Na’im Akbar is acclaimed as one of the leading writers today
He has produced some of the best works of his time. His readers have long appreciated him for his classical interpretation of human morality and several critical thematic concerns of race and society but yet in a most humorous, easy and light hearted representation.
Some of his most praised and entertaining works involve the analytical issue of the disgrace of racism and the hideousness of being a slave. Akbar’s book, Breaking the chains of psychological slavery, tells his desire to revolutionize social, political traditions.
Akbar persuades the reader through a prejudiced vision of his existence, inducing in the reader compassion distress and negative depiction of the white. The writer in his storyline takes the reader on a ride to the past, into a darker and crueler world of his time that disliked, loathed and exploited the men and women with darker skins. He talks about the curse of slavery and its impact on the society, a society that was built around the disgraces of racism and that only recognized the master and the slave, not the life within.
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The depiction of the brutalities and the inhumanity of the custom of slavery, in the very first chapter, “The Psychological Legacy of Slavery”, is remarkable in its own way, criticized as a work more important and brilliant in content compared to the several other works by slave writers.
This is mainly because he incorporates several dimensions of the cult of slavery in his narrative, specially throwing light upon the impacts of slavery on the slaves and more importantly on the lifeless bodies who owned them.
“The implication of this is that the mind’s possibilities are limited by its concept of its potential.” ” (Akbar 1996) .The slaves were not allowed to own any property. Hence they were grieved and heart broken with their abandonment.
Their birth was rather a calamity and they cursed themselves for having been born as slaves. They felt that the master’s house was one of the most hostile places. I agree with the author here as I feel that it was from them that they too learned to be vile and vindictive. Thus the slaves transformed themselves into jealous people with conflagration. However, their innocence and ignorance made them suffer from prejudice.
The foremost procedure the author uses in the second chapter is sympathy. He writes about mental slavery and an unknown faith. “When young Black boys learn that there are no limits to our possibilities on the basketball courts, we create the athletic genius of Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson and in their genius, they recreate the game of basketball.
When our young people know that there are no limits to their potential in the world of manufacturing, communication, physics, chemistry or the science of the human mind, then those same young Black minds who create dances on the dance floor or compose music on their bodies with the ‘hand jive’ will recreate these fields of human endeavor with the same incomparability.” (Akbar 1996)
I got an emotion of distress and wanted providential things to happen to the slaves. Unfairness is exposed all the way through the chapter. This new tactic, intoxicated with the velvety diplomacies of pity, care and tolerance, made things even worse for the slaves. In this chapter, Akbar also speaks of the disgraces of racism and the immoralities of slavery with a most light hearted and moderate appeal.
This is a major part of the irony that clearly comes to light when observed carefully. “”You must first be a king of your own personal kingdom. If you can’t lead that kingdom on your own two feet, you can’t lead a bigger kingdom”(Akbar 1996) Very ironically and rightly, he criticizes the aspects of morality in terms of slavery, racism and other such critical social concerns. I read the author’s depiction of an unknown faith in a slave’s life, as an allegorical representation of the plight of blacks in the United States even in the post-slavery time.
He tactfully exposes the duplicity of freedom, enfranchisement and equality, demonstrating how racism distorted the oppressors as much as it did those who were oppressed, yet in a most humorous and easy flow. This brilliant use of irony again reveals itself when in a world of moral confusion, in which seemingly good and civilized white people express no concern what so ever about the injustice and illegitimacies of cruelty towards a black.
A marvelous creation of Akbar, the masterpiece best reveals his ironical blending of wit with reality. His personal and conversational style makes the reader involved in his tone and mood. He takes the reader into confidence through his easy and delightful pace.
The analytical issue of the disgrace of racism and the hideousness of slavery is beautifully depicted. Akbar’s contention to transform the view of the society is substantiated when he desires to bring out his ideas about racial religious inquisition and emotional perplexity, in the third chapter of the book.
I perceive that although Akbar wrote the book several years after the end of the emancipation proclamation and the civil war, America still struggled to emerge out cleanly out of the disgraces of racism and the aftermaths of slavery.
When the book was written, although seemingly flowing in a positive direction, race relations were beginning to withstand new strains, trapped now in a cleverer and more civilized white society. These new forces were more social and personal than official. This new form of racism in the south was less institutionalized and monolithic but at the same time was more difficult to resolve or combat.
The white society although outlawed slavery and racism, most certainly due to growing ethical, moral and international pressures, was beginning to learn to adopt a more hypocritical, self-defensive reason to hate the newly freed blacks, to keep them away. I feel the author employs a predisposed analysis to manipulate the mind and heart of the reader.
The greater the power, the more dangerous is the abuse. The truth in the statement is well proved in the book. Akbar makes his political report in this twentieth-century book that could be relished as an exhilarating but heart grieving story about a black boy. He, very well comments upon the abuse of political power and how the poor and down trodden blacks fall prey to the diplomacy of the whites.
The title is a symbol for the evil contained in human souls. The author reigns high in the field of characterization. His works transact chiefly with the divergence of the intellect and impulse. All of his key works present humans as inherently belligerent and corrupt. It can best be described as a document that predicts the behavior of human mind under the influence of circumstances around him.
Hence I do feel that the author takes the reader to a journey back to those years, when the world was a difficult place to life for those whose skins were black. And in doing so, he maintains a supreme calmness in his pace that is garnished with humor and adventure.
In today’s highly materialistic society, there is just no place for modesty. Hence the writer in his storyline takes the reader on a ride to the past, into a darker and crueler world of his time that disliked, loathed and exploited the men and women with darker skins. I am mesmerized by the reality that the author brings to light. This not only gestures at the authority, status and power of dictatorship but also accuses the present society where crafty people exploit the innocence of the docile and submissive ones.
Akbar Na’im, Breaking the chains of psychological slavery , June 1996, Mind Productions & Associates ,isbn 0935257055