There was a time when empathy and understanding were once considered the greatest of virtues and character traits to emulate. No more. Those days are far behind us for we now live in an age where everyone wants to monopolize pains while dismissing the pains of others. It’s as though we believe that saying “me me only” somehow heals wounds and marginalizing the suffering of other people diminishes the struggles we go through. Grievance is the new normal as daily yet another grievance group is created out of thin air in order to claim the mantle of exclusive hardship. This is the very perfection of divide and conquer yet few understand as they puff their chests in their new found identity while separating themselves from those whose struggles are similar.
I’m not writing this from a political angle for politics is exactly what is leading us over the cliff. In all honesty, if we only pause and reflect, the previous president got elected by peddling grievance and selling false hope to his crowd. After eight years of speaking to the resentment of one side and stoking the fire of division, an equal shyster came along and spoke to the disgruntlement and antagonism of his side. This is what happens when people feel excluded from the conversation and concurrently believe they are being scapegoated for the ills of the world. Thus all sides withdraw to their corners and lash out from defensive postures. If only anger and outrage could make a dent in the wall of injustice, we would have had peace on earth by now.
Too many want to reside in the cauldron of antipathy as they let past injustice divert their eyes from solutions that can fix the blithe of poverty and hopelessness that are bleeding the world. Looking in rear-view mirrors is a recipe for bitterness and sorrow for those who look back are unable to move forward. Being victimized does not mean that you have to play victim. Moreover, laying claim to victimization and trying to corner the market on hurt is a fools errand and counterproductive. Fighting for justice means having an open heart, we can’t arrive at equality with closed fists. But too many go one step further as they concurrently use closed fists to punch at others while extending fingers to blame many for the sins of a few.
This is why I am vehemently against people who go around screaming “white privilege” and “white oppression” the same as I oppose those who use bigotry to lump all brown folk as a means of diminishing our individual worth. Wrong is wrong; it is immoral to blame the masses for the evils committed by a few. The term “white privilege” is a means of exclusion and hatred; it no different than the repulsive language some use as they assert that “all black people want to do is take welfare”. I say this to those who revert to this level of fatuity and non-thinking; let me introduce you to the Appalachians where “white folk” are buried in generational poverty that is just as hard to escape as the cyclical privation that kneecaps the masses in Chicago and beyond.
If you want to know why the elites murdered both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, trust me their death is deeper than just a few people that is peddled as truth by institutional propagandists (link). Both of them pivoted and decided to be a bridge between the masses and to stand for universal justice. Those who think they are fighting iniquity as they use divisive and exclusionary rhetoric are actually perpetuating injustice because the system of global oppression is nurtured by the wicked at the top of society and the spiteful rhetoric being blathered by those at the bottom. The only way to arrive at a modicum of equality for all is if we fight for all. Either stand for universal justice or you are part and parcel of the very transgression you think you are fighting.
Yet we are led by an army of duplicitous demagogues on all sides who sell rancor and discord to their crowd as they pretend to be standing for justice. All sides have their malignant generals who give marching orders to their adherents to become hateful in order to fight hate. If you want to know what gave rise to the age of Trump, look to the so called leaders who got paid fortunes by the very system they feign to speak against in order to pit one against the other. Loathing is omnipresent, from TV to newspapers to social media, we are being treated to a drum beat of hostility. We are being programmed by the Corporate State Media and cancerous politicians to treat those who don’t think and look like us as the enemy and use enmity as our guiding light.
But your pain will not be made the lesser if you extend a hand of friendship to someone who is suffering too. Struggle is struggle and people experience it through their prism. I can cite pages of injuries I have experienced in my life, but a man who grew up poor without parents in Baltimore or a woman who lost her children in a car accident could look at my pains and say I was blessed enough to never been embraced by torment. Each of us experience distress through only our perspective; who are we to say that our pains are greater and diminish the misery of others?
Why does my acknowledgement of the suffering an Irish father in Dublin is feeling minimize the pains “my people” go through? If I deny the suffering a mother in France goes through, does that alleviate the pains Ethiopians in Addis Ababa are going through? My ancestors were mowed down and blown apart by Italian bombs in two wars and incinerated by mustard gas by Mussolini in WWII, yet I refuse to say Italians are responsible for those horrors and affix blame to tens of millions of Italians in the process—many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck and many more who are impoverished in Sicily, Rome and beyond. Why let hate consume my heart and lash out universally because some Italians chose to act out of national pride two generations ago? If I say “Italians hurt too” does the lessen the wounds felt by Ethiopians or somehow diminish my love of Ethiopia? Moreover, if i lash out at Italians, would that bring back my ancestors? What is our aim exactly, is it vengeance or justice?
For those who are interested in dismantling this global system of oppression and greed that is bleeding our planet, I write this specifically for you. The strength of this depraved system is when people are divided–its weakness is when people unite. Unity is the Kryptonite to this super virus of global repression. The more we let the powerful divide us, the more they will keep lording over us. But a people who unite can’t be tyrannized anymore. So if we want justice, we must stop viewing ourselves through the prisms of artificial constructs that were imposed on us and have nothing to do with our identity as humans. Culture is not gained by accepting the labels of oppressors, justice is not arrived at by accepting libels that were meant to dehumanize us by those who perfected the art of divide and conquer.
We have a choice before us; turn back from this path of conflict and revert to good will for all with malice towards none. Or continue down this road of grievance and victimization and witness in our lifetime what happens when stoked emotions lead to conflicts. Those who keep preaching “in your face” approach better think twice; the same people who advocate confrontation will be the same ones weeping in the most mind bending of sorrow if societal strife breaks out for it will be our children, without regard to identity or ideology, who will be dropping like flies in the street. Love is not just some poetic aspiration in this light, love is an imperative that will prevent an outcome none of us want and in time deliver us away from this age of rage that we are drowning in. #MonopolizingPains
“Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.” ~ Coretta Scott King
If you appreciated the message of unity in this write up, share this article on social media using #MonopolizingPains
Check out the Ghion Cast below as I use the battle of Adwa to discuss how unity can overcome tyranny. I tie in the story of Adwa with that of Haiti, the American Revolution and the instances in the past where love overcome hatred.
Check out this speech by Robert F. Kennedy, a most prescient and needed speech about the very hate that is destroying the lives of so many in this world. RFK, like his brother, began to pivot towards universal justice, for this efforts he was assassinated by the powerful.
Let me end it with this, I hope people really listen to this Ghion Cast below and realize that the labels we call ourselves were imposed on us and have nothing to do with who we are as a people and as humans.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.