Before I buy a book, I like to read all the reviews I can find online. Money is scarce, and the dollar keeps rising, so I’d like to know if it’s worth it.
The book I wanted to buy was Black Bourgeoisie by E.F. Frazier published in 1957. Reviews said it was a scathing exploration of the black middle class in US, which surprisingly (or not surprisingly, depending on what you think about it) behaves very similarly to the ever-shrinking Nigerian middle class. Both are marked by conspicuous consumption, a need to differentiate itself from its supposedly backwater “bush” relatives, and quite frankly, an identity crisis.
Maybe I will write a review on the book and continue my comparison but I do not aim to do that here. What I do want to do is talk about ‘truth’ and how we run from it, and most importantly, from the people who give it a little too profusely.
The truth about the truth is that nobody likes it. Nobody likes to see himself or herself in less than glorious light. But we remain incredibly flawed, mortal creatures. So how do we tend to reconcile the two? Shut out, sometimes violently, anything or anyone that makes us even slightly uncomfortable about the things we do not want to hear about ourselves.
One of the reviews I read on the book mentioned that, of course, when the book first came out, the middle class he talked about was outraged by what he said. But quietly, they began to look within themselves to make the necessary adjustments.
Of course, they couldn’t let him know he was right. You see, people will gaslight and try to make you shut up. But once they see you are right, they’ll quietly begin to make adjustments and pretend they knew all along. This means the very few people who have the guts to function as our moral compasses are often very misunderstood and even shunned.
People who tell us the things we do not like to hear are rarely very happy people. And I suppose that it may be the price one has to pay for being honest; it is a huge one, life is easier if you flip-flopped through it.
Does that mean we shouldn’t speak up if need be? Absolutely not. Our lives would be far worse if we did not have our revolutionaries, the people who drove our understanding to new heights and whose thoughts illuminated our minds. There must be a benefit to knowing in your little way, you’ve shaped the thoughts of people around you, and if you’re lucky, even those far beyond. It can be compared to the joy of having children: something of you remains long after you have gone.
But don’t expect anything in this lifetime. You might be spat on, kicked, shunned and hated by the very people you are trying to save from themselves. It might take you your death (in which they probably were the ones who killed you) for them to finally see.
The truth might not set you free if you’re the one telling it.