Monday, 30 August 2010

Civil Rights and Are we there yet?

Earlier in the year, we went to Coventry Cathedral. They had a display of quotes and photos from the 1963 civil rights movement in America. The words on the posters reminded me that we really haven't moved a great deal further on. So much of what they said still remains to be resolved.

Some of the words also echo themes promoted by C.H. Douglas (1974) when they say "If we can have full employment and full production for the negative ends of war, then why can't we have a job for every American in the pursuit of peace?" (Walter Reuther). The focus during peace time isn't on the needs of people. They can be written off because the economic systems takes priority. Balancing the books takes priority over ensuring people are feed, have houses to live in, and have something they can contribute to society. The desired goal of full employment in the "pursuit of peace" has not been achieved and will not be achieved in the current economic way of thinking.

As I prepared this, I came across a quote from Brian Smith, ex-principal of Baptist College of New Zealand. He argued that "Political action works within the assumptions of the prevailing world view, which in this case asserts that economics is a law unto itself. Politics as we know it does not seek to challenge that. Rather it seeks to find ways in which what is produced by an autonomous economics can be utilised in a more benign and 'Christian' manner" (2003). The autonomy of economics inhibits the ability to make radical changes to address the clear imbalance and misplaced faith.

I agree that economics is a human created system and that it is within our power to dismantle and rebuild in such a way that it addresses the issues of providing freedom and confidence for all.

The civil rights movement marched for freedom as echoed in Martin Luther King's speech "I have a dream" (1963). They believed that this was the promise made to them and all people in the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Martin Luther King described it as an uncashed cheque. He said 'This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. …

'But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."

But what do we have almost 50 years later? The black man may be less of a slave but people of all nationalities are enslaved to an economic system designed to enslave through debt and dependence, but as I write this, I realise that through the promotion of the western model, the western nations seek to enslave those who do not seek to walk and live as they do. The new slavery is enforced by an 'autonomous economic' system, a belief system that is entrenched in the fabric of society.

Brian Smith said in his article that economics is "no longer about how we behave toward one another. Rather it is an impersonal and independent reality, that runs according to its own laws in the same way that physics and chemistry follow their own laws" (2003). Why have we come to this point in history where we have allowed a framework that men have created to dictate so much of our lives? It comes down to our belief system. A belief system that needs to be challenged so that we rebuild with the dreams of freedom, confidence, and security for all men, not just in western nations but in all nations.

In the words of the Civil Rights leaders "they must march from a present feeling of despair and hopelessness, despair and frustration, to renewed faith and confidence" (Whitney Young 1963) and "The revolution [must] reverberate throughout the land, touching every city, every town, every village ..." (A Phillip Randolph 1963). Who is willing to join me to march against the economic flow in the pursuit of a balanced a fair economy so that people may be free to utilise their skills and their talents?


Douglas, C. H. (1974). Economic democracy. Epsom, Surrey: Bloomfield Publishers.

Martin Luther King (1963) I have a dream. Speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Smith, B. K. (2003). Our god reigns but not in economics, Reality, April/May.

No comments: