Love Implementing the Demands of Justice
These are the only two choices that exist for us.
I’ve intentionally set forth the natural law basis of the Declaration of Independence and the civil rights movement of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as exemplars of America’s natural law foundation. And I’ve done so for two reasons: 1) because most people are simply unaware of the natural law basis of both the Declaration of Independence and Dr. King’s civil rights movement; and 2) because anyone who chooses to reject either the Declaration of Independence or Dr. King’s civil rights movement is simply committing social, political, and intellectual suicide (think Rand Paul here).
The ancient philosopher Socrates was unpopular with many people for one reason: he took people’s philosophical positions to their logical (and often absurd) conclusions, which most people simply didn’t enjoy facing. In his dialogue with Gorgias (recounted for us by Plato), Socrates took Gorgias’ theory of justice to its logical and absurd conclusion: that might makes right. Against Gorgias, Socrates believed that justice transcended humankind, because it was eternal and divine.
In short, these two ancient understandings of justice are the same two theories of justice that we, today, have to build our society upon: natural law (i.e., justice is eternal and divine) and the will to power (i.e., might makes right).
As I’ve pointed out elsewhere America was founded upon natural law because it was thought to be the surest foundation upon which to build a society. Might makes right and the will to power might be interesting (Sophistic) philosophical positions to debate, but these understandings of justice—as something that is personally interpreted and power-based—simply do not work in a society that is attempting to build a just and harmonious society. In fact, they are contrary to it.
I’ve also pointed out (elsewhere) the logical and absurd conclusions of the will to power as demonstrated by the tawdry “philosophy” of Michel Foucault, based as it was upon Frederick Nietzsche’s “enlightened” concept of the transcendence of such “weak-minded” categories as “good” and “evil” and its concomitant will to power “ethic”.
The will to power theory of “justice” leads, inexorably, to the domination of the weak by the strong, the oppression of the weak by the strong, and the Sadistic sexual torture of the weak by the strong (simply for the evil enjoyment of the strong).
Sound like anyone (or any nation) you know?
Concerning the dramatic contrast between the ethical theories of Dr. King and Frederick Nietzsche, the late Boston University professor Roger Shattuck has said,
“A succinct and unflinching answer to Nietzsche arose out of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s resolve to protect the civil rights struggle from the forces of radical black violence. In ‘Where Do We Go from Here?’—his 1967 Presidential address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—King picks out as one of the great errors in history the interpretation of power and love as polar opposites and the association of power with violence. King cut to the core of the matter with a no-nonsense simplification:
‘It was this misinterpretation that caused Nietzsche, who was a philosopher of the will to power, to reject the Christian concept of love. It was this same misinterpretation which induced Christian theologians to reject the Nietzschean philosophy of the will to power in the name of the Christian idea of love. Now, we’ve got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.’ (A Testament of Hope, p. 247)
King was not just playing games with the words love and power. He was reaching back to a series of his own earlier readings (above all, in Paul Tillich) and writings and to his experience as intellectual and tactical leader of the civil rights movement. ‘To get this thing right’ meant to King an appeal to a long-mediated and carefully defined philosophic position: the philosophy of non-violence . . . These two prophets, Nietzsche and King, confront us with a continuing struggle between power and justice that no thinking person can responsibly turn away from” (Roger Shattuck, Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography; p. 303).
No thinking American citizen can responsibly turn away from our civic and moral obligation—our duty—to put our nation upon a proper course of justice.
Considering the current situation, in which anyone who dissents, politically, against the militaristic power-state that America has now become, since 9/11, there is little hope that any non-violent revolution of love—by means of protests involving both active and passive resistance—would be successful. Most Americans seem not to care, or worse: seem to actually support the militaristic power-state that America has now become. Protesters are easily discouraged by the government’s ability to declare arbitrary free speech zones as well as its ability to fine and imprison dissenters, virtually at will. The individual protester must decide whether it’s worth losing everything simply to take a stand for love and for what’s right.