A person-oriented society - MLK's "Beyond Vietnam" Speech

...we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society...

In light of the movements that have occurred in the past 12 months, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some paragraphs from Martin Luther King Jr's speech titled "Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break Silence" delivered on April 4, 1967. (That is exactly one year before he was assassinated.) This is only an excerpt. The full text is available to read online at

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm

This speech is less often quoted and noted, but I think today is perhaps more relevant than when first delivered. He speaks about civil rights, non-violence, peace instead of war and equality instead of greed. The lines in bold were added by me.


...It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin...we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.


He was planning, at the point of his death, a march to be called "The Poor People's March" as part of his "Poor People's Campaign". It has been logically surmised and suggested by those commentators in the know, that the overriding sentiments of Occupy Movements are trying to pick up where that movement left off.

More on that at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_People's_Campaign

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