Life is strange. There is a lot going on in the world right now. It seems as though the world is on fire.
And as we watch it burn, we take sides, place blame, partake in shouting matches, create hashtags, sign petitions, become angrier and angrier with one another, pushing each other further and further away. And the world continues to burn as we fan the flames with our hot breath and, instead of extinguishing it, we throw fuel on the fire. It would do us good to take a step back―a huge step back―and attempt to take an objective look at “us,” who we are, what we’ve become. But it can be extremely difficult to look at us as a whole―whether objectively or not―because it has become so convenient to remove ourselves from the whole that is “us,” that is humanity. We have given up the “us” for the sake of individualism, capitalism, self-preservation, nationality, imperialism, religion, class, gender, sexuality, political agendas, and/or race, to name a mere few.
I frequently find myself at the intersection of not wanting to further polarize the opposing polarities―widening the gap between them by voicing insight from one side or the other―and merely wanting everyone to realize and acknowledge the truth in the reality in which we all live. Unfortunately, “truth” is often relative, as people create and adopt their own “truths” to justify and rationalize the circumstances of their own existences. With this, “truth” becomes a subjective matter of perspective and opinion on what happened, or is happening, rather than an objective, factual account of the events. Then, these “truths” are further perpetuated through media outlets that share the ideals behind them―facts get warped and are taken out of context, opinions get shared and passed along as the irrevocable truth.
And the world continues to burn.
We have broken history up into fragments―polishing the pieces that serve our interests, casting out those that do not, and molding and reshaping some to fit our individual narratives or the narratives of our folk. In doing so, we have tried to separate ourselves from each other―separating ourselves from our joint history, denying, suppressing, and rejecting the history of others in our narratives of solitary histories. And, more often than not, it is true that the “history” that is most widely accepted is written by the victors, and those accounts of “history” commonly live to serve the agenda of preserving the institutionalized structures of dominance and the dominant culture(s) at large. Simultaneously, the experiences and voices of the oppressed are negated and hushed, and those individuals are subjugated, subdued, and disenfranchised over-and-above the oppression they have already experienced―we dehumanize certain individuals, and add insult to injury by playing the victim when they ask for their human experience to be validated.
If you speak out against racism, you are called a racist.
If you speak out against injustice, you are being unfair.
If you speak out against the atrocities committed by a certain group, you are automatically anti-that-group or pro-another-group.
If you ask us to consider how history has impacted the present, you are living in the past.
I get it, though. We are about 7.046 billion people presently living on earth, and rapidly growing―it is impossible to find a middle ground on everything, if anything. And that’s not even taking into account the billions upon billions of people who came before us, who established many of the realities we now know and accept. All of the people who exist―as did all of the people who have ever existed, as will all of the people who ever will―each have our own entry-point and perspective on the lives we live and the world around us, many of those being starkly oppositional. Our relationship status is forever, “It’s complicated.”
Nonetheless, how beautiful is it when we strive to find commonality, seeking out the humanity in one another, rather than disallowing it? How wonderful is it when we enter a place where diversity is genuinely celebrated, and not used to discriminate? How incredible is it when we are able to cherish each other’s unique cultures, traditions and practices, rather than fearing them?
I am not delusional enough to believe that we will achieve any type of utopia on earth, where everyone lives in perfect unity and harmony. However, I do not think it is irrational to hope for the best we can be, collectively and together―also acknowledging that it is often the deepest of love we have for one group of people, mixed with fear and untruths, that fuels the deepest and ugliest hatred for another group. We convince ourselves it is necessary to hate, fight, and destroy “the other” in order to protect and guard those we hold most dear. We begin to believe that if we, and those we hold most dear, are to survive, we must obliterate “the other.”
This hate is so toxic and destructive, but love is somewhere there at its inception, however misguided it might be. Imagine if we were able to extend that love beyond ourselves, beyond our small circles. Imagine if we were able to move from the viewpoint of “them versus us,” and merely to “us.” Already, I hear retorts of, “But they started it,” and, “What if we decide to love them, put our guards down, and they destroy us,” and, “They are not my responsibility,” and, “But they are a different (fill in the blank),” and “But we are right, and they are wrong!”
And the world continues to burn.
Alas, everyone will not agree on everything all the time, if anything ever. But I wish we would be more open to understanding the history, reality, and perspective of others―most specifically and especially those who we have positioned ourselves against, those who we see as “the other,” those who we have determined are our enemies. None of us live in isolation―from each other or from our shared histories. If we deny the humanity within others, we are denying the humanity within ourselves. When we recognize that we are not islands, that we are all caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, we realize that “their history” is our history. We have created each other, whether for the good or bad, and are all caught up in each other’s destinies. This is what Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about in his Letter From Birmingham Jail. This is Ubuntu―I am what I am because of who we all are.
And as the world continues to burn around us, I find myself continuously searching for this awareness―I’m still searching for Ubuntu.