Rise Up! – Inspired by the Memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. I woke up this morning to a feed full of inspiring quotes from a great man, most of which exhort tolerance, love, compassion, forbearance – the essential and gentler side of change. At this time, when racism, classism, religious fundamentalism, economic extremism, xenophobia and hatred for all that is not ‘us’ fills the airwaves, when we cannot turn on the TV, or the radio, or drop into our social feeds without being greeted by some fresh new assault on our humanity by those who would seek to ‘lead’, these messages ring with a poignancy that is no less pointed than it was some fifty years ago. I know, as a student of consciousness and a proponent of peace, that it is essential to let the rage that stirs in my belly, that inspires me to shout back and drown out these voices with my own impassioned howls of righteous defiance, be transmuted. After all, to quote the great man:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

MLK, as we know, was a passionate orator, a skilled negotiator, and a tireless champion for civil rights. He was also one of the most powerful changemakers many of us are ever likely to know of, a man who day after day rose from his bed and knowingly put his life on the line to confront and ultimately conquer injustice. Many, not surprisingly, cite his inspiration as divine, yet I would assert that his reverence was inspired more by the teachings of a dead Palestinian and his love of his fellow man, than by any belief that salvation was to be found in the next moment.

Martin Luther King Jr was much more than a champion of civil rights, however, and his legacy deserves more than a single day of remembrance, and selective sound-bite bias. He was prophet, poet, catalyst and king. He was wilfull and fierce and relentless, and while he walked the aisle and sought to hold hands with those on both the left and the right, he was also withering in his contempt for the insanity of a species that had elevated warfare to an art form, and a nation that had cynically packaged and exported the worst of itself, branding economic slavery as freedom.

He took a bullet for our sins, and just like another who allegedly died for the same reason, he has been deified to the point where many forget that he also ceaselessly sharpened his sword, that he went out into the world every day prepared to do battle, that he stormed the temple, and set ignorance ablaze.

While I know that most of my friends and colleagues have learned through great personal sacrifice, through self-enquiry and meditation and sweating out their fury on the mat to mercilessly beat their own swords into ploughshares, to raise their ‘vibration’ instead of their voices, to pick a up a pen instead of a gun, I feel it essential to declare that we are still at war.

As I said in my own far less eloquent rant when visiting the Middle East a year ago:

“We are at war with superstition and foolishness and willful ignorance; we are at war with corruption, disease and moral deficiency, with failing national economies, dictatorial regimes, corporate personhood, gross over-consumption, drug trafficking, human trafficking and greed. Worst of all, we’re at war with each other.”

In times of conflict, diplomacy is always the first and most necessary option to explore. After all, if we’ve learned anything from our own feudal history, it’s that there are rarely any true winners in war. Yet as we also know, when diplomacy fails, we are faced with only two options – capitulation, or a declaration of aggression.

In the USA right now, we are facing a crisis of governance that will ripple throughout the world if not averted. The contenders for the throne are many, and, frankly, most are unfit to govern. Further, most voters are unfit to vote – they are as ignorant, self-serving and egomaniacal as those they are shaping in their image. And while I know it is absolutely essential to remember that we are all innocent, while there can be know hope of peace if my mode is always to attack, while no change can be lasting if I look at the world around me and forget that all that I see, and all that I believe about it is arising solely within my own consciousness, I also know that …

… if I am to successfully quell the unquenchable hunger of my own demons, I must pick up the sword and uncompromisingly and unapologetically, cut out the poison.

This is the challenge we now face. It is not a challenge that can be overcome by one man, or one woman – a naive belief in superheroes simply doesn’t cut it any more. Yet nor is it a challenge we can afford to abdicate to the crowd, permitting market forces and social actions to stand in for political process and the strong right arm of legislation. To all those who preach suspicion of government, to all those who believe that there is some moral or intellectual high ground to be taken in abstaining from voting, I would encourage you to recall – especially if you are at least passingly sharing of my values – we do what we do to unfuck the world, and that is not the same as doing nothing.

If you are an American citizen, and you are not registered with a political party and preparing to throw your weight behind the candidate of your choosing in the upcoming primaries, if you decide to eschew democratic process, as flawed and corrupt as it may be in this country in favor of the naive belief that politics and legislation are immaterial in the face of consciousness, or technology, or social enterprise, or collective bargaining, or god, or whatever you have chosen to worship as your savior, then you are not only wrong, you are also responsible, more so than those who do vote, for whatever it is that comes next.

Politics and legislation are the framework upon which an evolved humanity will grow. A better framework, better supports us all, regardless of whether or not we agree.

So while I may not be able to vote in this election, while, as I repeatedly bewail, the US Federal Government is more than happy to take my taxes while excluding me from having any say in how they are deployed, I want to remind you that it’s not just the 320 million Americans whose lives will be impacted by the outcome of this next Presidential election. If you are in any way socially motivated, it’s the other 7 billion people on the planet you should be concerned about.

What happens in this country, affects everybody. I don’t believe that America is the greatest nation on earth. Frankly, that’s childish ignorance masquerading as patriotism. I do, however, believe that this is the most influential nation on earth – your politics, your economics, your approach to science, the environment, social justice, foreign aid and philanthropy, the reach of your media, and, most importantly, your foreign policies and power in global markets, means that you have a deep and abiding responsibility for the welfare of humanity.

So please, in the name of whatever you hold sacred, start fucking acting like it.

We cannot afford, not only as the construct of a nation, but as the reality of a species quite possibly facing extinction, to let the opportunity to radically transform this locus of influence to pass us by.

To my American friends and family, I make no apologies for this declaration. I make no apologies for my unruly, unreasonable, and some might say unrealistic rhetoric. I make no apologies for stepping into a fight that many have told me is none of my business. But this is my business. The future of humanity is my business, no more so nor less so than it is yours. And while there are many things I can and will do on a day-by-day basis to support a more just, compassionate, loving, rational, equitable and thriving human future, this one specifically, this upcoming battle to determine the future of this nation, that’s on you.

So please, as you feel yourself inspired by the memory of Martin Luther King Jr, and his fight for a better world, recall that he wasn’t doing it just for those who shared in the accident of his ancestry, his message was not meant to be restricted to only one people, in one nation, at one time, but to all people everywhere. While there can be no denying that we have come a long way since Selma, while the needle has been moved on so many issues that required it, while the world is, in so many ways, vastly transformed and undeniably better than it was when Martin Luther King Jr famously declared his Dream, I think it is only fair to say that his work, now our work, is a long way from done.

If ever there was a time to rise up, it’s now.

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