Spirit of Man's Potential
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from Imam W. Deen Muhammad's April 13. 1986 address at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.)
Let us go to another writer of a book, Eric Fromm who seems to have been fascinated with the potential in man. However, his discoveries were not new because when we talk about insights into nature or insight into man there are no new discoveries. We are just finding what God showed the Prophets a long time ago, and what many learned men have talked about and discussed, maybe not in the same language as ours, but they did it long before us. Perhaps we may get a better look at it and see it from a new side, or a new aspect of it, and advance it a bit, but we cannot make any claims of discovering anything new in the way of nature, especially human nature, and its potential and need for progress.
Eric Fromm pointed to the fact that birth for an individual is continuous. Birth for society is continuous. And many of you in the field of education, especially in the field of humanities or politics, are well aware of what I am talking about. This is not new to you.
This learned man has brought to the attention of his readers that many experience continuous births.
If we haven't found home in a situation, every new situation is going to form us all over again. It may be augmented, or it may be improved, or added to, but we never take off that dress. Once we find home and a context of life, we never take off that dress. The African-American's life, group spirit, group identity, has never been established. And that is why you feel so lonesome, lost and depressed.
That is why you feel you are not there yet. With all of this material affluence all around you — color TV, wealth piling up over your head - you have to push through the wealth sometimes to get to the washroom. With all of that in your life, with all of your degrees -- Ph.D. Degrees in this. Masters Degrees in that, B.S. Degrees in that - with all of that, you still feel lost. You still feel short of the mark of arriving at home simply because we have not retreated; stepped back from the white man and said. "Look, you have taken us as far as you can take us. Now we are going to build an ideology. Now we are going to build a philosophy. A philosophy of life for the African-American man. And you can't help us, so stand aside and watch us do it, and if we want you, we will call on you."
Don't you know that in your soul, that is the work that is yet to be done. DuBois started it. He made a strike at it. Carter G. Woodson made a strike at it. A man who wasn't even on this land, who wasn't even on this territory, Franz Fanon, make a strike at it. Not only him, but a man who just died recently, Benjamin Mays, was battling. He was striking at it. His sensitivities indicated that that is the direction he wanted to take his people in, but we have not been able to accomplish it. Why? Because we think more of the civil rights struggle, more civil rights protests. We have been conditioned by past experiences to think that the only way home is through the politician and the preacher. And that is wrong.
We need to have a camp. Go to a warm climate and make a camp and set up six months, a year, two years if it takes that long, and stay together until we come out with what we need. That is what Moses had to do. Moses got his people, and he had to go up into the wilderness, and he had to stay out there until they got what they needed. And when they came back, WHEWwwwww. I am not trying to pretend that I am the only one who has this kind of concern. That I am the only one who wants to move us in that kind of direction. I am not trying to pretend that.
Eric Fromm in his book, "Sane Society." dwelled on this need in man. He was fascinated by what he saw in this dynamism of man. And he recognized that from the dynamism for man's potential, that dynamism in the spirit of his potential, emerges a spirit that keeps saying, "That is not enough. You're not situated well enough yet. No, you haven't realized freedom enough yet." And you think. "Well I'm free as a bird." and that spirit tells you. "No, not enough yet. I want to be free as a shuttle plane, even freer. I want to be free enough not to putter out while I am going the way I want to go."
Man's spirit wants to go to the Moon. That is the spirit of your potential. The great potential in you is telling you, "Get up out of this mediocrity. Get up out of this inferiority. You have a great destiny. You are not home yet."
Then we have another man. John H. Scanzoni . In his book, "The Black Family in Modern Society," he tells us something that is revealing. And since we are addressing that need for us to co-exist and cooperate, and we are taking an opportunity here today to convey compliments to our Christian, Jewish, and Socialist people. While doing this, it is important for us to look at something else. In this book, it is brought out that the deteriorated condition of the African-American social life, his family, should not be taken as an indication that all of us are given to such situations. That there has been, and there still are African-American Christians, who hold to the Protestant work ethnic. They are not lost. Their families are not lost. They still have disciplined children, healthy children, forward looking children. Children that are not filling up the jail cells. They are successful, and they represent the strength, and maybe even the future of the many, many others who have left the better foundation of life.
He goes on to say that people who have similar credits as these Christians are the Black Muslims, who could not find that in the Churches. They could not find it in Christianity. They were not fortunate to have that Christian work ethnic, or that Christian principle of fine performance in life imparted to them, so they left disappointed, turned their backs from Christianity in disappointment, and followed the loud call of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to a new way of life, to a new concept, to a new future, to a new self-image. And he says that they latched on to that and now after research; this man did research on the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He says, after research, that the Black Muslims from the low poverty strata were able to achieve that same work ethnic, were able to perform in the same way, and they were emerging into the mainstream of American life. That is what this man said even before I came along.