P&V’s LOL #10: Lasting change never comes until you defy authority

Martin Luther King, Jr. arrested in Montgomery, AL on 4 Sep 1958

It’s obvious, really.  Authority is the machine that defends the status quo.  It’s like inertia — a body stays in motion or at rest until a force acts against it.  Defiance is that force.  When you look at people from all times and cultures who have brought us lasting change,  defiance is the one thread that runs through their words and deeds.

Let’s start with Jesus.  He was defiant at every turn.  When he said, “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;” he was preaching defiance, not submission as some people think.  In Jesus’ culture you’d only strike someone with your right hand.  You’d punch or slap a peer, which would land on his left cheek.  But masters backhanded slaves, hitting their right cheeks.  It was an insult.  So by turning your cheek to present your left side, you are defying both the insult and the authority of the master, thereby treating him as your equal.  (For a more scholarly treatment of Jesus’ nonviolent defiance, click here.)

The founders of our country were defiant.  One quick read of the Declaration of Independence settles that matter.

Gandhi was defiant.  Using the “weapon” of non-violence, he simply refused to accept British rule.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was defiant, exalting the practice of non-violent civil disobedience to new heights in order to bring us the lasting change that paved the way for an African-American to be inaugurated for his second term into the highest office of authority anywhere, on the official national holiday celebrated in Dr. King’s name.

Last Friday, activists posted MKL’s I Have A Dream Speech on YouTube as an act of civil disobedience defying the copyright laws that make posting his speeches illegal.

Watch this video with your kids.  It’s not just a lesson in how to bring lasting change.  Dr. King is one of the greatest orators of all time.  His brilliantly written speeches are full of musical references, quotes from songs, poetry and metaphor — all woven into a moving piece of performance art.  Dr. King’s voice is lyrical and musical.   It’s like hearing a great song — as entertaining as it is profound.  Enjoy!

So what’s next . . .?


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