Awake in the night, unable to fall back into asleep right away, I turned on the radio for BBC all night news. The talking at low volume has a way of putting me back to sleep, which it did. Just before losing consciousness I was hearing some people in Athens, Greece, talk about the difficulties of living in an economy without resources going under. I've spent time in Athens and was able to see the city and the people in memory, wondering what it is like there now. I suspect Athens is very much the same today as it was forty-plus year ago. People still drink retsina, the buildings are the same, the streets the same, the museums and antiquities in place, the people Greek. Looking around Athens in my mind's eye, I was thinking I like the idea of Athens more than the city itself. Western Civilization crossed the Suez from Egypt, went through Mesopotamia into Greece, Rome and Europe. In that time of the life, I hesitated to go into countries with an alphabet I could not understand at all, like Arabic, Hindi, Chinese. In Greece, or any other country using our alphabet and variations thereof, I could make out words on signs to look up in dictionaries. In Arabic I was totally lost. It kept me from crossing the Bosporus into Istanbul. I tend to like to walk long distances through foreign cities to get the feel of the place, what it's like from the inside. I need signs and a map in a city to help get around. I didn't have a lot of money to spend, so I explored by observation. I don't like to just see a place, but to get inside and roam around seeing what it's like to live there. I found Athens to be a twin, though not identical, with Charleston, SC: not much going on, tourism a great part of the economy, community fading away, famous historically. Listening to Greeks talk in English, I was remembering the Greek accent speaking English, feeling familiar with the visuals all around. I thought, a good place to live. Would living there would be a pleasant life? Yes, but for being "the American." Nationalism, a bigger form of tribalism, another form of racism, came to mind as the question's dead end. At home, I am not "the American," just an outsider, which I am anywhere on earth.
I fell into thinking about racism as another form of tribalism and nationalism, over differences that come down to: not-me. All others in this world are not-me. Anyone of another language is definitely not-me. Another nation is not-me. Another color of hair or skin or eyes, another body, another fashion, another belief system, another level of education, another socio-economic status, not-me. We ally ourselves with others similar to self in varieties of ways. Birds of a feather flock together is one of the natural laws like you get what you give. Same language, same skin color, same country, same county, same family. Seeing it thus, racism ceases to be about skin color as much as it is about not-me. Hence, Jesus sez: love your neighbor (the other, not-you) as yourself. Giving importance to not-me is ego. I put before such statements by Jesus, "If you want a good life...." If you want a good life, love your neighbor as yourself. If you don't want a good life, forget about it, do what you gotta do. It only applies to anyone who wants a good life. By good I mean an attitude toward life with returns to your liking. Abiding by not-me is ego. We need ego in this world, though it has a way of wrecking our lives with uncritical self-interest. Ego is not something to do away with, but to educate, to control. Ego is a baby saying, "mine." Basic self-awareness is the beginning of taking control of the ego. Gaining control of the ego is the nature of the spiritual path, an individual path, not a collective path, except in the great big picture, so big it's invisible, like the universe beyond the pie slice we're able to observe. Seeing it like this, it came to me that it's a waste of mental energy to attempt to wipe out racism by passing new, more restrictive laws. Civil Rights laws didn't change racism. Civil rights legislation would have gone the way of the ERA, lost in capitalist limbo, were it not for the corporate coup of the Kennedy assassination. The legislation gave black people a chance where government employment was concerned and a ray of false hope. The hand that gave the hope turned and took it away without resistance, the most advanced and subtle propaganda hand ever experienced on earth.
I woke later, after falling asleep again, continuing the thought, racism is an aspect of ego and will be with us as long as there is ego. We need ego in this world. The spiritual path is about educating the ego to the place it does it's job holding us upright, but doesn't rule our intelligence quite so much. It looks like the obvious, racism is with us. How to live with it, flow with it, seems a better way to approach the problem, which is an actual problem; educate self in relation to one's own racism. Pointing the finger and calling somebody a racist is a nice way of saying son-of-a-bitch (not-me). Egoism with a different name: intolerance. I have a problem with the present white middle class approach to racism exhibiting the same degree of fake as Ann Coulter: racism is bad, it's not nice to be a racist, racists are evil, if you're a racist I don't want anything to do with you. Nigger is now the unspeakable word for white people, except in certain circles like the working poor and the rich. Making taboo of words and propensities only gives them power that grows with time until the lake is too big for the dam to hold. I went through a period of time a die-hard anti-racist, which turned out to be just another ego identity, exclusivity. There came a time I learned from experience the black people are every bit as racist as the white people, except they're not the privileged race. I'm not saying black people need to go back to Africa. I'm saying we need to examine our own racism, individually of any race, for some self-awareness on the matter. Self-awareness is the starting line. Not everyone is willing or capable of self-awareness. It's not my place to command them. It's my place to understand them and not judge them, allow them. We do not all have the same latitude of consciousness. One small group of people exercise diligence to ban one word for everybody else by calling people who use it the nice word for son-of-a-bitch, or the more contemporary motherfucker, acceptable on tv: racist. It goes in circles and gets crazy like Little Black Sambo and the tiger running around and around the palm tree.
I see the Polish football fans calling an African football team monkeys. Racism cannot be defeated collectively is what it looks like. Again, making it a bad word pumps steroids into its power. Making racism an evil polarizes it to one extreme of the spectrum of life, gives it no room for understanding. Zero tolerance. Like the way cops treat black people. Racist. The word fuck was held down, unprintable, unspeakable in certain circles, until a year in the mid-Sixties when it became a required word in a work of fiction and in film. It was in the time of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and Antonioni's Zabriski Point. The word became so overused in its liberation it became tiresome and wore itself out. Now it's free. We can say it or or not. It lost its power. It's no longer taboo. Its balloon went flat. It's just another word. I feel like suppressing the word nigger gives power to racism by way of denial, the white American way of life, the illusion of privilege way of life. Political correctness amounts to a style, like how you wear your hair, long or short, like what car you buy, American or Japanese. Making a word taboo, it becomes subject to denial in one society and a password in another. Where is the gain in social evolution if ending racism has been a goal? Dealing with racism, itself, as an issue is only realistic inside oneself. Missionarism and making your life a commercial to make the world a better place is egoism just like racism. Maybe the world is already a better place, exactly on target, on schedule, and we're so self-involved we're missing everything. As long as we divide ourselves into us and them, me and other, there is not going to be any collective progress on the issue of racism. I don't see us dividing ourselves into self-identity groups going away any time soon in centuries or millennia. The way I chose to work with racism in myself, which I grew up in pre-1954, when I became aware of it. For a long time I denied it, buried it. Seeing it didn't go away after awhile, I decided to allow it, pay attention to it, get acquainted with it, educate it, understand it, transcend it. It's about living in a world of others, how well we do it, not in what we oppose or promote.