A dream deferred


Root Routledge

On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of injustice as an “island of poverty in a vast ocean of material prosperity.” He spoke of an unfulfilled American promise regarding “the riches of freedom” and “security of justice” as a reality for all. He said that “the whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” He spoke of “conducting our struggle” on the lofty “plane of dignity and discipline”; not to drink from “the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

His dream was one of sitting down “together at the table of brotherhood”; and with this faith, we could hew out “a stone of hope” from a “mountain of despair” where we all could “join hands and sing” songs of freedom and redemption.

His life ended during the last movement for which he fought: the Poor Peoples’ Campaign.

Fifty years hence, let us take stock and ponder our willingness to extend King’s yet unfulfilled dream. Amid some gross indicators of apparent improvement, we find our country in a downward spiral of growing inequality in an economic system that is producing unconscionable results – a stark contrast between an increasingly sovereign elite of unimaginable wealth and power and a growing level of suffering and poverty that should shame every American who has a conscience.

Our broken political system elects gerrymandered and corporate-purchased Republicans and Democrats who go to Washington, D.C., as if to put on a sports entertainment show, with corporate media pundits offering us nothing more than a scoreboard of blow-by-blow political maneuvers.

Capitalist ideologues sustain this system by exploiting a vast populace of ignorance undergirded by nonstop propaganda of myths about the mystique of “the market,” which absolves everybody from accountability, while blaming those who suffer the results of this system for their own demise. Continued reference to the free-market trinity of privatization, deregulation and cuts to social spending (government services and earned benefits) is an evasion of the reality in which most of us live.

What is the American dream in a system designed at its core for chasing cheap labor in order to maximize the rate of return to those who already hold the most money and capital? What is its endpoint?

The systemic failure of our capitalist economy to deliver a dignified and sustainable living for most people is sucking the life out of society. There is no heart or soul in this system, and its end product is a society that doesn’t take care of itself, its people or our planet. In fact, it engenders self-centered greed and exacerbates our mutual demise.

What perpetuates this system is its ability to capture and manipulate fear and sustain widespread ignorance. From fear and ignorance are born a long list of societal ills for civilization, including exploitation, inequality, racism and hatred, with grotesquely distorted policies such as stand-your-ground gun laws and extrajudicial-targeted assassinations – with associated domestic and international violence. These are exploited to justify immoral, illegal and unconstitutional oppression through massive sweeping and unaccountable surveillance of all our communications, growing militarization of the police-state apparatus and a growing incarceration industry.

The social results are enforced compliance, blaming of “the other” and repression, with accompanying social injustice, environmental degradation and atrophy of our spiritual core.

The center will not hold. More and more people will suffer, and more will awaken and fight back in futility. We will exhaust our natural resources, destroy our environment and pass irrevocable climate-tipping points in a downward spiral.

Is a new dream still possible? How? When?

Root Routledge is president of Alpine Analytics, a Durango environmental statistics consulting firm. He holds a doctorate in industrial engineering and a master’s degree in statistics. Reach him at 382-0711 or Root@AlpineAnalytics.com.

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