CREATING A PRODUCTIVE FORM OF TENSION

thisIsAnUprising

Mark & Paul Engler’s new book “This is an Uprising” is receiving rave reviews.  The authors demonstrate that successful non-violent actions are meticulously planned events rather than spontaneous uprisings (as they’re often referred to in the popular media).  In reading the Engler’s powerful book (one that will serve as an important reference for activists around the world), I was reminded of this passage from Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” where he describes a positive form of tension that it is necessary to cultivate in order to bring real change:

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”

“The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” is a masterpiece. Read the whole thing sometime at this link. His intelligence and courage will blow you away. http://abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html .

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