I once heard of a young man who thought so critically, and was so intelligent, he had to wear headphones just to tranquilize him. As if the thoughts he had in his head wouldn’t even let him socialize normally with others. I can only imagine how loud he had to put his headphones just to drown out those thoughts about the world. Confucius once said that the more you know, the more you realize you know nothing, but I add, that the more you think you know, the more inclined you are to ignore the human aspects of the things you know. It’s more than the “ignorance is bliss” conjecture; it’s the inability to go out and enjoy the one life we’re given (or for some of you, the life that you’re given presently).
Sometimes, we’re so encumbered with being the deepest thinker, the best polemicist, or the most potent orator that we forget to feel something for another. Many would recall how I rode on a high horse for the majority of my college career, in part because of the influences around me and their high expectations for every and anything, but also it was a personal crusade to change the way people thought. While it was well-intentioned, it was also taxing to my intimate life, and often while I thought I was giving the proper motivation to some, I was really demoralizing them. Sometimes I would avoid dealing with some issues in favor of this greater goal for some common good.
I think of my ex-roommate Howard, whose now doing really well for himself in the greater Boston area. We seemed like polar opposites. He was neat, I was a little messy. He was mostly Republican, and I was liberal, but bordering on anarchism. He focused on his school work hard, and I focused on my extra-curricular activities. He lived in the Syracuse area for the majority of his life, and I was from NYC. He owned most of Master P’s CD collection, and I couldn’t stand Master P except for “Make Em Say Uhhhh!” Oh yeah, and he’s White and I’m a Black –Latino.
While I was out there protesting, calling people on their crap, reading up on every and anything related to the Ma’at and the Maa’fa (i.e. the African Slave Trade / Holocaust), organizing events, petitioning to become the education chair (and de facto president) of La LUCHA, and speaking out against White privilege in clandestine meetings, I was also having deep conversations with Howard about love (and lack thereof), sports, and even politics. As these conversations became more frequent during our senior year, I saw how much of my misdirected anger at people who also have their own battles really hurt my arguments for unity and peace. For every time I got angry because I barely made it financially at SU, I also had to check myself, because his family had to work just as hard without the benefits of financial aid. With some of the knuckleheads we had on campus, he might have had an argument for wondering why he didn’t get their financial aid since they were wasting it.
We’re there in our living room, maybe playing NBA Street, or wondering what our then girlfriends thought of us, but we’re there learning lessons about people we may not have known as much about. At times, we went through some struggles getting adjusted to each other’s lifestyles, but that’s what growing looks like. I taught him a little about how to stay on beat, and he gave me my first glass of Blue Moon, my favorite beer on Earth. We weren’t Jack and Cola, or Crockett and Tubbs, but out of the few roommates I have had, he’s probably my favorite.
I couldn’t have arrived at that point if I stuck with my often divisive extremism. I still protested, and held my ground on many issues related to racism, economic stratification, sexism, etc., but I also grew, considering the other person’s experiences and valuing their own humanity. I don’t believe in compromising one’s self for the sake of pleasing others. But there is something to be said for the man (or woman) who can mature and delve deeper into the human experience before he / she says something they don’t understand.
When we think about Human Rights in this or any country, the first step in becoming an advocate for social change is to look at oneself. Understand more thoroughly where you’re coming from and how the experiences you’ve had have molded you into the person you are. Once that’s settled, then other people’s arguments become easier to analyze. You won’t necessarily agree, but it’s much more imperative to listen and understand than to walk around with a pair of headphones, guarding you from your own fear and thus your humanity …
Jose, who along with Wayne, acknowledges Human Rights Day today …