Our parents, grandparents, or other influential adults always told us at one point or another, “Pick your battles”.
I always thought that was frivolous, because winning was really all we thought about as young people. A dear friend of mine handed me a book entitled “The Art of War”, and I thought to myself,
“Why is he telling me to read this?” However, SunTzu was a high ranking Chinese military official and his writings are thought to be written around the end of the sixth century BC. Without going into too much detail of his book, he surmises that war is a necessary evil that must be avoided whenever possible; and fought swiftly to avoid economic losses. Strategy is crucial, and the source of strength is unity, not size.
The Dalai Lama speaks of meditation as crucial for a balance in one’s life. He says, “Human beings are of such nature that they should have not only material facilities but spiritual sustenance as well. Without spiritual sustenance, it is difficult to get and maintain peace of mind.” Reflection and meditation can give a human brain, if trained to do so, the chance to think and reflect before the body or mouth speaks or takes action. Fast forward to 2007, and Stephen Marley’s release of his debut Grammy Award-winning album. When I purchased it and popped it in the CD player in the car, listening to the title track was life-changing for me. The lyrics were prolific. “Don’t let them mold your mind, they wanna control mankind…your mind causes your defeat, you trust in their deceit..corruption of your thoughts, destruction of your soul..” I then surmised after listening to the song just once that at least half of the folks I come in contact with on a daily basis are products of mind control, with almost zombie-like lives as they go from day to day.
Mind control and picking your battles go hand in hand. There is enough research on mind control and the negative effects of media, including music videos depicting violence; video games depicting violence and rewarding the players when they destroy and kill more; lyrics that insult women and encourage other acts of violence. We are allowing our children and our grandchildren to absorb this into those little sponges in their heads. As I watch the reports of Ferguson, Missouri after the verdict was released, I am not surprised at the elevated anger and levels of violence and looting that is taking place. Law enforcement there obviously does not know about Sun Tzu, or the extensive looting, burning of police cars, or torching businesses would not be occurring. The verdict has been handed down and now all the Tuesday morning quarterbacks are weighing in. As I watch this with a broken heart, my mind trails back to my mother’s voice, saying, “Pick your battles”. There are injustices documented since the beginning of time, and civilization’s reactions to those injustices has been well documented. Looting can be traced back all the way to Rome in the year 455. Looting is a response of the basic human instinct of survival. When people feel hopeless and angry, without knowing how to deal with those feelings, and they feel they have been wronged, that instinct naturally kicks in. For those of you who are appalled at the lootings happening in Missouri, I gently remind you that destruction of property as a result of intense anger has been observed in some form or another in your life. Has someone ever destroyed your cell phone because you were suspected of cheating? Car windows ever smashed out by an angry spouse when learning of infidelities? Madea’s chain saw scene in Diary of a Mad Black Woman or Angela Bassett’s collection of clothing and lighting them on fire in her cheating husband’s car in Waiting to Exhaleare displays of looting. Destructive actions as a result of intense anger, and those intense feelings must be channeled somewhere. Why do boxers train with large punching bags? Why do parents sometimes buy their children toy guns and other toys that depict and instill violence?
When a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan in 2011, resulting in a loss of almost tens of thousands of people, the Japanese have a system to accommodate each other. Family ties, social hierarchies and a collective spirit are instilled in the Japanese culture, unlike the culture of individualism that proliferates and controls the minds of many in the United States and other countries as well. There is a sense of social order in Japan that others can learn from. When you want to do better in any aspect of life, become a student and study those who have achieved what you are trying to achieve. Learn their strategies and exercise your mind; read, meditate, and consider the rest of the universe while leaving the individualism behind. Sun Tsu writes about the Art of War, the Dalai Lama preaches about the art of peace and meditation, and Stephen Marley introduces questions about our modern-day states of mind. My heart is broken whenever a young man or woman loses their life at the hands of a police officer, no matter what the circumstance or race of any of the parties.
I am sure Martin Luther King Jr. and Bob Marley are disappointed in the United States today. But we have the power to educate and learn from these horrific injustices. Start by turning off the television and take away the children’s constant access to electronic garbage. Introduce them to alternative ways of dealing with their emotions, whatever avenue that may be. Start a garden, take them on volunteer excursions, whatever it takes. My children would grumble on Thanksgiving morning when I would make them come with me to a local church that feeds the homeless as I would pick up boxed meals and deliver them to people who couldn’t get out. But by the end of the night, they were more thankful than ever for what they had, and they were made keenly aware of those around them that need a helping hand. Social justice starts at home, and must be instilled for generations. In the spirit of Khajeel Mais, Tupac Shakur, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and every single soul who has been gunned down by another human being, whether they are police officers or not, we must insist on social order. In 2008, my country had over 12,000 firearm-related homicides, while Japan had 11. We should take a hard look at the fact that almost no one in Japan owns a gun. They know something that we don’t know. And we need to learn.