Sunday, August 5, 2012

Runaway, Slave!

Runaway Slave is a documentary screened in Kennesaw, Georgia. Depending on its reception it will be shown in many US cities. 

I liked this movie when it ended last night. 

This morning I REALLY like this movie. 

I went with a black friend, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.  I wasn’t sure how he would take the movie and was interested to know what he thought.  He said he liked it – that he learned something.

This movie is about black culture, but it is not just about their culture.  It is about human culture down to and including one’s individual culture – the stories, the premises and feelings that give one his quality of life.  How do I know that?  I awoke focused on the primary reason I’m still a slave in my own life.  More on that later. 

The front and center question is “Why is it that since a black is free to do whatever he wants, he sees and comports himself as a victim – as a slave.  The color of his skin WILL NOT STOP him from working for and having anything he wants to have in this world.  Objectively he is free and yet he feels and acts as though he is trapped.  This is the slave mentality.  The movie exhorts all of us to run – to run away from that slave mentality and those that work to keep it in place.

This movie is about culture and politics, and it does not shy away from calling out who is advocating what; but the lead character, C. L. Bryant, does a great thing.  He visits various black groups to ask them why blacks are where they are at.  Unemployment is at 14%, one parent families are at 70%, black-on-black crime is out of sight, and more black babies are aborted than any other racial group even though blacks comprise just 13% of the population.  Everyone has a story, with reasons, for why things are the way they are and he lets them tell their story.  The movie never gets stuck on the “us vs. them” level – rather it has us consider the real question here.

There are lots of leads to stimulate thinking in this film.  One such lead is a man’s story about why he ended up committing crimes landing him in jail.  After putting himself through this, he realized he was furious with his mother.  He blamed her for his not having a father – for his being deprived of ever knowing his father.  She made money to live being eligible for welfare payments.  Her life choice required the father of her child to have abandoned the family.  At the point the man grasped the circumstances that led his mother to her plight; he realized that although she was responsible for what she did not knowing or thinking about the consequences of her choice, she chose what she saw as a way to survive.  At that point he went to her and apologized for being angry with her all these years.  With this massive justification for his actions gone, his life turned around.   

One of the interesting unstated but obvious things in the film is to hear the opposite side of the slave mentality - the master mentality.  This manifests itself as being completely justified in taking control and dominating the former master.  It was expressed in the anger and assigning cause outside the only one who can actually make a difference - oneself.  All of this ends when you give it up and simply live your life - seeking your own happiness, neither sacrificing yourself to others nor others to yourself.  Freedom is freedom, no more, no less. 

But freedom was not to be.  The institution of reverse force causing the ongoing problems traces back to the Johnson Administration when the welfare law, grounded on white guilt, was passed.  Because that law sounded good to many ears and given that no one wanted to be the cold, cruel jerk who says “NO” to a struggling mother's need, the bowl with the warm milk was set before her.  “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”  Once she lapped the sweet milk set on the plantation steps, slavery and all of its consequences was the result.  Hence, the point of the film.

The message is powerful.  This morning I awoke thinking about my relationship to money.  I’ve never had a positive relationship to money – like it is a great thing and I ought to have plenty of it in order to do all the things I want to do in life.  Mostly I do what I do and sometimes I have money and sometimes I don’t.  I’m not unhappy if I have little money because there is so much in life that I find interesting.  I only get unhappy when I cannot take care of the things that I want to take of or need to take care of.  Then the matter of money impinges on me.  And yet, over the long run, those circumstances seem to make no difference in the way I conduct myself. 

With many talents and interests, I’m interested in the world no matter what.  In fact this led to some problems with money.  Each week I would get an allowance.  It was a quarter, as I remember.  I never saved my quarter because there were so many things that attracted me and that I wanted to have close to me.  So I bought them.  And, before long, my allowance was gone, a recurring condition which became a way of life. 

I’ve tried blaming other people, my mom, e.g., for my attitude about money.  She would get disgusted with me for running out of it and say something negative.  Never could I hear a possibility for saving money - only angry criticism when my pockets were empty.  I handled this by defusing the issue.  “Money is ‘ho-hum,’ and something I’m not going to get worked up about.”   

I’m in the process of closing my studio and moving to a more affordable place.  Money has been on my mind - not only for moving but for other things I want at this time.    The slave “conversation” of the film stimulated my “conversation” about money.  I realized I am a slave to my “conversation” about money.  Specifically, I am a slave to my way of handling the contention that surrounded me and money in my family.  It is my conversation that determines how I am with money - every time, all the time. 

Seeing this is the breakthrough.  The unrealized emotional enslavement to that conversation is broken.  I can’t think of money without realizing that old way doesn’t work.  Now I am propelled to create a new conversation about money.  My point here is that the “slave conversation” is powerful and applicable wherever human life exists.  Our behaviors are the product of our internal conversations and until we realize what they are, we live on their plantations.  They are our masters which we serve as would a slave.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film as it is so rich on the political and moral level.  If you open yourself to it, it will lead you to where you are stuck and indicate the way to freedom.  Runaway from that slave conversation, man.  Just run.  With everything that’s in you.    


Audience reaction after the opening: