Forum Post: Martin Luther King, Jr. was a radical & his wise words below are highly relevant today. We should use his playbook. It works.
Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 19, 2012, 5:51 a.m. EST by therising
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Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from the Birmingh Jail" spoke directly to the issue that is facing occupy today: do we push from the inside or the outside? King said its not one or the other, it's both. Through masterful nonviolent direct action and clever handling of the press, King's brand of nonviolence because a real force.
"The Letter from the Birmingham jail is wonderful (aimed mostly at white ministers who were sitting on the sidelines -- "the appalling silence of the good people"). Early on in the letter, King talks about creating tension to bring people to the negotiating table. He says:
"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
"The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation."
Here's the entire "Letter from the Birmingham Jail": http://abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html . It's a treasure and is as timely as ever.
Direct action with large numbers of people can make a real difference. Consider this other quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., an occupier from back in the day: "A delegation of poor people can walk into a high official’s office with a carefully, collectively prepared list of demands. (If you’re poor, if you’re unemployed anyway, you can choose to stay in Washington as long as the struggle needs you.) And if that official says, ‘But Congress would have to approve this,’ or, ‘But the President would have to be consulted on that,’ you can say, ‘All right, we’ll wait.’ And you can settle down in his office for as long a stay as necessary."
What we're talking about here is forcing the hand of congress nonviolently as has been done before. Gandhi and King's tactics work. Let's use them.