Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Now

It's hard to believe listening to him again on the radio how precise Martin Luther King was about the problems of his day - and, sad to say, our day as well.

Problems like: "war preventing programs" - programs for every kind of social progress. At one point he quoted a US Senator's estimate that the US was spending $500,000 to kill every Vietnamese solider, but only $53 per person to end poverty in the US.

The US story then, and the US story now, is the centrality of war, the weight of war spending, and more generally the irrationally of misspending in grotesque overproportion to suppress threats when their root causes should be fixed instead.

In the 1980s and 1990s it was "wealth preventing programs" - the piling up of huge fortunes in tech and finance that avoided the root causes once again.

What is it about us that makes us unable to stop?

King was great about the psychological underpinnings of the compulsive American errors - the helpless, defiant, and yet shame-filled, and reality-denying thread of uncontrollable feeling that backed it all. He once summarized the foundations of US foreign policy, with its world-alienating use of force to back oppressors, as "this melancholy body of obsessions."

Washington won't ever stop its backward choices unless the US population makes them stop.

Thank you for the reminders, MLK. And Happy Birthday.

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