The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Friday, April 29, 2005

Firewalls

Actually, I am glad that the gentleman took exception to my comments, and expressed that (and I am paraphrasing, sorry) it was not possible to "upgrade the psychological software" because the requisite data is behind a firewall in the other community.  Nicely put, but inaccurate.
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I will also answer a question here about the younger generation of Black Americans, and some differences, positive and negative, that I see.
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In almost any bookstore in America, as well as Amazon.com, you can find the software needed to "upgrade."  My mom introduced me to it as a child, and I have drawn on it extensively in these blogs: 
1) Spiritual texts from around the world.  Don't pay attention to their differences.  Pay attention to what they all say in common.
2) Great literature from around the world.  Usually dealing with men and women under extreme stress, and the attitudes and actions that help them survive and thrive.
3) Inspirational writing from around the world.  But especially texts written over the last century:  "the Power of Positive Thinking", "Think and Grow Rich", "Unlimited Power," "the Richest Man in Babylon", "The Greatest Salesman in the World", "Psycho-Cybernetics" and countless others.    Or if you think the problems of Black Americans are so unique, try "Think and Grow Rich--A Black Choice" by Dennis Kimbro (inferior to the original, but still good), or the excellent "Unlimited Power--A Black Choice" which flat-out rocks, and was written by a Black man I have met, and admire.
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Know something?  You don't even have to do that. If you got a hundred Black Americans who have risen from poverty and prejudice together in a room, what they'd have to say would please neither Left nor Right.  To the embarassment of Right-Wing talk show hosts, Condi Rice and Colin Powell, their poster children, agree that Blacks have suffered systematic, historical, unique and damaging disadvantages stemming directly from slavery and the 100 years of oppression that followed it.  this the right never mentions.  But they also believe in focus, hard work , sacrifice and holding oneself to high personal and moral values as a way OUT of that trap.  This is rarely focussed on by the Left.  Failure leaves clues.  Success leaves clues.  Those 100 successful black people would have a remarkable commonality of beliefs, values, and actions.  Those beliefs, values, and actions would be more or less congruent with the principles put forth in "Think And Grow Rich" almost a Century ago.  Ignore what they are saying at your own peril.
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I think that the average white person, born into a black skin, would do about 10% worse financially and emotionally than they do currently.  I think that the average white person resentful of Affirmative Action would be a ball of neurosis and poisonous resentment of white privilege if they were slipped into a black skin.  And I think that the average borderline bigot, you know, the kind who says "black guy" when he means "nigger"?  Would, if he'd been born black, want to kill every white man in sight.
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I don't believe in Reparations.  Not because I don't think Black Americans "deserve" them in some abstract sense. Hell, if I could push a button I'd gladly reverse the relative positions of Black and White in America and in World History.  It would be SO amusing to watch white folks, whose barely controlled contempt for Melanine I've dealt with for so many decades, suddenly become aware of the vast ocean of privilege they once enjoyed that has drained away.  God, that would be fun. In a heartbeat, they would suddenly understand.  No, I'm against Reparations because I see no way to implement it that wouldn't make the situation even worse, create more resentment (and that is an important factor when you're outnumbered 10 to 1), and sell a legacy of 450 years of real agony for a few dollars.  No.  I play to win, people--not for the appearance of winning.  I don't give a shit about symbols.  I care about the future of this country, and this planet, and every boy and girl now growing up.  Black and white and yellow and brown.  I want a world that will work for all of them, or it won't work for any.
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I don't know a single person who doesn't have a perfectly good excuse to fail.  Let's list some of them:  too old, too young, too black, too poor, too gay, too fat, too skinny, too female, too short, too uneducated, too dysfunctional, too handicapped, too Jewish, too Christian, too pagan...are you on the list somewhere?  Of course, the more of these you cluster in one person, the more problems they're likely to have.  Which is more painful: being black or being a woman?  Easy to answer: ask a black woman. If you haven't asked a dozen black women which they find to be a greater problem, I'm not going to tell you the answer.  I've done it.  Go out and do it yourself, OR YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMMENT.  How about Gay or Black?  Do the same experiement.  And on down the line.  Otherwise, you're one of those philosophers who think they don't need to count the teeth in a horse's mouth in order to know how many teeth a horse has.  Pitiful.
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I am into the basic truths, the things that go beyond race, and gender, and poverty, and abuse, and obesity and all the rest.  Strip all of that away and what is left is HUMAN.  Strip that away and you have the soul, the spirit itself, manefesting in myriad forms of life.  Strip that away and you have existence.  Strip away existence and non-existence, and you have the Tao. 
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I would never say that this or that group hasn't had disadvantages.  I have laid my own pain out here on this blog as clearly as I can, and will continue to, because vomiting up our past poisons can be a way of getting to the real tissue of our emotional "guts."  It is not that I do not have empathy.  but in life, you either have reasons, or you have results.  You can't always have both.  In fact, the less you look at the reasons, the more time you have to seek and create results.  It's not fair.  But it's not unfair, either.  It just is.

Steve

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