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Can Have & Could Have Been
Affording the Good Life at a Comfortable Income

Are You on The Right Track?

Ahh the good life is what most people will confess they want and during these recent years of freedom in America, the doors of opportunity have been wide open for any individual who wants to take the journey which leads to a higher quality of life.  Yet, there are millions of individuals choosing to not to take a journey which would lead to a better life.  I am going to argue here that there is a virus which has plagued the mental psyche of people.  The virus I am referring to is one that I have named “Could Have Been.”

Why is The "Could Have Been Virus Important?

The Could Have Been virus relegates affected adults to minimum wage and low wage jobs for the rest of their lives.  Members of the Osiris Group believe it is now time for a paradigm shift in the psyche of people who permit such a virus to continue to deny individuals, families and entire generations access to quality of life.

Why call "Could Have Been" a virus?  After years of working in direct services, and even more years of observation and speculation, I have come to understand that what is happening to people is not what they are born with, nor is it their potential, nor parent/village teachings.  What is happening can only be compared within a social psychological framework under that Webster's Dictionary defines one of several types of viruses.  For example Webster defines a virus as:

1.  Any of various simple submicroscopic parasites of plants, animals, and bacteria that often cause disease and that consist essentially of a core of RNA or DNA surrounded by a protein coat. Unable to replicate without a host cell, viruses are typically not considered living organisms. 

2.  Something that poisons one's soul or mind: the pernicious virus of racism.  Any morbid corrupting quality in intellectual or moral conditions; something that poisons the mind or the soul; as, the virus of obscene books.

Computer Science. A computer virus:  n. [from the obvious analogy with biological viruses, via SF] A cracker program that searches out other programs and `infects' them by embedding a copy of itself in them, so that they become Trojan Horses. When these programs are executed, the embedded virus is executed too, thus propagating the `infection'. This normally happens invisibly to the user.

Where Does the Could Have Been Virus Come From?

To keep this definition feasible, I'm going to refer to a chapter in my recent work "Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder" published by IITE in 2002.  The Could Have Been virus is a latent stage of "Mentalcide" which is explained as follows.  W
hile it is an acceptable fact that Africans were in the America’s long before Columbus sailed for the new world; for the purpose of this discussion, we are going to begin our time period around 1619.  This was when the boom in the mass importation of African’s grew the institution of slavery.  The first stage in transforming an African tribal member into a slave was to keep him from thinking freely - the beginnings of "Mentalcide" as Mental Homicide.  That meant African people could no longer interact with their families and friends using their language(s), customs, values, norms, beliefs, rituals etc.  That period lasted from 1619 until approximately 1865, or 246 years.

The second developmental stage of "Mentalcide," occurred from 1865 until about 1965, or what I have come to refer as (US Apartheid); the Jim Crow laws and the Black Codes, lasted another 100 years.  The environment Blacks were confronted with with the legalization of slavery ended did not end the process of a developing social "Mentalcide," it caused a festering and growth.

"Mentalcide" has three modalities as we understand it.  1) a brainwashing that allows one human being to abuse another mildly or extremely; 2) a visualization by one human being seeing different human beings as other than human; 3) and an effort on behalf of human beings to become something other than who they are to protect themselves.  

Mentalcide affects everyone!  "Mentalcide" defined as mental homicide is the most obvious disorder under the umbrella of Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder.  Mental homicide is what happens when a person's mind is controlled to the extent that he or she cannot see what is in front of their eyes.  It is as though a veil has covered their eyes and they can only see what is on the veil.  The afflicted person believes what they see to the extent that he will kill another to justify the veil.  The act of killing another because of this veil is we have deemed mental homicide.  

Those who are the targets of mental homicide understand what it is they are experiencing, although they have no psychological interpretation.  In order to defend themselves from those who maintain and perpetuate the veil, they make themselves as small as possible, as insignificant as they can, as un-intimidating as they know how.  These acts are the beginning of mental suicide.  In order for a tall/large, brilliant, Black man to become small, insignificant and un-intimidating he will smoke, drink, do drugs, dress down, hunch his shoulders, be unkempt, and be uneducated.  A striking, Black woman become insignificant by dressing and acting like a sexual object rather than a competitive person.  This behavior begins in school, just around fourth grade.

How is Mentalcide tied to the Could Have Been virus?

Many of the people the clinicians of the Osiris Group provide services for would have much better lives if they had invested more in their own human capital.  A report release by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 2001, stated "to reside in Boston that family would have to be earning an average salary of $42,000.00 per- year."

All of the families The Osiris Group provides services for are employed and earning less than $ 30,000.00 per-year.  Most of these families work two or three jobs to earn this income and/or just to make ends meet.  When members of Osiris suggest or recommend to our neighbors that they should consider returning to school either for vocational training which can lead to a better paying trade or a degree program, our neighbors choose to remain frozen in their position.  Yes there are issues of time management and possibly working one 1/2 time job verses two full-time jobs, however it also means that they can earn enough to live on with one job when they are done.  How long can we live working two jobs?  What health and quality of life issues are affecting our inability to manage lifestyle change?

Even with the cutbacks in federal, state and city spending there are a proliferation of all types of programs offered to working class people and their children.  A tour of any local community college will demonstrate this.  Why does it appear that so many black people choose to accept sub-marginal lives?

There are a number of reasons, as Webster's dictionary demonstrates:  

1.  Viruses are typically not considered living organisms, they require a host; e.g. small or microscopic ideas; that often cause dis-ease (lack of comfort) grow on an individual and consist essentially of a core concept (can't).  For instance:  have you had a social conversation shift to how an individual could have finished college but he/she got caught up in partying, alcohol, drugs, etc.  Do those words ring a bell or hold true for you?  Have you said or heard them used by family, friends or strangers?  Have you ever heard a student say he/she could have gotten A or B or "Could Have Been" better but chose not too?  

2.  Something that poisons one's soul or mind: the pernicious virus of racism.  Any morbid corrupting quality in intellectual or moral conditions; something that poisons the mind or the soul. 
Have you ever heard someone tell the story of how a male let a very attractive, ambitious female slip through his hands because he refused to stop using drugs, stop hanging on the corner or get a job whose comment was I could have had her?  Would you consider his mind or soul clean and healthy?  Millions of black people suffer from some from of an inferiority complex that can be relatively easily traced back to the slave trade.  

3.  A program that searches out other programs and `infects' them by embedding a copy of itself in them, so that they become Trojan Horses. When these programs are executed, the embedded virus is executed too, thus propagating the `infection'. This normally happens invisibly to the user. 
Have there been relatives or friends you helped to get an interview for a well paying position, but failed to show up for the interview and didn't bother to call to reschedule for another date or time?  Have there been times when you when you reminded them of the opportunity they let slip away where they tell you "I could have been in that position or job if I had wanted it, but I did not want it."  Just how many "what a shame" or "what a waste stories" have we heard in our collective life-times?  The lost human potential of those affected by the Could Have Been Virus is immeasurable.  Are you beginning to get the picture here?  The virus “Could Have Been” is rampant in the black community because collective psyche of black people has not processed or debriefed from the 383 year orientation within the institution slavery.

In 2003, the Could Have Been virus has caused millions of people (especially Black and other ethnic people) to accept a life of despair, unfulfillment and self-loathing.

What Can We Do?  

Develop Self-Discipline. The Merriam dictionary defines discipline as; a. To train or develop by instruction and exercise esp. in self-control. B. To bring under control. 

If we critique or measure why some individuals are successful and why many are not, the first thing you'll find is that successful individuals are willing to do things that unsuccessful individuals will not or cannot do.  The first item on the list is always self-discipline.  A discipline of the "self" is required to create a plan and then follow through with it.  Self-discipline is required to grow ourselves into what we choose to be by designing our futures and not allowing other's to determine for us.  Self-discipline is required to work, save, invest and educate ourselves to make our plans and growth happen.  Self-discipline is but one of a myriad of requirements, but it is the core requirement - a repair if you will, in our DNA.

The virus Could Have Been has always been a part of the human experience, however, our view of ourselves, imbeds an invisible and propagating infection that has caused our communities to become a Trojan Horse full of "what a shame" and "what a waste stories."

There has never been a holistic effort to detoxify the psyche of individuals of African decent; yet for some, the answer to this and other questions will start the journey to psychological healing.  However, for black people as a whole to remove our uninvited guest, the Could Have Been virus after 383 years, a holistic effort to detoxify the psyche is the only way.

Cultural detoxification is not for the weak or faint of heart, that is why so few have chosen to take the journey.  Cultural detoxification invokes emotions of shame, guilt, pain, rage, tears and humiliation because one has to admit to a core belief (DNA) based on lies before they can replace or cleanse their core with the truth.  I don't know if we will ever rid ourselves of racism in one form or another.  But the doors to achieving quality of life are wide open for those willing to go through it. 

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