It’s been more than six months since I last wrote an article, a hiatus that was induced by the continued social stratification of America and the ethnic strife that was metastasizing in my birthland Ethiopia. After spending years, if not the larger part of my adult life, inveighing against injustice and extolling the virtues of unity to overcome inequalities, a question that started off as a whisper steadily grew into a persistent echo. What if it’s just human nature to be tribal?
A pause to reflect morphed into an absence of sorrow. What seemed clear all the sudden was full of uncertainty. Our political and social order is rooted in division, to speak against divisiveness seemed as futile as rebelling against gravity. In the absence of motivation, doubt and ultimately depression kicked in. In the six months that transpired, events of the world and a tragedy at home only amplified the hopelessness that was weighing down my heart. It is with this albatross of ennui that I pick up the pen to write not with the arrogance of thinking that my words can change the world or shed the blinders from others but with the humility of sharing with the hope that others who are under duress can find a spark where they need it the most.
I am not here to pontificate about the way forward or offer solutions to our most pressing issues, to be honest I am confounded more than I am convicted about the way forward. The views that I shared not too long ago, about the need for a broad coalition of humanity to take on the brute wielders of force has been replaced by the uncertainty and chaos before us. We have been conditioned to be outraged by the moment only to be lulled back to the comforts of self-gratification, in the end, centuries of marginalization and decades of unequal treatment rage on unabated. The ego that separates us from the collective whole is driving us apart and tearing society into pieces, everyone is so quick to be heard that few have time to listen.
This finger I point at others, there are three pointing back at myself. In hindsight I realize that my search for justice was rooted in my ego. As much I railed against the “elites”, I too was in a rush to be noticed. So quick to react harshly to the dictates of policy makers and the whims of opinion leaders, I started emulating their tactics. The age of social media has turned most of us into pundits, we proffer opinions and rant against the excesses of our times, but our efforts end up calcifying ideas instead of galvanizing change.
It is in this fog of doubt that I arrived at a conclusion, the change we all have been waiting for will never come unless we first mend within. If there is one thing that all humans have in common, from prince to pauper and all in between, is the festering pain that comes with living life on earth. No one can escape the mugging wrought by birth and the experiences of life, though we manifest these pains in different forms, all of us have wounds we are trying to heal from. Perhaps the turbulence of our time is endemic of this collective pain, the endless cycle of breaking news and broken politics only serves to distract us from the work that we must do within.
This is not to lecture or to convince anyone that my path is the right one for that too is ego. We all travel journeys at various junctures in our lives, there are no silver bullets when it comes to fixing the ills of this world. But maybe that is the problem within itself, we are so transfixed on fixing things globally that we forget that most powerful tool we have. To be kind to ourselves and to pass that kindness on to others is the surest way to affect change. It is easy to measure how many likes and followers we gain but the most profound means we have to alleviate suffering, both within and without, are the imperceptible impacts that we make when we share our stories and give encouragement to others as we have compassion for ourselves.
Going forward, I will wage less war against the status quo or the madness of current events and instead dedicate my writing to the struggles and hopes that are common to most if not all. This is not to turn a blind eye to the suffering that is taking place throughout America and beyond, but I have come to this understanding for myself, adding anger on top of outrage only leads to further dissension and ultimately leads to despondence. Rumi once said “yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world, today I am wise so I am changing myself”. After all, even if peace was to come to the world, we would never know it if we are constantly at war within ourselves.
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