Martin Luther King is one of the most influential political personalities
of the 20th century. Just like Mahatma Gandhi before him, and later
Nelson Mandela, he contributed to big transformations of the society
where he lived and was active. Transformations that he managed to
realize without violence or bloodshed.
I'm not a pacifist and have never been. I believe that there are situations
where violence is justified: A raped woman has the right to defend
herself against the rapist. A raped country has the right to defend
itself against the occupants. And there are situations where people
in a country have the right to defend themselves when every peaceful
means have been unsuccessfully tried. During the Vietnam War I even
wrote a song that had a chorus saying "Is it really peace that
we want, at any price".
But throughout the years I have come to realize that the wounds that
are left from violent conflicts, affecting buildings, environment
and above all peoples hearts and minds, will take generations
to heal. And by growing older and an increased insight that the consequences
of war mainly affect the weak groups of the society - women, children,
senior citizens and handicapped people - I have increasingly come
to respect and admire Martin Luther King and the non-violent course
that he so consequently advocated.
The question is however, whether it is only respect and appraisal
that we can feel for Martin Luther King or if there is more to it.
If he has something to teach us here and now in a different country
in a different time.
In the past 25 years, Sweden has gone through major changes. The neo
liberal politics that we see today in Sweden have been heavily inspired
by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Milton Friedman. These policies
were initiated by SAF's (Swedish Employers Organization) campaign
called "Satsa på dig själv" ("Support yourself")
and ever since, Sweden has gone from a relatively equal society to
an egotistical and greedy one, a society where the class differences
are more visible than ever, a country where the public sector isn't
able to fulfill the basic need of the people and where private profits
have become the main priority. This is a situation that doesn't differ
much from the one we saw in the USA during the 50s.
Sweden has, through the immigration of people from Yugoslavia, Greece,
Italy, Chile, Uruguay, Bosnia, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and others, developed
from a blond, blue eyed homogeneous country to a multiethnic society.
Even though we don't split people up in black and white, we do split
the country up in immigrants and Swedes. Also in this aspect the similarity
with the USA of the fifties is increasing. And it is precisely at
this point I believe that we can learn a lot from Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King is mainly known for his struggle against the segregation
in the Southern USA during the late 50s and the big Civil Rights
march in Washington 1963 where he held his famous speech "I have
". When the Black Power movement grew strong in
the middle of the 60s, Martin Luther King was rather skeptical
about their strong focus on black power. The Black Power-movement
replied by branding him as an Uncle Tom! But Martin Luther Kings
plans were far more extended than to just the rights of the black
people. His solidarity incorporated not only people with the same
color of the skin as his own. His visions went beyond his own ethnic
group. Martin Luther King emphasized the need for cooperation between
and among all minority and weak groups of the society.
1968 the year he was murdered Martin Luther King founded
the organization Poor Peoples Campaign. This is the point where
Martin Luther King becomes contemporary.
In Sweden too I think we have to stop focusing on race or ethnicity
and how people dress, eat and what their beliefs are. These are private
issues and emphasizing those matters won't solve the problems that
as a matter of fact exist.
What we should discuss are the rights of the majority; the right to
work, education, health care, social safety, equality and democracy
for the majority! And this has to be discussed independently of the
color of the skin or the religious belief. Its not the white
middle class to which I belong myself that in some kind
of patrimonial benevolence is to integrate the immigrated lower classes!
It is the lower classes the majority of Sweden with all its
multiplicity that should build a better and more just country.
A country for all!
I also have a dream, a dream that all the oppressed people, the stepped-on
people, the abused people and the despised of Sweden would get together,
build alliances and start organizations that will improve the conditions
of the entire population. I also have a dream that this struggle will
bring forth a Swedish Martin Luther King; a male or a female who can
plead their cause and whose plans, solidarity and visions are focused
on more than the interest of just his or her own group. And I have
a dream that this struggle for a better and less selfish society in
a better and less selfish world can be won without violence and bloodshed!
Thank you. Mikael Wiehe