Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Few Thoughtz: In Search of Common Ground

"So to understand why some of the victims of the ruling class might identify with the ruling circle, we must look at their material (i. e. based on concrete things, objects) lives; and if we do, we will realize that the same people who identify with the ruling circle are also very unhappy. Their feelings can be compared to those of a child: a child desires to mature so that he can control himself, but he believes he needs the protection of his father to do so. He has conflicting drives. Psychologists would call this conflict neurotic if the child were unable to resolve it....In a sense, then, that is what we (the Black Panther Party) are all about. First, people have to be conscious of the ways they are controlled, then we have to understand the scientific laws involved, and once that is accomplished, we can begin to do what we want-to manipulate phenomena."

- Huey Newton, p. 36

"We believe that black Americans are the first real internationalists; not just the Black Panther Party, but black people who live in America. We are internationalists because we have been internationally dispersed by slavery, and we can easily identify with other people in other cultures. Because of slavery, we never really felt attached to the nation in the same way that the peasant was attached to the soil in Russia. We are always a long way from home."

- Huey Newton, p. 38

"Huey Newton's main deed, however, and one powerful reason for the appeal of the Panthers' stance both here and abroad, is the turning of a negative identity into a positive one, in the sense in which a cornered animal turns on the attacker. This is what the Black Panther imagery stands for, after all. All of this, in part, is a black-and-urban version of a psychic transformation used by the rebellious youth of other colonialized or oppressed people."

- Erik Erikson, p. 47

"Nothing could divide the respective identities of different people more than the sense of free choice and the sense of being without it; and yet, by the mere dialectics of living here for generations, does not the American black 'belong' here more than anywhere else?"

- Erikson, p. 59

Peace and blessings,

As someone who is in academia but also want to make serious change in people's lives (not to suggest that these two things are mutually exclusive), I was surprised to hear that conversations took place between Huey Newton and Erik Erikson, and were published in a book entitled, "In Search of Common Ground: Conversations with Erik H. Erikson and Huey P. Newton" (1973). Although I do not fully endorse the ideas and theories of either Newton or Erikson, I do think that both have contributed in a positive way to our understanding of individual and societal behavior. And quite frankly, I think that some of their ideas and theories are pretty accurate. For instance, I think that Erikson's notions of the human need and capacity to form identities and the Black Panther's beliefs in empowerment through knowledge of self, self-respect, and accountability are on point.

The first conversation was more formal and took place at Yale University in February 1971. The second conversation was informal took place around April 1971 in Huey Newton's apartment in Oakland, CA. The first conversation, which included a question and answer period from students, was less of a dialogue between the two and more of an introduction into their backgrounds, ideas, and theories. The second conversation dealt primarily with the misconceptions each initially had about the other, as well as the "disappointment" the students probably felt at the first meeting, due to the fact that Newton and Erikson did not "battle" each other, but instead respectfully exchanged ideas.

The common thread through both conversations was that each demonstrated how two people from very different experiences (Erikson the product of voluntary immigrants, Newton the product of involuntary slaves), can be honest and respect one another. Now I don't want to romanticize the conversations because there probably was some level of conflict or tension. The point is that regardless of this conflict or tension, they were able to critique and build on each other's ideas, while offering their perspectives on the plight of American society in general, and of black and other oppressed peoples more specifically.

What do you think? Any other collaborations you heard of or witness that surprised you? Any you would like to see? Stay blessed, take care, and speekonit...

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