There is a tragic yet hopeful duality about us. We are at once woefully flawed and beautifully constructed. It’s as though we have devils and angels within us, a body that is filled by both light and darkness. The core struggle of humanity is the push and pull between love and animus that is a part and parcel of who we are. It is this conflict between the selfish aspects of our ego and the giving nature of our hearts that serves as the battlefield to the wider war between good and evil in this world. Mahatma Gandhi once said that we have to be the change we want to see in this world; perhaps we should spend more time reflecting within instead of projecting unto the world the scars and wounds we harbor in our souls.
I write this in light of my own journey where I try daily to let love and forgiveness be the moral compass that guides my actions. This journey is a life long process, bleeding away the bile of past pains from our souls is a process of ten thousand miles and I have barely finished mile one. Let me give some context why I decided to write this missive today instead of penning the weekly segment about the state of corporate media. Last night, during the event I hosted at Sidamo Coffee and Tea about “Race and Identity in America”, a question was asked by an audience member about how we can best affect change using social media as a tool for justice. The question really struck at me and I’ve been reflecting on my response ever since last night. My answer was that we have to change the hearts and minds of society by engaging in conversations instead of talking past one another.
Yet, before we can even have a dialogue about change with others, it is imperative to have a conversation within ourselves. Here is one thing I have learned during my travels over the past couple of years: there is one trait that almost every one of us have in common. Pain. Pain is the universal language that binds princes to paupers and narrows the chasms of our differences. Live life long enough and injuries start to rack up; loss of loved ones, hardship and heart breaks, being misunderstood and feeling neglected, not even the wealthiest and most famous among us can escape these arrows that come after our spirits. These pains inform our outlook on life; some choose bitterness and others opt to be more giving, but in the end all of us are motivated by some harm that came into our lives and interrupted normal.I love to have random conversations with the most random people. One question I always ask people during these “Ted Talks” is what they do and what they’re passionate about. When someone tells me that they are a social worker for example, in time I ask them what was it about a personal loss that drove them to that profession. It never fails! Each time they tell me of a tragic occurrence in the distant past that motivated them to help others who went are going through what they once endured. Likewise, when I talk to enterprising business people who are gung ho about being rich, I eventually ask why they are so driven to succeed. Most of the time, they tell me of the struggles they had as children and the feeling of penury that pushes them to provide better for their children and inspires them to attain success to make up for past tribulation. Our past at once haunts us as it inspires us to do better—duality is part of our genetic makeup.
As we think and act as individuals, we do likewise as a collective. The way injuries inform our outlooks is how injustice shapes our perspective of our communities, our nation and our planet. Each time I have conversations with people and I open up about my past struggles and they too share their travails, there is a healing moment in that space. I’ve had conversations with some people in my past who would have otherwise dismissed me out of hand because of my skin color. Instead of discounting them as racists and walking away, each time I made a conscience effort to talk to them as humans in spite of their initial indifference, the conversation eventually concluded with a level of understanding and a basis of comity. I once had a former KKK member apologize to me for his past actions after I talked to him for an hour during my stay at the Greenville Mission. Words can heal or harm as we speak them.
What’s missing from this age of activism and social justice are sorely needed conversations. Too many of us are being conditioned by social media to seek out like minded thinkers and to avoid discomfort. But growth only happens through discomfort; if we are averse to hardship and reside only in our comfort lanes, what we will arrive at is stasis and social atrophy. Only when we speak to each other without trying to prove points and when conversations are more valued than arguments can we hope to truly bend the arc of history towards justice. Trust me when I tell you this, the person who you think is a troll and needs to be put in his/her place is the same person who is struggling within just like you. We have a commonality of pains in this way; let us focus on what we share instead of trying to level others with harsh rhetoric and lashing people with our words. The world becomes as you speak it, let us speak more love into the universe instead of partaking in anger and discontent.
We are not each other’s enemies. This world has an abundance for everyone if we learned to conserve half as much as we consume. The system teaches us that happiness,opportunities and possessions are scarce in order to make commodities out of natural resources. This is done so that a few can lord over the masses and hoard fortunes for themselves while the rest of us struggle. But this is the tail wagging the dog; our conniption to bow before the rich and famous is the root of our oppression. As we squabble, our share of the pie keeps being diminished. The more we bicker and splinter, the less crumbs we are given. If we only realize that we are all in this together and replace competition with collaboration, we can change our circumstances instantly instead of waiting for some politician or media personality to deliver us. We hold the keys to redemption in our hands—the key is called unity.
My aim this morning was to write the weekly “This Week’s Recap of Corporate Media Bullcrap”, but upon second thought and after reflecting on the question that I was asked last night, I realized that politics can wait for one day. What is needed more are messages of inclusiveness. There is a time and place for condemnation of those who thrive by making others suffer, but as we speak against injustice, we must also express what it is that we want from this world. I dream of a world where we don’t build walls between each other and a paradigm where tribalism gives way to coexistence. This will only happen when we see each other as travelers on the same path and sojourners on a shared journey. I share this with you in hopes that you too will share your story with others. #SharedStroy
Mangled roots and warped branches yet these things bear fruit::
Check out the interview I had with Lee Camp of Redacted as we discussed my journey towards purpose and how we can all make a difference in this world.
The Ghion Cast below is me sharing my journey and the struggles I went through in order to arrive at this place of speaking up for inclusive justice.
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.