A few nights ago I read a speech by Robert F. Kennedy, On The Mindless Menace Of Violence (pdf). He gave this speech the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a march of sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions. It struck me reading this how timely it still is for us today. There is nothing new under the sun…
“Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.
This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.
I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with
cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered…”
[Robert F. Kennedy]
One of the thoughts this sparked off for me was related to that last paragraph, about teaching a man to hate his brother. I was completely struck by how much that seems like what USA/UK are doing with Iraq/Iran… we (UK) have become a nation so fearful of our brother simply because he has a different colour of skin, or different religious beliefs, or different cultural values. When did we lose our ability to discern for ourselves? When did we become a nation so passive and apathetic? But more importantly… what steps must we take in order to reverse this?
Small things done with great love can change the world…