Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tension in the Mind

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, so 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.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In my ethics class today we discussed the underlying ethical assumptions of the letter; on skimming it again before class, this passage, which I usually haven't paid close attention to, jumped out at me a bit.

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