This is the August issue in the Last Post of the Month series, commenting on my blog and what it is trying to achieve.
What did Martin Luther King Jnr achieve when he gave his I Have a Dream speech 50 years ago this week? The speech contained no new demands. It was not strong on analysis. Instead, for thousands of civil rights marchers in Washington on the 28th August 1963, and on behalf of millions of people who have watched and listened to it since that day, his speech gave them back their own experience and the aspirations arising from their own experience, now in a heightened form.
You could say that the speech distilled this experience – except that the listener’s experience has been mobilised rather than stilled. You could say that it captured this experience – except that the speech emancipates its listeners, releasing them from their particulars (‘free at last’) and entering them into a wider communion of autonomous human beings.
With Dr King as their mediator, e pluribus unum.
In the rhythms of his carefully chosen words and in the cadences of his sing song voice, Dr King provided the point of entry into a world which already exceeded the particular status quo, as it also transcended thestatus quo of particulars. Thus he found the form of expression most suited to the democratic content of the civil rights movement.
In its own small way, Singing The News similarly seeks to release particular experiences from the confines of what we are supposed to be and how we are meant to react in order to hold down our allotted role in the status quo. Instead, this is news for and about people in the fullness of their human being.
To this end, the heightened form of Singing The News is intended to heighten us – to give us more stature as human beings, to give more stature to being human. But whereas the heightened form of Dr King’s speech came about in response to a substantial political movement, today there is no such movement for me to respond to. Heightened form is all I have with which to call our common humanity into existence.
This is cause for concern. Isolated forms – formulated in isolation from political or economic progress – are highly unstable; they can easily become regressive rather than progressive. Also, it could take the rest of my working life to ascertain whether form – in the form of heightened speech – is enough to work with.
By which time it’ll be too late (for me) to do anything else!