We are in the lead up to Christmas with its mixed meanings and messages in our society. Is Christmas about what we give or what we get or is it simply a time to forget the struggles? There are those out enjoying the Christmas markets while others struggle in poverty. Is there justice in a system that throws people out on the streets or employs people on uncertain employment contracts. Shouldn't a worker have the right to expect from their employment to earn enough on which to live? Is that how our economic system is running or is it focussed on the profits for the shareholders?
King (1968) was preparing for a march on Washington to demand peace and justice. He had no timidity about their demands. If the demand for justice is not responded to by the political leaders, he says that is not a failure of the protest movement. It is a failure of the political leaders (p 241). If there were to be a failure by the protest movement, it would be in their silence and inactivity. Our failure is our willingness to accept arguments for the status quo and not to stand up for truth and justice. There is no failure if we expose injustice and the failure of war. The failure is on the part of those who have the power to act but refuse to take action to address these issues, who use the excuses of a failed and failing system to maintain the status quo, who seek to silence the voices of discontent by arguing that it is not the way to gain justice in the system that has no intent of delivering justice.
This is clear to me but I know that in the face of the workplace, I will struggle with the arguments that are put forward when I challenge the unjust practices. My history is working within the system and like so many others, we have ingrained into our thinking the ways of this failing system. We struggle to shake the ways of thinking off and we fail to see the flaws in the arguments that keep the system going. This is our failure. Our failure is not the failure to conform. We conform too easily and fail to standup for justice and peace.
King talks of the promise of equality in the American constitution and that they are going to demand that equality (p 241). There may be no such declaration or promise in many countries but this shouldn't stop us standing up for equality and justice, and pointing out the contradictions in the claims of political and religious leaders. The current British prime minister claims her Christian faith drives her but she clearly shows that she doesn't understand its call for justice. She will pass blame rather than solve problems. She tries to place baggage of guilt on those who raise failures in policies that she promotes rather than address the failures in those policies. Our political system is based on points scoring and not on solving problems. I doubt whether we will ever see our political system resolve the problems as long as our elected representatives see themselves as competing with each other rather than working collaboratively to solve the problems and issues.
We can learn from our past, accept past failure, and work to correct those failures, or we can use those past failures to justify our current failures and inaction. What our system encourages is justification of our current failures and inaction based on our past failures and inaction. Is it time for us to change and to accept our failures with the goal of not repeating them?
King argues that the resources are there to solve injustice, poverty, and the lack of truth and peace. What is missing is the will to address the issues (p 244). Do we and our nation or institutions have the will to seek justice and equality? I don't believe that we have. The investment in a corrupt and unjust system is too high and we are unwilling to upset those who have and are benefiting from it. Change will only come when we stop propping up our system of injustice and accepting as truths lies that have become ingrained in the system.
Groups point out some of the kinks or lies in the system but few are willing to condemn the system outright. Many seek minor changes without changing the underlying ways of thinking, the framing story, that enabled those flaws and kinks to become the ingrained way of doing things.
King ends by talking about being asked to stick to civil rights, His response is “that [he] had been fighting too long and too hard now against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating [his] moral concerns. And the fact that justice is indivisible, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (p 244).
This is the heart of our problem. We have segregated or at least tried to segregate justice but justice cannot be segregated. If we attempt to segregate justice, we fail to deliver justice. If we fail to deliver justice, we fail to deliver peace. If peace and justice is our driving force then like King, we have no choice but to rise up against injustice and war no matter where it occurs.
King Jr. M.L. (1968) The other America. In West, C. (Ed.) (2015). The radical king: Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston: Beacon Press. Chapter 20, pp 235-245).