Defeat Apathy. Improve Society. (A model and an encouragement to do something small for a huge purpose.)
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Most people want to affect the world for good, yet through apathy, many of us do nothing to make it happen. Apathy is based on believing that either we or our efforts will not make a difference. Knowing self and living the purpose we create and pursue alleviates apathy.
When we push through apathy, small actions may make a massive difference. Something as simple as reading an article or book, interpreting and applying it for yourself, and taking any action based on new, personalized insights produces some of the good we wish to see in the world.
With that in mind, I offer the second full chapter of my upcoming book, Superhero You! and Society. It is simultaneously something for you to engage with and a model of how I did the same with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, work. It’s long for a post here, I know; however, I believe it will resonate with some readers and evoke action from others.
Chapter 2 — The Rationale and Justification for the Work of Justice
As I continue reading Dr. King’s letter, I am reminded of something Walt Whitman wrote about readers and writers: “Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does” (Whitman 500–501). [Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Selected Prose. Edited by James E. Miller, Jr., University of Chicago, 1959.] Writing presents the reader with a choice: Will we give breath and life to the words, or shall they lie static, unused, and unenergized on the page?
This letter from Dr. King illustrates that when something moves one’s mind and soul, action must follow or the impetus of those words die. When he read injustice not only in the laws and writings of the past but also in the horrible practices of the inhumanity expressed in his time, he could not sit still. He acted in response to the letter that those seven clergymen had published: “…I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” (King 2). Even though the words were aimed as an arrow at him, he still took action: their words prompted a response that galvanized oppressed and awakened souls.
I must ask myself some questions and decide on my responses. Do I see injustices in my time that vibrate along the same frequencies as the rabid bigots and segregationists of Dr. King’s time? If so, how will I give voice to my feelings? Do I need to do so? If, in fact, as Dr. King writes in this portion, we are all “tied together in a single garment of destiny” (King 2), how do I show that?
I want to give life to the words. I want others to feel the sharpness, roughness, and uneasiness of injustice. I chew them up for others to taste the hatred, the injustice, and the possibilities. I project these words onto a screen to show the shadows and demons as well as the bright prospects produced by love triumphing over hate. I yawp them to shatter the silence and stillness of those who sit placidly pretending all is well. I waft the stench of inhumanity and injustice that has been institutionalized, believed, and adopted as “normal,” and just as surely, I diffuse the sweet aroma of spiritual awakening, understanding, mutual appreciation, and valuation of fellow souls. Yes, I respond to these words, Dr. King, and here is my engagement.
Even though many may reject our expressions of love, anything done in love is from Spirit. (Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)The Love Letter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963
Working for justice should not really require justification or a rationale, but ego doesn’t like the idea of justice for all — only justice for me, justice for those who are like me. Egotists will often make self-righteous demands from those who seek to act for the oppressed. Slave owners argued that they provided for their slaves. Segregationists claimed that African Americans had schools, hospitals, and access to facilities for people of their race. Today, egotists claim that all is equal and integrated and if a minority feels oppressed, it’s their own fault because laws are in place, the Civil Rights Act has been passed, as well as the Voting Rights Act — even though the last has required being readdressed and extended into the 21st century.
Yes, the laws exist; however, who were they written by, and how are they enforced? When anyone takes a stand against oppressive practices, they are branded as lawbreakers and trouble makers. And so, egotists require an explanation from those working for justice.
Approaching this second paragraph in Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail,” I sense an honest, sincere love and respect — for all. He didn’t mind giving them the rationale they demanded. To me, this is a love letter. Dr. King expresses his love for his fellow clergymen, for people of color, for society in general, and even for those who oppress. Some may stumble at a love that would embrace enemies, but only love prompts anyone to shed light into the darkness of those oppressing them for the purpose of establishing a relationship.
Only love takes the time to arrange such an analysis, as Dr. King does, of problem situations with the goals of love and peace and mutual happiness. Only love would carry someone through so many years of relentless work and even more relentless criticism, attacks, and hatred in response to that work.
People who hate, oppress, and reject those who are different than themselves pervert their hatred into some sort of twisted expression of love, but they only clamor for love for their own ways of life, their own race, their own brand of religion. They pass off as love laws that denigrate, destroy, and enslave others; that’s not love. It’s simply disuised hatred.
True love does not require us to hate others, destroy others, or prevent others’ goals of happiness. The false love of the self-righteous doesn’t make anyone or anything great, especially a nation. Such love is veiled hatred. Such love attempts to redefine the word, perverts it, and confuses it. Such love infects rather than inspires. Unfortunately, such hatred called love abounds in our time.
Some recent examples may help. When legislators limit increases in minimum wage, they are knowingly affecting African Americans in a disproportionate way. When abortion bans go into effect and health service providers like Planned Parenthood are defunded, blacks are once again disproportionately hurt. Even as I begin this, I feel overwhelmed because the scope of this work isn’t to deeply examine political and social constructs of injustice. I could write about these examples and more: criminal sentencing inequities, underrepresentation of people of color in virtually all aspects of our society, lending and banking policies, and other issues.
I know the arguments that strict, right-wing, quasi-religious, power brokers put forth — these laws and actions are good for the country, most people just don’t see the big picture, and other arguments. Those who oppress through actions like limiting or eliminating health care and holding down minimum wages do so in order to preserve their power, maintain control, and increase their wealth. The arguments of the rich knowing the best courses of action for everyone else has nothing to do with love, freedom, or equal rights.
Dr. King knew the values embedded in the foundational documents of America intended equalities and freedoms for all concerned. He worked to appropriate those for African Americans and other minorities to claim freedom. He understood that true social, civil, and legal freedom for people of color would mean freedom for everyone, not only because “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” (King 2) but also because he saw the need for “carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” (King 20). That awareness marks love, for he knows that it will benefit the oppressors, too.
On page one of the nineteen pages, the second paragraph of the letter continues to show the Heart-energized spirit of Dr. King in employing logic and rationale — not a disingenuous rationalization. He answers the accusation that his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, are “outsiders coming in” to stir up trouble. He lays out the scope of the Conference’s work that extended to eighty-five locations, Birmingham being one.
The leadership of the Conference in Birmingham asked for help, if they deemed it beneficial. King assented and explains this to the white clergymen he addresses: “So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am here because I have basic organizational ties here.” This logical, firm refutation of one of the objections in the open letter from the clergymen exposes one underlying sentiment of the time: African Americans who desired freedom were considered agitators and threats to the white power base.
Once he has given the mind’s logic, Dr. King continues with his Heart-energized soul-light — a balanced blend of mind and soul evident when Heart is engaged rather than Ego. That first sentence of this paragraph reveals an expression of his soul’s purpose: “Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” (King 2). Understanding and feeling this, he had to act: love, go, and shed light: “I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town” (King 2). His purpose must show itself in loving care for others.
Before ending, I make some applications. When anyone discovers self and creates purpose, this is Heart-energy, Heart-work. Such awakening and spiritual consciousness helps us discover personal truth and produces fulfillment, significance, and self-love. Spiritual awakening and consciousness, then, precede effective social justice.
Debate, governance, legislation, and policy should be engaged in the energy of heart. Heart energy recognizes that each creature in this Universe contains the essence of Spirit and is inherently valuable. This knowledge will not eliminate challenges as to best courses of action, which is as it should be. We thrive when faced with challenges, but challenges answered in ego energy, at best, temporarily offer relief without resolution, and at worst, corrupt us to the core. To not awaken is to live primarily under ego-energy, and when that predominates, ugliness, unhappiness, and more will result: hatred, racism, or any variety of ill will.
And there sat Birmingham then. And here sits America now. The current call by a minority in the United States — significant and vocal — for some fairy-tale nation with a superiority complex thrown in the face of racial, cultural, and ethnic minorities here and the world abroad is unnecessary if we are acting on the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. We do the work, live the spirit, and evolve in “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Angry, hateful, boasting efforts to prove we are better will automatically erode, deny, or outright destroy those “certain unalienable rights.”
Dr. King exemplifies someone who was awakened, created purpose, and lived it. He was someone who expanded and came closer to fulfilling the spirit and unforeseen blessing of those founding documents, which weren’t always lived back then but must be recognized and pursued, lest they die. Lest we die. Evolving, progressing, facing challenges, and responding with Heart are good things. Genuine love.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!