On Strategy

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

Lester A. Knibbs aka Doctor Hakeem

I was a student of strategy before I knew what strategy was.

Growing up in Harlem meant knowing not to walk down certain streets. Most streets, actually. The avenues were okay — Amsterdam (where I lived), Broadway, Convent Avenue, and St. Nicholas Avenue — but streets had to be picked carefully. One-hundred-and-forty-ninth Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Convent Avenue, was where we played ball games and other games. We had a friendly rivalry with 150th Street, and nobody lived on 148th Street (except one kid, who always needed a haircut).

One day — overcome with loneliness — I decided to walk down the hill on 151st Street from Amsterdam to Convent Avenue. I was nine years old and tired of getting beat up. They’d say, “You talk too proper,” call me a faggot, and beat me up. I got tired of this, and started spending most of my time alone. But, apparently, walking down 151st Street was a mistake. Almost immediately, I was surrounded by a bunch of local kids. They said they were going to beat me up, and none of my boys could help me. Of course, mentioning my boys was a mistake on their part. My boys were the ones who beat me up all the time. Why would they help me? Obviously, this menacing little gang had no idea who I was.

I said to them, “You’re not going to beat me up, and I don’t need my boys to help me.” Then I casually walked through the gap in their circle that was directly in front of me in my path down the hill. As I calmly walked toward Convent Avenue, I desperately wanted to look back and see what they were doing, but it would have ruined the effect. I kept walking, and that was the end of it.

For years and years — actually only about four years, but that is a lifetime to a boy — I had allowed myself to get beat up, because my loving mother had told me not to fight. Desperate to be good and desperately in love with my mother, I obeyed her and allowed myself to get beat up — even though I was neither physically weak nor mentally frightened. (Which is to say, I was not a punk coward.)

I think puberty had started by the time I was eleven. I had no idea what it was — and that is a long story, in itself. But, I remember that when I got into a big fight I hadn’t forgot what my mother said and I hadn’t decided to disobey her. For whatever reason — and I think the juices of puberty were taking over my mind — I just was not thinking about what my mother said.

One day, I had gotten into a shouting match (about what, I don’t remember) with a bunch of guys — ten or 15 of them — all from the same fifth-grade class, Mrs. Wortman’s class at P.S. 186. I was in Mrs. Frankel’s sixth-grade class, at the time.

We agreed to “have it out” in the schoolyard during the lunch period the next day. I don’t know what they were expecting, but I was excited. All of them against me. Years of pent-up energy were about to be released.

What the other boys in my neighborhood didn’t know was that my brother and I were going regularly to the Harlem YMCA on 135th Street. We got plenty of exercise — calisthenics, swimming, running around the track. I was no weakling.

Something else those boys didn’t know, something I’m still trying to understand myself, is that I had a sense of strategy. My theory is that it came from years of reading books — the World Book Encyclopedia (actually written for at least a high school level of education) and so many other books — and years of studying serious music. Serious music inculcates a sense of logic — and a spirit of determination — which are necessary for success in any struggle against an adversary. (Ignorantly, most people think music — “serious” or not — is just for entertainment.)

When the lunch period came, we “had it out”. They jumped on me. All of them against just me, all by myself. I went down and, as best I can recall, I spent the entire fight on my back. But I was having fun. And I was inflicting pain. I hadn’t thought it out, but by lying on my back I had freed my arms and legs for combat, while protecting my back from assault. I remember that whenever someone tried to kick me, I grabbed his leg and brought him down. And then I hurt him. Seeing their friend hurt and crying out in pain made the others hesitant. In effect — even though there were at least ten and maybe 15 of them — I was only fighting one guy at a time.

When the school bell rang, I remember seeing those guys so happy to run into the school building. I had won. And it was fun! I wasn’t even bruised or bleeding.

Only years later did I connect this schoolyard fight to what happened around the block. For me, school was another world — even though it was only four blocks away, on 145th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway. So, the notion that what had happened in the schoolyard had anything to do with my life on 149th Street simply did not occur to me.

What happened on 149th Street was that nobody wanted to fight me. Frustrating. I wanted to fight. When somebody got bad with me, I got up in his face and said, “Oh yeah?” And he would back down. Nobody would fight me. I just thought they were cowards. It did not occur to me that their fear of me had anything to do with the big fight in the schoolyard.

This has affected my attitude toward my fellow African American men to this day. They are willing to ambush me (they’ve tried), or engage in a collective beat-down (they’ve tried). But they will not engage in intelligent conversation. (They won’t admit this, because self-awareness scares them even more than I do.)

We African American people are in a war. Refusing to acknowledge it makes matters worse. (Uniformed government officials murder us without hesitation and without remorse, and other government officials fail to indict, charge, try, or convict them, despite the clearest evidence. This has been happening, without let-up, for 150 years. I call it war. What do you call it?)

The people — the Europeans (so-called “white people”) — who have conquered the world are at war with us. They exterminated 90% of the original inhabitants of the western continents, with no regrets to this day, and enslaved our forebears, forcing them to enable their progress toward world domination, technological progress, and extreme wealth. They are a ruthless and clever enemy.

They know that our ancestors were literate, educated, intelligent, and decent people. They know that our lives matter. They know that if they allow us to prosper, we will become the dominant population in this nation — that we will change their world. And that we will humiliate them by making the world a better place than the crime-ridden and oppressive cesspool they have re-created after having fled the crime-ridden and oppressive cesspool of Medieval Europe.

In order to reclaim human dignity, we must struggle. This is a war. War is strategy. The best strategy ends up minimizing physical violence — but you cannot hope for victory against a determined adversary if he knows that you have ruled out physical violence. But war is about strategy, not about physical violence.

Among other things, strategy requires study. If you do not study history — not just the history of strategy in warfare, but the history of peoples and nations in general — then you cannot develop a sense of strategy.

Strategy requires deception. For example, in preparation for the successful crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 war against the Little Abomination that had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptians had purchased advanced fire-fighting equipment from Germany. The powerful hoses were used to blast holes in the massive earth-works the evil Little Abomination had erected on the east side of the Canal. Artillery would have been ineffective. The adversary thought the Egyptians were buying equipment to fight fires. By the time the Little Abomination knew what was happening, the Egyptians had blasted holes in the earth-works and moved their military forces thirty miles behind enemy lines.

We live in a society that uses music for entertainment. What is not understood is that symphonic music is a vast cornucopia of strategic moves. Whatever the original composers intended — Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and others — the music inculcates a sense of logical consequence, of patient preparation, of setting up and either fulfilling or disappointing expectations, a spirit of determination, and an extended attention span. Listening to symphonic music enhances your muscle tone (as documented in an article in the technical publication Acta Musicologica over 50 years ago), your emotional development, your intellectual capacity, and your spiritual sensitivity.

For several decades, I have been urging African American men (especially African American Muslim men) to listen to symphonic music. (Not to classical music, although I may have used that term in the past — not to the operas of Verdi and others, or to the waltzes of Johann Strauss Jr., because these are not examples of symphonic music.) I don’t care if you like it. You are not children. As adults (and unfortunately, as corporate slaves), you do many things you don’t like — because they are necessary, or you expect them to be helpful.

You have been brainwashed into the conviction that music is simply a form of entertainment. The part of your brain necessary for actually hearing music is, in fact, not functioning. When you listen to a symphonic movement — I recommend the first movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony — and crudely (and I do mean crudely, as I have often done) sing along with it, move to it, pretend to be performing it, eventually the mental faculty of being able to actually hear symphonic music will begin to function. You will begin to anticipate how it goes, follow its logic.

The Vietnamese War was won by brains over brawn. The leaders of Vietnam had the brains. The United State had the brawn — an overwhelming advantage in technology, weapons, and manpower. The United States lost. A clear example of superior strategy — brains — defeating brawn.

Listening to symphonic music — love it or hate it — will give you a clear advantage over any adversary who thinks his overwhelming material resources will give him victory.

Once again, I am offering my services as a guide. What I have shared in these writings and other writings is barely even a hint of what I can offer you in face-to-face conversation, or in live presentation. (While I am alive. Allah willing, I am over 70 years of age.) I have over 65 years of preparation behind me. Do you want it or not?

“The ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr.”

“Seek knowledge, even if in China.”

You know how to reach me.

This entry was posted in Autobiography, Current Events, History, Identity, music, Reality. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *