Without Justice_Sustainability_America Will Fail

Without Justice, Sustainability, America’s Social Fabric Will Fail


By Shannon Wilson

For The Register-Guard

FEB. 9, 2015

On Dec. 8, President Obama attempted to quell protests across the nation after grand juries refused to indict two white police officers involved in separate killings of unarmed black men, Michael Brown of Missouri and Eric Garner of New York. “Typically progress is in steps, it’s in increments,” President Obama asserted, “and we should “recognize that it’s going to take some time.”

Martin Luther King tersely described the “myth of time” spoken by politicians in their attempts to placate the oppressed poor: “…the forces of ill will in our nation … have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill ... time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation.”

King’s most provocative and dangerous speech — “Remaining Awake Through A Revolution,” delivered on March 31, 1968 — challenged America to stop the injustices of racism, poverty and warfare — including the resources squandered on the “study of war.” He proposed that a Poor People’s Campaign would occupy Washington, D.C., in 1968 and demand through mass nonviolent civil disobedience and a “soul force” tangible solutions to right the wrongs perpetrated against the poor, especially the colored poor, and the people oppressed and killed by U.S. armed forces.

However, on April 4, 1968, King was assassinated and the Poor People’s Campaign was snuffed out.

Nearly 50 years later, the economic injustice and oppression of the poor — orchestrated and perpetuated by the nation’s elite as well as racist factions — is still at the root of the turmoil involving the poorest communities, especially those of color, and police forces. Body cameras and training touted about by politicians and police commissioners as the solution will not resolve the turmoil and violence. Such Band-aids cannot heal an open wound.

Through 1967 and 1968, King deliberately focused his force of conscience on the military-industrial complex and the study of war because he believed it was the key impediment to achieving opportunity and justice for all Americans.

Nearly 50 years later, the military-industrial complex has committed our nation and our poorest young people to undeclared wars in the Middle East over dwindling petroleum reserves — wars that have continued for more than 14 years with no end in sight. The current U.S. war preparations budget is nearly $600 billion per year.

In his “Remaining Awake” speech King states, “It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”

If American citizens do not divert the trillions of dollars and countless natural resources squandered on perpetuating the military-industrial complex to create a civil society based on cooperation, not predation, and a steady-state economic system, the social and economic fabric of this nation will tear into a million pieces. Growing populations consuming finite resources unsustainably will lead to depletion, opportunity for advancement will become nonexistent, and those seeking to move beyond mere existence will become ever more desperate.

This same basic premise applies to all nations, especially the economic superpowers like China, India, Russia, Japan and Europe.

If this great collapse comes to fruition it will permeate the loftiest ivory towers of the super wealthy. Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffet’s children and grandchildren will not escape its effects. No human being will be immune when the multiple crises settle upon modern societies like an incurable plague with no way back or forward. The result, lurking in the shadows, is all nations especially the world’s superpowers making war upon one another to attain and defend scant resources leading up to and into the “collapse” and it will destroy us all.

Perhaps if King had known in 1968 what we now know about the state of the natural world, he may have concluded the greatest challenge and grandest opportunity to ever face humanity is the ability to create a civilization that attains a point of benign impact or a steady state on the Earth’s ecosystems and biosphere. We can and must use those resources currently wasted on war, the preparation for war, and a self-centered materialistic society to create a civilization that heals our host — the biosphere — instead of killing it as well as all species within.

Will we mark the greatest visionaries of our time — Martin L. King, John and Robert Kennedy — as footnotes in our history books and with meaningless ceremony, or will we as a nation finally enact their dreams of achieving the pinnacle of human consciousness and conscience?

In King’s “Remaining Awake” speech he confronts the nation’s leaders, even those within his own movement, who openly opposed his Poor People’s Campaign plans by declaring, “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Shannon Wilson of Eugene is the director of Eco Advocates NW .