The Birth of a Barrio Warrior
I quickly lost interest in being a member of a gang after I realized how easy it would be for others to lie about upholding the code of honor whenever they felt like it. After all, why should I live up to a code that others could break whenever it suited them? However, the man inside of me liked the idea of having a code of honor and so I set out to create one for myself along with a completely new identity. The only thing I knew for sure was that I could no longer return to the innocence of my days with the junior sportsmen and I refused to continue with the gang banger mentality of my newly established role on the streets of East Los Angeles. The problem now, of course, was that the man inside of me felt that the woman inside of me could no longer be trusted in making decisions. It was time for me to make sure that they both learned how to work together from now on.
It’s funny how things work out. I have always been the sort of person that needs time to myself and on those occasions when I would ditch school alone I would either go downtown to catch a movie or to the library to read. Who would ever think that reading was one of my favorite pastimes? As it happens, on one of those occasions when I decided that I needed a break from reality I went to the library to read and picked up a book that would serve as a sort of role model for the persona that I am now in the process of constructing. The book was written by a German fellow named Fredrick Nietzsche and the title of the book was “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. I was particularly interested in the character known as the Overman. This guy was different from all of the other people around him. That is, he was above all of the petty notions that keep human beings in a subservient position to the society they live in and that, to be sure, was how I wanted to be; Free from the ever so commonplace limitations of the masses.
As it turns out, the barrio was not an altogether inappropriate place for me to learn many of life’s valuable lessons. In fact, I would venture to say that some of the lessons I learned in the barrio are not readily available outside of the barrio and those, to be sure, were life altering in nature. I believe that if I had to choose between a protected life of increasing educational opportunities and the education I could receive from the barrio’s harsh realities and life altering changes, I would prefer the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be as educationally well prepared as others but I do believe myself to be better prepared to deal with life’s little exigencies.
It was good to discover that the man inside of me had finally begun to assert himself in the construction of my new identity. Upon his recommendation, the first order of business was to take inventory of what I had already learned in order to determine what I considered valuable and worthy of keeping as a defining characteristic of my new identity. In this regard there were many lessons that I valued greatly, including many of those that I had received from the woman inside of me.
Perhaps the most important lesson that I had learned and one that the man inside of me insisted I include in my new identity was the need to respect others. In the barrios of East Los Angeles this lesson comes with a very high tuition that everyone must pay. In the case of Lil Man from White Fence, for example, it would be easy for someone to conclude that he was not a very smart individual based on his lack of command of the English language. Also, because of his small size, it would be easy to think that he would not be much of a threat in a fight. Such conclusions would be wrong on both counts. As far as how smart Lil Man may or may not be is concerned, one must understand the different types of intelligence to fully appreciate his true talents and abilities.
When we consider individuals like Lil Man we are quick to conclude that they certainly aren’t smart in the ways of classical education. However, they are the type of individuals that we often find in the barrios of East Los Angeles that could stand directly in front of you and read you all the way to the depth of your soul with pinpoint accuracy. He would know if you were scared, lying or otherwise full of shit. The moment you disrespect an individual of this nature you discover that it is time to pay your tuition. That is, he would not hesitate to smack you in the mouth immediately. This is why they call the streets the school of hard knocks. As far as his size is concerned, there is no measure for the size of an individual’s strength and courage. If you think you could assume superior strength simply based on size, such an individual would immediately take you to school.
As I continued to sort through the lessons I had learned in the barrio I couldn’t help but notice that in the attitudes of some of the people of our school administration as well as people working at the hospital, police officers and others that were predominantly white, they seem to be of the opinion that they are somehow better than those of us living in the poverty of the barrio. It occurred to me that this too is disrespectful and does not fully acknowledge the true value of placing family and interpersonal relations above the rule of law or acquisition of wealth.
Thus, respect was not the only quality that I felt I needed to include in the construction of my new character. The woman inside of me felt that it was extremely important that I include the desire to champion the cause of the challenged and those that are less prepared to deal with life’s exigencies through no fault of their own. To successfully accomplish this it would be necessary for me to find a way to get the man and woman inside of me to work together. It was in this context that I finally realized the importance of having learned how to be non-judgmental. That is, ever since I had become impregnated by Curley Tops I had broken many a law and performed a variety of deeds that could easily be considered immoral, illegal or just plain wrong. Subsequently, I am now in a position to say that I share everyone’s guilt. Fortunately, I have grown up with a man inside of me that quickly learned to reject negative experiences without allowing the thrill of the experience to sink its teeth into the essence of my character as it had with others. In the final analysis, who better to help put an end to such negative behavior in the world than one who understands how such acts may have been committed in the first place without passing judgment.
When I think about how things are done in society today, why should I come to the same conclusions as the status quo? After all, being an overman would seem to suggest that I have a duty to my own sense of justice and fairness to arrive at my conclusions independently. In this context, then, a person that has endured life’s experiences and evolved beyond their negative embrace is better suited to render judgment than one that has simply learned from books. When you put things in these terms you can also begin to realize how unfortunate it is that we require those in law enforcement to be completely free of legal transgressions. Such a bias not only hinders the temperament of an individual, the bias becomes further problematized when we realize that such a status is more easily attained when one has been raised in a culture of privilege and power. That is, achieving such a status is all but impossible when one is raised in poverty.
To complete my new identity I still had to ensure that the man inside of me and the women inside of me would be sure to work together from now on. Hadn’t I already come to realize that I was at my best when the woman inside of me was able to work in harmony with the man inside of me? In retrospect, we know that the man inside of me is absolute, structural and oriented towards the rule of law. Alternatively, the woman inside of me is more emotional, compassionate and able to care for others beyond the rule of law. Wouldn’t you think that a harmonious interdependence between the two would serve to ensure that an appropriate truth and justice be realized in the world?
If the woman inside of me had complete control over my identity then perhaps I would have become a violent man. Alternatively, if the man inside of me had been in complete control then I might have become a cruel man. In this context, then, I believe that it was because they have been able to work together that I was able to avoid becoming evil while transforming my ensuing compassion and myself, so that I could fully embrace the spirit of love. I finally began to realize that it was in this way that my newly constructed identity and code of honor became a rite of passage of cosmic proportions. I had not only learned to transcend my earlier limitations, the educational process I experienced in the school of hard knocks also served to transform the essence of my being into that of a barrio warrior…