with Brian Brown
“He will always be a slave who does not know how to live upon a little.” – Horace.
A few years ago, I decided to ruthlessly cut my monthly expenses, to trim all the fat, just to see what number I could get it down to. Turns out that if you’re serious and committed, you can reduce your bills by almost half, or more. But we humans tend to grow our tastes and desires when our income appreciates. It’s just that the allure of acquiring stuff is given so much airtime, most of us fall prey and become economic slaves. Mortgage, car payments, credit cards, student loan… Being in debt is the new normal, so much so that most of us will die in the red. We don’t talk about it much, but the constant pressure of always owing somebody something must be a source of great stress and distress. That’s no way to live; trading in metal chains for paper ones…
TO MY FEARS
“The most onerous slavery is to be a slave to oneself.” – Seneca.
Fear is not real. Danger is, but fear exists only in our minds, a notion of what might or will happen next or at some to-be-determined juncture. That’s paraphrased from the Will Smith movie ‘After Earth.’ And it’s got some truth to it. When you analyse the stench, as Bob Marley used to say, it really makes a lot of sense. Most of us will never be victims of a violent attack, a motor vehicle accident, or a sudden critical illness but we live as if we’re in anticipation of bad things, waiting for something to happen. Yet, if you were to ask a thousand random persons what their greatest fear was, if they’re honest, probably 90% would not mention anything related to crime or violence. So what’s numbers one through five? I suppose the fairly recent spate of aeroplane crashes hasn’t reassured many about just how statistically safe it is to fly. The possibility of terrorist hijackings doesn’t help either. Despite all the crime and talks of war, an aversion to public speaking remains top of persons’ fear factoring. I can relate. I was there, not that many years ago either. It feels like your entire nervous system is about to collapse. Isn’t that something? We’re more afraid of what people will think than we are about dying. Fear of heights, the dark and intimacy round off the top five but you’ll note again that no mention of illness or death. I wonder sometimes if those who control mass media and means of propaganda intentionally cultivate a culture of fear to make often intrusive and oppressive governance seem necessary. But the numbers don’t add up. The few gunmen compared with the citizenry and security forces, the crash statistics of planes versus cars, our unrealistic trepidation of impending doom, religious and otherwise, make us shackled skeletons of our true selves.
TO THE SYSTEM
“Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern but impossible to enslave.” – Baron Henry Peter Brougham.
Learn this. Do that, then you’ll be considered successful. You and I know more than our fair share of educated fools convinced of their newfound superiority because they spent X dollars to learn something new. That’s all education is, (paid) access to information. So how exactly does that translate into someone magically becoming superior to his fellow human being because he or she allegedly ‘knows’ more? It’s comical actually if you think about it. The evolution of how we’ve been told and taught to view our human advancement is based on what we’ve inherited from our former colonial masters. We still have their names, buildings, systems and formally recognise a Queen, so why would we think how we think and act is any different? See, not that long ago, people of colour (and women in general) couldn’t attend institutions of higher learning. Jump a generation or so forward and after Universal Adult Suffrage, we see education as a rare privilege to be thankful for the opportunity to pursue. Hop and skip some more and we’re where the standards of achievement have slackened to compensate for poorer effort and grades, and many in this generation see education as a chore, a waste of time. Now, all that has happened in less than seventy years, just over two generations. From no access to no desire. From fight to privilege to right to blight. When what we learn doesn’t effectively contribute to improving our condition, should it still be considered education, or intentional miseducation, which means to educate improperly intentionally? We’re so plugged into this system that we barely stop to ask ourselves and each other, what are we learning, teaching, doing and why?
TO MY PAST
“If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own.”
Slavery did enslave the captors, not enough to make me feel sorry for them though. Every time I hear the term ‘old money’ with reference to holdings in North America and the Caribbean, I think of ‘slave labour powered money.’ The industrial revolution was funded by slaves, our ancestors. So, if like borrowing from a bank I used your human capital to enhance my financial resource, then obviously there should be a repayment of the loan amount plus interest. That’s how I know business works. Still, that issue of reparations will continue to be argued long after I’m gone. What we’re dealing with in the present is a fixation on the past. I’m so and so, that’s why I can’t so and so. And you can fill in any list of excuses and reasons there. Yes, we have been robbed in many ways and we’re the stronger and more resilient for it. Now what? Beg and cry while doing nothing about it or fight and take or make use of the anger and energy that is latent and potent inside us? The fewer looks back or internal fights about what should or could have been we have, the faster and more effective we can move forward. Guilt is most times an unnecessary shackle around our necks. True freedom has to come from a place where we feel free to live and reasonably do as we please, and the pre-conditions to that include, among other things, emancipation from mental and economic slavery. B+ Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org