Monday, January 17, 2011

Bored on MLK day...

It's MLK day, which means an excuse to do nothing and watch loads of daytime basketball on TV right? I made a delicious batch of challah French toast and sat down in front of the tube, but since the Nets are so hard to watch and the Knicks can't defend their way out of a paper bag, I had a lot of time to think.

Sometimes the civil rights movement feels like two hundred years ago. I was born in the 80's and I'm from the North and the struggles I heard about in school never felt current and applicable. In reality, my parents were in their early twenties when the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965) were passed into legislation. That was the apex of the movement and it was only 15 years before I was born!

I try to remember that timeline when I get frustrated with the state of race relations in this country and need a positive outlook. The movement is still far away from its ultimate goal, for sure. But at least it's getting better, at least some people learned, and at least things that were commonplace not more than 50 years ago are now taboo and widely considered over the line. As they should be. For fucks sake, there were separate water fountains in the south when my folks were getting married...that's super scary.

Fairly recently I read something that said the mainstream media has it in their best interest to tout the King agenda and his peaceful form of resistance. Their point was that the counter movements, particularly the Black Panther Party, played a large role in the formation of change but don't make contemporary history as often due to their progressive, and often violent policies. The whole COINTELPRO fiasco was proof positive of that, in a way. The government was so terrified about these movements organizing together and having a unified voice that the FBI intervened with dangerous, and almost childish policies to try and incite anger between the groups.

This isn't meant to degrade what Dr. King did in any way, because his perspective and ability to lead were absolutely necessary. But it's possible that completely pacifist movements often fail to cause the reaction they need to. Sometimes the mix of ideas and action might really be the only way.

I want to believe in pacifism, but I'm not certain if the entire concept is naive....what do you guys think??


  1. Agreed, though the first challenge to authority should be peaceful. If that fails, then yes, a violent reaction is necessary (see the American Revolution for reference).

  2. I would like to believe that nonviolent protesting is the only way that could make a difference, but I feel like sometimes people don't understand that something needs to change until things become violent. I don't like that idea at all, but I feel like humans are still just plain violent by nature, and that's really upsetting to me. If that's what's necessary, then so be it, but I would hate the idea that somebody needs to get hurt before things change.

  3. For some reason, and maybe it's just because it was on Spike earlier, this brought to mind the discussion between Sonny and C in "A Bronx Tale" about whether it's better to be loved or feared. Sonny says "I would rather be feared. Fear lasts longer than love...fear keeps them loyal to me. The trick is not being hated."

    I guess since violence inspires fear (obviously), then that gets more attention and respect than peaceful protest.

  4. My dad was born in 1938. I am 25. I have a hard time thinking about the sheer magnitude of what has happened between his mid 20's and mine.

    Unfortunately, being nice doesn't always work. There will always be something negative that you're up against and it's not going to respond well to kind requests. What matters is how justified certain actions are and I won't for a second claim to be or know the person who is capable of determining right from wrong, justified from unjustified, and so on and so forth.

    I don't even like admitting that force and visible anger is sometimes necessary but I'd be wearing blinders if I said it's not.

  5. Given the saying that "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist", violence is open to mis-interpretation in a way that non-violence is not. In that sense, non-violence also occupies the moral high ground. But, to paraphrase the Clash, by the time 'they kick in my front door', I'd probably no longer care about the moral high ground.
    As it happens, I am just now reading 'The Death of Sigmund Freud: Fascism, Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Fundamentalism' by Mark Edmundson. Freud has a lot to say about why people are drawn to authority, as did Erich Fromm, whose 'Escape From Freedom' I thoroughly recommend. This need for authority brings about many of the circumstances within which others, who don't subscribe to that authority, face the decision whether to resist violently or not. Sadly, people's basic psychological make-up is unlikely to change any day soon.

  6. I don't think violence will solve anything, has it ever really solved anything? It's just made a,lot of things worse then they allready were

  7. Sometimes change in dramatic fashion is in such opposition to the status quo that a catalyst is required. If the system itself is failing than a pacifistic approach within the boundaries of the system may be doomed for failure.

  8. The world today scares the hell out of me. It is hard to have a positive outlook. Maybe I am naive, but I feel that if we put out that positive, hopeful energy that we will be able to do greater things. I do have faith that one day people might start to develop the necessary critical thinking skills to determine that there are many other things that we can be worrying about other than which race and religion someone comes from, or is affiliated with. (Which I am still flabbergasted that this is still an issue. But, apparently we never learn from the past!) That is what is lacking, good critically thinking skills. People cannot think for themselves anymore. We are just told that this is the truth and people believe it. They do not read books, or research, or talk to people to gain insight. They rely on the "stronger" to say that this is how it ought to be and this war is necessary to achieve it. Blah blah blah. People do not want to go against who is stronger. But, you don't need to bulldoze down nations with violence to prove something. If we worked together, shit would run a lot smoother, I think. The human race will continue to evolve (hopefully!) and maybe as time goes by the need for violence will lessen. I don't know. I would never fight for something, unless I believed in AND learned about it. The only way that I will fight is with my words, because my words are a lot stronger than my fists, that is for sure.

  9. I believe alot of it has to do with timing. I work for a small organization and it can take months or years for change to be adopted. If you look at local, state, or federal government, it may take 5-10-50yrs for change to be effective. Major change happens in typically a painfully slow process. Thus counter-movements & revolutions can incite change quicker because ppl or gov'ts must react (tho sometimes violently).