There is a video circulating on WhatsApp. All things circulate on WhatsApp as you very well know… the insane, deep fakes, conspiracy theories, emergency COVID cures, the perpetual woe of Arsenal Football Club… All things circulate on WhatsApp.
This video was different, however. It was educative and spoke directly to the issue of men’s health. It featured a number of black stars, male black stars… The Jamaican born British actor, Michael Ward; the man who would be James Bond but never is, Idris Elba; Chiwetel Ejiofor, of 12 Years a Slave fame – so adept at playing a slave; and that man who likes to play God, Morgan Freeman. It was a short advocacy video.
The actors were appealing to black men in America not to feel embarrassed about discussing prostate cancer with a loved one, or with a doctor. One in four men black will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. One in twelve will die of prostate cancer according to the stats.
Perhaps the reason African American men feel embarrassed about discussing prostate cancer is because the disease taunts masculinity. Even the treatment options poke fun at manhood. Radiotherapy for example causes erectile dysfunction and there’s the option of outright castration!
One could however argue that the disease is color blind since it taunts the masculinity of white men too, not just black men. It’s the same treatment regimen whether you’re black or white. So perhaps it’s not a masculinity issue after all. Perhaps there’s a historical factor, a buried generational and psychological factor – the sons of slaves having difficulty discussing impotence and castration because their forbears were physically and psychologically castrated. All this is speculative armchair psychology of course, but it is incontrovertible slavery castrates men psychologically. It alters the psyche. No one knows this better than God. He sent a freedom fighter named Moses to liberate the Israelites from slavery. As it turned out it was an impossible task. Not one miracle done by God impressed those folks, not even the impossible overnight construction of a highway through the Red Sea. The men were liberated physically but not psychologically.
Freedom is in the head. At some point God decided he was wasting his time with that generation. He wasted them in the desert. He was totally frustrated. He thought he was dealing with nationalists – men who desired to build a nation, but these were thoroughbred slaves. You can’t build a nation with mentally conquered men. The men could not rise above the mentality of chattels. They were comfortable being slaves and they had developed a coping mechanism.
They deployed mental constructs to help them escape reality. One of such constructs was imagining the state was subsidizing a life of luxury for them. It’s why they said, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (Numbers 11:5) This seems highly unlikely but the lie assuaged their reality. Sometimes men just choose to believe a lie. One would think slavery was lunch at Ritz Carlton, Giza. They almost returned to Egypt!
All this makes one wonder about the psyche of the man named Joseph. Joe was sold into slavery as a teenager, at the tender age of sixteen. His ordeal lasted fourteen years. Fourteen years! How did he stay strong?! And on top of that he maintained his sense of worth. He rejected the rich and generous offer of Mrs. Potiphar to be her gigolo. That guy was focused. You don’t reject a Mrs. Potiphar – you land in the state penitentiary. And Joseph did. All because he wouldn’t have sex with a rich and powerful woman.
Of course he would have had his doubts, his moments of fear and discouragement. At a point things just seemed to be moving from bad to worse, from frying pan to fire. Life does that at times – the more we pray the worse things get. He resisted the temptation to feel sorry for himself. He fought hopelessness and despair, kept on believing despite the impossibility of deliverance from prison. (We need belief perseverance).
There were no human rights groups in those days, no Amnesty International. The Hyksos dynasty ran an absolute monarchy. Pharaoh imprisoned state officials on a whim. Heads literally rolled if Pharaoh felt displeased about the vintage quality of his wine, or the quality of the yeast in his bread. Perhaps the Baker was jailed for making French rolls on Friday instead of Egyptian rolls.
Joseph ended up as Prime Minister in Egypt and in that capacity deployed his considerable administrative talent. He turned Egypt into an economic powerhouse using food security.
We can always situate ourselves in the story of Joseph – our personal struggles, our difficulties and challenges… There’s a Joseph in all of us and it’s not all about difficulties. There are dreams in all of us, there’s strength in all of us, there’s forgiveness in all of us, there’s grace in all of us, there’s brilliance in all of us, there’s greatness in all of us.
Our difficulties will pass. Our dreams will come to pass. Just like Joseph’s. All we need is belief and perseverance.