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“The Drum Major Instinct,” Speech by Martin Luther King

2018 January 15
by Ian Welsh

This seems appropriate, and will reward you if you read it all the way thru.  (MP3 link)

This morning I would like to use as a subject from which to preach: “The Drum Major Instinct.” “The Drum Major Instinct.” And our text for the morning is taken from a very familiar passage in the tenth chapter as recorded by Saint Mark. Beginning with the thirty-fifth verse of that chapter, we read these words: “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him saying, ‘Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.’ And he said unto them, ‘What would ye that I should do for you?’ And they said unto him, ‘Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.’ But Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye know not what ye ask: Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ And they said unto him, ‘We can.’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.’” And then Jesus goes on toward the end of that passage to say, “But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”

The setting is clear. James and John are making a specific request of the master. They had dreamed, as most of the Hebrews dreamed, of a coming king of Israel who would set Jerusalem free and establish his kingdom on Mount Zion, and in righteousness rule the world. And they thought of Jesus as this kind of king. And they were thinking of that day when Jesus would reign supreme as this new king of Israel. And they were saying, “Now when you establish your kingdom, let one of us sit on the right hand and the other on the left hand of your throne.”

Now very quickly, we would automatically condemn James and John, and we would say they were selfish. Why would they make such a selfish request? But before we condemn them too quickly, let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance. That same desire for attention, that same desire to be first. Of course, the other disciples got mad with James and John, and you could understand why, but we must understand that we have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct–a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.

And so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct.

And you know, we begin early to ask life to put us first. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. And all through childhood the drum major impulse or instinct is a major obsession. Children ask life to grant them first place. They are a little bundle of ego. And they have innately the drum major impulse or the drum major instinct.

Now in adult life, we still have it, and we really never get by it. We like to do something good. And you know, we like to be praised for it. Now if you don’t believe that, you just go on living life, and you will discover very soon that you like to be praised. Everybody likes it, as a matter of fact. And somehow this warm glow we feel when we are praised or when our name is in print is something of the vitamin A to our ego. Nobody is unhappy when they are praised, even if they know they don’t deserve it and even if they don’t believe it. The only unhappy people about praise is when that praise is going too much toward somebody else. (That’s right) But everybody likes to be praised because of this real drum major instinct.

Now the presence of the drum major instinct is why so many people are “joiners.” You know, there are some people who just join everything. And it’s really a quest for attention and recognition and importance. And they get names that give them that impression. So you get your groups, and they become the “Grand Patron,” and the little fellow who is henpecked at home needs a chance to be the “Most Worthy of the Most Worthy” of something. It is the drum major impulse and longing that runs the gamut of human life. And so we see it everywhere, this quest for recognition. And we join things, overjoin really, that we think that we will find that recognition in.

Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. (Make it plain) In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. (Yes) That’s the way the advertisers do it.

I got a letter the other day, and it was a new magazine coming out. And it opened up, “Dear Dr. King: As you know, you are on many mailing lists. And you are categorized as highly intelligent, progressive, a lover of the arts and the sciences, and I know you will want to read what I have to say.” Of course I did. After you said all of that and explained me so exactly, of course I wanted to read it. [laughter]

But very seriously, it goes through life; the drum major instinct is real. (Yes) And you know what else it causes to happen? It often causes us to live above our means. (Make it plain) It’s nothing but the drum major instinct. Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? (Amen) [laughter] You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford. (Make it plain) But it feeds a repressed ego.

You know, economists tell us that your automobile should not cost more than half of your annual income. So if you make an income of five thousand dollars, your car shouldn’t cost more than about twenty-five hundred. That’s just good economics. And if it’s a family of two, and both members of the family make ten thousand dollars, they would have to make out with one car. That would be good economics, although it’s often inconvenient. But so often, haven’t you seen people making five thousand dollars a year and driving a car that costs six thousand? And they wonder why their ends never meet. [laughter] That’s a fact.

Now the economists also say that your house shouldn’t cost—if you’re buying a house, it shouldn’t cost more than twice your income. That’s based on the economy and how you would make ends meet. So, if you have an income of five thousand dollars, it’s kind of difficult in this society. But say it’s a family with an income of ten thousand dollars, the house shouldn’t cost much more than twenty thousand. Well, I’ve seen folk making ten thousand dollars, living in a forty- and fifty-thousand-dollar house. And you know they just barely make it. They get a check every month somewhere, and they owe all of that out before it comes in. Never have anything to put away for rainy days.

But now the problem is, it is the drum major instinct. And you know, you see people over and over again with the drum major instinct taking them over. And they just live their lives trying to outdo the Joneses. (Amen) They got to get this coat because this particular coat is a little better and a little better-looking than Mary’s coat. And I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car. (Amen) I know a man who used to live in a thirty-five-thousand-dollar house. And other people started building thirty-five-thousand-dollar houses, so he built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house. And then somebody else built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house, and he built a hundred-thousand-dollar house. And I don’t know where he’s going to end up if he’s going to live his life trying to keep up with the Joneses.

There comes a time that the drum major instinct can become destructive. (Make it plain) And that’s where I want to move now. I want to move to the point of saying that if this instinct is not harnessed, it becomes a very dangerous, pernicious instinct. For instance, if it isn’t harnessed, it causes one’s personality to become distorted. I guess that’s the most damaging aspect of it: what it does to the personality. If it isn’t harnessed, you will end up day in and day out trying to deal with your ego problem by boasting. Have you ever heard people that—you know, and I’m sure you’ve met them—that really become sickening because they just sit up all the time talking about themselves. (Amen) And they just boast and boast and boast, and that’s the person who has not harnessed the drum major instinct.

And then it does other things to the personality. It causes you to lie about who you know sometimes. (Amen, Make it plain) There are some people who are influence peddlers. And in their attempt to deal with the drum major instinct, they have to try to identify with the so-called big-name people. (Yeah, Make it plain) And if you’re not careful, they will make you think they know somebody that they don’t really know. (Amen) They know them well, they sip tea with them, and they this-and-that. That happens to people.

And the other thing is that it causes one to engage ultimately in activities that are merely used to get attention. Criminologists tell us that some people are driven to crime because of this drum major instinct. They don’t feel that they are getting enough attention through the normal channels of social behavior, and so they turn to anti-social behavior in order to get attention, in order to feel important. (Yeah) And so they get that gun, and before they know it they robbed a bank in a quest for recognition, in a quest for importance.

And then the final great tragedy of the distorted personality is the fact that when one fails to harness this instinct, (Glory to God) he ends up trying to push others down in order to push himself up. (Amen) And whenever you do that, you engage in some of the most vicious activities. You will spread evil, vicious, lying gossip on people, because you are trying to pull them down in order to push yourself up. (Make it plain) And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct.

Now the other problem is, when you don’t harness the drum major instinct—this uncontrolled aspect of it—is that it leads to snobbish exclusivism. It leads to snobbish exclusivism. (Make it plain) And you know, this is the danger of social clubs and fraternities—I’m in a fraternity; I’m in two or three—for sororities and all of these, I’m not talking against them. I’m saying it’s the danger. The danger is that they can become forces of classism and exclusivism where somehow you get a degree of satisfaction because you are in something exclusive. And that’s fulfilling something, you know—that I’m in this fraternity, and it’s the best fraternity in the world, and everybody can’t get in this fraternity. So it ends up, you know, a very exclusive kind of thing.

And you know, that can happen with the church; I know churches get in that bind sometimes. (Amen, Make it plain) I’ve been to churches, you know, and they say, “We have so many doctors, and so many school teachers, and so many lawyers, and so many businessmen in our church.” And that’s fine, because doctors need to go to church, and lawyers, and businessmen, teachers—they ought to be in church. But they say that—even the preacher sometimes will go all through that—they say that as if the other people don’t count. (Amen)

And the church is the one place where a doctor ought to forget that he’s a doctor. The church is the one place where a Ph.D. ought to forget that he’s a Ph.D. (Yes) The church is the one place that the school teacher ought to forget the degree she has behind her name. The church is the one place where the lawyer ought to forget that he’s a lawyer. And any church that violates the “whosoever will, let him come” doctrine is a dead, cold church, (Yes) and nothing but a little social club with a thin veneer of religiosity.

When the church is true to its nature, (Whoo) it says, “Whosoever will, let him come.” (Yes) And it does not supposed to satisfy the perverted uses of the drum major instinct. It’s the one place where everybody should be the same, standing before a common master and savior. (Yes, sir) And a recognition grows out of this—that all men are brothers because they are children (Yes) of a common father.

The drum major instinct can lead to exclusivism in one’s thinking and can lead one to feel that because he has some training, he’s a little better than that person who doesn’t have it. Or because he has some economic security, that he’s a little better than that person who doesn’t have it. And that’s the uncontrolled, perverted use of the drum major instinct.

Now the other thing is, that it leads to tragic—and we’ve seen it happen so often—tragic race prejudice. Many who have written about this problem—Lillian Smith used to say it beautifully in some of her books. And she would say it to the point of getting men and women to see the source of the problem. Do you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct? A need that some people have to feel superior. A need that some people have to feel that they are first, and to feel that their white skin ordained them to be first. (Make it plain, today, ‘cause I’m against it, so help me God) And they have said over and over again in ways that we see with our own eyes. In fact, not too long ago, a man down in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens Council. And so God being the charter member means that everybody who’s in that has a kind of divinity, a kind of superiority. And think of what has happened in history as a result of this perverted use of the drum major instinct. It has led to the most tragic prejudice, the most tragic expressions of man’s inhumanity to man.

The other day I was saying, I always try to do a little converting when I’m in jail. And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. So I would get to preaching, and we would get to talking—calmly, because they wanted to talk about it. And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”

Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, (Make it plain) he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out. (Amen)

And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy. And if something doesn’t happen to stop this trend, I’m sorely afraid that we won’t be here to talk about Jesus Christ and about God and about brotherhood too many more years. (Yeah) If somebody doesn’t bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody’s going to make the mistake through our senseless blunderings of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere. And then another one is going to drop. And don’t let anybody fool you, this can happen within a matter of seconds. (Amen) They have twenty-megaton bombs in Russia right now that can destroy a city as big as New York in three seconds, with everybody wiped away, and every building. And we can do the same thing to Russia and China.

But this is why we are drifting. And we are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. “I must be first.” “I must be supreme.” “Our nation must rule the world.” (Preach it) And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, “Don’t play with me.” (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, “Don’t play with me, Israel. Don’t play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I’m God. And if you don’t stop your reckless course, I’ll rise up and break the backbone of your power.” (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes) Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening. And we have perverted the drum major instinct.

But let me rush on to my conclusion, because I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It’s very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, “You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?”

But that isn’t what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, “Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you’re going to be my disciple, you must be.” But he reordered priorities. And he said, “Yes, don’t give up this instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.”

And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, “Now brethren, I can’t give you greatness. And really, I can’t make you first.” This is what Jesus said to James and John. “You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared.” (Amen)

And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That’s a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

I know a man—and I just want to talk about him a minute, and maybe you will discover who I’m talking about as I go down the way (Yeah) because he was a great one. And he just went about serving. He was born in an obscure village, (Yes, sir) the child of a poor peasant woman. And then he grew up in still another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. (Amen) Then for three years, he just got on his feet, and he was an itinerant preacher. And he went about doing some things. He didn’t have much. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. (Yes) He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never went two hundred miles from where he was born. He did none of the usual things that the world would associate with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. They called him a rabble-rouser. They called him a troublemaker. They said he was an agitator. (Glory to God) He practiced civil disobedience; he broke injunctions. And so he was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. And the irony of it all is that his friends turned him over to them. (Amen) One of his closest friends denied him. Another of his friends turned him over to his enemies. And while he was dying, the people who killed him gambled for his clothing, the only possession that he had in the world. (Lord help him) When he was dead he was buried in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together (Yes) have not affected the life of man on this earth (Amen) as much as that one solitary life. His name may be a familiar one. (Jesus) But today I can hear them talking about him. Every now and then somebody says, “He’s King of Kings.” (Yes) And again I can hear somebody saying, “He’s Lord of Lords.” Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, “In Christ there is no East nor West.” (Yes) And then they go on and talk about, “In Him there’s no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world.” He didn’t have anything. (Amen) He just went around serving and doing good.

This morning, you can be on his right hand and his left hand if you serve. (Amen) It’s the only way in.

Every now and then I guess we all think realistically (Yes, sir) about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator—that something that we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.

If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.

Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, (Yes) not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.

57 Responses
  1. highrpm permalink
    January 15, 2018

    a good example of the futility of starting from a fallacy. (the abrahamic in this case.) who the hell knows where one will end up. not worth spending even a pence of mental energy considering. better to stick with models that use biomimicry. why does nature use/ permit the predator/ prey model in the animal kingdom? if such is valid, why not accept/ embrace it amongst humans?

  2. Tom W Harris permalink
    January 15, 2018

    Because humans are all in the same species, that’s why.

  3. highrpm permalink
    January 15, 2018

    then you’ve just explained the cognitive dissonance and crazy blood shed that results from inconsistently applying the buffet of ethics preached across the judeo-christian belief spectrum. some take j.c. at his word and live non-violently. other ‘s accept the idea of just war: all’s fair that their government declares in the best interests of the nation-state. and jonny-boy hagee , the nutty san antonian preacher of cufi fame, comes along and says yahweh declares the jewish state lives outside the n.t. ethics preached by j.c. and instead those folks live under the o.t. talmud, which says the citizens of israel are the chosen people and they can genocide whoever the hell the israel nation-state chooses to. see the mess that comes from using a fallacious model? so how does one know if prey/ predator jungle law does or does apply to the case of different races in the human species?

  4. Tom W Harris permalink
    January 15, 2018

    Israel rocks, you suck, and that’s the end of it.

  5. Hugh permalink
    January 15, 2018

    What I respect about King is his ability to think through a problem or issue, pull people along with him (into places they would dismiss or otherwise not go), and inspire them to want to do better. It is a rare gift to make people care, especially in a deep and fundamental way.

  6. January 16, 2018

    I want to thank you for posting this, Mr. Welsh. MLK has increasingly been seen as a specific kind of corporate Disney character, in the last couple of decades — it’s useful to remember that he was animated as much by a peculiarly specific religious sentiment as the logic of justice, however problematic either of those ideas have become for everyone who has lived in the aftermath of his works. As soon as I get in front of a desktop, I’ll download the sound file.

    Thank you, also, for not uttering the words “Donald” or “Trump.”

    You are aware, of course, that evopsych is woo, right? Animal behavior models are filtered through the perceptual biases inherent in the cultures of the researchers who invent them, for one thing; I don’t know if you noticed, but that whole “alpha male” idea re:wolves was actually retracted by the original researchers after the fact, and after the hypothesis had done incalculable damage to innumerable innocent morons who think any given set of research data are both unilaterally factual and finished work. Also — and this may betray my inherently feminine thought processes, here, but I’m still going to go for it — people aren’t animals. Humans live in a symbol-mediated social environment in which things like “justice” and “fairness” and “legality” have value. Human beings may debate what those symbols really describe (or what they ought to describe), but I think we can all agree that legality, for example, is not a concept that holds a lot of weight even for very advanced animal species who are genetically close to being human. I find it amazing that so many people want to sift through contradictory and often unrigorous science in order to explain that whatever they happen to want is both right and biologically proper. It’s weird, and sad. But the desire to cast your subjective wants as empirical needs is exactly the same human impulse that gave us organized religion (the maintenance of faith is another defining characteristic people don’t share with animals); one worldview says that, for example, women are different from and inferior to men because women are innately sinful and offensive to God, and the other worldview suggests that women are different from and inferior to men because we’re incontrovertibly preoccupied with the breeding of brats, or something. Neither of those things are true, or accurate, and most especially it’s all beside the point. Even in the event that someone somewhere collects some unpolluted data about the nature of Nature, it still wouldn’t do anybody any good. Not only is it impossible to make value-comparisons between human culture and animal culture, it’s often close to impossible to make value-comparisons between different cultures of people. That was the whole lesson we were supposed to take home from Election 2016; that what one version of American culture viewed as objective good, another version viewed as oppression. There is no animal model that could aid you in explaining away the existence of President Donald Trump. Social Darwinism might make it easier for the thieves at the top of the artificially-constructed human hierarchy to steal from those they’ve put beneath them, but the defense of the practice is still an intellectually lazy exercise in having no idea what you’re talking about on any imaginable score. If it’s right and proper for a human hierarchy to exist, and right and proper for some humans to be predators and other prey, then it’s also right and proper for those relationships to equalize under the most useful tool animals have in their arsenal — cataclysmic violence. And I don’t think anybody wants to emulate that particular animal model.

  7. V. Arnold permalink
    January 16, 2018

    The Riverside Church Speech, April 4, 1967 was, IMO, King’s best speech.
    He put it all on the line, and many turned away from him. It endeared him to me; he was a truly great man/human.

  8. January 16, 2018

    I also wish to thank you for posting this sermon. It contains, I think, most of King’s most evolved thinking on critical issues of his–and our–time.

    For me, one of the most interesting sections is that in which he relates discussions with his white jailers in Birmingham jail.

    And the conclusion, too. Love, compassion, economic justice, peace; these are the messages King was conveying towards the end of his life. And they’re just as relevant, and just as needed, as they were fifty years ago.

  9. Daize permalink
    January 16, 2018

    Amen, Emma.

  10. highrpm permalink
    January 16, 2018

    i’m not proposing the animal model. rather, i’m arguing against applying fallacious models. and clearly the jesus myth is one. and as dangerous as the abrahamic one it claims to iterate. for neither can prove their claims. the joo’s cannot validate their “choseness” status. since they can’t validate the existence of yahweh. neither can believer’s in christ validate any of his claimed miracles. both by independent and statistical replications. all i’m saying is mankind’s likely a whole lot better off staying with models that can be observed and making hypotheses about those.

    regardless of the validity of wolfpaks, there exists a spectrum of personalities, dominant to subservient. and the beehive and bonobos are yet more biomimicry models. lets consider “marriage.” why is that concept so pushed in judeo-christian circles? in fact, i think there’d be fewer break-ups — maybe more in fact, if we thought in terms of time and otherwise bounded intimate relationships — if mankind used the beehive model for living in the homefront. the home is clearly the focal point of a family. and represents/ provides, among other things, physical security. if men, when then crossed the threshold at the front door accepted that they were in the female’s domain, that the home was more hers than theirs, and put themselve more at her bidding than their own, what affect would such mindset have on keeping the peace at home?

    so mankind is model driven. and the judeo-christian model over the course of history has left blood and guts in its wake. as it celebrates the blood and guts of its gods as central liturgy.

  11. highrpm permalink
    January 16, 2018

    and yes, “justice” and “fairness” and “legality” have value. in fact, the neuroscientist read montague who’s done extensive research on the human dopamine-driven homing device proposes that our senses, both the limited view of five and many many more which we individuals use every day, and operate in the subconcious realms, are part of the homing device functions that we use to navigate life. another model read is proposing. and fits a whole lot better than those that the ancients lived and killed by.

    and yet again, christianity proposes that morality is only possible by believing in the one true god. and immorality is why yahweh ordered his chosen folks to genocide others. utter bloody hogwash.

  12. V. Arnold permalink
    January 16, 2018

    January 16, 2018

    Indeed, Yahweh is a war god of the patriarchy, as Riane Eisler (The Chalise and the Blade) states.
    Pre- Yahweh was the egalitarian goddess culture; bereft of war.
    It’s a little known and written about aspect, of our history, so long. long ago.
    Likely never to appear again, much to our detriment…

  13. Tom permalink
    January 16, 2018


    The Canaanite God of War and son of El and Asherah

    Babylonian Exile sees the Israelites engage in Historical Revisionism and you then have the Jewish Faith.

    Never mind the Old Testament ripped off the story of Sargon of Akkad for Moses, and the Sumerian Story of King Noah who had bad luck to get caught up in a flash flood on the Euphrates and wound up in Bahrain.

    As for MLK, he was a failure. Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army’s open revolt despite Cointelpro ultimately made Civil Rights stick, it was that or see the Riots escalate further and be joined by the Gays who rioted at Stone Street.

    White American Elites just co-opted Black Elites, and together they targeted the less worthy.

    Change will only come when enough people realize its the Constitution that has to be changed and not the Government.

  14. reslez permalink
    January 16, 2018

    Great post Ian.

    To respond to your comment in the other thread (“The Law of Heaven”), humans are absolutely a social hierarchical species. Anyone who wants to discuss an ideal society should recognize it as a central fact of human nature. Pre-civilization it seems that humans enforced a strictly egalitarian division of labor and goods — individuals who tried to hoard resources were punished. But why would hunter gatherers choose to act in such “violently egalitarian” ways, to borrow your phrase, except that everyone understood the danger, an inherent and obvious one even then? Our ancestors managed to be successful when it came to a fair division of goods, but it required constant vigilance. With the advent of civilization the system broke down. It has remained broken ever since.

    “Suddenly we understood that every inflection and movement implies a status, and that no action is due to chance, or really ‘motiveless’…. Normally we are ‘forbidden’ to see status transactions except when there’s a conflict. In reality status transactions continue all the time. In the park we’ll notice the ducks squabbling, but not how carefully they keep their distances when they are not.” Keith Johnstone, quoted here in a great post. (To successfully imitate conversation it’s incredibly helpful for an actor to understand the actual dynamics that underlay interactions between people. Amateurs are oblivious.)

    Membership in a group and one’s status in that group are key to survival and reproduction. Cooperation is also central to survival: to reach adulthood a child needs to consume around ten million calories, far more than any parent or pair of parents can reliably manage on their own. In times of danger the instinct to cooperate reigns. We feel elated and freed. When the danger passes, the scramble resumes.

    Two thousand years ago Jesus told us that in the Kingdom of Heaven the servant would become the master. After all that time, after all those hundreds of years with multiple nations supposedly following his principles, no one managed to put it into actual practice for long. Failure to recognize the “drum major instinct” leads to a pitiful blindness about the human condition. Desire for status will always be with us, it is ever-present, and in a healthy society must be channeled to productive ends. Wonderful that MLK Jr spoke on this topic so brilliantly.

  15. realitychecker permalink
    January 16, 2018

    I’m getting so tired of folks saying matriarchal societies are better, but they NEVER specify which ones they are talking about.

    I guess they know that if they do, there will be obvious reasons why those anomalies were able to exist (like, e.g., no serious enemies being able to reach them.)

    C’mon guys, where are the societies you are talking about, and when?

  16. Kenneth Furie permalink
    January 16, 2018

    Thanks, Ian. I’d never read or heard or even heard of this speech, which is enormously thought-provoking. (Wouldn’t you think this should be among the better-known pieces of Dr. King’s legacy?) And the case of Trump, while obviously a spectacular “for instance,” is almost the least of the thoughts provoked.

  17. EmilianoZ permalink
    January 16, 2018

    Now the economists also say that your house shouldn’t cost—if you’re buying a house, it shouldn’t cost more than twice your income.

    Can anybody afford to buy a house with this rule?

  18. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    January 16, 2018

    King is another of the endless parade of false prophets that the 60s produced. Twelve more years until his FBI files are unsealed — should be fun.

  19. Bob Arctor permalink
    January 16, 2018

    Better yet, @BlizzardOfOz, I think the records of the House Select Committee on Assassinations with regard to the King and Kennedy assassinations are to be unsealed in 2029.

  20. highrpm permalink
    January 16, 2018

    in fact, mlk’s “drum major” sermon is an good example of the bad solutions promised by christian sermons.

    @reslez, thx for mentioning keith johnstone and his impro books. johnstone, provides a more accurate picture of object relations than just “forgive.” e.g., forgiveness, another innate sense that humankind has for use by the dopamine-driven homing device model read montague constructs. forgiving does not work in relating to chronic abusers. those pathological fuks know only one kind of behavior, the wrong sociopathic or worse, pyschopathic, dominant imposing of themselves on others around them: bullying, the mental equivalent of raping. as basic psychology has learned and teaches, the only defense for a victim of chronic abuse is offense, taking the action of leaving, “getting out of dodge.” and not the advice given by amateurs from the pulpit, like mlk, telling their drone audiences, that they should take christ’s example and endure and forgive yet again. this counters one’s natural intuition, the inner voice that screams “this christian advice ain’t right” and “something is very amiss here,” but my christian faith tells me, ” oh, yes, i must be more like jesus and keep forgiving.” no. rather, the dixie chicks offer better advice, “earl had to die.” and amy morin’s “13 things mentally strong people don’t do.” they don’t roll over and continue taking shit from an abuser. rather, they leave, telling themselves, “let bygones be bygones. i’m outta here.” and they feel good about it.

    mlk’s “drum major” advice simply follows in the long line of ill conceived and mistaken beliefs. like the old catholic mindset of the flat earth. when in fact, mlk was the king pin drum major.

    how many times did he cop to his congregants of his sexual flings? hypocrite. luv those blonds.

  21. Hugh permalink
    January 16, 2018

    If our heroes do not look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie and have the morals of Mother Theresa, that is if they are the not The Second Coming, we should reject them because we deserve and should demand nothing less than perfection, amirite? Of course, this is totally childish and completely unrealistic. But then we don’t want leaders who are real people. We want cartoons –in tights and capes. What’s up with that?

  22. Ché Pasa permalink
    January 17, 2018

    Interesting reflections on a flawed icon. He was far from perfect — which he knew better than anyone — but once he was adopted into Sainthood by the Overclass (much like Gandhi) his perfection became an article of faith for the Lower Orders who will be forever tied to his Sacred Memory.

    So my question is, “does it matter” and if so, how? Amy Goodman likes to run an hour-long MLK speech on MLK Day, a recording “recently discovered” in the Pacifica archives, and it’s a good speech delivered in London in 1964. It seems prescient given events since then, and perhaps his ability to understand and interpret the course of history was his main gift.

    Just remember, our Overlords will never let an MLK or Gandhi (should one arise) succeed again.

  23. nihil obstet permalink
    January 17, 2018

    There is enormous variability in human beings. At the extremes, there are outliers of saintliness and evil. People who dismiss the example and urgings of those towards the saintliness end advise us to model our selves and our society on the presence of those towards the evil end.

  24. Willy permalink
    January 17, 2018

    Good people are a lot better at self-regulating their evil impulses, than bad people are. Since most people know this, it’s probably why prophets choose to preach good, rather than evil.

    Since everybody’s preaching “good”, the challenge becomes trying to figure out what really is good, at the end of the day, or what’s really just self-serving bullshit.

  25. January 17, 2018

    Oh, I didn’t know anybody responded!

    It seems kind of like you think I’m defending Christianity? I am not defending Christianity. Christianity is dumb, and the people who adhere to its weird, arbitrary beliefs must not be able to read. I am therefore going to disregard your anti-Christian content, because I already agree with it.

    I have never heard of Read Montague, but I will certainly look into his work — and not only because he sounds like he borrowed his name from a 1980s soap-opera hunk. (And it looks like he did a TED talk, too, which would ordinarily disqualify him from serious consideration as either a scientist or a soap-opera hunk, but I’m willing to overlook it.)

    I am guessing, based on your tacky use of “joo,” that you correctly object to Israel’s occupation of, and generalized history of human-rights crimes against, Palestine. I’m only suggesting to you that if you believe that the state of affairs in Palestine emerges from anybody’s interpretation of the Pentateuch, rather than the global war interests of a fading and bellicose West, you may be reading some of the wrong books.

    My broader point is that your reliance on animal models — “biomimicry,” I guess, even though I thought that word meant something else — is Romantic horseshit, just like religious beliefs, but even funnier. Why in the everloving hell would anybody want to conduct themselves and their households like a beehive? Honeybees behave in a certain way because they are biologically motivated to do so; they have no thoughts, they make no decisions, they are burdened neither with culture nor with emotion. If people tried to pretend to be honeybees, it wouldn’t be a return to biological normality. It would be an hilarious, and artificially-orchestrated, behavioral science experiment. Would we bee-people also spend our time chewing up wax and turning flower-nectar into honey, or could that be optional? Because, you know, I think that sort of thing is the bee’s primary behavioral motivator — rather than an attempt at natural social excellence.

    I agree that modern, heteronormative marriage relationships (among other things) are probably not ideal, mostly because they seem to make so many people miserable. But we should just replace them with something else, not try to layer a subjective vision of animal behavior onto already-existing social structures. Lots of people are trying to do that, now — to eliminate hoary but meaningless traditions that control gender and sexuality and public conduct. (Not the animal parts.) (Sometimes the animal parts!) Mostly these people are shunned by others, and accused of being snowflakes that need safe spaces.

    “I’m getting so tired of folks saying matriarchal societies are better, but they NEVER specify which ones they are talking about.”
    Matriarchal societies are not ‘better.’ No class or group of people should have unilateral control over other people. Hierarchy based on gender is pointless and ridiculous. Some men may be better at being ‘warriors’ than some women, but that doesn’t mean they deserve total societal control — unless that society is a war-worshipping hellscape where dick-measuring contests replace thought.

    Also, now that we humans have guns, we don’t have to divide each other into rigidly-segregated classes based on grip strength. It’s nice out here in reality, if you ever start thinking about joining us.

  26. highrpm permalink
    January 17, 2018

    for the most part, i agree with you. except,
    – how do you know what bee’s think. for all we know, trees and plants are sentient beings, along with the species having brain stems & limbic systems? i would suggest this world might be a lots more peaceful place if humankinds showed greater respect for all entities occupying this earthspace with them. at the very least with the welfare of the animals.
    – my “white trash” use of the term “joo”. first, i’m not anti-semite. in fact, i’m pro-semite, advocating the single state solution, meaning return israel to its pre-balfour agreement rightful owners, the palestinians. and eastern euro jews, go back to europe, or wherever. i take the word semite literally. otoh, the eastern euro jews are the true anti-semites, showing by how they mistreat the palestinians, who at least have lots more semitic DNA than the armenoids now ruling the land mass we call israel.
    – the reason i tout biomimicry over judeo-christianity is one can go out and observe and study various biological entities and hypothesize and make conclusions, rightly or wrongly. not so with ancient myth. how do the believers in abrahamic-based religions prove a damned thing about the validity of their beliefs. they’d never trust a banker or a car dealer without first trying to establish some knowing they can deliver the products/ services they’re trying to sell. i might consider giving more thought to the subject when one introduces me to another human who can walk on water. “holy men of god spoke as they were moved by the holy spirit.” really? la la land. magical thinking. just like their claims of eternal hell fire.

  27. Tom W Harris permalink
    January 17, 2018

    Most “white trash” aren’t hung up on the Jews the way you are, rpm. But hey, you knew that.

  28. MojaveWolf permalink
    January 17, 2018

    Thank you for posting this, Ian. I had either never heard/read this speech or forgotten about it, but most excellent reading.

    And in general, I will agree w/most of Hugh’s comments above (I think; I read comments here off and on over several days, I think I remember who said what

    I really don’t understand a lot of the pushback. The particular teachings of Jesus that King referred to don’t require a religious underpinning; I’ve known a LOT of Buddhists in my time and all of them liked what Jesus had to say. I’m no longer a Christian, either, and haven’t been for more of my life than I was, but I don’t see how things like “think about how you can help your fellows” or “lead by serving others” or “love thy neighbor as thyself” or ANY elements of MLK’s “I’d like for people to say King …. (insert action here)” list required a belief in a Supreme Being or any sort of religious dogma.

    The other part of his speech involved self-knowledge, and understanding of others, and trying to get people to work together for the common good. None of this has anything to do w/the bad stories in the old testament (you will not see me defending that part of the Bible; other people tried to defend it to me, back in the day, but when I was a Christian I found it necessary to jettison completely in order to maintain my faith; those stories are horrible and imo indefensible; that said, various takes on this are possible, from the idea that God was still evolving/maturing and the Christian God of later days had grown beyond the past–I’m not arguing this point, just putting it out there that some have argued it–to the Blakean view that the Old and New were testaments of separate deities in conflict w/each other).

    Also mostly in agreement w/Emma here; the evpsych stuff is mostly garbage. But agreeing w/higherrpm that animals and plants should be treated better by the lot of us.

    Oh, re: higherrpm on the limits of forgiveness and turn the other cheek: Yes. There are limits. I’m far far far from a pacifist, and my views on self defense are closer to what you’d find on a right wing (or a self defense or MA) site than what most lefties espouse. But accepting that violence and retribution are sometimes necessary, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to work for peace and forgiveness and trying to achieve greater peace love and understanding when you can are bad.

    Sure, love thy enemy has limits, understand thy enemy is useful but doesn’t always mean forgive, and if someone runs around whacking innocent people w/an axe for the fun of it, yes, you should stop them, but that doesn’t mean love and understanding and peaceful coexistence isn’t still the preferred way to go whenever you can.

  29. realitychecker permalink
    January 17, 2018

    @ Emma

    Nagger, please.

    So many on the left hold up the chimerical matriarchy model as the solution for now and the future, and they are all totally full of shit. (See wendy e davis at cafe babylon for more info on that lol. Or some here, for that matter. )

    As you are full of the same, when you say the existence of guns, blah, blah, blah. We’ve had guns for centuries, where the fuck were all the woman warriors? Oh, right, there were none. All the war dead in uniform had penises.

    But that doesn’t stop women from pretending that they ever would even have had a safe space to organize and maintain a society AT ALL if men did not provide and maintain that safe space by force of arms. No, no, don’t thank us.

    (Just think less of us if we don’t lay our lives down for you now. Do you know of any women deliberately laying their lives down for a man? Doubt it. Again, don’t thank us.)


  30. realitychecker permalink
    January 18, 2018

    @ highrpm

    Well, you\’re right that Arabs are Semites. How clever you are. Congratulations.

    You\’re just a standard Joo-hater, aren\’t you?

    Got foreskin? I\’m looking at my dog as I try to visualize you . . .

    Hammerheads look great on sharks, but on you?

    When you gonna give any property you own (highly dubious!) back to the Native Americans it was taken from?

    I guess you must be universally anti-conquest, amirite?

    And of course you know the Palestinians favored the Nazis, right? They thought extermination was a splendid idea. Too bad the Nazis lost the war, for them and, apparently, for you as well.

  31. highrpm permalink
    January 18, 2018

    you sure know how to bait a hook and set it you ole troll you. i suggest you grow your present twisted personality disordered drivel-driven world view a bit. take a break banging on virtual others and immerse yourself for a year or two in chechar’s sitet. you’ll come out a different person.

    and what’s so wrong with the nazis? your bought the public school line in early childhood and its stayed with you, ye ole jew luver ye. ah, lov chowing those bloody little foreskins with the rabbis? tasty plus good for the pineal gland i hear, 1 month of extra lifespan per.

    fuk off.

  32. realitychecker permalink
    January 18, 2018

    @ highrpm

    Thank you so much for removing any shred of doubt about what a worthless sack of feces you are.

  33. Tom W Harris permalink
    January 18, 2018

    @highrpm: Fuck off and die, Nazi filth.

  34. Mojave Wolf permalink
    January 19, 2018

    Aaaaaaaaaaand good grief. Clearly I wasn’t paying enough attention and some of the comments up thread and said something nice to somebody I shouldn’t have. I’m never going to have the time I used to to read & post on this blog at least not in the near future, & honestly I don’t know what the heck has happened to the comments here. Such a great post, and then…. That.

    In the spirit of peace love and understanding that I was referring to above and in the spirit of the general post sir or Madam please do some sort of enlightening of yourself.

    & RC re Emma — assuming I haven’t missed yet something else or confuse people you are correct that she is a lot more Centrist than a lot of us here but she seems like a nice person and I have friends who voted for Hillary in real life just like I have friends who voted for Trump I don’t agree with them but that doesn’t make them awful people. I don’t see how berating her for sincerely held beliefs much less for other beliefs that I don’t think she actually stated is helping anything. Okay there was no good choice in this election so pretty much anything you voted was defensible on one ground or another but let’s say she actually seems to display enthusiasm for some Centrist dems. Ok we think she’s wrong how is yelling at her going to help? Hillary supporters yelling at me never did anything except make me dislike them.

    (I’m using a voice translator on my phone so apologies if a lot of this kids mistranslated I remember that happened once before. I try to catch stuff when I do this but sometimes I miss it)

  35. Mojave Wolf permalink
    January 19, 2018

    Oh. Re: women warriors & guns — really not in the spirit of the post, but check out lyudmila pavlichenko for starters (if I spelled it wrong, look up Russian women snipers). & I know a LOT of current & former women soldiers, & used to train w/women athletes as well as male ones. Some of these women would trash most men at most things athletically speaking. (I can’t remember most historical examples’ names offhand, other than Anne Bonney (and you can thank my great love of Black Sails for that one; the real Anne Bonney seems to have been reasonably similar to the one depicted in the show from what I’ve read)

  36. realitychecker permalink
    January 19, 2018

    @ MW

    My only problems with Emma, who I do not dislike, is that she is pushing the ‘matriarchy will save us’ and the ‘men didn’t build anything good’ themes in ways that are not supportable, and I have seen these themes many times, and they richly deserve some vigorous pushback.

    But you ain’t seen nothing, amigo, until you view the current comment section lol.

    I wish I had enough personal power to be held accountable for all the counter-logical madness that is currently defining the supposedly enlightened left.

    In an environment of madness, the logical voice becomes the greatest enemy.

    It seems that I am the only one required to restrain my contempt.

    It’s kinda funny . . .

  37. Willy permalink
    January 19, 2018

    Turning the other cheek works wonders with some, but on others not at all. There are ways to know the differences. But as a group, we’re a bit messy when it comes to discussing those ways.

  38. MojaveWolf permalink
    January 19, 2018

    In an environment of madness, the logical voice becomes the greatest enemy.

    It seems that I am the only one required to restrain my contempt.

    It’s kinda funny . . .

    Speaking for myself and only myself, here’s why I’m asking you to rethink posting tactics (and on occasion, your evaluation of other posters): I actually like what you say a lot of the time with regard to the substantive discussions. A lot of people, I don’t care what they say. There is at least one poster who comes here for no other purpose for over a year now than to say the blog sucks and it’s commenters all suck, and other than “is your life that miserable that this is what you choose to spend your time on?” I got nothing to say to that guy (and, maybe, please change your handle, coz I have woodpeckers in my yard and they are cool birds and I like them). You are probably overall to the right of me politically but you are still on the left, and without being tribalistic or knee-jerk or a follower in your leftiness. I.e. you have the guts to state unpopular opinions. I value this in people. And you have a lot of genuinely insightful commentary on various topics, which obviously I also value. These used to be the majority of your posts, whether I agreed w/you on an individual topic or not, and it doesn’t seem like they are anymore.

    The insult fests and traded accusations detract from the substantive posts, even when you are right. As I’ve said before, it’s not my place to tell anyone how to get their point across. We all have our personal styles and what you want to convey may not be what I’d like to see, but that’s your biz, not mine. But since you asked . . . If you have (and I’m making up numbers here, not about to go count) 30 comments and 10 are substantive and 20 are of the “Die lying scum” variety, it makes people less likely to pay attention to the ten substantive comments. I don’t really want to read threads where more than half the comments are personal disputes. At that point, who is right as to whatever started the dispute becomes less important than “please make this stop so I can read a discussion of the original topic.”

    I read the other thread, and you even got me to read the crypto thread, which I honestly didn’t particularly care about (I am not a fan of crypto-currencies and have multiple objections to them, limited time, just not a topic that interests me, etc). And okay, you were correct in your particular arguments w/Ten Bears for sure and I’m pretty sure w/Che about who said what when on some stuff. (As an aside, I agree w/you about the horrid nature of sport
    hunting, tho I’m not clear whether this instance was sport hunting or not. Also, I disapprove of bear hunting in general and you can take it as a given that I’m on the side of the bears in pretty much any bear hunting that goes on) Point made. Take the win and move on, otherwise you risk causing people to ignore your comments on issues because they’re expecting more personal disputes.

    Also, some of your “contempt” (your word, not mine) strikes me as misdirected. I carefully reread Emma’s posts in this thread, and I’m not seeing her advocating a matriarchal society. And nihil obstet is one of my favorite posters here, and I’m pretty sure shares a lot of the same political space as you, & you went off on him the other day (yes, I know, he made a snarky comment. It didn’t seem to warrant the level of hostility in response, imo, or really any hostility; we aren’t all going to agree; at the very least, pick your battles rather than escalating to battle mode as a default response).

    Lastly, and this is my personal biggest issue w/what I’ve seen as a change in your personality lately, well, you used the word contempt. I get the use of this, and the anger, when you think people are being deliberately dishonest or deliberately misrepresenting you (even there, I’d say try to err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt). I don’t get contempt when some of us simply disagree. We’re all wrong sometimes.And if it’s contempt for intelligence, eh, I think nearly everyone here qualifies as “really, really smart”. (that was not an intentional throwback to the King remark in the post above, but I did think of it as I typed that; I’m actually not trying to sell anyone anything tho, I promise) I think I’m fairly bright (never finished outside the top 1% in a standardized test and have perfect scores on some sections (including portions of the GRE and the LSAT, in high school had either highest scores in history of my school to that point or highest scores in many years on practically everything) and most of the people here (including some I strongly disagree with) are equally so. And even if not, why would there be contempt? I’m not seeing the rationale (again, excepting people you are absolutely convinced are being deliberately dishonest, or maybe in extreme cases of willful delusion). There people who, in everyday conversation, are quick enough to make me feel slow and highly limited and who it’s a fun challenge to try to keep up with, but I don’t think they hold me in contempt tho. (one of them married me, so I’m assuming “no” on the contempt angle).

    Anyway, main point: like nihil in the other thread, I used to like the comments here a lot better. Especially since I often don’t have time to post and can only read, it’s up to me to convince y’all to be more interesting and productive in your discussions again. You were one of the people who made this place interesting, and I hate seeing you get sidetracked w/all the other stuff. Help a brother out?


  39. realitychecker permalink
    January 19, 2018

    @ MW

    You need to know that I have always been very fond of you, and right now I feel that I am loving you. No joke.

    Because you are always as reasonable, thoughtful, and caring as you just were again. I have only love and respect for you, and anyone who manages to be anything like you. Don’t ever doubt that.

    And of course I’m still on the left, even though I believe in the natural right to self-defense which gets everybody crazy on the left. And in free speech and the marketplace of ideas concept, which now seems to enrage everybody as well.

    But I was bullied mercilessly as a kid, my mother forbade me to ever hit back, and when I finally did, people stopped bullying me. So, I’m comfortable with where I am on that. Other than that, I hate everything about the corporatocracy (they’re NOT PERSONS!!!!!), and I always root for worthy underdogs (that’s us lol). So of course I want the left to win and make a lovely world. Still, the left has its own serious warts and contradictions, and I want to see that remedied by some desperately needed reality checking.

    But I’ve been doing this since pre-the Iraq War, at Firedoglake, and my patience is getting frayed. And I feel time is running out, maybe, probably, it already is too late. We had a wonderful community there, but over time it degenerated into opposing camps, didn’t it? Cluckers vs. Fierce Debaters, as I labeled it in that infamous post that got hundreds and hundreds of comments lol. Or FDLers vs. MyFDLers, if you prefer. And it got ugly, sometimes very ugly. Seems to be a genetic left-side problem. Between the committed Dem Party types and the new direction thinkers, usually, but often just about ego and posturing differences. Circular firing squad.

    I don’t recall when you started showing up there, but if you went way back, you would know how far ahead of the pack I was on a lot of key realizations about what was coming. And you would also know that it was virtually impossible to get any of the others to come along until the prognosis was already seen to have become the reality.

    Even back then, I knew and argued that we had to spurn the Democratic Party, then after that that we could not rely on elections. And then urging people to read the Declaration of Independence, and discuss the concept of revolution in a scholarly and hypothetical way.

    The vitriol I got for that then had similar flavor to the flavor of what I am getting now. Heretics are never popular, even if they are right AND POLITE. Of course, at FDL it never got to the low level of here, because they banned easily, and because they never would have tolerated anybody like Willy, or Webstir, or NR, or any of the others who seem to have decided that the very best use of their mental energy is to taunt and stalk me. I just went back to August to find Ten Bears’ quote, and all I saw was these guys coming after me with stupid stuff. Totally ridiculous.

    I’m a fighter by nature, Wolf. I admit that. But I never started anything with anyone, because I don’t seek conflict. Especially online, but everywhere, really. That’s a point of honor for me.

    But I won’t flee from bullies, either, and won’t suffer deliberate fools gladly. It takes too much time and work to put cogent thoughts on line, (especially with my out-of-control Dell laptop cursor lol), to gladly cede ground to folks who clearly only have disruption and conflict as their goal.

    I also think that we only exist online to the extent that people accept that we are credible, so when folks try to destroy that, they are reducing the likelihood that one’s sincere arguments get decent consideration, so then what’s the point of bothering to come here at all? Pushback is required or your cred gets damaged anyway. Some will also resent the pushback, I get it. It’s a Hobson’s Choice, but pushing back feels better than rolling over.

    So these guys get my goat sometimes, and I make fun of them in retaliation (Brooklynites are real good at that lol), and sometimes I also use pointed language if it seems folks aren’t picking up on more subtle language, like the old joke about having to hit the mule upside his head with a brick just to get his attention. Some folks seem to need multiple bricks lol. But it’s just words. Just words. And the words that come back at me aren’t polite, either, so the outrage seems strangely selective.

    With all that said, I am seeing the overall uselessness of a lot of this online stuff. You go back in time in the archives, you see everyone saying the same thing over and over. I am starting to give up on the idea of anyone being willing to learn or try anything new that might have a chance to help us. And especially not if if comes from a ‘weirdo’ like many want to see me, apparently. So, I’ll probably participate a lot less going forward, and concentrate more on the good things I have in my immediate environment.

    Peace to you , brother, and if you ever want to make direct contact, just let me know. I know you are one of the very good ones. ((MW))

  40. Willy permalink
    January 20, 2018

    Maybe rc once tried doing realitychecking in kindly and loving ways, and it was a disaster?

  41. realitychecker permalink
    January 20, 2018

    I learned through long and bitter experience that intellectual mules, like you Willy, really need the brick. And often, as again with you, even the brick is inadequate.

  42. realitychecker permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @ MW

    I failed to respond to your concerns about Emma and nihil, because the comment was already too long.

    Emma is smart and good, but she brought two themes that have irked me for decades and never get a fair hearing, the phony matriarchy argument, and the complete lack of gratitude or recognition for all the men who died to create a society safe enough for women to even complain about. As to the latter, it is extremely insulting to attribute all those millions of male deaths solely to a strong “grip” as she did, even as to the hundreds of years after guns were available to reduce the importance of ‘grip.’ It was really about willingness to die, and men deserve some credit for that, but they never get it. Same today, when men are still expected to defend their women outside the military or be scorned by them.

    As to nihil, I used to think he was smart, but recently there have been several occasions where he was clearly being a deliberate jerk, so I responded to that accordingly. See the
    Statue of Liberty discussion we had, if you care about this.

  43. nihil obstet permalink
    January 20, 2018

    Interesting question. What is the proper reaction to a misstatement of fact in a discussion? Ignore it, as though it were accurate? Indicate a problem with the accuracy, even if there’s a good chance that it was simply a careless misstatement?

    Case against doing anything:
    What does it matter? Even if the inaccuracy is being used as an argument for the writer’s belief, some writers will feel attacked if their inaccuracy is addressed — as rc puts it, they experience it as a “gotcha”. That feeling will result in derailing any good discussion that may be going on.

    Case for doing something:
    1) Carefulness and accuracy are habits. While a careless misstatement isn’t a big deal, helping each other to avoid sloppiness may improve the thought processes that we hope are going on in our discussions.
    2) If the case against doing anything depends on the judgment that the other person will be too unpleasant if corrected, the case should probably be rejected. It rewards bullying, and we shouldn’t do that.
    3) The information in question may involve other issues that you’re interested in. The specific information here did for me.

    There are little pieces of propaganda that I’m rather careful about. For example, I don’t refer to the American military establishment as “Defense”. I call the ACA “medical insurance” instead of “health care”. The specific issue that set off this interchange was the attribution of that drivel about huddled masses yearning to breathe free to a Frenchman. This is straight-up American propaganda during a time when unbridled capitalism was triumphant. It’s like G.W. Bush saying foreigners hate us for our freedom. The “New Colossus” was a late 19th c. version of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American”. Emma Lazarus was a third rate poet who would have been deservedly forgotten but for hitting the right moment for getting one poem on a big tourist attraction. Yeah, it’s a little thing, but I still think worth making.

    The discussion going on at the time had enough incivility already, that I judged a call to fun potentially worthwhile. Well, it was worthwhile in ways that I could not have foreseen. I have avoided any interaction with rc since the last time he called me a moron. I do not put up with that. But man, this thread turned into the most fun I’ve had here for a while.

  44. Willy permalink
    January 20, 2018

    And often, as again with you, even the brick is inadequate.

    Yet with everybody else (sometimes even Peter) the normal methods work just fine.

  45. realitychecker permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @about half an hour composing a very respectful and civil reply to you nihil obstet

    First, I want you to know I just spent and it suddenly disappeared, which is happenign alot and maybe my compuetr has an infection of some kind I am leaving this unedited sp you can see what I deal with every time I comment here.

    That’s the risk I run of wasted time and energy every time I offer something longer than a few sentences.

    So, now, nutshell version. Uncorrected.

    Your Emma Lazarus comment was vague and seemed to be trying to make me look like an idiot by insinuation without context. I get a lot of that; direct ositive statements are less prone to misunderstanding.

    The Statue of Lbertt was was about Libery not Immigration. Wikipedia makes that very clear.

    I looked Lazarus up. She wrote the poem from a mindset of supporting Manifest Destiny (and therefore Indian genocide) and she was an early Zionist. I assumed you were against both of those things, like most on the
    That made you look foolish, so I told you the facts. Instead of accepting your error, you just made additional snide remarks.

    Do I have any of tht wrong?

    I prefer civil discussion to antagonsim. Cna we have peace now?

    (M<aybe I will just shoot my computer instead lol.)

  46. realitychecker permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @ Willy

    Respect gets respect. Reciprocity in all things is my only religion.

  47. realitychecker permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @ nihil

    Left out, in 1870’s we had an empty continent to fill, and so welcomed massive immigration fro Europe. To help displace the Native Americans in the West, in part.

  48. nihil obstet permalink
    January 20, 2018

    As you say, rc, “Your comment was vague and seemed to be trying. . . .” and “I assumed . . . .” My question drew attention what is in fact true, that Emma Lazarus wrote the inscription that was put on the Statue of Liberty. I don’t know what “error” you think I should accept. The error that you made up with your belief about what I seemed to be trying and with your assumption? It’s not mine, buddy.

    And I will repeat what I said above. I don’t put up with verbal abuse.

  49. MojaveWolf permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @RC — appreciate it, and very much agree w/you on this:

    I hate everything about the corporatocracy (they’re NOT PERSONS!!!!!), and I always root for worthy underdogs (that’s us lol). So of course I want the left to win and make a lovely world. Still, the left has its own serious warts and contradictions, and I want to see that remedied by some desperately needed reality checking.

    Also, totally get where you are coming from here:
    But I was bullied mercilessly as a kid, my mother forbade me to ever hit back, and when I finally did, people stopped bullying me. So, I’m comfortable with where I am on that.

    A personal anecdote not entirely unrelated to the post:
    From 6th-9th grade, I was in a similar spot. I was a tiny and slow and uncoordinated compared to most of the other kids my age, and this was long before the era where it was cool to be a geek. As a guy in my particular environs, you could get away w/being a sensitive animal lover w/your head always in a book where I grew up if you were sufficiently big and strong in other ways, but I wasn’t. Somewhere along the way I developed something of a temper, and at some point I quit being slow and uncoordinated and so forth, and things changed. (and right after that, entered my Christian phase, during which time this semi-retarded kid either took it into his head or had it put into his head to test the whole turn the other cheek by hitting me in the spot of my arm over and over. I think we may actually have literally gotten past the literal seven times seven description Jesus gave as far as “how often should you turn the other cheek and forgive your brother.” Now, my temper didn’t come into play here at all. I felt sorry for the kid. He was not a scary guy and his punches weren’t that hard. OTOH he was a fair bit bigger than me and not a total weakling, and my efforts to verbally dissuade him were having zero effect. I felt bad for him, but I was also starting to feel sorry for myself and on top of that other kids including girls were watching and to my absolute horror I felt the beginnings of tears starting to form in my eyes, even tho it really didn’t hurt that much. Basically, I finally turned around and hit him in his arm hard enough to knock him backwards over a desk (school kid desk, not real desk, I didn’t hit him that hard; he backed into the desk and tripped). After that, he was totally happy that I hit him and chilled out, and other people watching lost the very undesirable mix of pity and contempt in their eyes (at least towards me, they still acted that way towards him w/an extra helping of disdain for him being an idiot, not that this was, in this case, his fault, thus I would rather have found some other way of stopping the problem that wouldn’t have made him look bad while saving face for me).

    So yeah, I get why hitting back works, at least IRL. (and yeah, the real bad actors who used to pick on me quit after my temper snapped a couple of times and I returned violence w/greater and more effective violence, after that, my entire daily quality of life improved; so, yes, again, I’m w/you on the self defense issue and again, not a pacifist; this also applies even more strongly to defense of others)

    But online? Ehh. I’m putting this down to learning from my past mistakes. Used to get in giant flame wars, occasionally w/entire blog populations (usually, a bunch of self-appointed group leaders who everyone else deferred to coz of “online groups too often turn into giant high schools of the mean girl variety” and because people just care too much about what other people think; which leads to everyone going along w/whoever the cool kids and whatever the cool trends are perceived to be)(I am not immune to this impulse; I have it as strong as anyone else and stronger than some; but at the same time I realize it is a very STUPID impulse and try to ignore it) Me being stubborn vs this syndrome led to . . . massive flame wars, usually w/people who had a rep for scaring the hell out of people, and me being stupidly proud of not being scared of them. But really, in retrospect, if those conflagrations accomplished anything, it wasn’t worth the time I spent on them. Some people gonna be jerks, and there really is nothing you can do to stop them online.. Sure, you can make more artful and more cutting insults, etc but it’s not like “they hit you but you hit them harder and more precisely so they stop”; it’s just whoever is more stubborn (that would usually be me, but . . .) or whoever is more committed to never letting the argument end and apparently has nothing else to do w/their life for days or weeks on end (that would not be me). So screw it. Make point, move on; and if everyone in a place seems committed to either an ideal or following people I don’t like, go somewhere else, even if I used to like those people (and no, I am NOT suggesting you bail on this site, to be clear. Not what I mean at all. I don’t think this is a problem here). This had made my online experience a lot more pleasant, and I don’t think it’s made me less persuasive.

    And some things are just misunderstandings. Unless it was indicated in a previous thread, I don’t think Emma was implying what you think she was, and while you & Nihil seem to have an honest disagreement, I for the life of me am not seeing why it needs to rise to the level of serious insult. That’s the whole internet tone thing; sometimes it’s hard to read people and exactly what they mean. (for all that it may be impossible at this point, I like both of you and think you both are people of good will and would rather everyone got along). (if either of you care, I don’t really have a side in that fight; y’all are both placing far more importance to the origin of the quote than I do, and well, whatever the origins, it’s a nice sentiment, taken in isolation from its original source, and whatever the origins, it’s also true that circumstances are different now, and I have about 9 minutes left before I must leave so let’s skip my convoluted, will make neither right-nor-left happy thoughts on current immigration issues).

  50. realitychecker permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @ nihil

    You seem to be saying you were not trying to dis me by mentioning Lazarus.

    You seem to be saying you still don’t understand why citing Lazarus to support open immigration today was nonsensical.

    Is that correct?

    If so, I suggest you read Wikipedia on Lazarus and on the Statue of Liberty, and then re-read our interchange from the beginning.

    Because this response you just put down does not wash.

  51. MojaveWolf permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @nihil — fwiw, I didn’t have a particular problem w/your comments, and I think you, RC & I probably inhabit overlapping territory w/regard to immigration (again, limited time here, sorry) and its virtues and problems and the frequently problematic motives of many pushing for it, which are NOT why many leftists are for it (quickie–manifest destiny was evil, no, I’m not for open borders, and also no, I’m not a fan of deporting good people who’ve been here a long time, and I’ll leave it at that for the rest of the day.

    Anyway, again, I like and respect both of you and look forward to reading ya’lls comments.

    Must go have fun please don’t kill each other!

  52. realitychecker permalink
    January 20, 2018

    @ MW

    You are thoughtful as always. I don’t have much to quibble with there. I also had the stupid guy, a Golden Gloves guy, forced on me periodically by others, and had to beat him up a half-dozen times. And felt badly about it as well. But what are you gonna do?

    Look, I don’t have to explain about self-defense, I know you get that, while most here do not and never will.

    I don’t know why others comment online, I only know that when I started doing it at FDL, it was the Bush years and I thought it was really important to try and change things, and at FDL I could believe thousands and thousands of people would give serious consideration to what I thought were serious ideas. I was hoping to plant some important seeds. So attacking my credibility meant I might be wasting my time. So I pushed back. (Note that nihil now says he won’t accept verbal abuse, but he sees I get a lot of that and apparently thinks I should accept it lol.)

    Understand that I am so very highly trained to do this work on the highest level, that I would much prefer to keep it there. But there are always the committed disrupters, who can’t contribute but can disrupt. There really is no good response. But pushing back sometimes allows exposing their errors in a comedic way, and laughter has some value.

    Here, I can’t even pretend that enough people will read my contributions to possibly make any difference about anything, so probably it makes more sense to just say to hell with it, because, honestly, I have a lot of other things in my life I could put the time and attention into.

    And from now on, I’ll try to remember that. 🙂

    Peace and good healing to you, brother.

  53. nihil obstet permalink
    January 20, 2018

    This is absurd. You misstated the source of a quotation. I indicated the correct source of the quotation. I did not mention immigration. I still haven’t given any indication of my belief on immigration. You asked me to reread our exchange.

    You said:

    I see people on TV attacking Trump on this, because the Statue of Liberty says to bring your “poor huddled masses.” Like some French guy 200 years ago has the power to control our national immigration policy today. Cuz of course, nothing has changed in 200 years, and the French guy, well, we have to do whatever any Frenchie ever said, right?

    Then my comments are as follows. Between the comments you had what appeared to be a really spritely argument with yourself, while labeling everybody else as “stupid losers”, “morons”, “a pathetic legion of dishonest fools”, and me in particular, “fucking stupid”.

    Fun fact question of the day: who is Emma Lazarus?

    Hint: Not some French guy of 200 years ago.

    Fun logical precept of the day: when considering American ideology, it’s more convincing to cite American authors rather than assigning their writings to foreigners.

    Fun tip for social situations: A few handy, self-deprecating words and phrases like “Oops” or “never mind” (said like Rosanna Rosannadanna) can save time over mistakes and be endearing.

    Fun aphorism of the day: When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

    Having reread our exchange, I still don’t know why you think I was making any argument except to reference accurate facts and not to be a dick.

  54. realitychecker permalink
    January 21, 2018

    @ nihil

    OK, I’m really trying here. And I’m putting a lot of time into the effort, due to my laptop apparently having a wild hair up its butt lol.

    I was too early about the date, and wrong about the author of those words in the poem. I put that in my nice long comment that disappeared yesterday, but I’m repeating it here to make clear that when I am wrong, I will cheerfully admit it.

    Also from the disappeared comment, I discussed that your original Lazarus comment, like too many others online, provided no context to make clear what you were trying to accomplish by putting it in print, and stated my opinion that directly stating your purpose is better than insinuation or sarcasm if miscommunication is something you want to avoid.

    Absent context, I took your comment, with no context, to be a jibe at me, and from then on I was responding accordingly. Your follow-up comments had the same flavor, so I took them in the same negative spirit.

    So, here we are. And I will ask you what I should have asked you immediately at the time, namely: What is the relevance to this discussion of naming Lazarus?

    Maybe then you could have made clear that you were just interested in correcting my historical inaccuracy which was based on my childhood memories from when I climbed the Statue at the age of six or seven.

    I thought you meant more than that, because my argument was that those ‘poor and huddled’ words should not be treated as absolute commands that should control our current immigration policy to REQUIRE perpetual open and unlimited immigration.

    Can you see that your historical correction, while accurate, was irrelevant to that point?

    I then assumed that, since you appeared to be against my position, again, unclear because you let it be unclear, I should point out that Lazarus actually believed in two things that you probably were dead set against.

    I had to assume because you never said.

    She was for Manifest Destiny replacing (and therefore committing genocide against) the western Native Americans, which was why immigration was favored in 1870, and she was for Jews making a state in Palestine, which almost all lefties also seem to be against. So i thought that was where the discussion was aiming to go, and I pointed it out with care.

    Your subsequent comments , without taking the trouble to say what you believed or what you were arguing for or anything about your INTENT, therefore seemed deliberately obtuse to me, and since I had a bunch of my usual suspect chihuahuas (not you!) biting my ankles at the time, I was easily led to stay in combative mode with you.

    So, as in most miscommunication scenarios, I think we both could have done better than we did. I’m happy to apologize for my part in that.

    Having said all that, and hoping it does not again disappear before I can hit the Submit button lol, I have no serious problems with you and do not wish to have one now. Can we shake virtual hands, and start afresh with each other? I really hate to fight with people who have the capacity to reason instead, which I think describes you.

  55. realitychecker permalink
    January 22, 2018

    @ MW

    Have we learned anything here?

  56. MojaveWolf permalink
    January 23, 2018

    @RC — Well, I learned some history involving the inscription on the Statue of Liberty that I had previously forgotten or never known. And that at least a couple of people pay attention to me, so my comments aren’t totally useless. So that’s good (for me, anyway).

    (I realize that’s not exactly what you meant…)

    Re: RC’s comments on whether to post or not, relative size of audiences, FDL, & nihil’s when to say something and when to not, all I can do is quote Jakob Dylan,

    “there’s got to be an open lane
    somewhere here in front of me
    through this maze of ugliness and greed”

    Find the open lane!

    (that’s a general direction, not a specific one, and looking up the song lyrics to make sure I got them right, it’s “opening”, not open lane, but essentially the same meaning and I kinda like my version, especially since it goes w/the whole “one headlight” name of the song)(I have been listening to that song for about 20 years now — holy … I’m old!!! — and never realized I had that specific wording wrong)

    I have had a lot of the same thoughts, about when and whether what is worth doing, and in particular blog posts, off and on for a VERY long time. I often wonder if I’m just wasting my time. But then, the alternative seems to be to spend that same time living by another set of lyrics, “Swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die”, which, just, well, I like the world, I’m bad at giving up, ripple effects, can’t win if you don’t try & all that. (which isn’t to say that I’m NOT wasting my time; maybe I am; and maybe I could find a better use, but for now…)

  57. realitychecker permalink
    January 23, 2018

    @ MW

    Not to harsh your mellow, but just consider how this whole kerfuffle would have played out differently if nihil had just stated his interest at the outset as only promoting historical accuracy with his “fun fact,” and had ever made clear (still hasn’t) what his position was on immigration policy, either in 1870 or currently.

    Lazy sniping with sarcasm or ambiguity is not the best way to conduct these discussions, and I think that lesson is clearly presented.

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