Martin Luther King Day, 2006.
What I see is that within the United States, while there still exists a very serious problem of racial inequality and discrimination, it is being transformed into a much more subtle, but more difficult to identify and fix, inequality based on income status. Because of the effects of past discriminatory acts, including the brutal after-effects of slavery, and the ongoing effects of restricted opportunity in the “post slavery” period, it just so happens that a large percentage of those people racially discriminated against also are in a disadvantaged economic strata. However, today, regardless of skin color, people who are disadvantaged, whether Black, Hispanic, White, immigrant, “native” born (interesting concept for a country that basically tried to eliminate the Native Americans to take over the land for the immigrants of those days), on a financial level basically are being shut out.
Looking first at the skin color debate, it is interesting to note that ALL humans on the planet are essentially identical. The difference between a “black”, “yellow”, “red”, “white” person are essentially ONE gene for pigmentation of the skin out of MILLIONS of genes. If we look at what is the SAME on a genetic level, we can find that all humans share more than 99% of all the same genes. The human race is ONE race and thus, “racial” inequality is an artificial concept devised by those who have seized power by use of brute force of some sort at some time in history to keep the rest of the populace defenceless, poor and victimized. Clearly, different societal groupings of people in different parts of the world have developed their own unique cultural expressions and focus, but this has nothing to do with “racial” differences. There is only one human race. The differences occasioned by a single “skin color” gene are no greater than a “hair color” gene or an “eye color” gene. This purely cosmetic difference, in some cases an adaptation due to differing living conditions (darker skin color is extremely beneficial to the humans who live in areas where there is extreme sun intensity as it protects from various forms of skin cancer to which lighter skinned people are especially susceptible) over long millennia, dealing with the world-environment, has absolutely no relevance to the differentiation of people in a societal setting for purpose of allocation of resources.
For in the end, this is what it comes down to. People who seize power over the ages want to enslave large numbers of people to achieve their own financial ends. In the middle ages in Europe, there were “serfs” who were basically people enslaved to dukes and barons to do the farming, and other work, to provide the wealth that the rich, highly armed small group of “owners” enjoyed. As the world became more global in orientation, we saw the rise of the slave trade of stealing people out of one continent, transporting them under physical restraint to another continent, and using various techniques of control to create wealth for the new “owners”.
In today’s United States, progress that was being made to provide a balancing and offsetting force to assist those who have less opportunities due to past restrictions, has been badly eroded. Concepts like affirmative action, programs to support education, health care, community development, and aid for children, etc. are based on the reality that the sons and daughters of “privilege” based on past wrongs continue to get preference, and the sons and daughters of past oppression obviously need both opportunity and support to create a balance.
In the world being recreated by our present government, there is an attempt to roll back programs and throw us completely back into the “might makes right” and ‘wealth rules’ modes of the past, which the people of privilege want. Let’s look at the facts. If we look at the United States itself (including all its people not just those of the privileged classes) as having 5% of the world’s population, it is noted that we consume 25% of the world’s energy, create more than 25% of the world’s waste and pollution and if our “standard of living” were to become the de facto standard for all of humanity, it would take more than NINE planet earths to sustain this standard. It is clear that therefore, the people of privilege, both here in the US (and this is a much smaller percentage than all the US citizens) and those in other countries who have similar interests with the ruling class here, have a vested interest in SUPPRESSING and CONTROLLING whether financially, militarily or through psychological forces of manipulation, the rest of the world, so as to create an ongoing situation whereby this relatively small group of people has total control and power to dispose of the resources of the planet, allocating the vast majority to themselves, and allowing just enough to everyone else to keep them on the brink of starvation or struggling to get ahead a little bit.
This policy requires that opportunity for poor people in this country be restricted, which is what the current policies are doing. It requires that the “best” opportunity for poor people is to go into the military where they can be used effectively by this small ruling class to gain control over resources and people in other parts of the world, the most notable current example being our wars in the Middle East for the control of petroleum resources before people in other parts of the world get access or control over these resources.
Any policy that systematically gives tax cuts to the wealthiest 5% of the population, while cutting back student loans, health care support, and other policies meant to aid those who have been systematically oppressed in the past, clearly is intended to continue through the “free market economy” the policies of slavery, although in this case it is more economic slavery, which encompasses people of all skin pigmentation shades, albeit due to past history, it still falls predominantly on those of darker shades! Economic reports clearly indicate that as a result of the last few years of policy, the rich are getting much richer, while the poor are getting much poorer. The “economic boom” is inordinately going to the ultra-wealthy and leaving behind everyone else.
Any policy that determines that it is terrorism to kill 3000 civilians in New York (and it IS terrorism!) but that it is NOT terrorism to invade a country that had not attacked us, had not declared war on us, was NOT involved in the attack of 9/11, and thereby kill 30,000 or 90,000 innocent civilians, and lead to generations of suffering due to the effects of the war and damage to the infrastructure of the country (yes, I am talking about the Iraq war) is clearly a policy of a small ruling class attempting to maintain its control at any cost. There is also clearly a racial component here as well, as this ruling class has never really overcome their internal racial prejudice. The body counts we get are always basically US troops, but not really an understanding of the suffering and death we The United States have caused by our actions. Does anyone really know how many innocent Iraqi men, women and children died during our bombing and invasion? George Bush recently admitted to 30,000 which is on the low end of tabulations. How can we justify this for a country that in fact had not been an aggressor against our country?
We then look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This disaster clearly shows the callous disregard for the disenfranchised classes (again predominantly but not entirely composed of Black people) by our ruling elite. While the FEMA director was worried about how he could get his shirts pressed, and George Bush was complimenting him on a great job, people were being terrorized by government inaction in the face of a disaster that was known. Decades of neglect helped create the situation, where money intended for this purpose was spent to enhance the enjoyment of the ruling elite rather than strengthen the levies. And now, if we look at the consequences, the disenfranchised are systematically being dispersed, driven out, losing their homes and their property, and rich developers have greedy eyes for a government sponsored rebuilding and renovation that basically will go primarily to the ruling elite.
Martin Luther King was not afraid to tackle all of these questions. He tackled racial inequality. He tackled social inequality in the voting rights issues. He moved to economic inequality. He exposed the racism in our northern cities. He opposed the Vietnam war where the ruling class used its power to send disenfranchised young people to fight and die for their dream of world resource control. Martin Luther King saw that the issue was not just racial, but at a certain level, went beyond that to a ruling ethic that dominated much of human history.
At the same time, Martin Luther King understood that venting of anger does not solve the problem, and that systematic work needs to be done for people to recognize these problems, and begin to build a power internally to bring all the disenfranchised people of the society (and the world eventually) together through a common will and interest. His vision went beyond race, and he saw in his dreams Black and White children holding hands to create a better world. We need to work for issues that support opportunity, education, community development, building of community in a true fraternal sense, economic opportunity through cooperation with others, and by systematic and selective pressure on the ruling system to both effectuate positive change using our real power of numbers and choice, and to move our support to those individuals, groups and companies who are part of the large “underclass” rather than those who represent and enrich the ruling elite.
This is a big topic, of course, and there are many shades to the types of actions that we can undertake. Simply stated, if we begin to support community resources, small businesses, and environmentally friendly initiatives, if we begin to make choices that reduce our dependence on the exploitation of the world’s resources, and which bring us to healthier dietary and lifestyle choices, we are working on the solution.
This is meant to be a start of the discussion, not an end. There are so many options and ideas, and I encourage each and every one of my co-workers to find what moves you and dedicate yourself to that form of action, knowing that all of us together, each in his or her own way, can eventually bring about a more balanced and harmonious society and world, not based on greed and exploitation, but based on mutuality, harmony and balance.
The first change is always the hardest, and that is the change internal to ourselves. We call it the spiritual change. The changing of the heart and mind toward the underlying oneness that we all share on this planet and away from the viewpoints of separation and prejudice that create imbalances and disharmonies. Once we have done that, endless opportunities for positive action arise.
Blessings and best wishes to you all. Let us honor Dr. King for his inspiration,
his dedication, his true spirituality, and his example.
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