Taharka Ekundayo, ne Anthony Lennon, has lit up a path to self-advancement that I’m prepared to follow even at my advanced age.
Taharka (Tony for short?) is a white actor and theatrical art director who some years ago decided he was black at heart.
That didn’t mean he considered himself irredeemably wicked. His self-discovery wasn’t moral but racial: he self-identified as a black man even though there wasn’t a single drop of tar in his family barrel.
“I was at a stage in my life where to address myself as Anthony Lennon did not fulfil me; it didn’t seem to allow me to express myself as I saw fit,” explained Taharka-Tony. “I prefer to call myself an African born again.”
The cynic in me would point out that Taharka-Tony’s ability to express himself after his rebirth was boosted no end by a £100,000 Arts Council grant for ‘theatre practitioners of colour’, for which he qualified on the strength of his newly discovered identity.
But then the unabashed believer in free choice takes over, silencing my internal cynic and shaming him into a humiliating retreat.
The implications are theological, more specifically Christian. For free choice springs from free will, God’s greatest gift to us.
Originally the concept only meant the ability to make a free choice between good and evil. But the human race evolves, thanks to Darwin.
Therefore over time our God-given free will has acquired new dimensions, such as political and economic.
Politically we can make a free choice among politicians we don’t know from Adam (an appropriate Biblical reference, if I say so myself). The choice may not always be informed, but it’s always free.
Hence we rejoice at the sight of the nonentities we’ve freely chosen to govern us, leading us on the road to liberty and prosperity for all, amen. Or else on the road leading to the outskirts of the German empire, which is fine too – we’ve freely chosen our representatives who’re now free to do as they see fit.
Some of us may notice that exercising this particular freedom unfailingly elevates to government those unfit to govern, but that’s not the point, is it? The point is that we’re free to choose, with thanks to Milton Friedman, who put this phrase in the title of his book.
Prof. Friedman applied the phrase to economics, specifically consumer power. For it’s our freedom to choose synthetic over natural fibres and frozen pizzas over fresh fish that drives economic competition – which isn’t only a good thing, but, according to Prof. Friedman, the only thing that matters.
Now progress is nothing if not expansive. New concepts gather strength in one area, and then effortlessly segue into others.
As a life-long progressivist myself, I’m ecstatic that, for example, the notion of evolutionary natural selection has left its original confines of biology to blaze new trails in social, political, economic and cultural life.
In one era, out the other, I say. Anything new is by definition better than anything old, just as anything big is better than anything small (although I’ve spent a lifetime trying to disabuse women of this notion).
Thus I’m happy that the goodness of free choice is now available in the areas that have hitherto suffered from reactionary determinism. Such as sex – pardon me, gender.
The chromosomal determinism of ‘XX, you’re a woman; XY, you’re a man’ used to block the concept of free choice from entering this domain. Well, no longer.
If we’re free to choose our socks or underwear, why can’t we choose – freely! – our sex? Never mind the chromosomes, feel the free choice. We are what we say we are, and that’s all there is to it.
In the past, exercising our free will in this area involved complex surgical procedures. But then more progress kicked in, and this is no longer necessary.
A man can keep his bits and still declare he now identifies as a woman, which is tantamount to kicking in doors to women’s lavatories and showers. (Not yet invariably though, as I found out trying to gain access to the women’s showers at my tennis club, by claiming that I identified as a woman for the next 20 minutes.)
A physician reader of mine was recently asked to treat a female patient who had presented with prostate cancer, which by the sound of him he found ludicrous. Oh well, I can’t choose my readers, and some are obviously less committed to the notion of free choice than I am.
Long live women with prostates and men with cervixes, provided they chose their new identities freely. Penis envy? Not to worry: just have one sewn on, and Freud can go suck his cigar.
Now Taharka-Tony reminds us that free choice can be extended to race as easily as to sex. Moreover the choice can be not only free but also profitable, provided you play your cards right, meaning fraudulently.
So, with thanks to Taharka-Tony, I hereby declare that I’ve discovered my true Chinese identity. I’ve seen the right, as we say in China.
You may expose your reactionary nature by objecting that I don’t look Chinese. But Taharka-Tony doesn’t look black either, yet he collected the Arts Council shilling faster than you can say “I’s socioeconomically disadvantaged”.
From now on, I wish to be known as Boot Alexander, not Alexander Boot (in China we put the surname first, as in Mao Zedong, not Zedong Mao).
I’ll be using the masculine and feminine personal pronouns interchangeably (as in “my wife is overusing his credit card”), with the added benefit of stressing the fluidity of sex identity.
I’ll dispense with the plural endings (as in “we’re governed by many spiv”). And I’ll replace the whitey system of English tenses with the Chinese way of putting everything in the present, as in “before he become black, Taharka-Tony is white”.
And if you find anything wrong with any of this, I’ll report you to the Commission for Racial Equality.
Does anybody have their email address? And give me the one for the Arts Council while you’re at it. It’s time to cash in my Chinese chips.