“A riot is the language of the unheard.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr
This article will show how the power of deep, thoughtful imagination can teach us a powerful lesson of humility that can make us more aware and teach us how to have more empathy in an otherwise exceedingly unaware and grossly apathetic world.
But first, imagine a yin-yang. There are two sides to every yin-yang. Imagine this article as a yin-yang. On the one side is a dark shadow, a ravenous angry demon swirling around a point of light. On the other side is a bright light, a radiating loving angel swimming around a point of darkness. Each side is consciously unaware of the other side, though they are inexplicably connected.
Now, imagine every single person on the planet is an individual, walking, talking yin-yang, each with their own shadowy demon and loving angel radiating at different degrees depending upon their respective nature-nurture dynamic. Some of these yin-yangs are more white than black. Some are more black than white. Some have bigger points of light, some have bigger points of darkness, and vice versa.
But most are not aware to what extent, and so the majority of yin-yangs are unbalanced. Like Noam Chomsky said, “The general population doesn’t even know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” Yes, this applies to psychology just as much as it applies to politics.
Now, picture a cop and a thug. Both the cop and the thug carry their titles with pride (note how pride is itself a psychological hang-up). The cop imagines he is more light than dark, but to the extent that he has suppressed his darkness because of the pressures (cultural and peer) of an unhealthy system that has militarized him and brainwashed him into being invulnerable, fearful, and paranoid, and therefore excessively violent.
The thug imagines he is more dark than light, having had his light oppressed by an unfair and unjust legal system that criminalizes poverty and feeds profit prisons to the extent that he is a burnt-out husk of pent up anger and rage, and therefore excessively violent. Neither the cop nor the thug have ever been held accountable. The two tangle over something petty: say a stolen candy bar or a soda, or even a “suspicion” of petty crime on the part of the cop.
If the thug does not fight back, then the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, unjust system continues going through the motions of being precisely what it is, and the thug goes to jail. But if the thug does happen to fight back, then the cop takes it upon himself to be judge, jury, and executioner with the full power of the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system behind him, and the thug is then beaten senseless and, as a result, he dies.
Now, picture the community where this cop and this (now deceased) thug are from. This community is made up of many other yin-yangs, each with a sense of being more light or more dark, and vice versa; but all having been conditioned by the same unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system, and so mostly unaware to what extent they stand and are therefore unbalanced yin-yangs. This community reacts to the death of its member the only way it knows how to: in unbalanced ways.
Those members who identify more with the “thug life (poverty)” will be outraged and angry, and they will go through the motions of their outrage and anger, without filter (or with varying degrees of filter), due to their having been oppressed by an unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system.
Likewise, those members who identify more with the “cops authority (privilege)” will be shocked and dismayed that the rest of the community is so angry and outraged, because they are going through the motions of trusting, as they were conditioned to trust, an unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system.
Understand: “conditioned” is the keyword. Both sides will have sympathy for the departed, but only one side can have true empathy for the plight of the departed, due to the conditioning of the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system.
Now, picture this community in chaos. On both sides all the little yin-yangs (on top of already being unbalanced) are confused and scared. And when yin-yangs are confused and scared, they act out according to the varying degrees of their lightness and darkness.
One yin-yang might burn a cop car. One yin-yang might call other yin-yangs derogatory and racist names. A couple yin-yangs might throw rocks or bricks at other yin-yangs. Media outlets, who are biased to one side or the other, may spin things a certain way in order to influence a certain political agenda.
Neither side aware that the only way to understand the other side is to GO to the other side —and take a walk, or at least have a heart-to-heart discussion. Neither side capable of putting themselves in the other side’s shoes. But ALL the desperate and confused yin-yangs are acting-out according to the conditioning of the greater unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system they were born into.
Those privileged enough to be comfortable with the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system are less likely to get directly involved and are more likely to stick to the sidelines, shouting mostly empty platitudes about their sense of right and wrong. Those who are oppressed by, and therefore uncomfortable with the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system, are more likely to get directly involved, and they will act out mostly from an unsophisticated and uneducated sense of right and wrong.
A tiny percentage, maybe 2%, of those directly involved will loot and steal and burn down stores, which will more than likely be blamed on the other peaceful 98%. Those on the sidelines will shout empty, banal words such as “animals” and “monsters” and “hooligans,” but most of them haven’t a clue about the bigger picture.
And the media feeds both sides, filling them all with more hate, more divisiveness, and more confusion, to the extent that it becomes too much, and everybody conveniently forgets about it all. That is, until the next wannabe “thug” yin-yang gets killed by another so-called law-abiding “cop” yin-yang (who will again probably not be held accountable), and the vicious cycle will continue, ad nauseam.
Now, allow me to plug myself into this scenario. There is an angel and a demon in my heart. And, as with the yin-yang, they each have aspects of the other hidden inside them. The angel’s heart is a demon’s heart.
The demon’s heart is an angel’s heart. In times like these, when Baltimore is burning, when black lives seemingly don’t matter, when poor lives are being trampled over by the lifestyles of the rich, when unjust masculine privilege drowns out justified feminine leverage, when equity matters more than equality, when profits matter more than people, when elections have been replaced by auctions, it’s times like these when the angel’s heart and the demon’s passion become one and the same soul-crushing song of emancipation: a primordial howl of liberation.
Where devil-may-care meets demon-does-care, and suddenly things become clear: In order to achieve something great, something healthier and more sustainable, it is inevitable and necessary that things trivial, things unhealthy and unsustainable, should be destroyed.
The demon wants to breathe smoke. The demon wants to exhale fire. The demon wants to curse at all sides: thugs, cops, spineless sideliners. The demon wants to smash police cars until its heart is pumping battery acid. The demon wants to watch the whole thing burn. The demon wants to be out there tearing down unsustainable infrastructure.
The demon wants to be in the mix, spilling blood, cracking sidewalks with its heavy thunder, shattering windows with its deep demon howl. The demon wants to crush the greater demon of the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system. But even the demon knows that two wrongs don’t make a right. And so the angel-heart of the demon rises up to balance things out.
The angel wants to hug away the pain. The angel wants to breathe compassion into the hearts of brutal men. The angel wants to emancipate the downtrodden of their pain. The angel wants to liberate the privileged of their fear and paranoia. The angel wants to plug gun barrels with daisies and transform Molotov cocktails into bouquets of flowers.
The angel wants to get all the cops to lay down their body armor and helmets and weapons of menace. The angel wants to get the thugs to hold hands in unison and embrace the police in solidarity against the true evil in this world: the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system. But even the angel knows that lovey-dovey, goody-two-shoes, utopian projection won’t cut it. And so the demon-heart rises up to balance things out.
My higher-self, the part of me where both the demon and the angel have joined forces, breathes both angry smoke and clear compassion, pointing out that the thug and the cop are one and the same prideful thing: an unfortunate side-effect of an unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system. The cop could have become a thug under different circumstances.
The thug could have become a cop under different circumstances. The cop and the thug are both victims of the same unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system.
The question that remains atop the dogpile of violence and nonsense is this: will the cop and the thug ever be capable of forgetting their victimized-pride long enough to gather the wherewithal to become heroes instead?
As the world stands, nurture has crushed our nature. The system has brainwashed us into perceiving the world a certain way and we are seemingly stuck in that “way.” And the only way to get unstuck is to recondition the precondition, to unwash the brainwash, to turn the tables on our own insecure cognitive dissonance. The problem is: nobody can do it for us. We alone must emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.
Which just so happens to be one of the most difficult things a human being can do. Our egos are covertly tactical with pride, preventing most from even taking the first step toward such emancipation. The system suborns divisiveness and thrives on it. It needs a victimized and divided majority in order to maintain its power. And here we are, going through the motions of being divided victims.
It’s all so dreadfully silly and petty and soulless, and that is precisely what the system is programmed to instill in us: soullessness. To both the cop and the thug, I say: swallow your pride, dissolve your ego, and turn your energy toward the true enemy: the unhealthy, unsustainable, unfair, and unjust system.
In closing: nobody said it better than the immortal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention.
And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”