The world we live in is perpetuated by many societal beliefs and standards. Being different has become the most stand out thing amongst people, many go through so many lengths to be different. We live in a world of facades. Where a person isn’t judged according to their core values but rather their association they have with certain people and what labels they have on their back. A society where true grit is not measured but achievement is based on worthless items and self-worth is not even a necessity anymore.
I wish I lived in the era where a man’s heart and courage was more valuable than their wallet and fluency in a certain language. Don’t get me wrong, those times weren’t perfect either. But as a black man, who comes from a strong cultural background and ethical upbringing. You are taught the value of honesty, integrity and loyalty at a young age. This in turn, grooms you and sets you apart from others, becoming your own man. Your word was your honour, if you broke that, you might as well have lost a limb or even taken your own life. Call me old school, an old soul or whatever, but I grew up in a different time, not time as in generation or centuries but I was taught by old heads, OGs if you will. True gentlemen who will teach you about manhood, respect, honour, dignity and loyalty. Some of the ladies have taught me about emotions, feminism, how fragile masculinity is and the power of communication and expressing yourself appropriately.
Society is many things. I can’t put the blame solely on society itself. People make their own choices. People live their own lives. People are merciless in their beliefs and their own nature towards each other. Ubuntu has no meaning no more, now it’s just a loosely used word you hear ministers, pastors or even motivational speakers use when they make speeches at youth rallies, heritage day, commemorations and political party rallies. Being black, a black man or woman who is conscious is seen as woke. Black consciousness has been given a different name or connotation every single year. But, has the definition changed? Are people conscious of their blackness and their pride?
I find it easy for one to follow the crowd, but it’s much easier to walk away from the crowd, walk in the opposite direction. What is significant about you walking in the opposite direction, is there reason behind it, or are you just doing it to be labelled different for not walking with the crowd. The path less taken is a rough and an arduous path, but the steps taken through that journey, will they forever be edged or carved on that path for many to see when they walk by, or is it just forgettable. In as much as we are different and strive to be different, we always talk about being different but never do things differently in order for others to follow or even tell stories about. I for one took the regular route, go to school, finish high school, get a degree, find a job to pay off varsity debts and provide for the family. I was good in various sports but my love was cricket which I was (am) extremely good at.
It (society) wanted me to become a generic black man who studied for years to create a debt that would take even more years to pay off before I start making a proper living for myself to feed my family. It always preached be different and be bold, but it never gave me the necessary tools to aspire to be different. I was never given the choice to pursue my hobbies and make them a career. I would then have to defy my parents who have provided for me, they will guilt trip me about the choices I made, and make it about how much money they’ve invested in me, how it was wasted and my favourite, they will threaten to disown me as if bloodline is just some parcel one can take back to the shop when its faulty or not working properly.
I became exactly what they wanted me to be become. Truth is, I was more fearful of failing rather than pursuing my dreams, being different, walking that less travelled path and carving my own lane. Fear of failure made me doubt myself and my abilities, and I failed a year in varsity. I became so self-absorbed in being a failure that it led to various mental issues, weight loss, abuse of alcohol and malnutrition. My mind was warped to think that failure was the biggest sin one can do in this world. I’ve come close to finding permanent solutions to seemingly permanent problems. Where was society when I need it/them the most? It deemed me a failure and I was not ready to be part of the world. Who makes those decisions? Who decides which individual is adequate or not? Who has the power to judge me like that? What person on this Earth has the right to label me? Who do I direct these questions to? I do not need to answer to anybody right?
I was broken down to my knees, stripped of the goodness I had in my heart, the joy ripped from my soul and the love I had for life was gone. It was not in my corner to have my back. You live and you learn. I started having my own back. The journey towards societal acceptance, the journey towards being an adequate man who can provide for himself and his family. But still, society finds fault with such a man. A man, through all adversities managed to stay true, not lose himself and come out of the bottom bigger and better than before. But it still wants and expects more from the man, the black man. Will society be happy with the black man? Will the black man thrive and forget about society? Can the black man create a legacy for himself without seeking approval from society?
Signed: Black Metaphor (Lesego Pasha)