MLK on Love and Power

Scribd threw up in unlimited an audiobook with bits of MLK recorded speeches. Needless to say, it’s pretty fabulous.

MLK wrote some pretty amazing books and I wish they were more widely read.

One bit I found arresting (partial transcript)

What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. (Yes) Power at its best [applause], power at its best is love (Yes) implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. (Speak) And this is what we must see as we move on.

This is pretty clearly bound up in King’s theological/philosophical perspective, which I’m definitely not in tune with, but I still find it pretty cool. There’s a koanness to the line power at its best. Power (at its best) is love implementing justice and justice is love…er…crushing its enemies? (Justice is love correcting antilove. Simple substitution clearly doesn’t work. Interesting, the goal here seems to be attacking (in part) the black power movement:

Now what has happened is that we’ve had it wrong and mixed up in our country, and this has led Negro Americans in the past to seek their goals through love and moral suasion devoid of power, and white Americans to seek their goals through power devoid of love and conscience. It is leading a few extremists today to advocate for Negroes the same destructive and conscienceless power that they have justly abhorred in whites. It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our times. (Yes)

I generally don’t quite agree with King about Black Power, but I’d love to see a full scholarly treatment about his relationship to the movement.

This latter quote also makes me think of the very cool Bernie Boxill essay “Fear and Shame as Forms of Moral Suasion in the Thought of Frederick Douglass“. I’ve had my quarrels with Bernie over this article (more on whether fear is either a necessary or sufficient condition, or even a promoter, of moral suasion than on Douglass exegesis), but it seems to engage the King above on several fronts. Worth a read (always).

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