Grace Lee Boggs: Quest Magazine

Grace Lee Boggs: Quest Magazine- Excerpt January
These are the Times that Grow Our Souls (Excerpt)


grace pictures 2014-1The America that is best known and most resented around the world pursues unlimited economic growth, technological revolutions, and consumption, with little or no regard for their destructive impact on communities, on the environment, and on the billions of people who live in what used to be called the “Third World.”
On the other hand, there is little or no national or international recognition of the movement to “grow our souls,” which began emerging organically in the United States after the dropping of the atom bomb….
At the time Einstein summed up most succinctly the urgent need for this redefinition of what it means to be a human being. “Technological progress,” he warned, “is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal. The release of atom power has changed everything but the human mind and thus we drift towards catastrophe. The solution to the problem lies in the heart of mankind. Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
“A human being” he said, “experi-ences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
The nuclear bomb created a great divide in theories and strategies for social change. Henceforth, human beings could no longer pretend that everything that happened to us was determined by external or economic circumstances. Freedom now included the responsibility for making choices. Radical social change could no longer be viewed simply in terms of us vs. them, of victims vs. villains, of good vs. evil or of transferring power from the top to the bottom. We could no longer afford a separation between politics and ethics. Consciousness and self-consciousness, ideas and values, mere “superstructure” in the Marxist-Leninist paradigm, had to become integral, both as end and as means, to social struggle. Radical social change had to be viewed as a two-sided transformational process, of ourselves and of our institutions, a process requiring protracted struggle and not just a D-Day replacement of one set of rulers with another.
The 1955–56 Montgomery Bus Boycott was the first struggle by an oppressed people in Western society from this new philosophical/political perspective. Before the eyes of the whole world, a people who had been treated as less than human struggled against their dehumanization not as angry victims or rebels but as new men and women, representative of a new, more human society. Practicing methods of nonviolence that transformed themselves and increased the good rather than the evil in the world, always bearing in mind that their goal was not only desegregating the buses but creating the beloved community, they inspired the human identity and ecological movements which over the last 40 years have been creating a new civil society in the United States.

Excerpted from an article in Animating Democracy. Boggs is a Detroit-based author and activist.


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