To Rectify Damage, Reverse Our Paralysis Part 2
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 11 May 29, 2014
Moving forward sometimes call for one to look backwards; even take a couple steps backwards. Doing so allows us to engineer change. Doing so facilitates understanding the forces that made; shaped us, have us where we currently are.
Doing so allows us to learn from the past,gain new perspectives, contemplate and come up with better strategies, make different and more informed choices — strategic choices to bring about better, healthier, and more successful outcomes.
Often, in the face of use and abuse, wrongdoing, wickedness, errors, fault, incompetence at the helm, missteps, organisational ineffectiveness, mismanagement, skullduggery, misappropriation of funds, and the infliction of trauma, hurt, pain and suffering, those responsible are quick to suggest “we” turn the page and move on.
They want the misled, injured, and victimized to put aside their anger, disappointment, hurt and pain; put incidents/the past behind them and restart the relationship — fresh, without the requisite analysis that conceivably could result in termination, charges, and/or herald strategies to avoid repetition.
Articulation of just letting things go is all about hubris, protection of ego, the desire of those responsible to stay privileged and hold on to control, power, or leadership, and a way of avoiding ownership forany and all damages arising out of incompetence, misleadership, and sins of omission or commission.
The human mind is a sponge. It consciously and unconsciously absorbs and retains information. Also, the mind wasn’t constructed to easily forgive or forget. Injuries tend to leave indelible footprints that scars, damage, and impact on behaviour and attitudes.
Sadly, the entrenched culture of fearfulness, weakness, and timidity have people (and members in many organizations) sheepish in behaviour, caught in the cult of (leadership) personality, relishing being close friends and blind “yes men” to leadership (that in the long run destroys the very organization). So even when transparency and accountability are non-existent in an organization, or persons (and organizations) are ripped-off, injured, and scarred, they not only stomach the ills and stick with their friend — their abusers and exploiters, but continue to vote them into office.
Thus leadership long past its “sell by/expiration” date are able to stay on the shelf. Bad and poor management and those afflicted with “presidentitis,” the need to be visible, important, and in charge, and whose shortcomings in leadership are self-evident, are recycled. And clearly perceptibly opportunists that seek positions or elected office to personally profit or as a badge of honour, or to pad their résumé, or feel powerful are embraced.
Equally sabotaging are those that sit on the board of an organisation (as well as others), knowing full well they do not have the time to invest in its business.
If people are serious about hoisting the flag of community high, reclaiming the unity and strength of community many of us once knew and experienced, we have to critically revisit yesterday.
We did not emerge from a vacuum.
We are the product of our genetic inheritance, our yesterdays, and the sum of our choices.
Yesterday holds the key to today. And today — today defines and determines our tomorrow.
Yesterday explains why we are the way we are, why and how we do the things we do. And it is in understanding yesterday that extricating oneself from trapped positions and dangerous minefields, doing better, and charting a course for success is possible.
For all the haplessness and innocence we assign to babies, and all the joy to welcoming parents and grandparents they bring, babies do not come into the world with an empty slate.
The genes a child inherit from both parents along with the physical, emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual state of the pregnant female set the template for the child hereditary, biological and emotional wiring, mental state, and mind.
Upon birth, the environment and other spheres of socialization modify or accentuatefor better or worse, the genetic inheritance, predispositions, and mind of the child. And that begs the question: What sort of genes did you — we inherit? Better yet, what were the spheres of socialization for our forbearers — us?
As much as humans are a product of their genes, socialization, and experiences, we are the sum of our choices. The consequences we either celebrate or rue.
What we are, and where we are, is a direct result of choice; decisions made, and it is choice — present choice that will decide the quality of our tomorrow.
A gun to one’s head does not remove the power of choice. So let’s dispense with the notion that choice is sometimes taken out of our hands. We might not like the choices available, but choice is always on the table.
Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity that are not due to changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetics reveals how genes interact with environmental factors.
38 women who were pregnant on 9/11 and were either at or near the World Trade Centre at the time of the attack participated in an epigenetic study. The results released in 2011 confirmed that “traumatic experiences can be transmitted from one generation to the next.” (Not that verification of that reality was ever needed.)
The hard-wiring of a child is set in the womb, plus children live what they see, absorb, and learn. Without intervention — therapy, and a safe, healthy, and loving environment, the child with inherited genes damaged by trauma is more than likely going to have feelings and fears that arise from an unknown source, display behaviours and attitudes that are shocking to all or quite left field, as well as replicate dysfunction.
Ergo, damaged genes can resurface and negatively manifest in progeny across generations and in environments far removed from places of original injury. (Thus, as documented, underperformance of first and second-born generation of Afro-Caribbean Blacks in Canada, the United States, and Britain.)
National tragedies, suicide on account of bullying or a shooting in a school or crowded public space oft result in mental health services and psychiatrists made available to those traumatized. Therapy allows one to come to grips with trauma, even heal.
The exploitative and dehumanization structures of colonialism, slavery, and the plantocracy culture, in conjunction with racism, discrimination, economic and educational apartheid, inflicted people of African descent with mental illness; numerous psychiatric injuries and traumas, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Also with seething anger, rage, short tempers, aggressiveness, stubbornness, and the penchant to be physically and verbally abusive— to assert and/or validate identity and/or humanity. In addition, forced members of the race to be adept in “smart man” politics and “smart man” economics,living by their wits, hustling; doing whatever it took to put food on the table, secure a piece of the pie.
It is from that gene pool many of African descent step into the world — under constant stress — filled with unresolved rage — close to the edge — wired for hypertension and mental illness —a little bit mad.
A 2008 study into ethnic differences in hypertension that was deemed ground-breaking revealed: “Canadians of South Asian and black descent are three times as likely to suffer from high blood pressure as East Asians or Caucasians, and they are far more likely to develop the condition at a younger age.”Discrimination, exclusion and racism cannot but raise one’s pressure.
Throw into the mix the daily experiences — reminders of colour difference, and by extension objections to our humanness, and one could understand why we act in ways that results in the race tagged with numerous labels.
Unfortunately, we the children of colonialism, former slaves, and Indentureship — still abused by historical forces of power, attitudes and practices, and racial, economic, and social exclusion, are never looked upon as damaged or in need of therapy, though our dysfunction makes the case.
Although education is the greatest liberator, it doesn’t automatically lend itself to emancipating the mind scarred — nurtured in the aforementioned cauldron. Thus, some of the revolutionaries and builders in the struggle to eradicate racism and discrimination, in the fight for Civil Rights, social justice, racial respect, and to establish Black institutions in Montreal and elsewhere, and some much lauded community stalwarts were, in spite of their accomplishments not mentally liberated — and subsequently not very nice persons, as per their record.
On account of damaged genes left untreated and rootedness in the legacy of the colonial mindset, our community remains badly educated, uneducated, miseducated, malnourished, dysfunctional, rife with conflict and organizational infighting, cliques and island nationalists given to undermining “competitors,” and worse yet, pimped by some of by those that promised or were entrusted to do right, effect change, and lead. Also neglected by some of those in position to make a difference or advance community fortunes. The effect of which currently stares us in the face.