Tag Archives: diversity

What Would Martin Do?

If you’re over the age of 4, that’s probably a simple question. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be talking, preaching, and out there supporting the 99%. Probably. I mean I really think so.

I think that partly because when he was killed in 1968 we had already begun some serious tackling of social issues that included more than racism. We looked into the eye of sexism, we began to value inclusiveness and diversity. We admitted to illiteracy and underliteracy in our midst. We accepted the concept of vulnerability as it pertained to race, class and sex, un- and under-employment. We admitted to having race, gender, poverty and class issues that was life-destroying and as a nation decided we didn’t like it.

There are so many pieces of the 60’s tapestry, of MLK’s legacy that we can consider. What resonates most for me though, when I look at the differences between that USA and USA 2012, is the existence of a discomfort, a national pain,  a growning awareness that a noose of vulnerability was choking members of what we had believed was the world’s greatest society.

The social activism and voices of the 60’s that decried racism had in fact a far grander  vision than an opposition to racism. The larger message and the larger motivator was a desire to align vulnerability with historic American values of opportunity. It was not a nation that said we would be blind to color or class, gender or disability agism or xenophobia. Or that we could completely do away with it.

It was a nation that admitted, with an unaccustomed amount of humility, to the concept of vulnerablility. That vision said no to some things — like that differences, exclusion, and hate, would not rule. That we would root out unequal legislation and education, do away with strong if intangible barriers to opportunity. In the 60’s we agreed, generally as a nation, that the stronger of us would protect the weaker and that we did not want a society built on an unequal foundation in which the vulnerable could be brutalized by their difference or their lack.

But the vision was overwhelmingly a positive one — it was profoundly more ‘for’ than ‘against.’ Martin Luther King became the iconic voice of that larger vision of inclusiveness, appreciation of diversity, and protection of and service to the vulnerable. His metaphors, including of the mountain top, moved mountains and galvanized the hearts of a nation. Well most of it anyway. Obviously not those that managed to assassinate some of our greatest leaders and orators.

Nor did the 60’s fully resolve anything. But as a nation, we were reasonably united in wanting to spread the Reverend’s Dream to all.

Would Martin even recognize our world today? What would he say about inclusivity if he knew that almost 50 years after his death, ninety percent of Americans make less in real dollars than they did in 1973? [1]

What would he say about diversity if he knew that today the wealthiest 400 Americans control more wealth than half the people — not of the US — but more than half the wealth of the entire world? [1]

What would he say about vulnerability if he knew that instead of that taxes for the top 400 have plummeted from 51.2 percent in 1955 to 16.6 percent in 2007 (no later stats available, for the top 400.) [2]

What would he say about his dream if he knew that the USA had become the least socially mobile of the world’s economically advanced countries? [3]

What would Martin say? Stated more precisely, what would Martin do?


[1] http://smallplanet.org/surprising-facts
[2] http://wealthforcommongood.org/shifting-responsibility/

Oh Diversity! Thy Name Is…

insects have
their own point
of view about
civilization a man
thinks he amounts
to a great deal
but to a
flea or a
mosquito a
human being is
merely something
good to eat
excerpted from archy the cockroach’s poems. from don marquis’ timeless “archy & mehitabel”(1927) lack of caps & punctuation due to archy having to dive onto the keys to type.)

Did you know that as the Amazon rain forest gets decimated, the tribal people inhabiting it disappear as well? The loss of both is not only unacceptable, but bodes poorly for the future of our species. After all, diversity is essential, and the Amazon does provide 20 % of the oxygen we breathe. To the best of my knowledge nobody is making any new rainforest or new sources of oxygen for us.

But at the moment I’ve got a to a more micro approach to a macro issue.

It’s not breaking news that if the bamboo forests of China go, so goes the Ailuropoda melanoleuca melanoleucaor or Giant Panda whose home it is. Of course human encroachment is the driver of the extinction bus. Without the continuing decimation of the forests, the panda would be okay. Well, probably. The genetic reality is that as adorable as they are, they are nowhere near as successful a species as say the (groan) cockroach or the (screech) bedbug.

If you’re a wordsmith you probably know the joke about the panda in the bar that “eats, shoots, and leaves” a play on the definition of a panda as an animal that “eats shoots and leaves.”  From the perspective of adaptability and survival here’s a third, noir version: Eats shoots, and leaves.

Diversity. Adaptability. Mutation. The life forms that hold those keys to the kingdom are the stayers for the long haul.

The cockroach, for example. These critters have been around for about 200 million years and are likely to outlast us one-million yr. old newbies. Cockroaches are one of the most successful species on earth partly because they are fully adaptable food sluts. They’ll eat (or suck for water on) almost anything. Really.

This currently includes cigarette butts, toothpaste, glue, feces, and paint among the neverending list of roachian delicacies.  OK, so it’s not our taste, but talk about the power of diversity! They can also live without their heads for up to a week (gross), go without food for up to a month, stay submerged up to a half-hour and go without air for 45 minutes (downright scary!)

They’re also intelligent. They balance competition with cooperation for resources. (Boy, could we learn a thing or two from these guys) They won’t touch arsenic or other heavy duty poisons. The way exterminators get them through level two poisoning. They walk in boric acid, for example, – they are roachian very hygenic –and  whilst cleaning themselves lick the poison.

The nasty little bedbug can survive up to a year without indulging its vampiric abilities. That’s like a year with no food or water for us.

We homo sapians sapians don’t begin to compare in survivability to these annoying critters.

My point? Hmm. Hadn’t thought about it that way. Just part 1 on the amazing staying power of diversity.