Martin Luther King, Jr delivered this speech in Atlanta, Georgia at the Southern Christian Leadership Council. I heard an excerpt of it yesterday on the new Sirius Left radio show of Dave Marsh called The Land of Hope and Dreams. I then went on line and got a copy of it. Well, it's another eye opener and it's another reminder of the paucity of ideas and the lack of eloquence in our politics today.
King talked in terms of philosophy not ideology. He spoke of Engels, Marx and Trotsky and how they got it wrong and then explains it by using the philosopher Hegel and Jesus. Communism forgets the individual and Capitalism forgets the social. God, I love that. I've often used a bit of Hegel on my weekly radio showin Bozeman, Montana; Uncle Thesis, and Auntie Thesis begetting little Syni Thesis. This is for what I hunger and thirst; real discourse and uplifting rhetoric. Not more weasel words and management speak.
This particular passage hit me between the eyes:
I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about "Where do we go from here?" that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. (Yes) There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. (Yes) And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. (Yes) But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. (All right) It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" (Yes) You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" (Yes) You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?" (All right) These are words that must be said. (All right)
Now, don't think you have me in a bind today. I'm not talking about communism. What I'm talking about is far beyond communism. (Yeah) My inspiration didn't come from Karl Marx (Speak); my inspiration didn't come from Engels; my inspiration didn't come from Trotsky; my inspiration didn't come from Lenin. Yes, I read Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital a long time ago (Well), and I saw that maybe Marx didn't follow Hegel enough. (All right) He took his dialectics, but he left out his idealism and his spiritualism. And he went over to a German philosopher by the name of Feuerbach, and took his materialism and made it into a system that he called "dialectical materialism." (Speak) I have to reject that.
What I'm saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. (Speak) [applause] It is found in a higher synthesis (Come on) that combines the truths of both. (Yes) Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. (All right) These are the triple evils that are interrelated.
He then brings in Jesus:
Jesus realized something basic (Yes): that if a man will lie, he will steal. (Yes) And if a man will steal, he will kill. (Yes) So instead of just getting bogged down on one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again." [applause]
In other words, "Your whole structure (Yes) must be changed." [applause] A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them and make them things. (Speak) And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. (Yes) And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.
King is talking about "The Shock Doctrine" of the Miltie Friedman flim flam school. All Milton Friedman did was come up with a rationale for selfishness and greed. It was nothing new. It was just feudalism in a new shiny package. Joe Q. Public morphed into Joe Six Pack and the citizen became a consumer. And King was the most eloquent denouncer of the big con job of the neo-liberals. And so they killed him. And so incrementalism won and our democracy was swallowed whole and is moving ever slowly through the python.
We are in very dark times. We are also at a Great Turning. We can choose Empire or Democracy. We can choose "Me" or we can choose "we". We will need all our strength. And we must repeat Dr. King's words over and over. And those words are not "hope" and "change". Those words are:
let us go out with a divine dissatisfaction. (Yes)
Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. (All right)
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. (Yes sir)
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history (Yes), and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.
Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.
Let us be dissatisfied (All right) until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin. (Yeah) Let us be dissatisfied. [applause]
Let us be dissatisfied (Well) until every state capitol (Yes) will be housed by a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy, and who will walk humbly with his God.
Let us be dissatisfied [applause] until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Yes)
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together (Yes), and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes), and men will recognize that out of one blood (Yes) God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. (Speak sir)
Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, "White Power!" when nobody will shout, "Black Power!" but everybody will talk about God's power and human power.
And he ended that speech as he ended all his speeches with a call to have courage because the road would be rocky and more people would die as we all "stride toward the city of freedom." I have a hard time today getting on board with Dr. King. After"The Shock Doctrine" that chronicles how people make money on disasters and now "Legacy of Ashes" that chronicles the deeds of the selfish men of the Skull and Bones club called the C.I.A, it's pretty hard to not curl up in a ball of despair. The economists of the "Shock Doctrine" and the agents of "Legacy of Ashes" are ,between them, responsible for millions of deaths. Some of those deaths were quick and violent. Others were slow and painful as people died of disease and hunger all for some false god of greed.
Before I start to curl up even further I will end with Dr. King's words from the end of his speech. Maybe it will cheer me up. Maybe not. My hope was that Americans would finally choose to follow Dr. King and fight against this structure that has enslaved us all. But with the front runners we have right now, I can no longer be optimistic. But here is Dr. King:
Let this affirmation be our ringing cry. (Well) It will give us the courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. (Yes) When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair (Well), and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights (Well), let us remember (Yes) that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil (Well), a power that is able to make a way out of no way (Yes) and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. (Speak)
Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Let us realize that William Cullen Bryant is right: "Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again." Let us go out realizing that the Bible is right: "Be not deceived. God is not mocked. (Oh yeah) Whatsoever a man soweth (Yes), that (Yes) shall he also reap." This is our hope for the future, and with this faith we will be able to sing in some not too distant tomorrow, with a cosmic past tense, "We have overcome! (Yes) We have overcome! Deep in my heart, I did believe (Yes) we would overcome."
Let's us be dissatisfied; divinely dissatisfied!