Quote Of The Day: Martin Luther King, Jr.

From his speech opposing the war in Vietnam comes this stunner:

Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.

Here is the speech via YouTube:

— thanks to Nathan Singer

What is courage?

If you were to ask most people, I think they would state that it’s acting under extreme circumstances, such as rushing into a burning building to rescue trapped people. In other words, a big act that, as the saying goes, “separates the men from the boys.”

That is absolutely and totally wrong.

What is cowardice?

If you were to ask most people, I think they would give little things as examples. They wouldn’t call someone who didn’t rush into a burning building a coward. They’d sympathize with that person’s feeling of helplessness and frustration. What would constitute a little act? Perhaps a man being afraid to express his love to a woman.

Why is courage usually expressed as something large and cowardice as something small?

I go off into this little excursion because of that King quote. It reminded me of a segment I saw years ago on one of those TV newsmagazines — Dateline NBC, 20/20, Primetime Live, whichever — that really got under my skin. Today I tried to find a video clip of that report but have failed.

However, I did find out that what I saw was actually a re-creation of a very famous test administered in the 1950s. It’s colloquially called The Stooges Experiment. The BBC claims to have a short video, but I haven’t been able to get it to play. The BBC used young children.

The American segment I saw was using people in their 20s. And the experiment included a variety of Q&As, not only judging the length of a line.

My jaw dropped as I watched the study subjects first give the correct answer despite the group, then act puzzled as the group continued to give the wrong answer, and then finally surrender their own judgment and give the same wrong answer as the group!

That’s why that King quote hit me hard today. Not only did he stand up against the majority opinion, he also recognized that he had to stand in opposition to his inner self — that part of us that wants to belong, to have things run smoothly around us; that desire for harmony.

One of my readers hates it when I do this, but King was a believer and the verse is apt:

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Matthew 26:41


Why you need to be the one to speak up
Asch’s Visual judgement experiment (1951)
Conformity and Obedience

Explore posts in the same categories: Quote, Reference - Life

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