In memoriam of Dr. Martin Luther King
By Kate Kheel
When I was five years old, my parents hosted a fund-raising dinner to further Dr. Martin Luther King’s work. I recall Dr. King sitting in an armchair in our living room with his warm, gracious, and welcoming smile.
My sister and I were invited downstairs in our “party robes” to greet Dr. King and the other guests. We proudly handed Dr. King our year’s savings from our weekly allowance which came to $4 and $2 respectively. I asked Dr. King to sign my turquoise blue autograph penguin. To Kate, Best Wishes from Martin Luther King Jr. thereafter graced the underside of my penguin’s floppy wing. I felt Dr. King’s kind heart and trusted him implicitly.
My parents were active in civil rights in the 1950s and 60s and tried to teach me about racism. But how do you explain racism to a child? I just couldn’t understand. How does a society choose what traits they will target as the brunt of racism, I wondered. Perhaps freckles or hazel eyes? Maybe those with turned up noses or red hair? It all seemed so arbitrary — so difficult to grasp.
65 years later, I find myself still trying to understand racism, and along with it, human nature which spans on one side, Dr. King’s unwavering love and respect for others and his commitment to justice and non-violence, and on the other, the utterly despicable depravity of those who, behind the scenes, orchestrated Dr. King’s assassination. What follows is a window into my current thinking, which, I would hope, may provide one of infinite possible entry ramps to Truth.
The Beginning of Separation
Our civilization’s journey into racism began long ago when we started to view ourselves separate from nature. Though likely this notion was around before the Old Testament, the Bible became a vehicle for its dissemination. According to Scripture, mankind was to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. That seems like a clear give-away of the natural world to humans to do as they will.
But just two verses earlier, it states, And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness. We were enjoined to emulate God in our care for the natural world, arguably rendering our dominion a noble enterprise.
Yet that was not how it played out, at least not in the short term. With these two statements, a hierarchical division was set up: God (on high) was King; below were humans, created in His image; and below humans were animals and the rest of the natural world.
Though perhaps not the intended purpose of the Bible, once we humans imagined ourselves separate from God (albeit in His image) and from Life’s intrinsic and exquisite Unity, we entered an epoch of othering, and power over. To maintain Scripture’s precariously balanced hierarchical arrangement without succumbing to othering would take infinite consciousness and wisdom, a task we were clearly not up to yet.
Instead, the marvels, abundance and biodiversity of the natural world came to be seen as a repository of resources for the ensuing cosmic human-centered story; one of endless expansion, exploitation, and war accelerating exponentially over time.
Animals were reduced to capital (capitale in medieval Latin refers to cattle or property). Eventually monocultures and agrotechnology would begin to replace the vast variety of nature’s offerings and our connection to the land. The DNA of all living beings and indeed, the natural world herself, would come to be catalogued for control and manipulation.
Seeing the natural world through the prism of power over, extended to how we viewed one another as well. Indigenous people, still deeply connected to the land and ecology, were considered primitive, to be civilized and educated by Anglo European colonizers who thought themselves more in the know. In many cases, forced removal, slavery, or genocide were used to procure resources which promised wealth and prosperity for the colonizers.
The history of slavery in the US is yet another example of mass “othering” that has left a gaping wound in our national consciousness we are just beginning to heal 150 years later.
Another iteration of power over can be seen in the treatment of women who were considered property or, as in the story of Lilith, an evil temptation to men. At best, gentlemen were enjoined to treat women kindly as they were thought to be frail, not so bright, and somewhat helpless creatures.
As capitalism flourished in the West, othering found new and fertile ground in the marketplace. The question for US corporations throughout the last century was how best to manage what, according to Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays, was the unruly, irrational mind of the masses
. In fact, much of the 20th century featured business and government and their think tanks manipulating and shaping public taste, opinions, needs, and desires, along with the help of corporate aligned (and owned) mainstream media.
A new industry called public relations arose to ensure continued corporate profit and a malleable public. People were no longer viewed as citizens but rather as consumers. (See the excellent BBC documentary, The Century of the Self.) Bernays and other public relations experts guided industry toward a shift from a need-based culture to one of desire, and advised government on how to convince the American people of a need for war.
In the latter part of the 20th century, with the public largely disillusioned from the atrocities of the Vietnam War, a new movement arose that focused on individual self-expression, and that opposed materialism and war. The free market was threatened yet again. But ever on the pulse of human behavior, focus and working groups were formed to study the mind of this new human; and once again, industry thrived, while the masses were to remain docile buying machines.
Technology Magnifies Othering
We’re now in the throes of the ultimate form of othering as Big Tech and its handlers strive to connect every event, thing, and human to the internet, imagining that by doing so we will have complete control and mastery over Earth and all life. We dehumanize one another yet further by converting people into gigabytes of meaningless 1s and 0s which form the digital profiles of every internet-connected person on the planet. Included in the future vision of Big Tech et al, are plans to colonize the moon, space, Mars and beyond, as Earth is showing signs of wear-and-tear and may soon be “used up”. Could there be any greater manifestation of othering than viewing Earth herself as disposable?
Power over is growing commensurately with the expansion of technology. Big Tech is quite literally colonizing our minds and lives by harvesting mountains of data to be used to manipulate our actions and choices. Coupled with the effects of artificial electromagnetic frequencies on our pineal gland, our migration into cyber space has caused estrangement from our own inner intuition, guidance, imagination, and will.
More recently, industry and government PR teams have come up with the notion of a “renewable future” to ensure continued growth. The thinking is that solar and wind will save the day from dependence on fossil fuel, and the economy can keep expanding limitlessly. In fact, technology, data, surveillance, and AI are now being promoted as the answer for a green future. (By green they meant a so-called “sustainable” future, but clearly there was a double entendre as US currency is also colored green.) But though solar and wind may play a small role in creating a viable future, as Ron N. Kostoff, Ph.D. explained in a recent communication, “Renewables will not save us, nor will electric vehicles. Too much fossil-based energy is required to develop and maintain renewables, as well as electric cars. The only way to survive is to live sustainably like any of the other species on this Earth, local and low-tech.” (For more on local, see the superb website and work of Helena Norberg and others, Local Futures.)
What was barely considered throughout both the industrial and digital revolutions was the natural world. And yet, as has now become all too apparent, nature and all her complexities is a central player in civilization’s evolution. Self-appointed elite, government, business, and puppet media were not, have never been, and will never be, the whole story. They can play secondary roles, but the star of the show is Mother Earth.
The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the reverse. Herman E. Daly, Ecological Economist.
An Ever Growing Still Small Voice
Though the epoch of hierarchy brought about many societal and environmental ills and much violence through unchecked expansionism, colonialism, wars, slavery, racism, factory farming, extremes of wealth and poverty, alienated, stressed and in some cases, emotionally lobotomized people — it also brought opportunities to expand our consciousness. An ever-so-faint still small voice is calling out from the depths of our collective being-ness: Enough is enough. I’m weary of violence. Saturated with frivolity and empty activities that clutter time. I long for simplicity and true connection with others and with nature. I am done othering my Self, people, animals, the natural world, Earth, and God. I am ready to go Home to simplicity and Inter-Being.
Tale of a Turtle
About fifteen years ago when I lived in the suburbs of Baltimore, I found a turtle in my driveway. I have no idea how she got there as there was no nearby body of water. But knowing she’d need water sooner than later, I decided to drive her to a pond about five miles away. When I lifted the frightened turtle to place her in a box, she immediately withdrew into her shell. As I was driving, seemingly yet more terrified she came out of her shell and tried desperately to escape by attempting to scale the walls of the box. I spoke gently to her hoping my voice and energy would calm her a bit, but she was inconsolable.
When we arrived at the pond, I got as close to the water as I could as there was much vegetation blocking the path. I gently lay the box on its side and the turtle slowly walked out. She stopped, looked around, head high, curious, and strangely at peace as her gaze settled on the pond ahead. Slowly she began to walk, getting faster and faster with each step until she reached the water and with a glorious sense of arrival, dove into the water and swam away. She was home.
We too have been away from home…for a very long time. And as a civilization, we too have been out of sorts and have felt threatened and fearful of others and our surroundings. Sometimes, like the turtle, we have retreated into our shell, and other times, we have struggled to no avail. Our actions have reflected a state of imbalance when coupled with our instinctual pursuit of survival. But all is not lost, as we have had the opportunity to glean much along the way. We have consciously learned to appreciate, cherish, and know the gift of inter-being by having experienced the world for so long through the lens of duality and separateness.
Although it may not be obvious from hearing or reading the News, I sense an awakening among more and more people. I would like to believe we’re on our way back home and will once again experience inter-being, but this time, with a conscious sense of profound gratitude.
The destiny of humanity is to bring all our gifts and powers into the service of life, to create beauty and wonders, and to witness what life creates through us and around us. It starts with healing the damage done in the Age of Separation. Charles Eisenstein
If we are able to make that leap from monocultures to diversity, from superiority to equality, from destruction as creation to co-creation in nonviolence, then humanity has a hope. Vandana Shiva
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”