of those people. The road to changing systems or even replacing them, is understanding what they are.
8) Falling into Conspiracy Theories: I've gotten caught here. You need to be very very careful about the conspiracy theories you repeat and where you repeat them. Conspiracy theories are just that, theories, having not been proven you should not be caught out there stating them as if they are fact. For example: some people think the Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled demolition. Ok. Maybe. But you let me know when, where and how the detonating material was placed in the proper locations and activated. This aint the Matrix where folks can just "Jack in" somewhere plant some bombs and then disappear. All said, you lose some level of credibility when you repeat conspiracy theories without offering proof of concept or at least admitting that it is a theory.
Lastly I'd like to offer some advice. If you are really about change, then you have to be an institution builder. You need to understand organizations and how organizations work and perpetuate themselves in the absence of it's founders. A lot of so called "conscious" people and "revolutionaries" are in fact arm chair critics of the status quo. They have a lot to say about what they think is wrong with things. They even have some idea of what they would like. They usually have no clue as to how to get from status quo to new reality. It's not that they don't want that new reality, it's just that they are under the impression that those in power are simply going to give them what they want if they ask or critique enough times. They are full of *manure*. Kwame Nkrumah of the PPP said, before Ghana gained independence, that the PPP had to act as if it was in power before it got power. I would wish that many of the so called "revolutionary fronts" in Africa would practice these things. I cannot see how raping women and cutting off limbs is indicative of a new "democratic" government. I mean, if you're willing to rape, kill and maim civilians to get power, what will you do to keep it? But back to you the student.
Many of you, will grow pretty lazy because you will be using tools and institutions built and maintained by the very same people you rail against. You computer will be made by a corporation that you rail against. The School will have been funded by alumni and corporations you rail against. The electricity and the like will all be provided to you, for a fee, by more corporate entities. You will become used to these things that are so accessible to you and you won't even think to hard of all the things that are connected and organized and controlled for you to live the arm chair critic life. because you don't think of it, you will fall into intellectual stagnation and narrowness You will continue to be surface in your analysis of most affairs. In fact you probably will, like most of your peers, not even attempt to really discuss international issues outside of your pet issue. I'll tell you what, check most so called "revolutionary" blogs and you'll note a lack of discussion on international commerce or governance. Not even as links. Trust me, it's not all that surprising.
There are a couple of things I suggest you do that will make fulfilling your long term goals a lot easier:
1) Get into a stable relationship with someone drama free. It's like this: The single life is fun. It is also wastes a great deal of time and energy. I'm not saying to not have fun. I am saying you need to limit that time. You will soon learn that a 70+year lifespan is actually pretty short. Also, a good relationship is good for your health. A good relationship is also a testing laboratory for leadership and decision making. If you can't manage the difficulties in a personal relationship, odds are you will have issues running anything larger. True, there are many successful divorced and serial monogomists, but for people with social agendas the people you will be dealing with and planning for are going to, more likely than not, have some kind of family arrangement.
2) Realize that the majority of the so called "revolutionaries" are full of manure. They are in it because of ego. They got into it because they had bruised egos and needed to have something to rebel with and something to have over someone else. If you are in college, the "revolutionaries" are often simply another clique like the Jocks and Sororities. Many of these people will not be about much of anything after they graduate and find that thier ability to earn a living is seriously compromised by their often really bad attitudes posing as "revolutionary vanguard." That said, let me also warn you about prejudging people. There are a great deal of people out there who are "under cover." I have met some of the most "down ass people" who had perms and Guess apparel. I may not agree with their attire but I found that many of those people were willing to put their monies where there mouths were, even above and beyond the most dreaded and mud cloth wearing Pan-Africanist. For a great example of how your people will leach you, we should note the Black Commentator website which, though I have my occasional disagreements with, is one of the better black issues web sites out there. Even though they get thousands of hits and visitors from various countries and economic classes, they are in serious risk of going under because they apparently cannot raise enough money from their readership to continue operations AND make a living. They refuse (rightly or wrongly) to accept corporate money (They took mine..he he hee) and so are totally dependent on the community to stay afloat. This is what you are facing. The very people who will want change will not support you in getting it but will gladly spend the dividends of your struggle.
3) Spec-i-fic-i-ty: This is the exact opposite of the Generalization problem. I recall Professor Fluker of Tuskegee University saying that one needed to be specific. I didn't quite catch on until some years after. Some months ago I was in court on a speeding ticket and overheard a lawyer advising his client. He stated that the law said "xyz AND..abc" The "and" being the critical statement in the case. Specificity allows you to control a conversation by defining the terms. Your ability to make a clear and specific argument is going to be your "trump card" in most arguments. It is almost inevitable that those that oppose you will fall into pitfalls 5 and 7 above in an attempt to smear you. But because they are stupid enough to fall into pitfalls 5 and 7 you will be able to counter them with little energy on your part. At best you want terms defined in a manner that is clear to everyone AND that can be universally agreed upon. Avoid making up new terms or defining terms with contradictory words It would be best if your defined word can be broken up etymologically and still stand or you may find yourself playing the word game which is not only a distraction but will cause you to waste time defending to anyone but your "yes friends."
4) Lose the "Yes Friends": Boy are these people a drag on your development. "Yes friends" are like crack or worse, chocolate chip cookies. Like said cookies, these people exist simply to comiserate and/or inflate your ego. They often have self-esteem issues and need for you to park where they are mentally locate so that they don't feel so alone having long been left alone by those who have matured in their views. President Bush is surrounded by "Yes People." Much of the Republican Party in America is a big "Yes people club." Many of the corrupt leaders in various African countries are still around because of "Yes People." How do you know when you are surrounded by "yes people." I'll admit that it's a whole lot easier to spot yes people from the outside then it is to spot them from the inside. Let me offer this test. Are you God (5 Percenter ideologies aside)? OK having established that, you are not infalible. If you are in fact falible then you have no doubt made a mistake. I'll venture to guess you've made many mistakes. Now think of a point where you made a particular mistake that was pretty obvious after the fact. Was it pointed out to you? If so, was it pointed out to you by your "buddies" or by an "outsider" If it was pointed out by an outsider, your buddies are likely "yes friends." They may be "I don't want to hurt your feelings" friends. These are the ones that did know you goofed but didn't want to hurt your feelings by saying so so they said nothing. They are just about as bad as the yes people. What you choose to do with these people are up to you but my suggestion is to cut 'em loose.
5) Thicken Up That Skin: Negative people abound. If you allow yourself to get high blood pressure from them, it will happen. And you want to know who's fault that is? Yours. You can't (and don't want to) control what other people do or say. You can, however, determine how (and when) you respond to those people. Negative people are like "Yes friends" in that they do nothing for you. Be careful not to mistake critical people with negative people. For example; negative people simply point out problems and "name call" there isn't an original idea to be had with them. Critical people have ideas and often help you better construct your ideology. This is a good thing. I'd rather have a discussion with a critical person than a "yes friend" anytime. Negative people should be ignored at almost all costs. reacting to them only gives them the attention they are looking for and your reaction usually feeds into the negativity that they wish to engulf you in. Toughen up that skin.
So, to close, let me part with this:
Avoid as many of the pitfalls noted above. Act like you run things somewhere. Realize that as a person who would be running things, you'll not get everything you want and sometimes the choices you have to make will be unpopular and hard. Stake out positions on subjects that are controversial and perhaps outside your comfort zone. If you were running things you'd have to do it. Put your positions to the test. Put them out there for critique. Your development as a "progressive" will develop like a Chess master, after many losses and much studying of tactics. Never compromise on your principles, but make sure you know what is a principle and what is a selfish desire. You may compromise your tactics. Again, be sure to know the difference. Being a progressive does not mean you have the opposite position of the dominant society because some things in the dominant society is actually, gasp, right.
Thank you for reading.