Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Awakenings and Epiphanies in the aftermath of an accident

Last summer I was involved in a near-fatal car accident. I recently went back and re-visited my thoughts that I had put on paper one month after this horrendous yet eye-opening event. Here is the blog that I wrote on August 22, 2009, almost a month to the day since I'd had that life-changing experience:

Some things in life are simply inexplicable. Until you are suspended upside down in a vehicle next to an open gas line it is hard to explain how you can still feel a deep down unfathomable perfect peace. Now, I have struggled with the concept of a higher power. I have gone through phases where I doubted any existence of a God or at least of an engaging God…one who communicates with us and is involved in our daily lives. These beliefs have manifested themselves as a result of my strong belief that religion is environmental. Many of you have heard me say this before, but it’s really a simple concept. Where you are born determines your religious belief 99% of the time. It is rare to find a Muslim born to an American Christian family. It is just as rare to find a Christian born to a Shiite Iranian family. For this reason, I find it hard to put the concept of a Higher Power into a dogmatic description, when something as simple as where you are born determines the religion that you learn to accept. However, on July 21st, 2009, I can not deny that there was a perfect peace that took over my entire being and helped me through that most hellish of days. I do not know how to define this peace. I DO know that from the moment I woke up to a paramedic calling my name and realized that something was horribly wrong because of the intense pain I was experiencing with bones sticking out of my legs that I should have been terrified, and I was for a bit. Nonetheless, I somehow knew that I would be ok. I was at peace in a way that made no sense to me whatsoever. I was in the most indescribable pain, but I sensed deep down that I would live. I don’t know how to refer to this peace/power/realization other than to describe it as The Almighty. I do not feel that any of the religious terms (especially Christian) that I’ve learned from my childhood until now adequately describe this power. Any reference to God makes me cringe as it brings back dogmatic teachings that I was exposed to as a young child that made me uncomfortable in many ways…feeling that if I slipped I was indeed headed for hell. The value of my life was dictated to me by an American educational system that claims to be open-minded and truthful, but is nothing more than government propaganda. It teaches us that in order to be of value to society that we must adhere to the system. We must complete grade school, junior high, high school, college, and if we really want to succeed then we obtain our master’s and doctorate degrees.

However, we must ask ourselves what is value? How do we let society define what value means to us? If we think about the design of higher education in this country, the primary purpose is to spit out cogs in the machine. Cogs that will become new pieces of the military-industrial, financial, political, multi-national corporate hegemonic nature of our empire to replace the old cogs. There is very little encouragement to think for ourselves. We are not taught to question everything and trust nothing. We are not taught to examine the material lectured to us by the professor, but to make sure that we understand and program our heads with that particular version of knowledge (which amounts to one woman or man’s opinion) so that we can regurgitate it on a test and therefore become a model cog to keep the exploitive empire of the United States in position to oppress the peoples of the world who are too weak to stand up to us and defend the human, natural, and financial resources that we steal from them.
Let’s step further into what we are taught from grade school in our educational system in the U.S. (Let me stop right here just long enough to state that I’m sure that many of these same principals apply in foreign countries as well. It also is a fact that everyone says that their way is the right way and the other countries have it all wrong. Sound familiar? That statement is true in the American educational system, and it is also true in the religious community in America.) We are taught that by God’s decree and religious freedom that we had the right to come in and decimate the native population of this country. Oh sure, this is painted as a rosy picture with our tradition of Thanksgiving and the inviting of the natives to not only share their planting and exotic foods, but to even share the same table with us. We are also taught that the Native Americans who resisted this God-given expansion of the early Americans were resisting divine providence and therefore must be dealt with accordingly (wars, torture, displacement of homelands that had been in their families for hundreds of years, and numerous other indescribable atrocities that we should be ashamed of…certainly as “enlightened” as we are supposed to be in the year 2009). We pushed them onto plantations and plots of land where they could be controlled. Our advice and funding of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians shows that we still support and encourage this policy. Dialogue and constructive peace and reconciliation can just go to hell for all we’re concerned. We have it right, and everyone else can either accept it or experience the full power and backing of the U.S. military. This view is not taught to us in school. We are told that everything and everyone that we stole from, killed, tortured, displaced and degraded as less than human with an intelligence equal to ours…well, this was all part of “God’s plan”.
How much do you remember from your days in school? Do you feel that what was taught to you can be applicable in a modern society of globalization which is a complex mixture of different cultures incorporating racism, hatred, wars, distrust of other ethnicities because of our own ignorance (case in point in today’s world…the Muslims). Do you feel that you were given the proper tools to combat this ignorance that is so prevalent in our world today? Do you feel that when you were taught in your chemistry class about the chemical structure of coal that it is applicable in helping to show compassion, love and equality to your neighbor? I’ve been reading the autobiography of Stokely Carmichael and he incorporated an interesting statement that “Education is what is left over after you’ve forgotten everything you’ve learned in the classroom”. He applied this in particular to the brutality he experienced as an African-American student at Howard University in the 60’s. In particular, he praised his fellow comrades who supported the cause of equality more than the expected American standard that I described above of the average college student. By this, meaning…go to school to learn how to be a functioning wealth gainer in a Capitalistic society. These students fought for justice rather than follow the expected standardized American course. They have my complete respect because of the courage they showed. Because, after all, in American society, money is what really matters right? Forget equality. Forget love. Forget helping your common person in the ghetto escape from the unbelievably lopsided odds of their own success at even earning an income to support their family. It’s every person for themselves. If you don’t succeed, then someone else will step over you and obtain that position. It could be that person from the better school. It could be that person from the more privileged family. It could be the person with more charisma, with more connections, with more beauty; the list goes on and on. If you don’t succeed monetarily, then something is obviously wrong with you. Forget the idea that you don’t want to take part in a system that exploits people. Our financial services industry is one of the biggest industries that we still have in this country, and it is going down hard and fast. I was a part of it for a while, and I did do quite well monetarily. However, the entire structure of it is centered around profiting someone at the expense of another. No matter what you hear, there is no win win. That’s a lie that a Capitalistic society uses to encourage economic expansion for big business. In Capitalism, someone always pays the price. My soul was destroyed in that business. It was during those years that I started to examine my political and moral beliefs. I couldn’t live with myself any longer and continue to be a part of that business. I don’t care how poor I am. Making my living at the expense of another takes away your sleep and will lead you to an early grave…and for what? So you can have more on your credit column than your debit column? This car accident has further emphasized to me what is important. I will fight for equality, justice, peace, compassion, love, respect, decent living standards and PROPER education for my fellow citizens until the day I die. I will combine my talents of political passion and radio to achieve this goal. I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know that I will not be a part of the system any longer. Life is too short, and there are too many hurting people to look the other way. If you can do that and still live with yourself, then you have something I don’t and a drive that I can’t find in myself. I’m not saying that I’m some saint and someone who makes no mistakes. I have to constantly check my pride, criticism, cynicism, ego, self-righteousness, feelings of superiority, and I could go on and on. That look in the mirror can be a humbling experience. I AM constantly humbled by the fact that The Almighty chose to keep me on this earth for a while longer, and I hope that I can use this time to contribute to the equality of all of us. That is my prayer for you and I today. Let’s unite and treat each other with respect and equality. It’s idealistic I know, but we can accomplish it if we put half the effort into helping others instead of stepping on them to get ahead in life. Thank you for reading and I welcome your thoughts and comments. May you experience many blessings today.


Aman said...

What a moving piece! I am sure it will compel people to think on the issues raised, which are otherwise over shadowed by the hustle bustle of day-to-day life.

I totally agree that our capitalist lifestyle pushes us into a rat race, where we become a cog in the running machine, and gain at the expense of others. Compassion towards fellow human beings is the first casualty.

Solution lies in modifying our capitalist system in a way that the wealth created is shared appropriately, and the development has ‘inclusiveness’ as one of the first principles.

I also recommend watching an Indian movie ‘3 idiots’ (a subtitled DVD should be available) which was among the most successful Bollywood movies last year. It touches on many of the issues raised by you.

Thanks for writing and sharing this wonderful piece!

Twitter id : @amancool5

Anonymous said...

Thanks Aman for sharing this on twitter.

Wow...what can I say! An amazingly powerful post that starts with YOU and ends with AMERICA. I believe every bit of what you say is true.

But I was just wondering if there are ANY roles left in the society that leaves out such propagation of evils? I mean what we have is working although with some hiccups and treatment from time to time, but in a democracy don't u think its gonna be a herculean task? The whole structure of the modern society would fail (which is of course not the worst of the problems) but essentially one would have an engine that ceases to function. Don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I can agree with you on all of it. Idealistic is not bad, idealistic is just hard to be done, but that's what makes it worth doing.
I don't think that the whole structure will fail, but just the engine will have to use other fuel than greed.

Thanks for the great post, Tim :)

timradioboy said...

Thank you all for the comments. It means a lot to know that others are challenged to think a bit outside of the normal boundaries of life. That's my goal, and my wish is that we all regularly take time to think of the bigger picture.

Sarah said...

This is a great post, Tim.