FROM THE BOOK: THE SYLLABUS OF MALCOLM X, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

Perchance to dream

LIFE CHANCES

There are far more reasons ‘not to be’ alive than ‘to be’ alive.  To be, to exist right now, is a singular moment of astounding achievement for the cells making up a human body despite deadly attacks by bacteria, parasites, and viruses. In fact, the combinations and permutations of atomic and molecular structures are an intellectually unfathomable instance of synchronicity.

A single man ejaculates one hundred million spermatozoa into a women’s vagina. They each with different amounts of motility race to a single ovum alternately released from one of two ovaries each 28 day cycle; slowly it makes its way down one of two fallopian tubes. If the tube exists at all and if it is not blocked by scaring, then ovulation occurs after which the ovum tends to complete its cycle to menstruation.

It is as if all the forces of nature move to slam the door shut in the face of biotic potential. Under natural conditions, most of the time, none of the sperm will make it to the ovum for countless reasons. And if one does make it to the ovum and if it penetrates that ovum the chances are high that it will trigger a spontaneous abortion. But there’s an even smaller chance that one, two, or three of the spermatozoa will make it to that ovum, penetrate it, combine DNA, and trigger the generation of a human fetus which will then successfully implant itself onto a more or less rich nutrient like soil,- the uterine lining.

So, right now, here you are and reading, too! You may be that sperm which had the greater motility or you may be that sperm with average or below average motility.  Neither the best nor the average ones always reach the goal.  You can count on one fact however, you are lucky to be alive; very lucky. The chances are far greater than you could ever imagine that you should not exist at all. And even though you do exist, death clings to your every cell in a cosmic struggle against your regenerative forces.

You are both dead and alive at every moment of your being. Right now, it just so happens that you are more alive than dead.  It doesn’t take much to tip the scales in favor of death. This is even truer on the battlefield of war and in prison where the odds are tilted in favor of death. It is true for whole populations of people, too.

But there is another kind of death. That kind of death is a social construction. If you are in a state prison, then you are socially dead. You are socially dead because most of the political rights conferred on each citizen and contained in the U.S. Constitution under the bill of rights do not apply to you. In fact, in prison you are reduced to the status of a slave and you will be socially marginalized and denied some constitutional rights for the rest of your life under the 13th amendment of the Constitution.

Parallel to that fact are yet other facts.  The chances are greater that you were conceived accidentally; abandoned; raised more or less negligently; perhaps physically and emotionally abused by beatings, rape, and or verbal abuse; lived in economic poverty; raised in a single parent female headed household. It is likely that you are autistic or that you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder and that one or both of your parents were functionally illiterate. In the United States, you are more likely to be African American, a little less likely Hispanic, and even more unlikely Caucasian.  And on top of all of that there is the psychic dimension of struggle.

You may now just be awakening to the realization as to how unconsciously ‘anti-life’ people around you really are. This makes sense if everyone around you is frustrated, angry, and tending to aggressive acts. So, a reasonable inference on your part ought to be that if those around you cannot make you into a whipping post then they each will to some degree act out to make your life as miserable as possible.  You may know of this as the crabs in the bucket syndrome. The closer to the bottom you are the more malicious others around you will be in their attempts to pull you down.  That’s only because you have little space in which to live; it’s the same at the top of the social hierarchy. The difference is that those at the top have more living space and so can isolate themselves from harm’s way far more adequately than you can.

In all respects your origin as a human being and your childhood life is analogous to the origin of Malcolm X’s life and childhood. Malcolm’s life had been put in disequilibrium when he was a child, too.  The murder of his father, the commitment of his mother to the Kalamazoo insane asylum for 26 years, and his separation from his siblings were emotional traumas from which he would never recover and which in fact tipped the biotic scales in favor of his death.  Combine that with feelings of powerlessness to challenge both your inner and outer conditions and you would have every reason to feel very frustrated and very angry as no doubt young Malcolm did.

Under natural conditions resistance to life is expected. Even the fears others have of you and which they direct at you are forms of resistance to your life in the forms of acts of hatred, jealousy, and envy. But if understood, those negative forces can be converted to make you stronger. But what do you do with feelings of frustration and in social conditions under which you cannot physically challenge the causes of your frustrations? It’s only natural that you would become angry.  Malcolm did. He became very angry. He said that he would just curse, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, use drugs, and would isolate himself.  He also said that he would think of all the Caucasians who had been in his life and who he had perceived as barriers to the achievement of his goals; even his goal to become a man.

All of those destructive behaviors by Malcolm in the medieval prison at Charleston Massachusetts were symptomatic of Malcolm’s extreme feelings of anger and frustration. The more he thought about his past the more frustrated he felt and thus the angrier he became. But even more importantly, Malcolm was unable to challenge the causes of his frustration; he could only feel the pain his frustration caused him. The fact is that he had fallen into a trap set by racist institutions and racist people who operated them. He had turned his anger inward onto himself. Once that anger turned inward it converted to aggression. That aggression, being centered inwardly, started to erode his reasoning and his health long before he was incarcerated at Charleston state prison.  The fact is Malcolm X was already in prison before he was formally incarcerated.

Perhaps one of Malcolm’s discussions with his Bimbi concerned a book which had been published in 1939 six years before his incarceration. The book was entitled: Frustration and Aggression.  It was written by John Dollard. John Dollard was a social scientist and psychologist. The hypothesis of the book is that there is a correlation between frustration and aggression. As frustration goes up so does the probability of aggression.

Anger is kinetic in nature and links frustration with acts of aggression. When a person is unable to challenge the real causes of his or her frustration such person will secondarily become angry.  At a certain tipping point the kinetic movement of anger then is converted to more or less aggressive or violent acts against scapegoats or even acts of self harm. The harm may be benign, that is to say it may be an act rationalized as pleasure or it could be a state of depression, suicidal ideation or homicidal ideation. When this kind of aggression is turned outward and onto scapegoats it can manifest as verbal and or physical abuse on them. Usually, a plethora of denigrating words such as ‘nigger’ and ‘bitch’ are used to inflict emotional harm onto others or to reinforce the self loathing one has for one’s self if the other person is of the same ethnicity.  No doubt Malcolm called others by that word and no doubt he was called nigger, too.  You see, Malcolm X had great anxiety associated with being a ‘black’ man.

In Charleston State prison there were hundreds of frustrated men. They shared tragic lives. They were not only frustrated by the very fact of being physically confined they were also afraid of each other as well as the prison officials. They were also frustrated by the bad memories which haunted them. They were frustrated because they could not challenge their past experiences, so the memories of those experiences haunted them. Those memories were painful to them.

Few men could sleep soundly at night because they were angry. Not sleeping in the extreme is classified as insomnia. Insomnia can be the effect of aggression turned inward onto the self.  In the long run, sleep deprivation reduces the quality of one’s life; it can drive a person to psychosis and it can even cause an untimely death.

Few men and women in prison had the intellectual skills to manage their frustrations and pivot their frustrations onto targets which would under their circumstances make aggression work for them in positive ways instead of against them.  Malcolm says for instance that he spent long periods of time in isolation segregation.  Men and women are put in isolation when their aggressive behavior becomes a danger to self or others or for political punishment.  How did Malcolm deal with his frustrations? How can you get out of a self destructive mode?

Malcolm exposed himself to different ideas from different philosophers even if he did not agree with them.  One such person was Fredrick Nietzsche. Nietzsche stated: ‘What does not kill me makes me stronger.” Understand that since you are going to have feelings of aggression the question is: how can you direct your aggressive feelings onto positive targets so you can benefit physically, emotionally, and intellectually from those feelings?  Aggressive feelings can work for you; they need not be destructive to you.

Malcolm X joined a debating team to challenge both his own assumptions and antithetical claims made by others; he stopped smoking cigarettes; he changed his diet; he read books and newspapers presenting different points of view; and he exercised with weights to shape his body into one of balanced proportions. He built himself up!  All of those activities made Malcolm X into a man; the man who was released from prison in 1952.  You, too, can maximize your life chances and leave prison the man that Malcolm X was or the woman that overcomes her frustrations.  Start changing now!

© Copyright 2013 Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed, All rights Reserved. Written For: Earth Colony

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