Just as London was beginning to be set ablaze by Blackberries, I was bracing myself for the current Hollywood reboot of Planet of the Apes. The 2001 remake starring Mark Wahlberg left me mortally wounded, having claimed itself a “revisioning” of the original story and movie, it managed to not only leave every racist/colorist myth in place, it was elevated it to a spiritual plane by being robed in pseudo-Himalayan garb so that the apes were a cabal of ill-compassionate, slave-owning monks and priests. It was one of only two movies I’ve ever walked out on with my only regret being that, at the time, I still harbored some naive hope that it would play out differently than it appeared, such that I suffered through it for far too long. Hence my as-yet-unhealed scar to this day.
In my defense, my wariness was not solely the product of ancient wounding. The earliest trailers for the movie depicted the apes in a decidedly more ominous tone. They were clearly no different than the “copycat criminal element” that has rained mayhem down upon London. My mind conjures up images of Dean Winters, who personifies Mayhem in the ticklish Allstate commercials. Rather than one intrusive black-faced raccoon inhabiting the roof, there are thousands of carbon copy black Dean Winters with hoodies and cellphones coming out in droves to inhabit every imagined safe corner of the UK’s big cities.
It was all well and good when it was just the downtrodden Tottenham, home to a similar outbreak in 1985. Police and politicos swore it was isolated to the disenfranchised few using the death of Mark Duggan as an excuse to spruce up their wardrobes. It wasn’t conceivable that it was a spark in the tinderbox of social unrest that lines the overcoat of the world.
There’s been much commentary about how caught off guard the UK prime minister David Cameron was by the unrest. What this conveys to me is that he is sleeping through a revolution. The world as we know it is in revolution. Literally a wave of discontent is encircling the globe country by country, region by region, both dismantling and reorganizing lines of class, culture and caste.
Who “the People” are changes at every turn—indeed, in the movie, they aren’t even people, but they are the People—the People are the shape-shifting stewards of our humanity who rise up cyclically to counter the forces that would have us tread backwards in our evolution by vying to protect the status quo. They are slaves, farmers, migrants, workers the world over that see the abundance of earth’s resources hoarded by privilege so rewrite the lines of distribution to carry us one step closer to achieving humanity. It is invariably a painful process as it meets with resistance borne of fear. But it is inevitable. We are a forward propelled species. Stagnation is death.
Oscar Grant, Khaled Said, Mark Duggan:
Unjustifiable deaths are the symbolic awakenings of consciousness. The cathartic cognitive break brought on by the disruption of meaning-making. We can no longer make meaning out of the conditions we find ourselves in.
We’re prone to miss this moment as revolution because its form is markedly different than what we typically look for. There are no leaders, no central figures. And with humbling executions of grace, there is comparatively little violence. Even from Mayhem, the gangs, guerillas and gorillas.
And still…this revolution beckons and calls for our evolution. It is:
- begging for equality
- pining for justice
- yearning to be returned home to the human heart
and we will not rest until we get there.
Our consumer-driven culture has wrenched the vitality out of life so that it no longer matters that—as the prescient King noted—I may not get there with you. I’m willing to take the blow and the fall if it means you’ll get there. And like Caesar, I’ll exercise compassion for the unwilling participants of a system in which the only true enemy is oppression. But someone has to get there.
So apes will rise, and we will fight our way across bridges and through blockades to return to the place where our eyes can survey the land in safety. Where our minds can rest easy and our breath can rise and fall in freedom. The place where no one has to come to save us from being lost amongst our own kind.
—yours in truth, aKw
dedicated to all the People that strive on behalf of our humanity.
angel Kyodo williams, the “change angel,” is Founder Emeritus of Center for Transformative Change. She now serves as a Senior Fellow and Director of Vision. A social visionary and leading voice for transformative social change, she is the author of the critically-acclaimedBeing Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace.