Regular Promises of Peace and Democracy

LyniceDay 14 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.
From Lynice Pinkard (photo above), the former pastor at First Congregational Church of Oakland, in an interview with Mark Leviton in Sun Magazine (October 2014):

As a culture we are in a nosedive toward death, and to interrupt it, we must opt out of the capitalist systems that are killing us and decimating the planet. Although we might criticize systems and bemoan their negative effects, we do not often focus on the degree to which we rely upon them. We balk at any course of action that truly threatens the status quo, because a confrontation with the system is going to cost us our comforts and our reputation and possibly our lives. But we have to stop shopping at the bargain counter of the American company store, where we exchange substance for more security, more status, more wealth, and more power. It is nearly impossible to be a prophet with a wallet full of credit cards. Resistance to the system means social death and loss of identity, but it is also a struggle for life. It is not the futile hope for a better day, the self-indulgent staking out of a political position, or a reckless descent into disorder. It is self-determination with integrity. It is the assertion of life without apology. It is the willingness to defend what we love with our lives.

In effect, this acceptance of the end of our lives as we have known them enables us to move away from another kind of death — the social, political, and economic conditions that leech the meaning from life, devastate relationships, and lead us to despair. We need to build interdependent communities that trust people over money and collectivize both risk and security. We need to switch from putting our faith in money to putting our faith in each other.

As a nation Americans have an entrepreneurial identity, but what would it mean for our capitalist system to become truly entrepreneurial? If we capped personal wealth at a billion dollars and limited the size of corporations, would it really take away our incentive to work hard, or would there be a revitalization of small business because people wouldn’t have to constantly compete with the super-rich? What if some of the vast wealth that a few individuals have accumulated went into business education for the many? McDonald’s might collapse, but a million individually owned restaurants would rise up to take its place. And there would still be workers, because there will always be those who don’t want the stress and strain of owning a business. Actually my favorite alternative business models are the ones in which workers collectively own the business, making decisions democratically and sharing both the risks and the profits. The new term for such arrangements is “workers’ self-directed enterprises.” If we had more of those, we would have happier, healthier workers.

But no frontal assault on capitalism can accomplish this. Protests, policy changes, organizing, and even revolt will all be crushed, corrupted, or co-opted. We need a viral assault: simple mechanisms that can replicate quickly and replace big business with economies of love. We need meetings that are as common as aa meetings. We need to take advantage of the Internet. We need tools for economic “homesteaders.”

When I tell people this, they sometimes accuse me of wanting to take away people’s freedoms. They think of capitalism as the source of this country’s greatness, and when I criticize it, they say I sound like the Taliban in Afghanistan. A short, fat, black, lesbian pastor is attacking the American way of life! How dare she! She doesn’t have a degree in economics! She’s not an academic! There’s a hierarchy these people want to preserve. They believe ordinary citizens aren’t qualified to take part in the economic debate.

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