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Malcolm X and the power of humility

In the last days, I was immersed in the autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.

I finished the book this morning, but of course, the book is far from being finished with me.

I won’t attempt to review the work or even lay out a chronological line of the events that spun from this man’s immense, untamable, and fierce energy–to do so would reduce Malcolm X’s life to something which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Amongst all the facts and details revealed in this work, I found myself trying to relate to him. I read passages, scanning the emotional horizon for a shared sun. I’d ask myself, “Have I ever felt this way?” or “Am I as smart as this man?” or even, “Do I have that kind of dedication when I believe in something?”

The more I read, the more I regressed to teenagehood. Nothing felt the same anymore. I watched the world through black colored glasses. It was a little like the first time I discovered the “queer” dimension and from then on, began to peel away the layers of myself and the images, music, media around me, searching for that pink or purple spot which would tell me that this or that was really not what it seemed. The deeper I got into Malcolm X’s psyche, the more I lost any sense of being a white girl from the burbs and turned into some kind of radical groupie. I’m telling you, I was close to framing a picture of him and hanging it on my bedroom wall so that I could prostrate before it in the morning. Facing East of course. 🙂

So what was it in that book, that life, that man that robbed me of my middle and threw me into my extremes? Why am I so dramatically attracted to the men and women who walk the edge?

I crave that cleanliness. At the edges, everything is always sharper and ideas lose their blubber–that gelatinous substances which often coats our mind. They are the sinewy body cut out of the stone. I can only begin to think when I begin with the most extreme of a thought and then, I work my way away from the marrow, into the flesh. Does that make me a radical at times? I would say in the gestation phase of my ideas, yes. But give me some time and I will meet you somewhere in the middle.

However the writers, thinkers, activists, scientists, philosophers I seem to be drawn to, are not the kind of people we would call “people pleasers”. They haven’t made their name by kissing babies and flashing smiles. Their words are not warm and fuzzy, nor are they comforting and duping. Does that make them true?

Not always, but it does make their words clear. And that’s a good starting point.

Ayn Rand, Malcolm X, Irshad Manji, Yeshayahou Leibowitz, Jon Rappoport, to name a few, are all people who have voiced very drastic philosophies/ideas on very very contreversial subjects: religion, capitalism, sexuality, feminism, racism, etc. And these are men and women I admire, but more than that, these are people I respect. But being the excessive girl that I am, I tend to soak up their ideas like a child does maple syrup, and while I am reading their work, one could begin to worry about me–if one doesn’t know me. Those who do, will listen to my long, winded tirades on whatever subject I am reading at the time and will not fret when I begin to speak of various quotes I intend on tattooing upon different body parts as soon as I have the money. If I am not thinking of becoming a Muslim, I am debating on entering the police force, or even pursuing a degree in Political Science…Or maybe joining the Anarchist movement in Montreal and STIRRING SOME SERIOUS SHIT with the powers that be.

It’s the Aquarius in me. Or something.

Then the Pisces in me bubbles up and I decide to take a nap instead. Oh yes, but I dream violent dreams. Not senselessly violent. Just violent enough to keep me alive when I open my eyes.

As long as there is breath in me, I will never stop thinking. I will never stop questioning. I will never go with the flow or get in bed with the majority (no matter if they may be right) and I will never ever ever stop changing my mind.

That is the one thing I admire the most about Malcolm X AKA Detroit Red. That is the beauty of his legacy. In the end, after every thing he had said with such conviction, after believing all of those ideas for such a long time–ideas which made him and elevated him, in the end yes, when it was time for him to face down those ideas and see them for what they were, he had the humility and GREAT intelligence to admit that he had been wrong on some levels.

And he changed his mind.

Can you imagine a world where our leaders could step up to the podium, stare down the microphones and flashing lights, and then admit they made a mistake, that they may have been wrong, and that they would like to explain anew their position on this or that bill. Can you see the power of humility?

I believed Malcolm X when he spat out the cutting words, “white blue-eyed devils”. And I believed him when he later said that he had gone to the Mecca and experienced spiritual enlightenment during his pilgrimage to this Holy Place–that he had seen the errors in his thinking and could explain them to himself and to the world. I believed him, because everyday, I have at least a hundred contradictory emotions and thoughts.

You can change your mind and still be coherent.

You can kneel and ask for Forgiveness, yet still remain Proud.

I suppose, if being a radical thinker means simply having radical, vastly unpopular ideas or opinions on sensitive subjects for the mere sake of shaking up the system or firing up the masses, then I am not a radical thinker. However, if it means having radical ideas which are born organically, deep within one’s own cerebral womb and not surgically implanted by a particular group, person, or work–if it means having these ideas while still remaining open to the possibility that they may be flawed or even wrong, and furthermore, if it means, developing these ideas knowing that at any time, you may have to readjust your thinking and change your course, then yes, I am, a radical thinker. And I have been holding back sometimes. I’d like to stop doing that.

Yes, I have rather uncommon views on marriage, sexual identity/gender issues, child care, the environment, immigration, globalization, capitalism, monogamy and culture media. Often, I chastise myself for having these ideas, and too often, I uproot the idea right out of its soil before it has time to bloom.

But really, how can one witness the complete form of anything if one does not allow anything to reach maturity?

Only then, can one decide if the idea is ugly but comestible, or simply beautiful but poisonous.

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About Mel

Montreal queer fiction writer.

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