The Poverty Of The Mind

The Poverty Of The MindA river that cannot be forded doesn’t necessarily mock us, but its utility escapes us even as we concede it protects us. The concession is curious. What threatens us from the outside seems pale compared to what ails us from within. This speak volumes about us and how we perceive and understand ourselves and our relationship with the river and our community.

Our liberation from slavery, colonialism and trade union militancy have helped to shape and define who we are and how we would like to be seen. We have come a long way and we are intent to guard our dignity. Our exodus means the world to us. But consider this. If we camp on the rocky lip, yearning for the fertile plain on the other side of the river, only to be swept away by the rain that fell in the distant mountain, is it okay to think that the river has gone mad?

Rio Loco`s quicksand (not marked), treacherous current (dry foot orator) and slippery rocks are notorious. In the face of this overwhelming odds, swimming is not self-discovery, or a foray to eureka, it’s a death wish. Indeed, grown men have been washed away, their bodies never recovered. Its hard to mourn without a body or honor the rituals of grief without a funeral. There is merit in a cautionary tale but it should invite introspection rather than paralyzing analysis.

On the banks of the river, a refugee camp really, the concerns of corruption and injustice fatigue the mind and the stress for survival…………. Refugee???

What other eloquent word or emotion would  better describe nearly two hundred years on the banks of this damn river, sharing a few triumphant vicarious moments but more afraid and distrustful of each other and our propensity for sabotage or worse? Apart from sharing each other`s frustration and hope that somebody, anybody will come and build a bridge, (you can toll it for a hundred years), what hope do we have to get to yonder side? What faith do we have in each other?

We are a long way from picking up this river and moving it, I concede, but it sure would feel good to see a rubber tube with a laughing carefree boy frolicking in its waters, or a homemade kayak challenge the rapids before I die. Is that it? Is that the extent of our rendezvous with greatness or the resignation to the prison of our circumstances all we can be? Are we only good enough to be cowardly spectators in the arena of our endeavors? Can we not deepen or dam or widen or tunnel or bridge our own damn river?

We have a nerve to be concerned with corruption or injustice or even crime`s stranglehold on the economy, when the quality of our concern for each other is suspect and the weights and measure of our sincerity is opportunistic. We, myself included, are pirates in our conditioning, proud of our heritage of mutiny mistaking it for insurrection. We bare our chests to the world, ‘Poor but Proud.’

We are neither. Our work ethic reflects our preoccupation with the pay but not the job, as if we are recently freed slaves. Proud may have taken us to the ball but she left a long time ago. Why should she stay with a man who doesn’t display the cojones to ford a brook by his house, or take the initiative to organize his neighbors to pool ideas and resources to build a bridge or a playground for his first born. We are a country in the eye of a crisis. Our self-confidence is shot

Every undertaking demands a `I will` more so than a `Can you?` `Soon come` is indelible stamped on our psyche as an alert to procrastination but it signals our unconcern about sabotaging trust. The implications of a trust deficit are painful.  We think we are poor. What if we are being too generous with that label?

Poor has nothing to do with money. Poverty is an idea that we have accepted about ourselves. Regardless of how those ideas come to us, we must take ownership of our runaway train. We are onboard.

A man who waves a flag or appeals to his countrymen to be patriots, minus the tribute of example is a fraud. Yet, criticism or preaching won’t make a fig tree bloom. Instead, embracing the opportunity to make a positive contribution will help to repair our trust deficit with each other.

We have all had a Red Sea dilemma. My interpretation of a Red Sea dilemma, though not exhaustive, is `seeing a problem from a perspective that doesn’t allow for a desired outcome.’ It’s not so much that we see a mountain where none exists but rather the fear and trembling that we cover with our bravado as we shout and poke as the mountain diminishes us. We stand in awe of the man who approach his mountain, his Red Sea armed with the strength of his conviction and literally climb, part and rearrange his circumstances for the better, while complaining that our Rio Loco is a tiger. Puhleease!

We can wait for a messiah or a Moses to come with money or ideas to transform our world, while others with a Rio Mucho Diablo Loco deepen, widen and build enterprises and industries on their river. The spirit that led our forefathers, recounted in tall tales and distilled versions, still inspire though we are skeptical about magical concoctions. But that is precisely what ails us. Skepticism about what others have done and the drama of how they did it, doesn’t have a damn thing to do with our inability to confront our demons, which must be confronted before we confront our tormentors. Of what value are our excuses, brave stories buttressed by rum, and  fanciful goals for our future if courage deserts us?

No. The river doesn’t mock us, it waits for a worthy challenger.

Peter Peterkin, Readers Bureau, Fellow