It is a common theory that: what is has been and shall be again. That we are all part of the inescapable cycle of the past, the present and the future (or as my favourite lion cub would say: the Circle of Life). Through experience, blood, physical space and even oxygen, we are all connected to those who came before us, those around us, and those to follow us. And so we should realise that: when we choose to regress into new-colonialism, we steal from our parents; when we become complacent (or just downright lazy), we steal from ourselves; and when we continue to ignore The Inconvenient Truth, we are stealing from our children. It is this realisation that should guide us in the decisions we make and the paths we choose. In the movie The Emperor’s Club, Kevin Kline’s character asks his scholars two incredibly profound questions: “What will your contribution be? How will History remember You?” Because history is a constant; and as much as we are products of it, so too are we its creators.
We are all products of something: victims of someone’s struggle. Big Whoop! That does not mean we should we allow ourselves to be hostages of history. So the girl who drinks with old married men at FTV says that she does it because she has “daddy issues”: her father left them when she was a little girl. It has nothing to do with her being a gold-digger who would rather lie on her back than stand on her feet. And the unemployed brother in the tavern says he just can’t catch a break because his mother was a previously disadvantaged individual – but refuses to admit that he wasted the little money she could scrape up to send him to school and opted to drop out in hopes of becoming the next Zola 7. Who by the way is a one in a million exception. It is undeniable that our pasts mark our starting points, favouring others more than some. But we need to move beyond this excuse. We need do what we can, not what we want, to get to that finish line as winners. If you are the back of the line, you need to walk twice as fast, talk twice as loud and make sure that you catch up: without forgetting that we cannot escape karma; no matter how unfair it seems. Because, although our pasts can teach us many valuable lessons, they can also lead us to dead ends. History has a way of reaching out to us with the promise of understanding and direction, then leaving us drowning in self-pity… all the while looking for a new victim to justify. For the young, the black, the female, the African: and anyone else who has ever been oppressed as a collective; history can be a sinkhole, because oppression is the number one ingredient in victim.
How many people do you know with “potential”? Of those people, how many of them are working towards fulfilling that potential? Not enough, if you ask me. So much of our potential is wasted on procrastination and laziness and bragging. We imagine stories that will never be written. We plan holidays that we will never afford. We fantasise about relationships that will never exist. All because we never quite got around to picking up that pen, or getting that job, or dealing with that insecurity. We have dreams that are born “in the dark alleys of our minds” but will never see the light of day, because we have become content with having come so far considering our circumstances. But we haven’t. Because we have not actually moved away from them. For as long as we allow this complacency to rob us of our greatness, we will always be could-haves: that young man who could have been the next Zola 7 but never actually became anything. Zola saw his own potential, he acknowledged his circumstances and he became the success story he is the good old fashioned way: hard work. Not by sitting in a tavern and throwing a pity-party. My mother always reminds me that there is no such thing as a free lunch: that smarts can only take me so far, but at some point my hands have to chip in as well.
The Inconvenient Truth is a documentary about how we have abused our environment to such an extent that our children may have nothing to inherit. It painfully describes how the temperatures are intensifying, animals are becoming extinct and vegetation is changing because we refuse to become environmentally friendly. It goes further to tell of how we refuse to acknowledge and rectify our selfish behaviour because it is too inconvenient for us. We are too lazy to turn off the light switch when we leave the room or take our chargers out of the circuit when we’re done… so we sacrifice our children’s rightful inheritance instead. This documentary may have environmental content, but its inconvenient truth is far more extensive than that. We steal from our children everyday, in so many different ways. When we don’t fulfil our potential and remain stagnant victims of past oppression, we steal their right to a fresh start and the continuation of progress. When we dishonour our parent’s struggles with our complacency and laziness, we steal our children’s right to the chance to redeem it.
There is a West African saying says: “for as long as lions do not have their own historians, history will always be told to glorify the hunter”. We have to write our own history. Define ourselves according to our own terms. We owe it to ourselves to do better and be better. One by one, one step at a time, we need to become the young pride our parents bore. We need to step out of those taverns and send those sugar-daddies back to their wives. The cycle of victims stops here. With us. And when all is said and done, we need to take our chargers out of the circuit, write those books, and photograph those holidays, so history may have fond memories of the time it spent with us.
*FIRST PUBLISHED BY http://www.consciousness.co.za/ *( June 16 2009)