- Published on Monday, 21 January 2013 09:04
"We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values...when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered." - Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King day when the heroic civil rights leader's birth is celebrated and this year it coincides with President Barak Obama's inauguration speech following his re-election last year.
Obama's inauguration carries symbolic resonance on Martin Luther King Day
America's first black president will be sworn in on the day devoted to its most famous civil rights leader
By Gary Younge
The contrast between King's vision and Obama's actions in office couldn't be more stark. In his memorable speech, Where do we go from here, delivered on 16th August 1967, King says: "We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?" These are questions that must be asked."
Bankrolled by Wall Street and big business, Obama is in the business of perpetuating the status quo not questioning it.
In the same speech, King refers to Progress and Poverty by Henry George: "In I879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote in Progress and Poverty:
The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves driven to their tasks either by the task, by the taskmaster, or by anirnal (sic) necessity. It is the work of men who somehow find a form of work that brings a security for its own sake and a state of society where want is abolished.
Work of this sort could be enormously increased, and we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished. The poor transformed into purchasers will do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay. Negroes who have a double disability will have a greater effect on discrimination when they have the additional weapon of cash to use in their struggle.
Beyond these advantages, a host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts among husbands, wives and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on the scale of dollars is eliminated .
Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God's children on their own two feet right here on earth."
King also had something to say about violence: "And so I say to you today that I still stand by non-violence. And I am still convinced that it is the most potent weapon available to the Negro in his struggle for justice in this country. And the other thing is that I am concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice. I'm concerned about brotherhood. I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about these, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer but you can't murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that."
Obama has signed into law the power to seize American citizens as well as foreign nationals, holding them in indefinite detention - torture and rendition continue unabated. Every Tuesday morning, Obama sits down to determine his kill list for the week, resulting in the drone attacks which murder innocent civilians as well as his intended victims.
Obama may have fulfilled John F Kennedy's prediction of a black man in the White House but he represents the same vested interests Martin Luther King railed against.
Martin Luther King Speech - Where do we go from here