One’s choices can overcome one’s circumstances

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Lennox Farrell By Lennox Farrell
Wednesday June 01 2016




Which of the two has the more significant impact on your life: your choices or your circumstances?

In exploring this maxim, I cite a YouTube video that included a nest of four small, blue eggs up in a tree, hatching. And which, while the parents were away, a snake emerging from the canopy of leaves, cautiously proceeded to swallow, one by one. To me, while that was undesirable enough, what made it worse was that the serpent after emptying the nest, before it slithered away, turned its head this way and that, seeking even more eggs.

So, given the initial question of choices and circumstances, what are some possible thoughts had from this scene? Especially if the eggs, and the serpent devouring them are possible symbols? Could the eggs symbolize aspects of your life, and the serpent, obstacles which could possibly devour your future?

Generally, these symbols could include bad habits, wasted opportunities, and yes, poor choices. More specifically, and choosing arbitrarily, what if, among other things these symbols included the following:

  • your educational opportunities,
  • your sense of honour,
  • how you manage your finances, and
  • how useful is your innate sense of God-given powers?

Moreover, to the above idea of choices versus circumstances, and the symbols, add the following: who or what is swallowing the eggs of your future? And/or whose eggs might you also be swallowing?

So, what could be a brief definition of “education”? It is learning the most you can of what is useful, and doing so as thoroughly as you can, regardless of how much effort and time you must put into it, as long as your efforts made are your best with whatever you have. Put another way, education is your learning, not so much to put you ahead of anyone else, but even more, to put you ahead of yourself. And if this also puts you ahead of everyone else…congratulations!

On the negative side, are you someone who prevents others from bettering themselves? Are you, like that serpent, devouring this egg of their future? Or doing so if are you a student who chooses to stay in the mall, not attending class? Or playing videogames late into the night, arriving next day tired, and being the ass in the class? Are you devouring your own eggs? Keep in mind, too, the relationship between your choices, your circumstances, and your making or breaking your future and life.

In fact, when I first heard the statement: “your choices, more than your circumstances, make or break your life”, I thought, can this be true? For surely, what about the young person born, through no fault of theirs, into circumstances of an unstable home? Possibly fathered by a man having a dozen children with nine “baby-mamas”? Or a child whose Mom works two jobs, yet barely making ends meet? Or with a Dad again unemployed, despite taking upgrading courses? Can this young person compete fairly with others raised in stable families? With resources better able to meet their needs? Is this a just comparison, deciding between one’s choices and one’s circumstances, making or breaking one’s life and future? Let’s continue!

And what does having a sense of honour mean?

To personalize this, I take as an example, the life of Malcolm X. His birthday, now annually celebrated in Toronto on the third weekend in May: Victoria Day weekend, was officially launched this May at the Regent Park Community Centre by the African-Canadian Muslim Association. Among its young organizers is Khalid Haneff-Jabari.

To me, having a sense of honour is doing what is right whether or not others know, or care, or support your efforts. So, if anything could best summarize the life of Malcolm X, it would be his sense of honour.

Next, what among other things does managing your resources mean? Specifically, your finances?

Speaking recently with some young people, this was explored in the following manner. First, they were asked which of them had already spent $5 that day? Then, from among them we chose 10; collectively spending $50. Next, we calculated their collectively spending this amount for five days in each week, at being $250; for a month of four weeks, $1,000 and for 10 months, $10,000!

We subsequently agreed to do the following: that each of them choosing to save each day, the first $5 bill coming into their hand. This, each would save, not spend. We decided against a larger amount to encourage each to participate, and to make a habit. Because, as a people, we need to cultivate the ability to save; understanding that the desire to save, like the desire to spend, is addictive. So, let’s cultivate being thrifty; which doesn’t mean having to save, or as the old people would say – putting aside large amounts – but being regular doing it, thus cultivating early in life the habit of saving, period!

So, teaching, by precept and example, our children to manage their money well, from their loonies and toonies up, also assists them to be more disciplined not only in their finances, but also in other areas of their lives. They learn that their money is a metaphor for the uses of time: theirs, yours and others.

Which comes down to the last of your four eggs: how to use the sense of power each of us has.

And here, too, addressing our choices versus our circumstances, making or breaking our futures and lives.

I think that among the challenges which face us as a people are some of the urban myths which govern our lives. Among these is that racism will one day end. Not if you understand that this is the most profitable enterprise engaged in by Europeans for the last five centuries. Today, having morphed unacceptable racism into acceptable privilege, racism is not only the first enterprising manifestation of globalism – in which even those who might oppose it, accept as a right, their access to privilege – racism is also a global addiction, from which withdrawal symptoms would be more seismic than the effects of climate change.

If the ending of racism is an urban myth on a grand scale, there are others more local. One of these is the confusing of “being poor with being powerless”. Being poor is not automatically being powerless.

That is, as long as you don’t accept the myths for the lies that they are. Being poor can be the result of being deliberately denied the resources for you to move on with your life. And here does the idea of choice versus circumstance come in. Because even in the worst of circumstances one can still make choices which either make matters definitely worse, or relatively better. In fact, even in conditions of favourable circumstances, one can make choices which make matters worse. In fact, one can make good choices from bad circumstances, and conversely, bad choices from good circumstances. Moreover, life is not fair. But fair or not, it is to be lived to the best you can; with the best determined by the choices you make, even when others are determined to make these, even unfavourably for you.

O.K., so one might disagree. Is such a conclusion reason enough to blame the victim for being victimized? No, but it can be, and is used? Yes. However, what circumstances in the last five centuries were the worst for us as a people? Enslavement! But what occurred, nonetheless, from the efforts of our ancestors? They ended enslavement. In fact, something not often recalled is that our ancestors, enslaved, lynched, their families systematically destroyed, experiencing genocide, were the humans who destroyed the European dreams for empire: the Spanish Empire, the French Empire, the Dutch Empire, the British Empire, the Portuguese Empire. In addition, it was this dream, belatedly for a German Empire, 20th century that Hitler sought; one intended to last a thousand years. Except that what the others did in Africa, he tried to do in Europe.

We, as a people are “free” today, not by the choices of Europe denying our humanity, but by the choices made by such stalwarts as a Sam Sharpe in Jamaica, a Dessalines in Haiti, a Chatoyer in St. Vincent, a Harriet Tubman in America, all of whom, unlike other slaves who’d bowed under oppression, chose instead to be fully human. These, like a Rosa Parks later sitting down, had stood for our irrevocable humanity.

We celebrate them, and commemorate a Martin, a Malcolm, a Medgar because of the choices they made, in spite of circumstances with lynchings and assassinations.

It is from their examples, and for this reason, too, why we must today also support our youth in #BlackLivesMatter. You might not march with them – for shame – but at least do not ill-speak them.

To conclude, in the relationship between poverty and powerlessness, between being honorable or dishonorable, it is more the choices we make, than our circumstances which ultimately make or break our lives.

Understanding this, we realize too, that while systemic poverty can be unjustly imposed by others on us against our will and interest, that being powerful or powerless is ultimately self-imposed, though oft against daunting odds. It is therefore an immoral defence that the oppressors oft use, blaming the victim for being victimized.

Finally, who or what is devouring your eggs? And whose eggs are you possibly devouring?

  • Jim Gibbons said:

    Thank you, Lennox, I was surely inspired by your article. I would imagine we all have to continue reading such detailed thinking to keep ourselves abreast of surviving this journey called life. I want to thank you again. Keep up the good work of keeping us black folks in the loop.

    Love and blessings, Jim.

    Thursday August 25 at 12:30 am
  • Merlyn Bansfield (M) said:

    All 4 of us in this house-hold have been regular readers of comm. papers over the many years and the two of us here now, continue to do so. Now that I am on line, I am setting up my both daughters and their households “pronto”. You need to be read in Dallas and Brooklyn by my 5 grandchildren. thanks a lot.

    Sunday October 02 at 2:13 pm

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