Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Are you a Grinch or a Griot? Or both?


What’s a Grinch? I believe it’s a word Dr Seuss made up – but what a perfect way to describe one who tends to be dour, sour, grim and dire in outlook; who sees the worst in others and believes you can’t turn your back on anyone, not even your own bed-partner and, least of all, your own kids. Only a Grinch could invent a concept as burdensome as “Original Sin” – and only a would-be Grinch would subscribe to or promote it.

Grinches generally end up in careers that involve keeping humans (indeed, all other lifeforms) on a short leash (the shorter the better), controlling their behavior with a deadly arsenal of rules, regulations, constraints and restraints.

Among the greatest Grinches
that ever lived
You’ll find generations of Grinches in professions like law and law enforcement, bureaucracy, academia, publishing, pharmaceuticals, medicine, psychiatry, banking, stockbroking, gambling, insurance, covert agencies, the armed forces, defence industries, politics, the judiciary, and especially religious institutions (paying lip service to or impersonating a punitive, wrathful, vengeful, warlike Male Deity).


And because they are such Control Freaks, most Grinches aspire to be born into powerful families – preferably of aristocratic or royal pedigree – so they can throw their weight around, pull rank, and make life as hard as possible for you and me with absolute impunity.

Grinches possess a perverse sense of humor in that they can only laugh at other people’s misfortunes, shortcomings and foibles – but never at their own. They also love dark secrets and secrecy, plotting and scheming behind closed doors, although they tend to think of it as protecting their own precious privacy – and of course their own vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

However, they would be the first to invade other people’s privacy in the name of national security or economic stability. Indeed, they would happily condone statesponsored surveillance of every citizen as a preventive measure against crimes and terrorist attacks, real or imaginary.

The irony is that most criminals and terrorists tend to be Grinches too – or else they serve rival Godfather Grinches as their henchmen and dirty tricks consultants.

I suspect the real problem with Grinches is that they seem to be fatally lacking in imagination, and so their actions usually become destructive and oppressive. They are experts at destroying other people’s sense of well-being and their capacity to experience spontaneous joy – and apparently hell-bent on destroying all that is beautiful and natural around them, especially the ecosystem (which they perceive as something to be exploited and harnessed to their own Control Freak agendas).

Nevertheless, Grinches can be quite cute - but only when they admit to being Grinches!

So what’s a Griot?

Not all Griots are as beautiful, brainy & sexy as Ms Ribena Berry aka Jo Kukathas
Griot (pronounced gree-yoh) is probably a French word for storyteller, clown, artist, medicine man or woman. The word is mainly used to describe community shamans in French-speaking African nations like the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mali – but today the term applies to those with a playful imagination who choose to express themselves through poetry, storytelling, music, drama, dance, filmmaking, spiritual healing and the visual arts.

Jit Murad: a well-known
local Griot
What distinguishes Griots from other folks is that they somehow manage to keep alive their inner child even when they have arrived at a venerable age. As such, Griots find it easy to look at everything afresh, from a novel perspective, and so they continually question the way things are done and why people do what people do. Griots are generally compassionate and empathetic, but are prone to whatever mischief they can get away with – especially when having to deal with Grinches.

Youssou N'Dour, named by Time magazine as
one of the 100 most influential humans in 2007
Griots instinctively know that rules are made to be broken, and that the ultimate form of discipline is internal, invisible and quite unobtrusive altogether. Outwardly Griots may appear unkempt or disorderly – but deep within they know exactly what their own limitations are at any given time, and are constantly looking forward to stretching those limits. Some Griots seem to prefer to live unstructured lives, eating whenever and whatever they want; sleeping at any time they require rest, and waking up when they’re ready to poke their noses beyond their front doors.

Just as you can’t see the skeletons that keep the form and shape of all things, the codes by which Griots conduct themselves are also concealed from sight.

Mirth-provoking Griot,
the late great George Carlin
While Grinches are obsessed with telling others what to do and what not, Griots delight in seeing others free themselves from mental shackles – and dedicate their lives to appreciating beauty and truth, and to celebrating the joys of freedom..

Grinches are easily offended. They expect others to walk on eggshells around them. One indiscreet remark, one inappropriate adjective, one imaginary insult is all it takes to get Grinches fired up with self-righteous indignation – and that’s when they get inspired to dream up new laws and statutes to regulate what people are allowed to think and say and what is absolutely taboo. Grinches grudgingly acknowledge that people tend to be more productive and healthier when they are happy. However, it won’t do for them to be too happy. Limits must be imposed!

Griot Extraordinaire, the late great Frank Zappa
Griots laugh at totems and taboos, even though they understand that some folks need visible symbols to reinforce their faith in the benevolence of the worlds and beings beyond our senses. Without making a big fuss out of it, every Griot already knows that he or she is actually an individualized and unique expression of universal truth; of forces and principles that govern the motion of atoms, planets, stars, constellations, and galaxies.

Are there only two types of humans?


Brilliant Griot-Grinch hybrid R. Buckminster Fuller

Some folks are hybrids – a cross between Grinch and Griot. A good example would be architects whose work requires a combination of creative imagination and rigorous adherence to specific laws – whether of physics or municipal councils. Great inventors and captains of industry also tend to be Grinch-Griot hybrids.

Many begin life as Griots, only to turn into Grinches after they reach adulthood – taking on the role of spouses, parents, schoolteachers, policemen, generals, judges, ministers, respectable pillars of society. Some are fortunate to realize, before it’s too late, that nature smiles upon the Griots, guardians of the child within and defenders of innocence - and somehow succeed in integrating both polarities, thereby attaining a special status as Masters of their own destinies.

16 July 2013 (first posted 18 July 2013)

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