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  • Stella-Monica Mpande

societal heart condition

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Shortness of breath, chest pain, numbness, weakness, neck and jaw pain...We are generally aware of symptoms of cardiovascular disease that the World Health Organization cites as the numero 1 global cause of death, killing an estimated 17.9 million lives each year.

But Dr. Google Dot Com, the world’s most accessible, unaccredited, unlicensed doctor of all time, failed to mention the disorders of the following heart condition that have plagued our global community for centuries, especially in 2020: clogged arteries of discrimination and blood clots of narcissism that have restricted the flow of empathy, blocked all actions of mutual understanding and cut off the supply of justice—leading to our failing societal heart condition that is rapidly killing our global community. 

Recently, I was highly discombobulated after observing disorders of our failing societal heart condition through narratives, thought processes and behaviors from conversations and social media posts. For instance, if we are justifying rape by one's outfits or whereabouts by arguing that “s/he brought it upon herself,” “s/he should know it’s called ‘being an adult,'" or by excusing their assailant or harasser who is influential, please check the heart condition. If we are negotiating statistical analyses about the likelihood a human being of a racial group may commit a misdemeanor or a crime to justify that he is worthy of a lynch, or if we conveniently prefer to ignore present-day rippling effects of history on migration and civilization patterns of all racial, ethnic and diasporic groups, check the heart condition.  If we are quick to criminalize victims because of their age, race or gender, yet will bend the law to make exceptions for our own son, daughter, father, mother, please check the heart condition—specifically for hypocrisy. If we are dismissing the grievances of a child who seeks refuge from abusive adults or school bullies, quickly check the heart condition. If we are watching a video on social media from someone with extreme weight loss and we choose to mock their physicality—only to discover later that their fragile appearance would be attributed to cancer—definitely check the heart condition. Need I continue?

So World, who have we become? When did our hearts harden with callouses of tightened, thickened scars and toxic fungi that desensitize us to others’ pain? We argue about history’s perils of evil, yet in 2020, we are still allergic to offering kindness and observing justice. We cite Maya Angelou’s “When we know better, we do better…” yet still, we succumb to a perpetual state of selfishness and self-entitlement, as our hearts secretly harbor a seed that violates another’s dignity. Once upon a time, we referred to this rule of thumb: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).  Or translated more plainly, “Would you want X to do to you what you have done to him/ her?”  But now, it’s “Do to others what you can get away with; just don’t get caught.” And when we are “caught” or held accountable, we throw vicious temper tantrums and lie, cheat, steal or destroy to try to preserve our ego, mask our shame and erase the problem. But can never escape the truth. What one does in the dark will always come out in the light. Trust. Meanwhile, look around, World.  What are we doing to one another? And if we are not prepared to face the consequences of our actions, then shouldn't that be at least one pinkish-red flag to check ourselves before we wreck havoc?

Time for a root-cause analysis:  I won’t go into theological and historical reflections about the origins of sin. But I will offer one perspective: some heart conditions are hereditary. And the metaphorical heart conditions I speak of, in this context, are primarily rooted in fear, pain, hurt and abuse that have manifested into repetitive cycles of hateful behavior that we inflict on others—and ironically, usually on those closest to us. Time for self-reflection: Which heart conditions, related to hate and fear, were passed down to us as children that are we now passing down to our own children, albeit in different forms?  How are we inflicting such fear and hate on those closest around us, even in our daily interactions?  I’m not a psychologist, but it’s clear to me through my observations, personal and professional experiences how these degenerative seeds that are passed down to a child inform the next generation. World, please be mindful of the legacy you breed and leave behind. Be conscious, intentional and purposeful. After all, no human being is born with a receiving blanket and an instruction manual on how to treat others. Every child is taught. The spirit of a child is set at a default of love. As adults, our goal is to preserve the default…or else, succumb to the symptoms of the traumas we experience, are taught or observe.  Pause:  Then are we aware that we may need to undergo a healing process to address any of those symptoms? If so, then what steps are we taking to ensure we do not practice new habits or repeat cycles of destruction to harm ourselves, others and our future posterity? Instead, what words and actions are we adopting to uplift and promote an abundant life?

As I get older, this verse also makes more sense to me: “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).  And if we are living in fear of another, then we are living in hate of another. But we sugarcoat that hate and call it “wisdom” or falsely pamper it with “statistics” to justify a pecking order that dehumanizes another—at work, in relationships, or day-to-day.

2020 should be the wake-up call to restore basic humanity and communal love. In quarantine—however fluid—"solidarity" now holds even stronger meaning than before.  Collectively, we: grieve deaths of family, strangers and celebrities, perhaps now with more profound self-reflexive empathy and show of support; are forced to love our neighbor as we love ourselves when we are limited to 2 provisions of basic needs and stand 6 feet apart with masks à-la-mode; de-stress through D-Nice’s “Club Quarantine,” and share innovative best virtual practices to survive a pandemic, civil rights movements, hurricanes, homeschooling and other life-transformative milestones of 2020.

The world is changing dramatically and rapidly forcing us all to do the same—starting from within.  I know the argument: People can’t change. I strongly disagree. Everyone can change. But, ask the right questions:  Will people change? It depends on their heart condition, intentions and what’s at stake for them. Do people change? It depends on the investment in their commitment to produce and sustain change.

And right now, change is critical for our survival and legacy.  And yes, change is hard.

But, perhaps, the road to change requires us first to reposition ourselves at the landmark of our birth default: Loving your neighbor as you love yourself. But what does loving yourself look like to you? Marinate and pray on this. Inhale and exhale this (with your mask!). After all, we are inextricably linked.  Don’t we know that the best version of ourselves brings out the best version of others—and that cycle of life is the glue that fundamentally holds us together and 'whole'?

The next step ahead is for each of us to individually assess our own heart condition and commit to working on our own unique healing process.

Ultimately, may God help us all heal towards a healthier, societal heart condition…

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