There’s no point in beating around the bush. I am 40 years old now and I know that my only purpose in life is and has always been revolution.
I’m not talking about violent revolution. Yes, I was once all about violent revolution, but I grew up somewhere along the way. When I was young and naive, I read books like the Communist Manifesto or the Anarchist Cookbook and bought into the whole idea of violent revolution. I didn’t yet know what the impacts of violence felt like to an individual or a family. I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse and a frequently-dysfunctional family environment. I was scrapping every day on the playground in a culture of ignorance and bullying. The idea of large-scale violence against “oppressors” sounded very attractive to me.
As I grew older, I got more specific about who I wanted to do my violence too. I saw the far-right, extremist, neo-nazi types and klansmen as the greatest threat to the world. I wanted to target a violent revolution against them, and I wanted to do it on the streets. At this stage, I turned away from the Communist type of revolution to believe more in the American revolution, in liberty and freedom, including freedom from oppression. I saw the American revolution as the birthmother of the Bill of Rights, and therefore of Civil Rights and Human Rights. In the American revolution, I saw black and white and red and brown and yellow working together for a new ideal. This is where I found allies to fight the nazis with.
But the violent lifestyle I lived took its toll on me. I never knew if I might die tonight. I suffered many concussions. I shattered bones in my hand. I had my nose broken repeatedly. I had guns pulled on me. I was shot at. I came out of several knife fights unscathed. I spent nights in jail. I carried weapons every day to “be prepared” just in case something popped off. It wasn’t good.
I learned that violence does not only have a physical cost (the permanent damage to my body and brain), but also a psychological cost, an emotional cost, and a social cost. I suffered seizures in my later years as a result of this violence. Even worse, I suffered anxiety and depression, paranoia, and mistrust that still lingers today. I felt profound fear and loneliness, as well as a kind of evil self-satisfaction and arrogance that comes with the ego-ism of violent victory. I could hurt others and it gave me power, but it was a soul-draining kind of power. I also saw the cost of violence on the society: broken families, broken homes, broken friendships, break down of social trust, subtle fear pervading all aspects of community life, damage to property and an overall environment of decay and dissolution.
And then, in 2003, I lost my brother in the war. That was devastating. That was something no one could ever take back. I realized at that time what the toll of death really felt like. It shattered me. He was my only brother and he was my baby brother. Now he is just a fading memory.
I realized that everyone who fought in those violent revolutions that I’d idealized must have gone through these types of experiences and feelings. I realized that everyone who survived the kind of violent revolution I was dreaming about would survive with all the traumas and scars that I was experiencing. Violence was not something to wish upon anyone.
So, I do not take if for granted that I have turned from a love of violence to a love of LOVE. I did not start out as some hippy weirdo, but it seems like that is what life has made me.
My purpose is still revolution: A profound and total change to the current order. But, now I work for the “bloodless revolution” that Malcolm X talked about. I work for the revolution of changing the way I think, the way I behave, and making the world better this way. It’s in the famous saying from Gandhi to, “be the change you want to see in the world.” It’s in the commandment from Christ to, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s in the words that Haile Selassie I spoke to the United Nations to, “become something greater than we have ever been.”
My revolution was to turn away from violence and the covetousness that it represents, to focus not on controlling others, but on controlling myself. There is another saying, this one from Marcus Garvey, that, “to be truly honest, one must be free from the desire for other people’s property.” A violent revolutionary is completely and entirely operating from a desire for someone else’s property. They wish to kill him and take it from him, whether that be his house, his bank accounts, his businesses, his land, his titles, his status and position, his rank, his duties and responsibilities, his very life they wish to take. This is the peak of covetousness. Therefore a violent revolutionary is dishonest to the core.
This is to be distinguished from a Freedom Fighter. A freedom fighter wishes to liberate what is HIS from the yoke of oppression, from the covetous “other” who stole it through an earlier wave of violence. I descend from freedom fighters and have always styled myself thus. However, I no longer believe in the killing way. I believe that, “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” so build yourself a solid house on a solid foundation. Stand on the moral high ground and see your victory from there. In other words, “sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
I found my true revolution in fitness: in self-control and habitual action to change the things I can and accept the things I cannot change. Now we’re saying the serenity prayer, with the wisdom to know the difference. When I began to run every day and do my push-ups and pull-ups not with the feeling that I would use this power for violence, but just to do it to feel better and to be better–that’s when I actually started to feel happiness and contentment. I began to consider my health when I ate and drank, and even when I opened my mouth. I became more discriminating with who I hung out with or what I did with my time.
And then I discovered the Ital Livity. I began to move with and reason with the Rastaman. I learned that there was a whole army out there who was fighting this non-violent revolution, revolutionizing their own lives without covetousness for the blood of others. I learned of the greater vision of those who came before–and did the work–the vision of a liberated, united, and elevated humanity.
I have been living these truths together for almost half my life now: as a skinhead turned Rasta, a hick from a ghetto in the woods who made more of himself and came up, who saw the world and learned from it and changed for the better, a fitness fanatic who sees in this thing called “fitness” the germ of a grand and sweeping change that touches everything.
You see, I think of fitness as much more than dumbbells and bicep curls. To me, FITNESS IS LIFE. Fitness is another word for suitability, and in this case it is suitability to live. Therefore fitness touches on every aspect of the individual. Fitness also relates to the society, to the entire humanity. Are we humans suitable to live? There are some so-called “revolutionaries” out there who say no. They’re making lists of the ones they deem unsuitable, but they find themselves on my list because of their own wrongheadedness. There are even those who think us all unsuitable, who have lost all faith in the human race, and also themselves.
I want to challenge all of these people. I want to challenge who whole world of people. I want to lead the charge for a real revolution, the kind of revolution in which we clean ourselves from the inside out. I want to see the revolution of healthy living, the revolution of each one fixing their own house and then helping their brother and their sister to fix theirs.
This is what I mean by revolution. The better that I get–and more honest that I am–at talking about it, the more people I believe will come on board with this idea. I hope you will be one that joins me.