Monday, May 21, 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr., and His American Dream

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“The assistant director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Hyman Bookbinder, in a frank statement on December 29, 1966, declared that the long-range costs of adequately implementing programs to fight poverty, ignorance and slums will reach one trillion dollars. He was not awed or dismayed by this prospect but instead pointed out that the growth of the gross national product during the same period makes this expenditure comfortably possible. It is, he said, as simple as this: ‘The poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate.’ Furthermore, he predicted that unless a “substantial sacrifice is made by the American people,” the nation can expect further deterioration of the cities, increased antagonisms between races and continued disorders in the streets. He asserted that people are not informed enough to give adequate support to antipoverty programs, and he leveled a share of the blame at the government because it ‘must do more to get people to understand the size of the problem.’ ”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)


Martin Luther King, Jr [born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia– died in 1968 in Memphis,Tennessee], was a Baptist minister and a social activist, a vocal leader of the civil right movement. In this photo, on March 25, 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses a crowd of civil rights marchers, about 25,000 individuals in Montgomery, Alabama. This is the culmination of the famous 54-mile Selma-Montgomery March, where marchers left Selma on March 21 and arrived in Montgomery on March 25. (One of the individuals taking part was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.) The King Institute at Stanford University writes: “During the final rally, held on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, King proclaimed: ‘The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man’ (King, “Address,” 130). ” That day has yet to arrive in America, which is hardly at peace with itself. It is a nation beset with violence and hatred and many kinds of social inequalities. As a stark reminder, on another day—April 4, 1968—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr was murdered, assassinated actually, at The Lorraine Motel in front of Room 306. He was only 39. This is one of those days I will remember, a sad day for a 10-year-old Jewish boy, when hope took a downturn. If this man is to remembered for anything, it is as a man of conviction and hope, who wanted to turn chaos into community. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, one of the few who actually deserved the honour. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: TIME; Stephen F. Somerstein; Getty Images

Albert Einstein: Why Socialism? (1949)

The Capitalistic Society & Alienated Man


Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin at at the Los Angeles premiere of the film City Lights, on January 30, 1931. “Chaplin was the one man in Hollywood Einstein wanted to meet,” the article (“Einstein in Hollywood; April 1931; p. 36) in Photoplay said. Chaplin’s political and social views on modern society are well known. That being the case, I would have liked to have met both men.


In 1949, the noted physicist and humanitarian wrote an article for Monthly Review (May 1949), a socialist publication, entitled Why Socialism? It was republished 60 years later, on May 1, 2009, for good reasons;  I cite the following the salient points from it that Dr. Einstein made:
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
How true is this last point, as is the complete article. The conman man and woman will find comfort in these words, knowing that what he felt all along was not mere imaginings, but yearnings validated decades ago by such an eminent thinker. Albert Einstein was not only a genius in physics; he well understood society and how it worked, and much better than many current “experts” on the source of our lingering societal malaise: “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.”

Well, it has not gotten better in the last 70 years, has it? It has actually gotten worse. Capitalism has now extended its tentacles into all areas of human endeavors: birth, education, work, marriage, retirement and even death. (Funerals are expensive.) Capitalism has become more avaricious; and Man more alienated. The supporters of Capitalism are still many, even found among those it hinders and harms, but they tend to be older.

Capitalism is pertinacious, but it is also pernicious and non-inclusive. This fact alone might lead to the beginning of the end of Capitalism’s rule, notably for those who are born between 1981 and 1996 (“The Millennials”). As many recent articles and studies show, support for Capitalism in America is diminishing over-all. The younger generation of  Millennials hate Capitalism, preferring instead socialism. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].

When a system creates so many poor people, who, despite higher education, remain poor, what else can you expect but a rejection of the system that, in many cases, has shut them out. I could go on and on, but a much better mind than mine has stated it with much clarity and humaneness. You should and can read the whole article that Prof. Einstein wrote almost 70 years ago [here]. I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Prophetic Voice of Kindness

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 “There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty. The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
“The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement” (1972)

Abraham Joshua Heschel [born in 1907 in Warsaw, Poland–died in 1972 in New York City, New York] is known for his stand against the Vietnam War, for his support of Black Civil Rights—including taking part in the Selma–Montgomery March in 1965—for his scholarship, and for finding the middle ground between the legalism of Orthodox and the leniency of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Heschel was, by all accounts, a most humane thinker and individual, who left a legacy of goodness, thoughtfullness and kindness, illuminated in his teachings, actions and writings, notably in such influential works as Man is Not Alone (1951), The Sabbath (1951), God in Search of Man (1955), and The Prophets (1962). Robert D. McFadden writes for The New York Times (in 1972) about the many parts that made up Rabbi Heschel: “Standing before a class, he was by turns a scholar who could elucidate fine points of the Talmud, a philosopher who could compare the metaphysics of Hegel and Kant and a Hasid, who could evoke the mystery of God's concern for man in tales and parables.” In Who is Man, Rabbi Heschel writes about the search for meaning, never easy but always necessary for thinking man: “The sense of meaning is not born in ease and sloth. It comes after bitter trials, disappointments in the glitters, foundering, strandings. It is the marrow from the bone. There is no manna in our wilderness.” True enough.
For more go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Commonweal

The Eternal Light: Abraham Joshua Heschel (1972)

Kindness

This is Post No. 2,500.


Abraham Joshua Heschel interviewed by Carl Stern (on December 10, 1972) for “The Eternal Light” (1944–1989) show on NBC-TV.  The interview took place a couple of weeks before Rabbi Heschel’s death (from a heart attack on December 23, 1972); he was 65. The interview was shown on February 4, 1973.
     In a wide-ranging discussion, Rabbi Heschel talks about free will, wonder, discipline, meaning, prayer, the prophets, messianic redemption, God, loneliness, and the “celebration of life.” All serious talk. “Without holiness, we will sink into absurdity. …God is not limited to one nation, one people,” Rabbi Heschel says in this interview. “God is the Father of all men.” It might seem like a paradox, but Rabbi Heschel was both very Jewish and very universal, an understanding that came about by the study of the Prophets and by the life he led. When I watch this interview, I am led to the conviction that Rabbi Heschel is a sincere intelligent humane man. Here is what he said near the end of the interview, which validates this statement: “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
    The Eternal Light, conceived by the Jewish Theological Seminary, began on radio in 1944, with radio dramas and continued on TV with interviews such as this one in 1952. It was broadcast by NBC as part of its Sunday morning religious programming until 1989. For more on The Eternal Light, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Via: Youtube

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jean Améry, A Tortured Body, A Tortured Mind

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Jean Améry [born as Hans Maier in 1912 in Vienna, Austria–died in 1978 in Salzburg, Austria]. Amery’s most famous book of collected essays, which he began writing in 1964, in German, is Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne: Bewältigungsversuche eines Überwältigten; Trans: Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P Rosenfeld), or in English, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities, published in 1966 and re-issued ten years later. The title describes so much, including whhat happens when someone has been tortured, as Améry was by the Gestapo. A person who has been tortured forever remains tortured, notably a person of the mind who relies on abstractions and imagination. When the blows of harsh reality strike, immediately his trust in humanity is not only diminished, it is forever gone. Amery writes in “Die Tortur,” one of the essays in the book noted above: “At the first blow…trust in the world breaks down. This other person, opposite whom I exist physically in the world and with whom I can exist only as long as he does not touch my skin surface as border, forces his own corporeality on me with the first blow. He is on me and thereby destroys me. It is like a rape, a sexual act without consent […].” Torture always defeats trust. It might be that one man ruling over another is not humane; torture is its full and complete antithesis, the negation of man. For that reason alone, there is no moral reason that torture should ever be used. Améry killed himself on October 17, 1978; he was 65. Whether his was an act of defiance or of despair, one can never know with certainty; it was, however, an act of a man who had reached his limit. I have not read this book, only excerpts, but it is on my list of books to order. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].