Going Beyond The Social Revolution: A “Back-to-the-Body” Perspective

Civil Rights: Virginia

Civil Rights: Virginia

Today the world remembers the revolutionary turmoils of the 1950s and 1960s—especially the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America. We remember especially the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a social activist who fought for racial integration in the United States. Dr. King was part of the social revolutions of the 1960s. In this article, I look at social revolution from the “Back-to-the-Body” Perspective. I will compare a social revolution to a forest fire.

A forest fire itself does not bring about a new forest, but it clears the way for a new forest to grow. Likewise with a social revolution: The revolution does not create a new social structure, but it destroys the old structures, which gives the people a chance to create new structures.

The Social Revolution Is Only One Step

It is a fallacy to believe that a social revolution is the way to build a just and peaceful society. A revolution does not built something good; it only destroys something bad.

Building something good does not come through a revolution but rather through interaction, collaboration, and peaceful and prolonged work. Thus, when the social activists go out in the street and yell and scream, that does not build anything. It only points to something that is bad. It is only when we work calmly with other people that we can BUILD something good.

Revolution is like fire.

Revolution is like fire.

A social revolution, then, is a like a forest fire. A forest fire destroys old trees in the woods; a social revolution destroys old social structures in society. The destructive power of a social revolution usually comes from BLAME. Blame is like fire. It has has an explosive power that catches quickly and brings people out to the streets in droves.

A forest fire is sometimes good and has a salutary effect for the health of the forest and for the environment. Likewise, a social revolution can also have a salutary effect in society. After the revolution, people can create better laws and social structures.

Also, a forest fire and a social revolution have similar elements.  A forest fire needs three elements in order to take place: fuel, oxygen, and heat source. A social revolution, also, needs three elements in order to take place: unfair social structures (e.g., racial segregation), impassioned speeches by civil-rights leaders, and unjust law enforcement. We can see these three elements if we consider the situation in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

Racial Segregation: The FUEL

Segregation provided the FUEL for the social revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. We refer to racial segregation as the Jim Crow Law. This was the practice of restricting access to the choice residential areas, institutions, and facilities on the basis of race. Those who belonged to the privileged race could live in certain areas, attend certain schools, visit certain parks, eat at certain restaurants, and use certain restrooms–but the members of the other races did not enjoy the same privileges. The law of segregation represented the FUEL for the social revolution of the 1950s, and 1960s in the United States.

Civil Rights Leaders : The OXYGEN

Civil Rights leaders stoke the fires of revolution

Civil Rights leaders stoke the fires of revolution

The great speeches by great Civil-Rights leaders provided the OXYGEN for the social revolutions in the world. A few names come to mind: Frederick Douglas, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Nelson Mandela, Ralph D. Abernathy, Nina Simone, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, Fidel Castro, and many others. Those leaders used BLAME to entice people into action.

Law Enforcement: The Heat Source

Police and Civil Rights

Police and Civil Rights

When segregation becomes entrenched into laws and statues, the law enforcement arm of government will enforce the segregation. Through boycotts, marches, sit-ins, peaceful walks, and nonviolent demonstrations, the civil-rights activists would draw media attention and would provoke police reaction. Clashes with the police would provide the SPARK and the heat source to create the social revolution, which was like a wild fire. As more clashes occurred, more people poured into the streets–in a crescendo of confrontation that sometimes would turn violent.

What to Do After the Fire?

After a fire, it takes time to growth a new forest

After a fire, it takes time to growth a new forest

A forest fire destroys; but after the fire, the land needs rest, a gentle rain, and time to recover and to produce new growth. The end of the Civil Rights struggles in the United States should have taken place when the US enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That should have been the end of the social unrests in the United States.

After 1964, the US got rid of the Jim Crow Law. Discrimination was no longer the law of the land. The country no longer admitted discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. After 1964, it was a time for peace and recovery. It was a time to regroup and rebuild.

But the fires of social unrest kept on raging. What do great generals do after the war is over? Likewise, what do great Civil-Rights do after the law has changed? In the US, the inflaming speeches of blame did not let up, even after the law changed.

The instigation of social unrest can become a habit with a lot of people. Instead of working patiently with the new law, in order to establish new institutions, the great Civil Rights leader kept on instigating the people through BLAME. That was unfortunate.

This is like a land that has to suffer a fire again, again, and again. It has no time to recover, no time to rebuild. The returning fires destroy this land. Likewise, the civil unrest after 1964 ravaged US society. The peaceful marches turned into violence; cities were destroyed; the cry for justice–which is the correct motivation for a social revolution–became a scream for power, which is destructive. The voices for peaceful change were drowned by the voices of violence.

Thus, we now need new voices—voices of reconciliation, peace, and a vision for working together. The time to TEAR DOWN has passed. Now is the time to build up. The time to DESTROY has passed. Now is the time to build.

Today we celebrate the Civil Rights Movement and the person of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a hero of the social revolution in the United States. But after the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, I wish he had used his powerful voice to get people OFF the streets and back to work and to school, in order to build and build and build.

For a social revolution is only good to produce change. After change has taken place, the revolution must retire, and the cooperation, collaboration, and reconstruction must commence.

A “Back-to-the-Body” Perspective on Social Revolution

Social revolutions happen in order to reestablish balance in society. Balance in society does not exist because balance within the individual does not exist. What causes this lack of balance in the individual?

This lack of balance in the individual comes from the BIAS FOR THE BRAIN that all of us practice. We value the BRAIN more than the heart or the stomach. We believe that the brain must CONTROL the stomach and the heart. You might say that we practice SEGREGATION within ourselves. The things of the heart and the stomach are confined to lower areas of our concern. We believe in the brain, and we give all of our attention to the brain.

If we continue with this imbalance inside ourselves, we will build societies that show the same imbalance. In society, the government is the brain; the culture is the heart; and the people are the stomach. We say that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (Lincoln), but we allow the government to impose its will on the people, instead of executing the people’s will.

Cooperation brings progress

Cooperation brings progress

Thus, social revolutions do little to change things on earth as long as we continue to think the same way. People who carry out a social revolution think in terms of changing the political party in power or the race in power. But if the new people in power turn around and do the same thing as the old government, what has changed?

What is needed, then, is not a change in government, but rather a change in thinking. What is the new thinking? The new thinking is that there is equality between stomach, brain, and heart. In society, there is equality between the people (stomach), the culture (heart), and the government (brain). We must, therefore, first seek internal balance within ourselves; then we can create a well-balanced society.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
January 19, 2015 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Photo Credits:

Photo: Civil Rights Monument; Author: John Murden; Source: http://bit.ly/1BtyHTf; Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo: Forest Fire; Author: Elentir; Source: http://bit.ly/1DUlp3g; Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo: Civil Rights Leader; Author: David Prasad; Source: http://bit.ly/1wlW618; Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo: Police and Civil Rights; Author: U.S. Embassy The Hague; Source: http://bit.ly/1yAeZEY; Creative Commons License: Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Photo: New Growth after Forest Fire; Author: Penn State University Libraries Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library; Source: http://bit.ly/1uiztLi; Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Photo: Cooperation Brings Progress; Author: Marina del Castell; Source: http://bit.ly/1KVSBZT; Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: xx; Author: xx; Source: xx; Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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