Soul Force

24 Jul

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Martin Luther King, 28 August 1963

Last summer, on a whim, I got “soul force” tattooed on my wrist having just been inspired by these words by Martin Luther King. Every time I explain it to someone, I am overcome by waves of embarrassment for being such a cheesy hippy! But I love it, and I stand by it because these words are still so relevant today.

What has happened in Norway is just devastating. And although everyone jumped to presume that it was an Al Qaeda attack, Anders Behring Breivik was actually a home-grown, right-wing, Christian fundamentalist terrorist. Consequently, the media has consistently been pointing out that he ‘acted alone’. But although that might be true of the actual day, to paint him as a lone nutcase is far from the truth. He is part of a wider fascist movement that is gaining ground in Europe – Breivik was in contact with the English Defence League here in the UK, Marine Le Pen as President of the Front National is becoming increasingly popular, and only two days ago the grave of nazi Rudolf Hess was removed in Bavaria as it had become a place of homage for neo-nazis. And I wouldn’t go so far as to brand the Tea Party fascists, but when Obama is being brought to his knees in debt talks by those who assert that black people were better off under slavery, you have to wonder.

All of this is incredibly depressing and scary. But, Breivik seems to have fundamentally misunderstood who he is dealing with. His writings seem to suggest that he wanted his actions to provoke a ‘war’ and to ‘lure an overreaction from the Jihad Youth / Extreme Marxists’. I hope he has heard then that the Labour youth camp is already planning on returning to Utoya. The youth camp leader Eskil Pedersen has already vowed that there would be no surrender of ideals, that ‘we meet terror and violence with more democracy and will continue to fight against intolerance’. This morning the Norwegian prime minister said ‘Our reply is: more democracy, more openness, and more humanity. But never naivety.’

If those words aren’t the embodiment of soul force, I don’t know what is. Breivik has no concept of who he attacked. He attacked those young idealists who believed in a society built on fairness and justice. Young survivors who said “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.”

How can we begin to stand together, in solidarity, and show this love to honour those people who died? As the prime minister said, let’s first begin by not being naive. We can act with those who are standing against fascism. And while we do that we can show respect and love to each other, promoting the values of fairness and justice. There can be no better revenge.

Your first step? Please sign this petition that is asking the police to ban the planned English Defence League march through Tower Hamlets in early August. Thank you. ♥

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