Fear, the future, and the constancy of change

I am unafraid. I face the future certain that it will be daunting, certain that this species’ fate is imperiled, certain that my community is in the midst of a confluence of crises. I did not arrive at an awareness of these crises lately. I have lived with this consciousness for decades.

Nothing (save change) is inevitable. Entire planets are being born while others are being annihilated at this very moment. Species rise and fall. Nations come into being, some reaching their developmental apex, while others fade–becoming footnotes of history. Change is the only universal constant. Change is experienced as pleasant and unpleasant, but it is inevitable. I accept and embrace this reality.

However my acceptance of this is not the only basis of my lack of fear. I am unafraid because I know that humans make and remake society. I know that people, if sufficiently determined, if endowed with the faculty of intelligence and powers of imagination can accomplish great things. I know that this potential holds the power to create change advantageous to our survival, sufficient to alleviate crises. Thus, I remain open to the possibility that we will resolve to bend fate to our wills.

Illuminating the form and character of a better world

I just watched film Whale Rider for maybe the 10th time. I watch it from time-to-time it to remind myself of certain ideals that I have committed myself to, and how these are expressed in the stories of other people who are seeking to heal themselves in the wake of the tragedy of conquest and oppression that has established the “modern era”.

Two things that stood out to me this time was that the character Koro, though perceived as harsh and stubborn, did not see himself as acting in his own self-interest. He saw himself as one who labored for his people’s survival. This was especially evident in his interaction with his oldest son, where when asked how he was doing, he responded that “We are alright”, not referring to himself singly, but to the whole community. He saw no separation in his welfare and theirs, and as a result was under immense pressure to find a new leader, which he believed was the solution to his people’s troubles.

The other thing that stood out to me was that there was no emphasis on the context of colonialism in the film. One can interpret this many ways, but I think that this was done to emphasize that their identity as a people was not based on the arrival of the British Navy. Their history as Maori people did not begin with colonization. It began in time immemorial. Unlike many African Americans, they did not begin their history at their nadir. For us this is symbolically represented as the year 1619, and next month we will witness an abundance of presentations about our past that begin in this unhappy year. As an aide, I’ll also be doing some lecturing next month, and I assure you that I won’t be starting with Africans on a slave ship. It is true that we have to tell and re-tell our history, especially the story of the Maafa, but our history cannot start there. We cannot know who we are as a people if our history begins at the point where our capacity to control our destiny was at its weakest.

I always enjoy the end of this film because it emphasizes that the path of a people into the future will necessarily be a synthesis of their traditions and their dynamic responses to the present. I paid particular attention to the last line in the movie: “I’m not a prophet but I know that our people will keep going forward all together, with all of our strength.” I hope that this is true for the many peoples of Earth, those whose past and ancestral wisdom may yet illuminate the form and character of a better world.

Progressive perfection

The goal is progressive perfection and the teachings thus express the assumption of human perfectibility. As noted above in the section on ontology, this conception of progressive perfection is best expressed by the concept of ḫprt or khepert the perpetual process of becoming, perpetual striving, going through stages of moral achievement, self-mastery, reciprocity and all the other virtues or excellences (iḳrw, mnḫw, nfrw). Again, this anthropological concept is more aspiration than announcement of final achievement and evolves from a concept of progressive perfection rather than one of static perfection. In a word, it is an unfolding and becoming at ever higher levels, not a finished state of static completion.

-Maulana Karenga, Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt