The more that time passes, the more I value the wisdom of my father. If only he was still with me; I would apologize profusely to my dad for the endless times I used to dismiss his counsel. There were plenty of gems he passed on to me; thank God my heart was receptive to his guidance even though my mind kept rebelling against my father’s wisdom. There is one advice that has helped me the most over the past two years of going through hardship—it was my dad’s guidance that led me out of tribulation. Fikremariam Million used to always tell me “do not be a victim, this world is not fair but focusing on its unfairness is a practice reserved for losers”.
My dad was not the most diplomatic of men; he was like a drill sergeant who cared for me deeply but had no problem dispensing tough love as needed. In an age where too many are quick to turn to victim mode and embrace grievances, I am forever indebted to my father who taught me to always look forward. I don’t write this to cast my lot with some who use hateful rhetoric like “snowflake” to bash anyone who dares to question the establishment or demand justice. However, there is something to be said about fighting for equality without demonizing others and trying to diminish the struggles of everyone else.
It is easy for people who have been hurt to become vindictive and bitter. I don’t write on these things out of theory nor am I preaching piously from a pulpit. I experienced the uselessness of seeking vengeance and residing in the lanes of victimization on an intimate basis. My life crumbled into the abyss two and a half years ago; I went from a life of comfort and upper-middle class privileges to the hard roads of homelessness and indigence. There were copious causes that led to this downfall—chief among culprits was my own naiveté along with the malice of people I trusted. Nothing in this world is as hurtful as the feelings of betrayal and abandonment; I had every justification to feel aggrieved and swindled.
That was the precise angle I chose for the first year of my exodus. I could not understand how people I helped could literally defraud me and others I loved could turn a cold shoulder during my time of distress. This decision to bemoan my fate and ask “why me” led me to the pits of depression and abject hopelessness. I was joined by plenty of other people in shelters and mission who decided to be bitter too. I’m not saying homelessness and poverty are choices but it helps little to be angry at the world instead of focusing on a way out of dire predicaments. Those who escaped the clutches of misery and tribulation were the ones who chose to remain hopeful and giving. The ones who chose wrath consumed themselves into a life of torment and antagonism—vindictiveness is a life sentence of sorrow and loneliness.
I write this in context of the political and social age we live in. Too many people have contacted me in the past couple of weeks to express their dismay and displeasure about articles I’ve written which have gained wide circulation. To clarify, when I disavow rhetoric that seeks to diminish the struggles of other people or collectively condemns a whole of a group for the sins of a few, it is not to diminish the horrors visited upon certain people in the past nor is my aim to marginalize the injustices that are wrought on people simply due to their skin color, their beliefs or their gender. What I rebuke is using exclusionary language to fight exclusionary practices or deploying hateful rhetoric to speak against hatred.It’s actually apropos that we are led by a president who, despite his abundance, is a man who is riddled with bitterness and small minded petulance. Trump is a projection of society in this way; no amount of money and blessings can fill a heart infected with vindictiveness. This is not to politicize this article, the truth is that our politics and society as a whole is being inundated with too many charlatans who peddle separable grievances and sow distension. Republicans bash “minorities” as lazy and dependent while Democrats turn to myopic language that unfairly demonizes the other side. The system is based on shattering humanity into islands of resentment; shysters make fortunes selling victimization and antipathy, consumers of this rhetoric end up mired in misfortunes and hopelessness.
This world is not fair, I get it. I don’t need to be reminded by others about the vicious virus of racism or how people are maltreated because of their traits and social status. But as my father said to me on countless occasions, stop complaining and do something about it. It’s counterproductive to point fingers and make foes out of possible allies by blaming others who struggle too. I’m reminded of the times when I was living in missions and witnessed how broken people would try to harm others who are broken too. There is nothing to be gained by being resentful. Trying to monopolize pains and saying “only my hurt matters” is not only wrong, it is insidious. Displaying grace towards others and having malice towards none is for the sake of self-preservation more so than it is an act of kindness for others.
Our time is better spent trying to find solutions than it is lamenting our ordeals. The saying “to those much given much is expected” is always understood to apply to the wealthy and their noblesse oblige to give back to society. I expect nothing from the uber wealthy; billionaires who make fortunes by gaming humanity will not make it their obligation to save us. The obligation is actually on those who have been hurt the most, those who have been given much injustices and hardship have the ability to affect change the most change in this world. When people unfairly maligned turn to love instead of bitterness, they can redeem themselves and transform the lives of countless others.I am reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. when I think of this present moment. We can’t deliver justice by turning to antagonism and discontent. As King noted, only love can be our roadmap to redemption:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr
If we are to bend the arc of history towards justice and if we are to arrive in a new day of equality where we are judged by the content of our character, we will only get there if we display forbearance and fight the iniquities of this world with love in our hearts. There is in fact a global system of repression and greed where a few are using their power to impoverish the masses and nullify the potential of billions throughout the world. This system’s source of strength is division and hatred, its only weakness is love and togetherness. Fight wisely when seeking justice. In the end remember this one last advice: victor or victim; the choice is simple, the decision is crucial. #PillarsOfWisdom
“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” ~ Helen Keller
Check out this Ghion Cast below where I talked on these very thing, this podcast was actually recorded while I was living at Harvest Farm, a farm mission in Wellington Colorado, not too long ago. I thank my father Fikremariam Million and my father God for giving me the wisdom to write and speak on these things without anger and bitterness.
Check out the latest Ghion Cast where I talk about the very issues of inclusive justice and the perils of separable grievances below.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij 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. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.