FOR THE BROTHAS: AN INTRODUCTION

It must have been about 20 years ago when I first began thinking about creating a "Cultural Salon" as a reaction to the mundane social circles In Washington D.C. The richness of intellectual and artistic interchange had died, college friends had moved, the internet had not yet become the phenomenon it now is... I romanticised about the Salons of the mid to late 1800's in Paris, London and Berlin and the cultural dynamo of the Harlem Rennaisance. I was fortunate enough to meet a gentleman, an artist who lived and traveled with James Baldwin... Jimmy he affectionately called him, and he spoke often of their small cottage in southern France and of the many Artists, Poets and Luminaries that dropped in to chat and relax. Well, the impressionists, cubists, modernists, etc. all hung out together famously in those days and shared their ideas with one another creating a creative greenhouse in a world that was rapidly changing. I longed to have lived in those times, to have met Cassat, Rodin, Ellington, Fitzgerald, Baker, Balwin, well I did finally meet Baldwin and others purely for the joy of intellection upon the arts. This was in the late 1980's and by the mid 2000's I happened to run into a friend of mine from Hampton University who had been living in New York since he graduated in the early 90s. Well, I was surprised to hear him comment that in all of the wonder that is New York he never met anyone who ever really had anything interesting to say about art, literature, architecture, science, fashion or anything... I was so surprised to hear this since it had also been my experience. Well here I am in 2011 attempting the Virtual Salon...

Friday, December 19, 2014



RETHINKING WHAT WE UNDERSTAND ABOUT HUMAN PERCEPTION AS A STRATEGY FOR MANAGING RACISM...

Wouldn't it be amazing if we possessed the ability to perceive the world through the eyes of other people allowing us to appreciate just how diverse human perception can be?  Now I don’t mean a freakish sci-fi movie extra-sensory perception; I’m talking about a natural and perfectly normal empathy that could facilitate our ability to be receptive to the emotions of others.  If this is possible, and it is, how would we use the extraordinary insight our newly found “Third-Eye” afforded us?  More importantly how could we cultivate these perceptive abilities within ourselves in order to understand the motivation behind the actions of those around us? How might we use this innately human skill to uproot and undo centuries of entrenched racism. This gift of perception has sometimes been called the “Third-Eye” in both ancient and contemporary times.  We might someday, after a great deal of focused study, discover a way to balance our-third eye’s perception with that of the two eyes we already possess but for now let us simply think of it as the simplest and most normal kind of human  intuition?  Having the ability to understand and adapt things that greatly differ from our norm is a skill rooted in our affective core as human beings.  It is an essential survival skill we use to communicate across unfamiliar barriers such as language, race, ethnicity and sometimes sexuality.  Many humanitarians and freethinkers believe that racism, classism and sexism for example are nothing more than superficial overlays to the human psyche, glitches, impediments, synaptic misfires acting as filters of a sort that inhibit our ability to effectively communicate on a fundamental level which otherwise unifies us as human beings.  The relevance of this philosophy is that it challenges mankind to confront its failure to live up to the egalitarian ideals which are universally celebrated across all human civilization.  The ideals of which I speak are all based upon the belief that all humans are absolutely equal in every way.  This philosophy deliberately treats racial, ethnic, sexual, economic and other biases and prejudices as superficial and does not consider them as functionally fundamental to human instinct.  If not only by virtue of the fact that this discussion is necessary this philosophy recognizes that there is a clear relationship between these biases and human instinct but one that is not too deeply rooted that it cannot be managed or avoided, hence the theory that this type of bias and prejudice might be tangential or superficial rather than subcutaneous or even fundamental to human instinct.  One thing is certain no matter how ingrained it may be in the fabric of our humanity we know for certain that racism and bias can be successfully overcome.  We know that regardless of race, gender, economics, culture or ethnicity all members of the human species are naturally attracted to and compatible with each other; that superficial differences such as skin color, physical characteristics attributable to geography, etc., are not significant enough to infer a fundamental genetic difference within the species as a whole outside of the stronger sexual/hormonal differences between males and females.  The racial overlay which cites skin color and racial characteristics as hallmarks of racial inequality besides being technically flawed in lieu of modern anthropological and genetic research and ethically/morally flawed from a humanitarian perspective is in dire need of updates to render them culturally relevant in a time of unprecedented racial, cultural and ethnic diversity.  While the rest of the world appears to have moved forward in terms of racial and ethnic solidarity in virtually every arena including the furtherance of human culture and technology American ingenuity for instance has been critically retarded by a centuries-old struggle between black and white! As American culture dives into a dismal cycle of decline there is no better time to cure the cancer of racism in the hope that it will stimulate a cultural renaissance in these United States…

Humanity as a whole is diminished by racial, ethnical, economic and other biases.  When the humanity of a people is marginalized due to racial bias and replaced with a malignant code of stereotypes that erases the very soul of those peoples who notwithstanding, represent a significant power within that culture nothing less than a classic collision course with cultural impotence has been set into motion.  Superficially it appears as if America has experienced an economic and cultural rise over the two centuries since its inception however the omnipresent curse of racism has festered in its gut for so long that it threatens the ability of this nation to move forward into the twenty-first century as a globally competitive power.   Because racism discounts the importance of entire populations of human beings in its arrogance it fails to see how it will ultimately lose the numbers game through attrition as these oppressed populations develop power platforms which eventually expand gaining mainstream support.  Although racism psychologically causes people to become invisible we know that people do not just disappear because you do not like them or desire to share economic prosperity with them.  Hitler faced this same dilemma inspiring him to embark upon a blind trail of genocide which history calls the “Final Solution”.  We have to ask ourselves how one man was able to set into motion the genocide of innocent human beings who in this case happened to be European Jews; men, women and children, even the yet unborn.  The world watched while Hitler justified murder as an alternative to discovering a solution to the problem of racism.  For this and many other reasons it is clear that Hitler and the regime he created had utterly failed on many fundamental levels  because they lacked the necessary creativity to humanely solve the biggest human issue of their time.  A true leader and statesman would have welcomed the challenge to unilaterally solve centuries old race, economic and political issues across the rapidly changing landscape of modern Europe similarly to the way the European Union has done today. Again, having the ability to use third-eye consciousness to overcome prejudice could have saved the world from one of the most destructive wars in human history.  Some say Hitler lost WWII because in his racial hatred he caused the brightest scientific minds many of which were Jewish, to flee Europe and fight on the side of the Allies. This outcome had played out many times before in European history such as when the Medieval Spanish Inquisition compelled the Moors and Jews to flee taking their scientific and technological knowledge with them at a loss to Spain.  During WWII the rise of The Third Reich caused Jewish and other gifted European Scientists to flee to America and other parts of the world creating a technological vacuum in Hitler’s camp but delivering a boon to his enemies, the Allies.  On another shore, when you begin to mentally calculate all of the potential contributions to civilization that may have been systematically cancelled or delayed because the genius behind them was Black American it becomes quite clear why the brief technological acceleration spanning the late nineteenth through the late twentieth centuries in America has so rapidly regressed into what is our current lackluster American economy, an economy that produces little that the world desires save weapons of mass destruction.  It is no coincidence that America’s most globally sought after commodity is weaponry.  For a country that has grown weak in real human productivity due to poor education and dire discrepancies in the accessibility of critical resources that might have the ability to strengthen it in other ways weapons intended to establish military power are needed to compensate for the crippling lack of creativity.  America has decided it is too hard to maintain its competitive edge in a world of commodities when all it has to do is build the biggest gun! America’s investment in Black American education and business follows a larger trend encompassing all Americans.  This country no longer strives to produce the next George Washington Carvers’, Charles Drew’s or Albert Einstein’s because it has decided it is cheaper and less labor intensive to farm Americans to become consumers.  In other words, Americans are being “Farmed” or cultivated to become nothing more than 100% consumer stock feeding the avaricious machine of Wall Street and the global economic market it once dominated.  So although some men perceive Black Americans including other troubled and racially profiled communities to be a racially and genetically inferior population of peoples, freethinkers recognize them not only as their genetic and racial equal but also understand how strategically they represent a vast untapped pool of creative potential in many ways making Black Americans and peoples of color in particular the last human frontier of our age!.  Even today the economic machines of the world all have their eyes cast on Africa as the next place to do business.  Unfortunately this shifts attention away from Black Americans who are still struggling to get attention as the next most important commodities to invest in.  Hopefully circumstances within the black community in the states will turn around causing it to refocus attention on pulling its fractured and beaten-down self together.



It may not be possible for racism to be completely unlearnt but it certainly can be deprogrammed. Deprogramming a culture that has been built upon racism is indeed a herculean task but then so was the creation of this great nation evincing that it is possible. Each of us is fully capable of empathetically understanding the world through the sensibilities of those who are different from us because we are fundamentally the same. What arrests this process from manifesting itself is the combined pressure of racism on both sides of the line of understanding.  It is equally clear that the possibilities exists that no one is completely incapable of succumbing to racial bias on some level and that everyone can functionally overcome the overlay of racism. This means the radical leaps and bounds humanity has made toward egalitarian freedom over the past 300 -400 years still has a great hope of being realized in full.  We should constantly be rethinking what we understand about perception allowing us to navigate through life driven by a healthy respect for the unique world-view of others.  If for no other reason than it is an essential exercise in humility we should make a daily practise of seeing through the lens of others.  With this skill comes the ability to comprehend the way others perceive us and that, my friend, is the veritable crystal ball of self-refinement.  So “Look into the crystal ball! What do you see? You see yourself in the eyes of others and you see others as they see themselves”.  We all know at the end of the day racism is mostly about perception of a skin-deep reality.  Just as easily as we are able to manufacture economic, scientific and other arguments to justify the perpetuation of racism we can dismantle them for they are all arbitrary, ideologies having no basis in what commonly links us as men… and that is love…

We often make broad assumptions about what motivates people we do not know to do things we do not fully understand.  In the absence of real facts, we sometimes rely on our own prejudices, fears, anger and frustration to compensate our lack of a real understanding.  It is at these times that our third-eye would be most valuable. But having access to a third-eye parallax requires empathy and compassion in order to transform understanding into a tangible deed of good will.  

While it is true that the human experience is common, in many instances our instinctual and behavioral similarities bleed off into a direction that is as much guided by the  unique variables surrounding the event as they are driven by our own patently unique personality.  Technology has changed the way we think about everything especially on an evidentiary level.  In the past we relied completely upon the integrity of the individual to gather and interpret facts and to dispense justice.  Technology has largely undermined and replaced our reliance on the integrity of an individual replacing it with a less subjective structure built of scientific, empirical data.  The technical lag between technology and policy is evinced by the increasing number of well-documented assassinations of Black American men whose murderers go untouched by the law. So in the past we relied on a legal system that pretended to be ethical knowing that it could ignore and manipulate data to justify its end. Today we are challenged to eliminate obsolete laws originally designed to facilitate racism allowing legal injustice to defy incontrovertible, empirical data!  In the past black men were killed and it was simply an accepted evil, false accounts could be manufactured and no one dared to raise a question.  Even if they did the legal infrastructure of police, judges and policymakers was already so entrenched in the perpetuation of racism it would have been impossible for real justice to see the light of day.  Today we must ask how much has changed as it appears that a black man can be murdered on video in front of dozens of eyewitnesses attesting to the criminality of the assailant, the event is broadcast and protested globally but a legal loophole that may have been crafted during the heyday of jim-crow styled racism and should have been removed from the law books over 50 years ago will allow his murderer to walk freely in these United States guiltless in the eyes of the law.   The technology of our time merely pretends to hold every man to a far more complex matrix of standards than they did a lynch mob 60 only years ago.  If the laws of this land cannot see a clear pathway to justice for all people then conscientious Americans of all races, creeds religions and ethnicities must change them!  We certainly have done so in the past it is just that we left a lot of obscure areas unpurged.  Racism is so deeply encrypted into the laws of this land it may take many centuries to finally rout them all out.  As imposing as the law is it is ultimately inanimate, an imperfect structure crafted by flawed men, it cannot comprehend or command the use of a first, second or third-eye, it has no eye or mind or heart of its own. The law is actually a weak thing, a blind and shapeless collection of theory devoid of the creative and sensitive soul humans must pull from in order to understand why people do the things they do. This brings our discussion full circle now to the topic of race, ethnicity, cultural and social values because in America even if they are irrelevant the question will inevitably be raised.  So because racial and other biases can potentially play a significant role in the way decisions are made in this country we must be equipped to effectively identify or rule them out as variables.  It is precisely here that we must call upon our third-eye powers of perception and empathy to help us sift through the labyrinth of human nature in order to get to the root of the real motivating issues.  Ironically, in spite of the tendency of popular culture to elevate every motive to supernatural proportions more often than not the things which move common men and women to make the decisions they make are quite utilitarian and unbiased in nature, they are just doing their jobs. Everyone should understand how difficult public service can be as it entails dealing with a great deal of randomness and more often than not it is loaded with the potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication both internally and on the side of the public.  It is never easy being a public servant and even the best is still imperfect.  The branches of public service that deal directly with human conflict which consists of law enforcement and the criminal justice system are literally pitted between a country in which cultural, political and racial views have radically changed and frequently change and an obsolete legal structure of antiquated, ineffective and unconstitutional polices that have not been removed from the laws of the land.  Many of these more esoteric laws and certainly many widely used but outdated ones should have been deemed null in lieu of other more progressive legislation and then there is the eternal struggle between a state’s laws and federal laws to further complicate matters of structural alignment and policy refreshment.  In many ways the very laws of this land interfere in our ability to avoid racism. 

At the end of the day every encounter we have with others is a test of our ability to effectively communicate.  When we are thrust into the public arena we must suddenly become highly conscious of our responsibility to tap into our third-eye the same as those who are watching and judging us.  We should always be mindful of the fact none of us is perfect a factor sufficient to earn a relative margin of forgiveness for the inevitable mistakes everyone makes in life.  We must weigh these mistakes carefully when they affect the lives of others, balancing the loud but ephemeral din of popular culture against the wisdom of a third-eye.  Furthermore, because we are not along in this world we have the ability to collect the third-eyed wisdom of others representing our colleagues, friends, family and others whose judgment we respect as being sound.  One thing is certain, whenever there is true and grievous injustice it should be dealt with.  The problem with popular culture and social media is rooted in its potential inability to see or to care to see clearly and also to effectively evaluate what it sees.  The real dilemma with social media is that matters of great significance can get promoted more or less robustly than matters of much smaller gravity.  This potential has the effect of rendering social media unreliable and making its motives appear to be questionable to its audiences who continually are forced to sift through data which has already been skewed in favor of some unknown prejudice rather than simply being reported a raw objective media.  For example American media coverage of and audience attention to the Super Bowl or a popular reality show would easily capture more attention than the plight of thousands of a growing number of homeless families.  People know about the ills and vices of the world they live in but they just do not seem to want to hear about it as if it will somehow just go away or should be dismissed as a normal condition.  What is normal about homelessness and hunger?  We are told some stories are just more important than others and this psychology enables us to ignore huge discrepancies in our world that truly deserve 100% of or undivided attention such as the issue of racism.  What is ultimately important to us about any story is largely based on our perception of how it affects the way we live and how it reshapes our perspective of the world.  There is one solid truth and it lives somewhere between our opinion, the opinion of the media and that of our third-eye forcing us to evaluate every story dropped upon our doorstep or allow the media to decide it for us.  In order to turn racism around we really have to take a more assertive role to limit the influence of media especially social media in the determination of critical legal decisions.  Social media and media in general are amazing tools but they have far too often been abused in America to taint public opinion and used in concert with culturally irrelevant laws social and other media have fabricated elaborate operant conditioning campaigns to conceal and avoid the larger issue of policy reform in America to erase racism from the law books of this land.

Imagine a hypothetical but plausible scenario where four separate but similar events transpire in four separate parts of a town at the same time.  Each of these events could be interpreted anywhere along a sliding scale from purely routine or incidental to highly racially, culturally or ethnically motivated depending on the perspective of the audience so this is how the story unfolds.  On the south side of town a black police officer encounters a white youth and after a brief debacle guns him down killing the teen.  At the same time a white police officer encounters a black youth on south side of town and after a physical confrontation with him shoots the teen killing him on the spot.  Ironically within the same timeframe two black teens on the east side of the metropolis begin to argue and in seconds both begin shooting at each other with the result that one teen is seriously injured and the other teen dies.  On the west end two white youths begin to fight and in the process both teens die of their gunshot wounds.

In each case there were plenty of eyewitnesses and these crimes experienced unprecedented media coverage merely minutes after the last shot was fired, the news and government were in the middle of a socio-political frenzy.  The bustling city had survived similar events in the past but they had been isolated and spaced out generously over a period of years rather than seconds.  The media was overwhelmed by the freaky simultaneity of these grisly happenstances.  The community was in an uproar, shocked, numbed, angered and grieved over the sheer magnitude of violence thrust into their lives from every direction.  Each community made sobering demands upon their government officials who scrambled to piece all of the facts together before making what they felt would be the appropriate public responses.  It was a tense and volatile time and as if to intensify this corrosive social tsunami the situation went globally viral.  Within less than a half hour the story was being reported live in every country and in every language all the way around the world! 

Suddenly the wide, wide world demanded immediate answers as its unblinking, uncompromising consciousness zoomed into the heart of a town it certainly would never have taken time to know save for the events that had spewed their ensanguined calling cards upon what had once been quiet streets. These otherwise unassuming streets were where ordinary folk played out their urban realness day in and day out… So was it the putrefying odour of death alone that distinguished this town or was it the manner in which death decomposed our sense of safety into the simplest and ugliest elements of fear, dread, despair, ignorance, disgust and guilt?  If you were standing  on the sidewalk nearby or o’er the extinguished bodies of these youths; if you were looking onto them lying in pools of their own blood as far away from far away Delhi, Prague, Lagos, Washington, D.C., Buenos Ares, Toronto or Kyoto that you could conceivably be you  would see a different kind of realness.  So I will not ask you what you think the world sees I will ask you to visualize this spatially, culturally, racially and chronologically interwoven and compressed simultaneity of events using the third-eye philosophy and tell me what you think…

FIN


BY BIGDADDY BLUES


Saturday, November 1, 2014

TAMING THE BRUTE: A CANDID LOOK AT HOW BIGOTRY, CLASS AND APATHY HAVE FORGED THE IMAGE OF THE BLACK AMERICAN MAN ON BOTH SIDES OF THE RACE LINE



TAMING THE “BRUTE”: WHICH IS MOST CRIMINAL A MAN CORRUPTED BY HIS ENVIRONMENT OR THE COMMUNITY THAT CORRUPTED HIM?

The image of the Black American male is a topic that is necessarily woven into most of the articles and commentary I have written for “For The Brothas” since its creation.  After all For The Brothas was the brainchild of my passion to honestly examine every aspect of Black American manhood challenging its readers and members to view this phenomenon from a fresh and informed perspective.  Black American men live and thrive in a country that more often than not visualizes them as brutes, criminals and savages as part of a long standing tradition of racism.  Whether they are in actuality the social demons this culture markets them as is an issue that has been hotly debated for over 300 years in America.  In spite of the fact that this country has elected its first Black American male president for a second term the unrelenting rumour of racism has continued to shadow his administration.  In fact, the election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States of America has actually had the unexpected effect of exacerbating the unresolved and dangling issue of racism and more specifically the divine right of one race to assume superiority over another.  As it did over 200 years ago when the ink of the Declaration of Independence and American Constitution were still wet upon the parchment the credibility of a black man as an equal in every respect to any and every other man upon this earth remains unresolved because it directly challenges the belief of those clinging to notions of racial superiority that black men are inferior in every way and inherently corrupt by virtue of their inferiority.  I like to believe that the framers of the Declaration of Independence in their wisdom planted the seeds of universal egalitarianism within that document understanding the times were not ripe for a wholesale implementation of that lofty ideal and trusting that a more enlightened time would sow them and bring them into glorious fruition.  In many ways history did play out in that selfsame way, overlong for black men yearning for freedom and opportunity in a land they had not chosen to live.  Even so Black American men have shown unparalleled strength, bravery, patience and virtue on their long an incomplete journey to freedom and being imperfect as are all men they have themselves created centuries-long conflicts among themselves. There is a huge disparity in America between educated and affluent black men such as Obama and those Black American men of more common stature and accomplishment who regardless of their pedigree find themselves collectively demonized as street thugs and criminals to be feared and therefore discriminated against by mainstream society.  Within this broad socioeconomic spectrum of black men are those who actually do live and thrive in some of America’s poorest ghettos and whether or not they are privy or to or part of the lewd diorama of depravity and lawlessness romanticized as the reality of that place find themselves branded as purveyors of what has become a signature stylization of ghetto culture in its most robust form.  Likewise, there is a lesser known and celebrated culture of Black American men who represent the black intelligentsia; a privileged and highly successful educated class of men whose history stretches back to and before the days of slavery in America and continues to broaden in both scope and accomplishment.  How we begin to compare these two categories of Black American men has nothing to do with their pedigree, it begins on a level playing field which in America universally classifies these men as brutes and savages, social dissidents and criminals who should be feared… For the universal overlay of critique is a superficial but mightily strong review superseding all underlying qualities and conditions as its primary point of reference and justification is the singular factor of skin color.  




The issue then and now remains the same because Black Americans so easily turn a blind-eye to the truth.  On many levels the perpetuation of racism in America comes directly from the black community where it grows like a cancer, its resilience continues to confound the efforts of freethinkers and civil rights leaders of all races who join in a unified front to reverse the effects of this disease. While this dilemma does not leave other exterior factions and communities blameless it certainly serves to put the entire picture of racism into a realistic perspective thereby forcing the black community to assume accountability for its own part in this unfortunate social drama. In essence, the criticism that the Black American community has not taken seriously the issue of racism within itself because it is overly defensive against racism inflicted upon it from other entities has to be more closely examined. The realness of it all is that black men in America face a great deal of external bias from all fronts simultaneously including from within themselves. Given the odds stacked against them, that black men are able to accomplish anything at all in this country besides falling into the myriad stereotypes they are assumed to represent is a testament to their true strength of will, character and intelligence.  The million dollar question is how to convince the rest of the world? There are many reasons why Black Americans choose not to challenge biased treatment of black men but two of them stand out amid the rest.  The larger of the two key problems is that acknowledging racism requires them to step out of a dysfunctional comfort zone they have created as a buffer for the certainty of a biased assault.  Secondly, giving notice to racism challenges them to process its unpleasant content forcing them to shape an objective and informed opinion from which to take positive action.  Racism is not a threat when it has been pushed out of sight and out of mind but as these 300 some years since the beginning of the enslavement of Africans has proven it is a resilient threat that appears not to be going away! The truth of the matter is that Black Americans really do have a sound and factual basis for their fears about racism.  In the past and present black people could be severely punished for supporting a black man or advocating a cause sympathetic with a black man.  Black American’s are victims of racial operant conditioning, a process of slow brainwashing used to train animals to perform certain tasks over and over and over again until it becomes second nature.  Over nearly 300 years of oppression has conditioned black people to resent the history of unjust punishment of black men and they fight back by assuming all black men are being unjustly treated by the law, for this behavior I have coined the term “Reparation Justice”, it is a feeling of entitlement for innocence based on a past history of injustice whether the man is innocent or not.  “This is why black people are hesitant to get involved when they see a black man being pulled over on the roadside or incarcerated on the sidewalk, this is why black people are afraid to speak up when they witness or have knowledge of a crime committed by a black man.  Racism must be intelligently and humanely dealt with but due to the thoroughness of operant conditioning it may never completely disappear in our lifetime.  Black Americans do not speak up readily whether it is to rid its communities of criminal vermin, to protest police violence, to vote for credible elected officials or to strike back against bias directed against them in the workplace or over the retail counters because of the history of operant conditioning that has taught them to shut up or face certain repercussions against themselves and loved ones.  It is a messy and ugly affair which is why it has been ignored and pushed to the back by those most affected by its violence; our black men!




The primary challenge for the Black American community is to develop and establish effective and resilient think-tanks to galvanize and empower itself in spite of racism in a manner that does not regurgitate the same biases it seeks to overcome.  What good is a think-tank designed to empower the black community that uses the same corrosive and inhumane policies as those factions it seeks to overcome? The objective of Black American empowerment cannot be to exact revenge on past injustices, it must be forward and positive thinking with the goal of healing and strengthening itself through the mutual healing of all moving towards a common goal of social, economic and political reform. It is a difficult task because these think tanks must be highly introspective, i.e. focused on the condition of Black American culture and yet responsive to those humans and cultures who share and/or do not share their struggle.  Accomplishing this task requires a highly specialized and diversified way of thinking.  The Black community has floundered overlong because of a critical disparity between its techniques for thinking these problems through.  In a truly Machiavellian diorama the black intelligentsia has fought and effectively lost its power struggle to the more brutish and barbaric faction that gets it power credibility from the street!   Today the black intelligentsia watches in anesthetic horror from the stained windows of their ivory towers as the decayed remnants of a once brilliant black community fail and become gentrified.  They bemoan the rich ethnic history they failed to capture there that has been replaced with the brutish history of the latest homicide, gang debacle or drug overdose.  On the fringes of these dwindling communities drug dealers continue to stand guard over territories for which they have no legal claim, the dynamics of whose ownership exceeds their ability to comprehend until the cold notice to vacate arrives forwarded through the attorneys of proprietors in another country.  Nothing could be more depressing…




The black men standing on the streets feel as if they own them and as if they have gone through some ancient warriors rites of passage to earn the right to stand there guard their ancestral territory to the death.  But the absurdity of this premise only becomes gruesomely evident when the coroners truck carts away their corpse.  Who knows what trials they endured to earn the right to stand in the place where they were ultimately killed, who knows what level of street knowledge they achieved what standard of street credibility they earned in order to stand up and be cut down where they stood? The legendary skills of the streetwise have been passed on generation to generation from the plantation to  the city from the ex-con to the eager ring of unfocused and unparented youths foolish enough to listen and they have withstood the slavemaster’s whip and the gangsters bullet, they are weapons and tools forged for use in a deadly and viscous cycle human suffering and depravity.   The streetwise method of thinking can in fact be qualified as a comprehensive philosophy driven by the notion of an over-romanticized ghetto culture that is highly survivalist and desperate in nature.  Street sense relies on raw, spontaneous instinct, it is adrenaline based and therefore highly effective in dangerous situations but can be virtually worthless when a more cerebral and phased out solution is required.  Many people believe that the man who invests his existence only in street sense does so because he visualizes his life as a transient phenomenon with the expectation of little accomplishment beyond the stolen pleasures he might wrest from the incessant conflicts threatening his freedom and his life.  He knows these pleasures are not legitimately earned but rationalizes them by citing the corruption of humanity in general as justification for seizing the material objectives without regard their morality.  He may believe that because all men covet money, possessions and power his methodology is no more immoral or unethical as the next villain.  Street sense can never solve the problems of racism because it is focused on securing a basic level survival lasting only for the moment; a state of existence that will be in desperate chaos almost as soon as it becomes gratified due to its lack of long-term planning.  Recidivism and many other social dysfunctions that case people to become locked into addictions, economic hardship, over-dependency on social welfare, and other debilitating syndrome are some typical corrosive hallmarks of street-wisdom.  Street wisdom and philosophy is not sustainable as the foundation for a culture or community outside of an esoteric ring of gangsters, outlaws or thieves… It cannot support the critical inter-cultural relationships that  diverse, twenty-first century American culture demands.  The world has radically changed around the street corners of American ghettos, it is a far different world than the one that created it.  The social experiments of the twentieth century that placed black people close to jobs and vital resources hoping it would take advantage is pulling back its short-term offerings of reparation.  There are many reasons why the social projects of the 1950's through the 1980's failed in our inner cities and none of them leaves the black community blameless!  Neighborhoods where the streets became mortuaries are now gentrified but overall far happier places than before. Moreover the people who once violently lived and died there gave no reason for anyone to justify their perpetuation.  When did just being poor mean that one had to be depraved?  On closer observation you might even say that the black community got poverty all messed up! That they misconstrued the unique brand of poverty in which they were immersed.  It was a forgiving poverty that said, "You will be given free housing, healthcare, food and education, social services including job training and with these essential tools you will pull yourselves up from poverty"!  I know nothing is ever that simple but I also know that many but not nearly enough people did utilize the gifts available to them to uplift themselves.  The burning question for our black communities and think-tanks moving forward into the twenty-first century is what went wrong and I do mean specifically and how can we turn this unfortunate flow of events around to get a favorable outcome?  Well we all know the tough answers to this question are all linked to unpopular topics such as welfare, prison and child support law reform just to name a few... but these are topics for another discussion which had to be mentioned here because they are key ingredients of the soup that got us here with such distaste upon our palettes.  Like Spike Lee says at the terminus of every one of his landmark films I want to run outside and scream, "WAKE UP"!






When viewed from a purely statistical perspective it is easy to see that there is a real population of Black Americans that identify with the ideological system or philosophy marketed in the media as "Ghetto". Ghetto is a term that got re-minted in the second half of the twentieth century having originated from the ancient Roman term, “Ghetto”  but alluded to as a similar condition to that endured by oppressed Jews during the Holocaust in Europe.  Again, statistically that population of people that might be referenced as ghetto significantly outnumbers the black intelligentsia and that is why street sense and street credibility collectively known as ghetto culture reigns as the predominant force of leadership within the black community today.  For some this truth was personified by the mid 1970's funk/Soul band called War in their single, "The World Is A Ghetto".  Unlike most cultures which experience internal decline, Black American culture and specifically the culture of the black intelligentsia did not lose power primarily through attrition as its ranks were always historically minimized by slavery.   Slavery as we well know was an inherently strangling phenomenon wherein the education and socioeconomic empowerment of black men was institutionally aborted.  During the period of slavery when only freedmen could pursue education and the manifest destiny embodied within their limited scope of careers they did represent their community as the black intelligentsia. After slavery many black men were able to advance themselves in the example of the black intelligentsia with resources made available to them during the reconstruction but their numbers were still heavily outweighed by uneducated and unsophisticated black men who often had no choice but to cling to the fetters of post-slavery reality.  After the brief blessing of reconstruction black men were again plunged into an abysmal state of existence begrudging them their lawful emancipation replacing it with laws both on and off the books that would effectively reverse the 13th amendment and lock them out of the nation’s burgeoning industrial economy.  




Now the black intelligentsia was able to make remarkable progress after the emancipation of black peoples.  Aided by the overlay of Victorian culture the black intelligentsia assumed a more prominent role in the newly formed black community of freedmen.  Historically the black intelligentsia comprised of clergymen, farmers and businessmen as well as some slaves who held prominent positions within the plantation system was always the ethical and political rock of the bisected black community.  Whenever there was any racial conflict the men of the black intelligentsia were first consulted by both black and white stakeholders toward a resolution.  Then as now slaves, ex slaves as well as their descendants were forced to comply with the wishes of these black leaders whether they agreed with them or not because of the rigidity of the social structure; that they greatly resented and envied them their affluence cannot be discounted as there would have been a huge gulf in their respective standards of living.  Such men certainly might have viewed the black intelligentsia with the same disdain they held for men they more clearly understood to be their oppressors.  So it is quite easy to understand how institutionally enforced oppression, poverty and ignorance has always been the source of the black man’s hatred and resentment of authority, and education or intelligence.  Moreover, the gulf between the black intelligentsia and the general population of the black community that began to lessen in the late nineteenth century, stabilize during the first half of the twentieth century only to destabilize and widen again during the second half of the twentieth and first quarter of the twenty-first century is a clear indicator that this internal trauma has not been managed.  In reality there has been no attempt to address this disparity; the black community continues to ignore its existence as if it were at the bottom of their substantial pile of problems.  So the resentment, animosity and jealousy coming from the poor and uneducated classes of Black Americans intensified over the long years during and after slavery to the present as a rising black middle class turned its noses up at its less fortunate brothers and sisters and as the underclasses snubbed the black intelligentsia back.  The poor of the black community were amply frustrated with their own struggles to find advancement and they began to claim that the economically successful talented tenth had merely adopted the ways of their oppressors and embarked on a wholesale rejection of the black intelligentsia including their values mostly as a weak means of defense against forces they did not wholly understand. 




Our nineteenth and early twentieth century black intellectuals were wrong in their assumption that their poor brothers and sisters were morally corrupt and ignorant and therefore deserving of the cruel vicissitudes of life exacted upon them.  In those days such painful reminders of the inequity in justice would commonly be personified by a frequent lynching or incarceration for no other reason than being a black man vulnerable and guilty by virtue of his powerlessness.  Yes, we can honestly and regrettably say that the black intelligentsia were and are continue to be guilty of bias against poor, uneducated, and unsophisticated black man by even partially condoning the lynching’s and sentencing’s of those assumed to be brutish and ethically corrupt brothers without first challenging the legitimacy of their sentence and the motive of their accusers. 



This brings us full circle to expose the nature of the black community that would allow it to ignore itself through the illusion that some standard of normalcy was being preserved whilst the opposite, its very foundation was being liquefied and vaporized through a determined combination of destructive external and internal forces which are invested in the opportunistic exploitation of apathy to seize total control.  Even more responsibility lies on the heads of those living in troubled communities for turning the tide around making it necessary for them to wake up and name the undefined line they are attempting to avoid crossing.  Someone must cross that line! The line must be drawn where black men who conspire to or actually committed crimes are first held accountable by their own communities.  Because the legal power structure in America has historically excluded Black Americans from taking part in their own governance blacks have always quietly awaited the sting of their masters whip knowing nothing else as the definition of justice.  This is why the disdain for snitching has always enabled the “Brute” to escape justice in his own community as if lying could become a form of civil disobedience as well as means to empower the powerless with their own homegrown recipe for jurisprudence.  The game of “reparation-justice” the black community has played for over 150 years now to evade taking responsibility for the cultivation of a humane and civilized community has grown equally as old as the game of continued racism against black men.  No man is innocent simply because he is black and his accusers are either white and or racists. A man is only guilty if he is truly guilty and we must all brace ourselves to demand and then confront the truth of a man’s choices as well as well as demanding and confronting the truth of his accusers!   Anyone of the black intelligentsia can turn a blind-eye to justice choosing not to hold a black man accountable because of fear, ignorance or bias and for that matter so can the black community at the other end of the socioeconomic and political spectrum; neither of them can ever be right in so doing!  On the other end of the spectrum the prevalent phenomenon of racism in America which aggressively holds black men to unreasonable extremes of legal, ethical and moral accountability it does not impose upon others must continue to be unequivocally challenged wherever and whenever it occurs on a unified front led by the black community.  The black community is a diversified front should not be dominated by the black intelligentsia or any other faction to the extent that it becomes unable to bend its substantial power to ensure that justice is duly served to every Black American man.

FIN.




WRITTEN BY: BIGDADDY BLUES



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Sunday, September 28, 2014

THE LOST MEANING OF "CHURCH"



A RETHINKING OF THE CONCEPT OF CHURCH...

There is a great, big world out there full of people and cultures; it is a slice of the human experience firsthand.  Out there people are not polarized as this religious sect or that religious congregation, they are not divided by race or religious belief… they are just there living life as all humans do.  The way I see it, the point of religion is primarily to help people to achieve a civilized existence among other human beings, to bring them together as a family regardless of their beliefs or lack or belief.  So why then do we segregate ourselves into tiny, gilded, stained-glass compartments in order to experience something that is waiting just outside the door when it is quite obvious that the truth we seek already exists in the everyday world we live in.  Churches used as tools for contemplation can be an effective instrument for spiritual and philosophical refinement. A church, however, is not a true mirror of the cultural and ideological diversity of the world outside, it is just the opposite!

THE CLOISTER LOOKS INTO ITSELF WHICH IS NOT HEAVEN AT ALL, BUT AN ISOLATED EARTHLY EXISTENCE BUT TURNS ITS BACK TO THE SECULAR WORLD AROUND IT


Some people will argue that the purpose of church is to ensure the eternal salvation of the soul and that any other purpose especially a secular one is an aberrant breach of that divine intent. I say that, that philosophy is a selfish and vain one that turns its back on the world, a world we must live and coexist in regardless of whether there is an afterlife.  The church is not a virtual portal like in Star Treck, nor, in fact is it a real or realistic one though it is often mistakenly assumed to be a metaphorical portal to the heavens.  What is the church then, is it merely the physical accretion of brick and mortar, wood and nails upon alleged sacred plot of land or is it the people whose presence serves to bring what is only otherwise an inanimate structure to life?  So is it the people and not the structure or the land upon which it lies that comprises the church?  

THE PRIMITIVE AND PAGAN ORIGINS OF THE TYMPANUM, ENTRY INTO THE CHURCH PIT SAINTS AND ANGELS CARED AT THE GATEWAY AGAINST EVIL TO KEEP IT FROM ENTERING THE CHURCH


I want to remove the magic and myth from this misunderstood institution if I may.  When we walk into a church we do not magically enter through an all-purging portal to sanctification we merely walk into a building like any other, nothing hallows the ground or structure save the experiences of the thousands of human beings who have journeyed there in search of the same truths that have challenged mankind since he first appeared upon this planet over 100,000 years ago.   

POLITICS JOINS RELIGION TO PUNISH THE EVIL EVEN IN HELL


No earthly building that I have seen can save any man’s soul if it is not already saved.  I say that if there is any true salvation to be got then it is through our deeds, our worldly works through which we build ourselves up to be deserving of such salvation, if there is truly any to be had… 

IN DANTE'S INFERNO HOMOSEXUALS WERE SADISTICALLY PUNISHED IN THE 7TH CIRCLE OF HELL WHERE HOT VOLCANIC ASH ETERNALLY SCORCHED THEIR BARE SKIN


I find it quite naturally easy to challenge the negative and masochistic  doctrine of fire and brimstone asking myself, “Salvation from what and from whom”?  If the answer is from my alleged “Original Sin” then I must certainly dismiss this warning as the stuff of myth and political manipulation.  No thanks!  

A CURIOS IMAGE REMINDING SINNERS TO BUY-IN TO GUILT AND FEAR OF ETERNAL DAMNATION THOUGH UNPROVEN,  AWAITING THEM IN ANOTHER LIFE


Some people will say that after spending 6 days a week doing the good work of their religion they need refreshment and deserve an hour to focus themselves on the good tasks ahead.  I concede this is an acceptable justification for rejuvenating the spirit to do the good humanitarian work of the world…  But I advise that this reboot be as real as humanly possible about its ability to change the world through others!  Therein often lay the problem… it is often the segregated, polarized, rarified religious community that sees or more likely does not see itself as part of a larger, infinitely more significant community of human beings and therefore their small church community is necessarily directly responsible to it, to be tolerant and ultimately accepting of it and not the other way around.   The world is not, has never been and will never be answerable to the religious idiosyncrasies of any congregation however unified they may be either alone or in concert with others unless that church accurately reflects the fundamental egalitarian civil rights and freedoms of humanity itself!  Instead what mostly but not always occurs is a dogmatic misinterpretation of an already questionable doctrine slanted by a preacher, or self-proclaimed prophet to satisfy what he/she interprets as the spiritual biases of his/her congregation.  What humanity does not want and certainly does not need is an exponential furtherance of applied guilt and fear to lock otherwise freethinking minds into a system of guilt and self-hatred all for the glory of obtaining the unobtainable!  

DANTE'S INFERNO DESCRIBED THE SADISTIC TORTURES OF HELL; AN ODD PASTIME FOR AN ALL LOVING GOD...


These churches should be emptied and their congregations loosed into the streets, the marketplaces, the bus and train terminals and into the neighborhoods of the poor and needy where the world really is.  I understand the mountaintop analogy and support is responsible and logical apllication… to seclude oneself in contemplative existence returning to the world of men and women to share ones revelation… I get it but that does not justify the mindless replication of that strategy nor does it ensure it will always be effective.  Hermitage is like an emergency, it does not happen predictably and in the case of religion it is not often necessary or practical to the extent of the ancient prophets.  Like many things which are far greater than our understanding of them meditation has become just another form of popular culture but that does not mean it is wholly ineffective to help solve smaller personal struggles.  After all, prophets, (whether there ever have been or exist any true prophets), do not go to mountaintops every Sunday, they go in times of great need and peril.  We can replicate their actions but without the fundamental purpose such automatic reenactments are futile because they lack the critical element of purpose.

THE LOVELY STAINED GLASS ROSE WINDOW SHUT A GOTHIC CONGREGATION OFF FROM THE TOUGH BUT HONEST  REALITIES OF THE WORLD


The church we already go to is the world, we already live in it, everything is already sacred, there is no magical threshold to god activated in a manmade structure of mortar and brick, wood and nails… this is mythology… The church does serve a purpose as a place for spiritual contemplation but that is a highly individual experience that lends itself to privacy rather than congregation.  And of course there is nothing wrong with people coming together to celebrate the potential of world peace, tolerance and humanitarianism… but there is something wrong with a place where human beings are demonized and threatened with eternal death and psychotic forms of physical punishment just for being human beings!  Let everyone check themselves at the door before entering these masochistic temples because I see naught but hatred and evil there! Turn around, and leave immediately!  The world is right there behind you and after you turn around all around and before you… go there!  The church you seek is the very world that you have lived in since you were born.  Next time anyone asks what church you attend reply, “THE WORLD IS MY CHURCH, SACRED TO THE HOMES, THE FREE OPEN SPACES WHERE PEOPLE GATHER AND WORK, AND THE FREE AND WIDE-OPEN WORLD THAT IS SACRED TO THE LIVES OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS WHETHER THEY ACKNOWLEDGE ANY GOD OR NOT!”

FIN


WRITTEN BY BIGDADDY BLUES

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

THE MEN'S SMOKING LOUNGE TAKES A LOOK AT THE IMAGE OF MEN WHO SMOKE CIGARS


IN THE MEN’S SMOKING LOUNGE
EROS IS THE MAN
SMOKING HIS CIGAR…

There was a time when gentlemen could enjoy a good cigar in the company of other gentlemen who shared their passion for the art of smoking in a place created solely for that purpose.  The smoking room or lounge offered a perfect atmosphere for men to relax, to be conversant, to talk sports, play billiards or cards, to enjoy their favorite whiskey scotch or bourbon and all  in the company of men who like themselves sought out a refuge from the worries of the world.  This was a hallowed place where manly virtues were celebrated, elevated and cultivated as a high art.  



As it was back then and as it is today, one would be hard pressed to find anything particularly sexy about a dim,smoky room full of men sucking on cigars while discussing sports, politics or whatever it is men choose to talk about when they are by themselves.  Popular culture however has an odd way of turning what is otherwise ordinary into a remarkable trend adding a nuance of sexiness as a marketing punch.  



In the capitalistic imagery of twenty-first century consumerism a roomful of men spending upwards of $20.00 on a single hand-crafted incindiary object, which is more than the hourly wage of many Americans, it is plausible that some might romanticise this form of relaxation as a hallmark of economic privilage sexy because it appears to be by its very nature a passion of excess.  Gentlemen who consider the virtues of a good cigar and cocktail to be among the fundimental privilages of manliness watch unmoved as the trend rises and subsides many times over; to them it is relaxation as usual.



Today many men have all but abandoned their claim to the verdantly sueded chairs, the mohogany paneled walls, the oriental carpeted floors and the soft gaslight of the gentlemen’s smoking parlour in exchange for a generic atmosphere that offers them no refuge from the aesthetic meanness of the world.  For the twenty-first century man the gym can enhance but never replace the gentleman’s club as a place for stylish and ultra-civilized relaxation, there quite honestly has never been a better place for men to be men.  This century has banned smoking of any kind from most places of public assembly save those which are grandfathered or established solely for the enjoyment of the tobacconists arts.  Almost as a rebound to the demonization of smoking as a social faux-pas we now see the rise of many new smoking establishments in the form of cigar lounges and hookah bars. 




From yet another purely figurative angle It was suggested by someone from whom I casually eavesdropped whilst taking coffee on a sunny sidewalk cafe that the image of a man smoking a cigar was sexy.  I thought carefully about this osmotic theory asking myself what could be construed as sexy about a man smoking a cigar.  Was it the cigar that imparted its sexiness to the gentleman or was it the gentleman who imparted his sexiness to the cigar or was it possible that both the cigar and man endowed with their own masculine charms oscillated in such a manner that created a uniquely sexy, macho vignette.  



I had delved into a subjective realm which is almost never consistent when spied from within the myriad of prallaxes.  Then whilst oer’hearing a conversation between a gentleman and salesman in a handsomely appointed cigar establishment I got wind of what might have been part of my answer.  The gentleman, customer said as he was being shown various brands, “I guess smoking cigars is an oral fixation of mine”.  Eureka! I thought, oral fixation indeed!  Now a cigar is objectified as the equivalent of a mature male pacifier, calming,  relaxing and soothing the lion.   So I stole away to the imagery vault visualising a man smoking a cigar, watching as it exeuded its handsomely wrought, earthy aroma like the hunting woods, moss, the heavy herbal scent of a grassy clearing or a lively campfire, calming the savage beastliness of a man.  That was the image I found to be most like that of a smoky cigar lounge.  Of all the manly pleasures of relaxation the smoking of cigars is one of most civilized.  Smoking a cigar is most unlike a massage, the sauna or spa, it is a patently masculine form of relaxation that a gentleman can enjoy fully clothed and just about anywhere he pleases, these days a gentleman may even enjoy his cigar in the presence of ladies. 



Hesitant as I was to tap into the stereotype of the Alpha Male, magnificent and intimidating like a great lion I found its imagery rather suited the case.  Yet I observed gentlemen coming from all walks of life, from corporate, state and federal occupations and from every manner of livelihood at the days end to a common place of relaxation… a cigar lounge.  



Some of these men were undoubtedly extracted from the meeker persuasion perhaps not Alpha males but males nonetheless attracted by the same passion for a fine smoke and honest company; oddly enough considering their diversity at the cigar lounge all men were equals.   Here was a place where they could slow their hectic pace down, unravel their cravat, undue their cufflinks order their favorite whiskey and cigar then take their patient time to enjoy their virtues with or without conversation.  To a man there is nothing more sexy than the prospect of being able to relax and kick back after a hectic day doing something he passionately loves, in this case it is the enjoyment of a fine cigar.  




Whether there is any connexion between the enjoyment of a fine cigar and a sexual experience is wholly a matter of opinion.  Aren’t we all enamored of the way that manliness is promoted as a sexual qualifier in our culture?  Look at 007 for example promoted as the epitome of manhood and enjoying his hand-rolled cuban cigars.  Others contend that the sensuousness  of cigar smoking is to be found in the experience of smoking itself; the texture of the cigar, the aroma of the humidified tobacco and the smoke and of course the buzz from a finely aged cigar.  These are the hallmarks of what can be classified as a sensable, psychological experience and therefore closely related to sensual or erotic stimulation. 



The chemical enzymes contained in the tobacco and released as a result of the chemical reaction when the tobacco is burned such as nicotine are also agents that contribute to the psychological experience of sensuality and arousal.  Most cigar smokers will admit they get a buzz while smoking a well-crafted cigar.  It is a proven fact that  among the chemical agents present in tobacco  are opiads released as a gas only when the tobacco is burnt.  These vaporised opiads chemically stimulate our senses through the brain in the same manner as any other stimulant sexual or otherwise.  Of all the plausible cases for the sexiness of cigar smoking this is perhaps the most sound if not the most clinical.



I have to confess as a man who enjoys his cigars that there is something very sexy about  the image a gentleman smoking his fine cigar whether alone or in the company of others.  It is the epitome of manliness, the essence of machismo, a romantic and elegant vignette of the old-guard that simply exudes genteel, and manly virtue.  It is the combination of the intrinsic aura a man emits and the way in which he controls the smoking of his cigar, how he holds it, draws from it and releases the dense fumes of aromatic smoke.  In contrast to an artless world moving at the speed of light, to see a true gentleman slow down and carefully smoke his cigar while the world rages on is indeed a sexy sight.  



Who is that leisurely man smoking his fine cigar, cool and focused while the rest of the world burns wild?  He is the new sexy, the new mascho, the personification of cool in a world so hot it consumes itself.  Nobody knows his name and it is not important because all we need to know is that in the smoking room that is wherever he sojourns, Eros is  the man smoking his cigar.



WRITTEN BY BIGDADDY BLUES

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