The Lion Speaks Of The Enemy Within


On October 4, 1963, H.I.M. Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia gave a speech at the United Nations that has reverberated in the minds and actions of conscientious thinkers to this day.  King Selassie made an impassioned plea to a wold that perceived itself disconnected from the injustices taking place in Africa at the time.  He cautioned them to understand that the same instinct for survival and the same willingness to fight for justice and equality runs through all of us, irrespective of race, creed or color.

His message can only be done justice by his own words:

…until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil…

On the surface, King Selassie, affectionately known as “The Lion,” makes an eloquent comment on the human propensity to fight for what is right.  Moreover, he not-so-vaguely hints that God sanctions “the good fight.”  This is not much different from a famous quote attributed to U.S. Navy Chaplain Howell Forgy on the U.S.S. New Orleans during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Reading both quotes, it would be easy to believe that the “enemy” was the Japanese, or White racists, or other African leaders with oppressive regimes.  But The Lion reaches deeper, and reveals to us that the real oppressor is The Enemy Within: malicious and inhuman self-interest.  The true enemy is our inability to connect the fortunes of others to the fortunes of ourselves.  One might argue that bigotry and prejudice should be included as The Enemy Within, but I submit that those malignancies are mere symptoms of self-interest.

Until the day we finally heed The Lion’s words, the progress of the human race as evidenced by the election of an African-American as leader of the free world, will always be followed by the self-interest spawned malicious backlash of those in power, as evidenced by members of the media refusing to call the President by his title, (I’ve NEVER heard a journalist say “Reagan,” or “Clinton” did this or that), calling him a “liar” and “lazy” in public forum, (who knows what they call him in private) and worse.  The progress of the human race as evidenced by the American outpouring of love and brotherhood in the aftermath of 9/11 will always be followed by outcries against the spread of Islam in a nation dedicated to the freedom of religion.

These things will always occur, until, in the words of King Selassie, the self-interest that drives these malicious deeds “are replaced by understanding and tolerance and good will….”  I say today that such understanding cannot occur until we as a human race internalize the message that we are all together in this life-struggle.

The fight is not amongst nations.  The fight is not against tyrants.  The fight is not even, at it’s core, against racism and bigotry.  The fight is with ourselves.  The fight is against our very instinct to disconnect from that which we don’t understand, or those who don’t look, speak or think like us.

If we want to save ourselves from the war that King Selassie warns us about, then we must begin by CONNECTING the fates, fortunes and  families of others to our own.  After all, are we not, at our core, one family?

And if King Selassie’s words were too eloquent for some to understand, Bob Marley made the message perfectly clear: until the day we heed The Lion…there will be WAR.

Sound Off!

Broadcast Your Inner Champion


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *