Archive for February, 2008

February 28, 2008

The “Twoness”

W.E.B. Dubois once said that the african american or black man or you can input woman if you so choose had to deal with a concept of “twoness”. His point was that not only does he have to be American but he also had to maintain his blackness or his African side if you will.

Over the years, more intelligent people than me have tackled this, hefted it and come out with different results. Some have called it a blessing to have two sides or be multidimensional while others think it’s a curse because it is very confusing and is hard to come up with an identity.

Here is my take: “Twoness” isn’t something that pertains to African Americans. It is something every immigrant minority has to face. Blacks who migrate from Africa or another country might have to deal with it but African Americans or Blacks who have lived here all their lives do not even have that luxury. To illustrate my point, I’ll tell a story:

I was at work the other day when a black man came in. He started to chat me up and while we were talking he notices the slightest hint of an accent on me so he asked where I was from. When I responded, he asked my name and then asked what it meant and from there we started talking about Africa. I asked his name and he told me. Then he wanted to know if I could tell what part of Africa his slave ancestors had come from when they were brought here just by looking at him. Of course I couldn’t. I saw how disappointed that made him so I told him to figure out his ancestor’s names and we could go from there and trace. He couldn’t do this as his ancestors had been given what he called “slave names”. So he stood there visibly disappointed that he couldn’t even point to what part of Africa he would have been from. In other words, he had no clue of his heritage because it had been totally wiped out. He didn’t even have a real name that was African. As he left he would turn around and ask me more questions about Africa and I’d gently and patiently answer. He was amazed. He told me he was going to buy some African music because he liked and enjoyed it.

Thus is the dilemma of the African American. He or she supposedly comes from Africa but Africa is a continent with thousands of tribes. What part? Which tribe? All of that history is gone and it was removed on purpose by other people. So they are cut off and floating. There isn’t much of a history here for them and there isn’t any history elsewhere. No other ethnicity has to deal with this loss of history and identity. The brief history they do have here is not even focused on properly and celebrated but continue to be distorted by other people’s agendas. For instance, we celebrate Martin Luther King (and he deserves it) and Rosa Parks (so does she) but our kids aren’t taught of Marcus Garvey or Malcolm X. I mean even Hitler gets a history lesson but we won’t even mention Paul Robeson?

I wish I could have told that man the great stories of his tribe. About the brave African Kings, the wonderful sculptures in Igbo Ukwu, how democracy and civilization really started in Africa (and Mesopotamia) but the Greeks get the credit, of the beauty of the land he sprouted from, the love his tribe would have for him even after all these years and so on. But I couldn’t. He couldn’t even give me a name.

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February 20, 2008

Turn off your TV, turn on your mind…

Schopenhauer on thinking for Oneself: “The safest way of having no thoughts of one’s own is to turn on the TV set every moment one has nothing else to do. It is this practice which explains why watching TV makes most people more stupid and silly than they are by nature.”

“What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.” -Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf.

“It is easy to overlook a deceptively simple fact: one is always watching television when one is watching television rather than having any other experience. Whether the program being watched is Sesame Street or Spiderman, Nova or Fantasy Island, there is a similarity of experience about all television watching.”

Are you sitting down? Good because I am about to dive into a controversial topic. Bernard McGrane, a renowned Sociologist once pointed out that TV is designed to dominate your life. Think about it. You see it best in a dark room by its own light. It has its own sounds and images. It is dominant by nature. Turn it off and you might even forget it is there. Turn it on and you have to stare at it. It is getting bigger and bigger, the images are getting clearer and clearer and now, it even includes surround sound. The new tvs demand that you put them up on a pedestal above every other thing. Can you think of any other electrical appliance that demands such majesty, such visibility? No. You can’t.

And it is through tv that we have lost our sense of reality. I’ll give you an example. Think of the Katrina tragedy in New Orleans. Remember the countless hours of coverage that it got? Have the problems all been fixed? Not at all. Then how come it isn’t getting much talk around the water cooler? How come more people aren’t demanding answers, or volunteering or even thinking about it? Because the cameras are gone. TV and the media have moved on to other things like Britney Spears and Roger Clemens and steroids. We were told something as ridiculous as the New Orleans Saints were playing for the victims of Katrina. That sports were a way to heal the wounds left over from the disaster and that was bull. Throwing a ball doesn’t fix things or make them better. It only causes people to ignore just how bad things are. Sure sports might bring people together. But the tragedy which most people miss is that we even need sports to bring us together. What has New Orleans gained from the Saints making the playoffs that year? Moments of joy and happiness, yes but it didn’t feed anyone or clothe anyone or rebuild their torn down homes or give them back what they lost. The fact that these people even gain joy from that is a big example of how skewed our reality has gotten.

The allure of TV and indeed the media on the whole is that we believe that it is a good thing for the city that the Saints were playing well. Look closely though and you’ll realize that it was all a marketing ruse. The Saints got more publicity, sold more tickets, television ratings went up and they sold more jerseys. In the end what has the city gotten? Ten to twenty minute segments at halftime of games while the games go on. Imagine that all the people who watched the superbowl (including me) saved the money they used to buy tickets, even buy big screen Tvs, alcohol and other refreshments and sent them to New Orleans. Wouldn’t the problem be taken care of?

There are countless other examples but I will leave you with that one as the point has been made. We need to spend more time thinking about others and setting examples and learning and loving other people instead of being glued to the tube. Gotta go. I have to go watch the Lakers play the Suns.

February 19, 2008

Andy Pettitte comes off smelling like Roses

First I would like to apologize to the readers that I have for my apparent neglect of my duty to this blog. I certainly was going through a rough patch and didn’t have all the time to dedicate to keeping up my work here. I also would like to thank all for their participation on the second round table subject of education. I got some very good responses and some also equally good questions raised which I will be getting to later.

Now for the matter at hand. I gained a lot of respect for Andy Pettite when I watched a portion of his hour long press conference today. For a quick summary of what he said check this article out .

I could see why the committee excused him from testifying during Roger Clemens and Brian Mcnamee’s hearings. Andy Pettitte just is a nice guy. It is easy to see that he is sincere when he says he is sorry for what he has done. It is easy to forgive him. More importantly, he admitted his transgressions. He wasn’t acting like he was wronged or it was a big misunderstanding. He owned it and for that I will stand behind him and I know many other people will.

What impressed me the most was the way he answered the questions. He listened attentively and never once bristled and came out swinging. He said his faith was what led him to be honest and to let it all hang out. “The truth” has set him free. We all make mistakes and when one of us comes out and genuinely repents of them, then by all means we ought to forgive them. Andy Pettitte you are forgiven. “Go and sin no more.”

February 5, 2008

Table Talk 2: Education

For our next issue, we’ll be taking on a big issue. An issue so huge that we’ll dedicate not one but two weeks to it. This is a personal fight of mine. I believe that 75% or more of all our problems stem from a lack of knowledge or education (My personal statbook. Don’t even bother questioning it. It is law!!)

Some more statistics; According to the Christian Science Monitor; the high school drop out rates are nearly 50% for blacks, hispanics and native Americans. This is even more alarming when you think of it this way; most schools only report students who register as a drop out. Of course a lot of students don’t register when they want to stop going to school.( The Washington Post )They simply stop showing up.

Most other publications and research on the matter agree with that. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the poorer minorities (and I say poorer minorities because Asian Americans are a minority too but have the lowest drop out rate of any group) have the higher drop out rate. The way out of a problem is to know how and simply put; we don’t know how.

Why is this? I believe that the problem is two fold. Certain educators and the system in place right now does not try hard enough to go after these troubled kids. On the other hand the same kids do not value school enough because their eyes are on other things. Education isn’t a top priority in the “hood”. When was the last time you heard a rapper say something deep about school? Or for that matter say something deep period. Knowledge is power and since we have no knowledge we have no power.

So what do we do? Well this is why I am opening up the conversation to everyone. We need to reach out to our folks and let them see the light. The word needs to get out and we need to change this culture of stupidity around. The government can do whatever it wants to do but until we as a people start to value knowledge, learning and pick up a book, things will never change. They’ll stay the same.

February 5, 2008

Interview with a man bringing change

In light of what our theme was for this week; which is highlighting the positive news and positive events that are going on around the world.

So I talked to one of those people who is a living example. Compassion Dave is a volunteer advocate for Compassion International. Now, for those of you who do not know, Compassion is an international organization that is focused on providing for the “spiritual, physical, economic and social needs of children”

I met Dave via myspace as he was campaigning to win the Myspace Impact Award for Compassion International (he did win and earned a cool 10,000 big ones for their cause). He graciously agreed to answer some questions that I have for his motivation. Here it is, completely unedited and in his own words;
1. Tell us a little bit about what it is that you do?

I am married and am a stay-at home dad. As far as the ministry of Compassion International goes, I am a volunteer advocate for children living in the worst kind of poverty around the world. I am also a volunteer ‘area coordinator’ for Compassion. All that means is that I facilitate a team of other like-minded volunteers in my area (essentially the top 1/2 of New Jersey and New York City.

2. How did you come to be doing it?

I started out as just a child sponsor about 9 years ago. About 6 years ago our family was up to about 4 sponsorships and I wanted to sponsor more children, but thought we could not afford to, so I looked into becoming a volunteer. Ironically, as soon as I became a volunteer my wife announced that she had sponsored another child.

Obviously the Lord was leading us and enabling us to do these thing. Today my wife and I have 11 sponsorships, although not all of them are with Compassion International.

3. What drives you to do it?

The Lord is the driving force. I confess that perhaps ‘initially’ I was driven by the flesh to, “do something good” for these kids, but soon after, the Lord and His mandates for the poor took over. About 4 years ago I was on a mission trip to India and while there, the Lord truly broke my heart for the ‘least of these’ and He focused the ministry He has given me.

4. Why do you think that causes like yours do not get appropriate coverage in our media today?

I think there are several reasons. I believe the bottom line is that the god of the world, satan, has his fingers in much of what we know as the ‘media’, and all of the ‘other’ reasons stems from that basic one. Frankly, the media industry is a business, and they aren’t very quick to give cut-rate airtime to anybody, let alone non-profit ministries.

This is precisely the reason we focus on bringing our message directly to the church and we rely very much on the Body of Christ to yield to the moving’s of the Holy Spirit so that His will (will) be done on earth.

Sadly, I really cannot blast the media to much when so many churches are dropping the ball in the area of world missions as well. The church NEEDS to be more obedient, plain and simple.

5. How do you think that we can improve that?

I kind of touched on it in the last response. The media is ‘the media’, and the church is ‘the church’–I think we should focus on our individually responsibility as Christians to the Body of Christ, the Church. That can be summed up in one word: obedience.

Now I am not suggesting that our Lord is telling every Christian to sponsor a Compassion child; that would be ridiculous, but I am saying that the Lord is guiding each of us to do SOMETHING. Imagine for one moment what a blessed place this planet would be if every person who identifies himself or herself with Christ was determined to do what the Lord was asking of them.

6. What advice would you give someone on how best they can change the world?

Listen to the Holy Spirit and obey.

For those who have read that last sentence and thought, “But God isn’t talking to me, ” I would respond, “Yes He is, but maybe you’re doing things that block His voice.” In order to hear God’s voice clearly, we need to be obedient to the last thing He said to us. What is that last thing? I’d suggest to you, “You know exactly what it is.”

But still, some may not hear God and are looking for a ‘starting point’ in order to know God’s will in their life. That starting point is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Start here, and after a ‘season’ of obedience, the Lord’s voice will become clear to you. I guarentee if your heart is in it, the Lord’s voice will get clearer and clearer.

God bless.

If you are interested in helping Compassion International out, check out our blogroll for the link to their site.

February 1, 2008

Negativity Follow up

Great responses so far to the the first round of table talk. This was indeed what we envisioned when we were coming up with this idea.

A few things to respond on:
I like what Cordieb said about stopping to enjoy our world. There is a reason why it’s called “stopping to smell the roses” right? I mean the implication is that without that action of stopping, one would miss it. This is so contrary to the messages that we are bombarded with.

The reigning school of thought is that we should get satisfaction and as fast as we want it. We are told that everyone or nearly everyone is out to get something for themselves. That if we don’t forge ahead, then they’ll overtake us and win. Don’t like your car? Change it. Don’t like your husband or wife? Get a new one.

If we don’t learn to be satisfied with ourselves or the little we have right now, we will never be satisfied with plenty or with anyone else.

There are loving, caring people out there. Lots of them. There are companies that do business ethically. People who volunteer their time and money to make this world a better place. The Salvation Army doesn’t run itself. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters and volunteer camps do not run themselves. Negative news does sell. But it only sells because we accept it.

These things do not happen in a vacuum. We created this society. We empowered it. When we rail against the establishment, we force it to change. Don’t like something that is going on in our culture, then do something about it. It sounds cliche by now but one person does make a difference.

So like I said before, we are choosing to celebrate the good in us this week. If you have any stories of people being good, kind, courageous or anything like that, you can message me at ghettophilosopher84@gmail.com. I’ll write a blog celebrating them. I will also be researching people myself, including historical figures that aren’t generally talked about who were just plain good people. It is time we talked about some things that are right.