Listen to Martin

Howard Zinn was just on Democracy Now explaining how he wished Obama would do more than pay lip service to Martin Luther King. I blogged earlier about how people notice that MLK’s work and writings from 1965 until he was killed are deep sixed into the media memory hole. A spirituality site has an interesting quote by him, but it’s the development of these ideas that make him interesting.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-centered" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, expect a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood and sisterhood. We still have a chance today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

What Obama should be reading to Geitner and his other Wall Street Buddies is the rest of _Where We Go From Here, Chaos or Community_, and probably the same title _Chaos or Community_ by South End Press and Z contributor Holly Sklar. (Actually I haven’t read anything else by MLK, so there might be even more appropriate readings for the ‘masters of the universe’)

This revolution of values must go beyond the traditional capitalism and Communism. We must honestly admit that capitalism has often left a gulf between superfluous wealth adn abject poverty, has created conditions permitting the necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few, and has encourage[d] smallhearted men to become cold and conscienceless [Cheney on Torture] so that, like Dives before Lazarus, the are unmoved by suffering, poverty-stricken humanity. The profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cutthroat competition adn selfish ambition that inspire men to be more I-centered than thou-centered. Equally, Communism reduces men to a cog in the wheel of the state. The Communist my object, saying in Marxian theory the state is an "interim reality" that will "wither away" when the classless society emerges. True – in theory; but it is also true that, while the state lasts, it is an end in itself. Man is a means to that end. He has no inalienable rights. His only rights are derived from, and conferred by, the state. Under such a system the fountain of freedom runs dry. Restricted are man’s [people's, human beings'] liberties of press and assembly, his freedom to vote and his freedom to listen and to read.


Capitalism fails to realize that life is social. Communism fails to realize that life is personal. The good and just society is neither the thesis of capitalism nor the antithesis of Communism, but a socially conscious democracy which reconciles the truths fo individualism and collectivism.

We have seen moves in this direction…. At the same time, through constant social reforms, we have seen many modifications in laissez faire capitalism. The problems we now face must take us beyond slogans for their solution. In the final analysis, the right-wing slogans on "government control" and "creeping socialism" are as meaningless and adolescent [prepubescent, juvenile] as teh Chinese Red Guard slogans against "bourgeois revisionism."…

A true revolution of value will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only and initial act. One day teh whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed [foreclosed] as the make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring

Was MLK an anarchist pareconnist or something? He talks about the "tedious" work of organizing tenants and neighborhoods to defend their rights and make their demands. It reads like Cynthia Peters and the strategic talk after the big Globalization demonstrations. And he’s writing 40 years ago. Why don’t more of us know more of this?

This is the Howard Zinn segment that finally pushed me enough to blog some of _Chaos or Community_.

HOWARD ZINN: I wish President Obama would listen carefully to Martin Luther King. I’m sure he pays verbal homage, as everyone does, to Martin Luther King, but he ought to think before he sends missiles over Pakistan, before he agrees to this bloated military budget, before he sends troops to Afghanistan, before he opposes the single-payer system, which you talked about earlier in your program. He ought to ask, “What would Martin Luther King do? And what would Martin Luther King say?” And if he only listened to King, he would be a very different president than he’s turning out to be so far. I think we ought to hold Obama to his promise to be different and bold and to make change. So far, he hasn’t come through on that promise.

AMY GOODMAN: When Barack Obama was running for president, asked in the debates who would MLK endorse, who would Dr. King endorse, he said, “None of us.”

HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, that’s true, because King believed—and this actually is one of the themes of our people’s history, is that you cannot depend on presidents, and you cannot depend on elections and voting to solve your problems. People themselves, organizing, demonstrating, clamoring, they are the only ones who can push the President and push Congress into change.

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