For too long we have been dreaming a dream from which we are now waking up: the dream that if we just improve the socioeconomic situation of people, everything will be okay, people will become happy. The truth is that as the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.
Viktor E. Frankl, “The Unheard Cry for Meaning”
The question of what is wrong with the African American community is asked over and over. Why does the community turn against each other? Why do we kill, steal and destroy? Now while that sounds like a biblical reference, the answer lies with our biblical brothers in judaism. It is called a Provisional existence. Looking at the definition of a provisional existence is crucial for figuring out cures as we are not the first race to be faced with this issue.
“Provisional existence” is first introduced in Man’s Search for Meaning, a 1946 book wirtten by Viktor Frankl. The book chronicles Frankl’s experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II, and secondly describes his psychotherapeutic method, logotherapy. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. Without hope a man surely dies… The book intends to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?”
Expanded further a provisional existence is where a person ceased living for a future, in contrast to a person in normal life. Frankl explains that unemployed workers go through the same thing: living long days with no end to this goal-less ordeal in sight. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and life passes by with no clear goal besides “making it” or living for the day.
Often, prisoners live through “provisional existence” too. But if they know their future date of release, it gives them a goal and thus, reason to live beyond provisional existence. They know when the end is in sight. The unemployed and victims of the holocaust did not have this. There was no clear hope, no end in sight. The same can be said for many members of the african american community. This is the reason for the kill or be killed mindset.
For example in the concentration camps Frankl tells of how people betrayed each others, or stole precious food from their friends (past neighbors and fellow captives), even when that could seal the unfortunate’s death – but hey, all the means were good if they helped to save their OWN lives. Does that not seem relevant today? The idea of a need for hope is not something that is lost our society… We have all heard and many of us recited…. Keep Hope Alive… a famous quote by Reverend Jesse Jackson… But how? And why is there no hope?
Of course this is a freudian idea, having been put into conditions of endless suffering and deprivation, a man, would have had to turn into an animal, with the lowest possible instincts taking over the whatever “civilized” and humane had been implanted during the previous life where freedom and hope were present. Simple but not really….
Now compare this to the African American man living in a community deemed negative, bad, and hopeless like so many in the US are today. Everyday is the same, survival. Make money to live, is that really a goal… is that hope? Just like the unemployed, the underemployed and the imprisoned (whether in jail or a cycle of poverty imprisonment) these individuals are living the same day over and over with no end in sight. They sometimes steal from each other, fight and even kill… But why?
“Under the influence of a world which no longer recognized the value of human life and human dignity, which had robbed man of his will and had made him an object to be exterminated (having planned, however, to make use of him first – to the last ounce of his physical resources) – under this influence the personal ego finally suffered a loss of values. If the man in the concentration camp did not struggle against this in a last effort to save his self-respect, he lost the feeling of being an individual, a being with a mind, with inner freedom and personal value” (p. 70).
This is the current state of that black man. This is why we kill. The black man is not valued but the plan is to use him as much as possible to underemploy him, throw him in a for profit jail to be a 21st century slave and thus make use of him to the last ounce of his physical resources (through underpay and over work… why does that sound familiar?).
Now this man, A man already fighting to save his self respect and to hold on to a piece of feeling like an individual as described in the quote, cannot take any further destruction. So for example someone (another person trying to hold on to some self respect to build up his own ego) disrespects that man, that disrespect could be the last straw in the destructuion of his self value and the final blow to his ego. Of course he cannot let that happen so he makes a choice to save his OWN self, his own ego to show that he has power in a powerless state of mind. To show that he is a being with inner freedom and personal value, to redeem his tarnished ego as best he can with no hope in sight.
In the book, Frankl recalls, how, in the moments of frustration with the current situation, overwhelmed with thoughts of trivial things, like where to find a piece of wire to substitute for a rotten shoe lace, he forced himself into thoughts about his future life after the liberation. This is the cure… This is hope.
The cure Frankl discovers “logotherapy”, which is explained in the second half of this book, involves identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. This is also the cure for the lost African American. This is why keeping hope alive is so important. This is why having an idenitity is so needed. Without these two, one is doomed.
Logotherapy claims that work, a process that takes so much time from our life, may be a source of meaning, direction, fulfillment, for many an important source of meaning, for some the only source. Let’s look at the African American community.. Unemployment in some areas is depressing itself. More than half of male African-American high school dropouts are unemployed, according to a new online analysis of unemployment data by Remapping Debate, a left-of-center news site in New York. African-Americans who graduated from high-school’s rate is 26 percent. Now remember a provisional existence can also be derived from unemployment.
The problem is simple. The solution is clear. Stop asking why there is a problem and take away the provisional circumstances of life. Start with the young give them a way out of the endless circle of poverty they see.
Give hope, employ, build of self respect, feed the ego and create identities.
“A man who could not see the end of his ‘provisional existence’ was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning