Perhaps I am a bit more leery of upheavals and social unrest because of my own experiences. As a first generation immigrant who fled the violence spurned by a coup that toppled Emperor Haile Selassie, I am keenly aware of the promises and turbulence that is wrought when pent up frustrations rupture into revolutions. What I have learned through my family’s uprooting and the horrors that enveloped my birth land is that movements started by idealists have a way of being co-opted by those who manipulate emotions—tyrants are birthed from the womb of the tyranny they fought against.
I write this in light of the social unrest that seems to be metastasizing around our planet. Though the most evident face of this phenomenon is taking place in France, the sense of popular discontentment and a yearning to overthrow the establishment is taking root in more and more countries as the gap between the few who have plenty and the rest who struggle mightily is widening into a gaping chasm. In my youthful days, perhaps I too would have jumped on the bandwagon and demanded an insurrection, but life’s hard lessons have taught me that fighting evil with anger is the surest way to perpetuate strife for humanity.
I’ve been contemplating the very meaning of justice and how we can arrive at a modicum of fairness in this world. Inherently, I know that the only way we can affect positive change in this world is if we displace antipathy from our hearts and replace the emotion of rage with the virtues of love and kindness. Alas, it is easier to preach this axiom than it is to practice it. I am able to seamlessly write about politics and the excesses of the status quo but labor to highlight the people who are working relentlessly to push society forward. The simpler task is to point out the ills of the world, but the effort that bears fruit is to give out a ray of hope to others than wallowing in the fires of enmity.
We must really pause and reflect about our path forward. We are entering into perilous waters; our politics is stoking confrontation while our economy is on the precipice of yet another implosion—society is seemingly teetering on the verge of turmoil. Perhaps the turbulence of Wall Street and the tremors that are shaking our politics will subside and we will go back to the normal of slow boiling iniquities, or perhaps we are entering into another economic downturn that will make the Great Recession of 2008 look like child’s place. In either case, we must find it within our hearts to be led by forbearance instead of giving our hands to animosity.
Revolutions always look alluring from the comforts of distance, but when bombast is replaced by bullets, revolutions have a way of unleashing the worst of humanity. As individuals, most people are decent and yearn for fairness and equality, but when individuals form a mob mentality, we lose our morality as we let vengeance consume society. It is this mob mentality that is usually tapped by autocrats; the idealism of the rebel is usurped by the cold-calculating pragmatism of politicians.
Before we jump on the wagon of outrage, let us really take the time to look inward. Martin Luther King once said that the long arc of history will always bend towards justice. If MLK’s words are going to be proven true, the answer will not be found through isms, ideologies or by fighting over our differences. Violence, whether in words or through deeds, only beget more violence. There is but one way to justice and that is by understanding our interdependence and realizing that we are all in this together. May we rise to our better angels instead of listening to our inner demons that desire retribution. The power yielded by tyrants is only enhanced by factionalism among the public yet pales when confronted by a united people. Click To Tweet
Maybe we need less outward revolutions and more inward evolution. Throughout most of human history, we have been fighting wars in the quest to foist one group’s supremacy over another. In each instance, the death of many only paved way for continued harm and injury. This world has an abundance of resources and riches to feed everybody, if we seek inclusive justice and collective wellness, perhaps we can finally arrive at true peace and prosperity. For this to take place, we must be the change we want to see in this world instead of imposing our will upon others.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
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.