Twelve Years a Slave

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on

Last night I watched Twelve Years a Slave. It has taken me until mid-morning to process my responses. Horror, certainly. Rage, of course. But most surprisingly – fear.

I’ll come back to that.

But first the inevitable questions. Had I been alive in the 1800s and privileged enough to be wealthy would I have treated people who worked for me with such disgraceful cruelty and indifference? Had I been a slave would I have turned a blind eye to the cruelty and evil of the white landowners? Would I have behaved any differently than Solomon when my freedom finally arrived and I took it and left my suffering friends behind? Could I have whipped a co-worker when ordered to by an insane master and his psychotic wife?

I hope not. But I don’t know. Mercifully I’m not morally compromised. Or am I?

Would I have harboured Jews in Nazi Germany? Would I now take in Syrian refugees if  they turned up on my doorstep? Do I really listen to the case for disenfranchised Palestinians? Do I penalise Alabama for taking away a woman’s right to determine what she is allowed to do with her own body? Do I publicly condemn Saudi Arabia for its mass public executions and its inhumane treatment of women? Do I speak up against racism and misogyny wherever I find them, including in my own back yard right next to the blue bird of escapism? Do I dare admit that our current crop of leaders in Australia are manipulating me with the usual fare – blame, misinformation and the threat of poverty? Yes to that. I voted Greens and proudly so.

But how many of us succumb to the convenience of societal blame and prejudice? It’s easier to go along with the mob. And let’s be honest, it’s tiring to be forever arguing with your friends.

On a broader scale who apart from Sir David Attenborough is consistently speaking up for the planet? Even those of us who agree are still using more plastic bags than we need, still driving when we could walk, still buying crap we don’t need, still ignoring the widening fiscal divide between rich and poor and still thinking someone else is going to fix everything for us. Please don’t think I’m discrediting the small and consistent efforts made by average people. It makes a huge and cumulative difference and kudos to everyone who takes their own bags to do the shopping and to the people who refuse plastic straws and cutlery and to the many small cafes who now only use recyclable flatware and cutlery.

But back to Twelve Years a Slave and my final concern – fear.

If the cruelty of the slave owners was pocketed to a few psychotic people I would say they were just lunatics like the Ted Bundys and Adrian Baileys of this world but this insanity and racism was endemic. People genuinely believed the slaves had no rights and were somehow inferior.  So my fear is that somewhere ingrained in the human psyche is a tendency to self-serve and ignore the needs and pain of others, including the earth, animals and nature. We are all so frustrated and unhappy with our lives that we blame with impunity. But what is it that we lack?

I believe we lack purpose.

I believe humanity has a flawed universal view. A new friend I met here recently commented that the universe is connected and that everything depends on everything else for balance. I agree and it disturbs me that humanity has this wall-building mentality and sense of segregated entitlement. This us and them belief system is antithetical to reality. In truth we are ONE in a grand and impactful sense and nations and religions claiming authority based on divine information or superior wealth are cutting their people off from the universal nourishing mainstream.

There is an old saying “One hundred and forty-four angels dancing on the head of a pin”. I used to puzzle at its meaning. Now I understand it to mean that energy and ideas take up no space and where there is an absence of fear and an absence of entitlement and an absence of segregation there is room for everyone to not only coexist but dance.

Collectively and individually we suffer from a feeling that we are not allowed to dance. We feel locked out of life and locked out of privilege. Our over-arching belief is that wealth will grant us the right to ‘dance” freely and without inhibitions. But first we must attain wealth and to do so we happily enslave others to increase productivity and gorge our bank accounts. But wealth leaves us feeling even more impoverished because our feet are not moving and our dance is dormant.

By DANCE I mean to express ourselves authentically, not in the brace of familial or national identity or hobbled by religion or buoyed up by insane wealth, but in direct connection with a flow of energy that informs our souls of a more enduring reality than our little span on earth.

My fear is that until people find authentic expression they will continue to abuse others in their desperation to feel good about themselves.

We ALL coexist on the head of a pin and we must all learn to dance. The pin is the earth.

We cannot continue to carve up the earth – into nations, races, religions and cultures. We cannot keep convincing ourselves that one race or another is superior to any other. We are ALL dancing on the same earth. We are all interconnected as our planet spins and spirals through a divinely organised network of energetic pathways so magnificently orchestrated that there is room for all to dance. If just one star or galaxy behaved in the destructive self-serving way humanity behaves all would collide and die.

I believe we have little time left to dissolve our differences and focus on saving our beautiful planet from extinction. By hording wealth we can never spend in a lifetime and depriving others of the most basic necessities like clean water, food, a roof over their heads and education, we are dancing dangerously close to the edge. By continuing to trash our planet we are risking extinction.

It is our relationship to money that must first be examined and deconstructed. Then we must look at our relationship with the universe. Look at the stars and know therein lies our ultimate destiny. The night sky shows us infinity abstracted into the physical. At the centre of every galaxy there is a black hole that will ultimately consume the temporary physical world. But the energic one will endure. The energetic world dances in and out of consumption and expression and does not miss a beat. Consider what you will take with you when you die. It won’t be your wealth. It will be your dance.

Twelve Years a Slave exemplified and magnified the worst characteristics of a society run by fear and sanctioned by a government that allowed greed. My fear is that we have not learned the lessons of the past and that prejudice and blame lie dormant beneath the patina of political correctness. We are reigned in only slightly by moderators who call us out when we blame certain races or cultures for our own lack of surefootedness and the issues inherent in the possession of two left feet.

And now a plea to the rich. To anyone in possession of more than $100million you are committing a crime against humanity. You have the opportunity, the means and the obligation to disseminate your excess wealth amongst the poor in a responsible and focused manner. To whit, you should build housing estates with vegetable gardens and clean water and enable the poorest of us to pursue dreams just as you have. They are slaves to the broader community and deprived of opportunities to express themselves as articulately and artfully as you and me and all of us who are not struggling just to survive.

But of course I am aware that anyone with more money than they know what to do with is unlikely to be reading my blog. For now. However, when my musicals take off worldwide and my books start to sell you will listen to me. And I will plead with you to make a difference.

And I caution myself in advance that if and when I too, have a sizeable bank account I must put my money where my heart is and make a difference to those who need it most.

In the meantime it’s back to the barre.


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2 thoughts on “Twelve Years a Slave

  1. Pingback: Twelve Years a Slave | Catch The Moon, Mary

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