If one were to take only one thing away from the life of Malcolm X, I would hope it would be that human beings can transcend one narrative or mental construction to another. Malcolm X did this twice. In his leaving a life of crime, a life of self-centered pleasure, disregard for others and lack of intellectual curiosity, towards a life of moral service and utmost dedication to a higher calling albeit in a narrow-minded fashion. And again, in leaving the Nation of Islam and becoming a Sunni Muslim; leaving a mentality of labeling of people based on race in the broad and moralizing sense that he did behind, although unfortunately he did seem to retain this mentality in part in believing that Islam to be the tool for racial unity rather than the true source of morality, namely compassion. That is he still retained some distinction of peoples based on race and religion, in ways more than merely circumstantial. This is seen in his recommendation of black people “mentally and culturally return to Africa,” as if because someone has a certain skin color or have descendants of a certain place this should dictate how they should dress or who they should be as people.
Malcolm X’s story is one that is allegorical to my message that Christians must transcend Scripture, and people of all faiths must transcend labels and emphasis on descriptive beliefs, and instead focus on the moral message the faith provides. The ought that we either ought or ought not to follow in living an exemplary life. What is exemplary I believe only our intuitions can instruct us upon – reason being impotent on such matters. Or rather, showing us that we are impotent in our knowledge so instead must act in a type of daily faith of “ought.”
If the theme is more important than the details of the message or the message has supremacy over the name of the messenger or prophet, then people should be gladdened that people in the West are increasingly beginning to see the person over the label and prefer morality over dogma. This conflict will be something that likely always plague the human species, and as a moral skeptic, I cannot claim knowledge that one ought to practice one over the other. But I know that my intuitions lead me to favor compassion (morality) over idioms and ideologies.
In my youth, I was what I would call now a “crass Leftist.” I thought as a Marxist the way some think as Evangelical Christians or some as White or Black Nationalists. I had not learned to think as a person. And although I do think there is still wisdom in that outlook, or at least something novel amidst our climate of Neo-Liberalism, I am glad that I have fully developed in the sense of trying to see a person and not a set of beliefs.
There are many other examples of this throughout history, whether it be of going from one frame of mind to another ala Malcolm X, or appearing to always see people rather than ideological opponets in the case of George Orwell. For although Orwell was a Socialist, he criticized wrongs he perceived by the USSR as frequently as he criticized those of rivaling “camps” or factions. And in a sense, Orwell and Malcolm can be seen as examples of minimizing all needless labels and ideologies to two distinct ones: those who see people as people and those who see rather labels, ideologies, races or creeds.
This is not to say of course that stances cannot be token or alliances formed to have a consequence on the world or for any other reason or ought one can ascribe to brotherhood. But ultimately, same as there is a distinction between acting out of compassion and acting out of courtesy (false or insincere kindness) so there is a distinction between acting out of humanity and acting out of ideology. While the former is universal and grounded in compassion, the latter is limiting and grounded in the tribal instinct to form ties to ensure that one will go on existing. Failing to be moral in the strictest sense of one’s motives (though one can still have a moral effect on the world giving certain assumptions of ought) through failing to see the humanity in others and be concerned for them for their own sake.