January 15, 2014 marks the 85th anniversary of the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. He would be turning 85 today if he had not been viciously murdered in 1968.
Dr. King's efforts to awaken the world to the injustices of institutionalized racism in the United States are, of course, well-known, as is his express commitment to non-violence in the pursuit of that goal and the goal of ending that injustice.
In recent posts about the sudden sharp rise in awareness about the inhumane treatment of captive orcas due to a 2013 documentary film, we have seen that one of the film's effects on viewers is to suddenly cause them to become aware of the extent to which a "status quo" which they basically took for granted their entire lives and never really thought to question has all along been built upon what this post called "a foundation of captivity and exploitation that propped it all up." We have seen quotations from people who have woken up to the truth ask in disbelief, "How can anyone look at that and think that that is morally acceptable?"
The discussion argued that the film was basically shaking people out of a sort of "trance" state -- a state akin to that of someone under hypnosis, who is unaware of what is really going on right in front of them -- and that being in such a state is essentially the opposite of any definition of the term "consciousness." To that extent, the effect of the film was to raise consciousness and dispel this harmful "trance" state.
Clearly, Dr. King's efforts during his life were efforts to raise consciousness in the very same way -- to wake people out of their stupor and into awareness of the horrible inhumanity and injustice that they were tolerating, even participating in and supporting by their actions (even if they weren't giving their support of this injustice very much conscious thought at all).
However, there were forces which we can only describe as forces aligned against consciousness that were violently opposed to Dr. King's efforts to awaken consciousness in the United States and the wider world. While most people today are aware of Dr. King's legacy, many remain completely unaware of the nefarious campaign to discredit and destroy him in the eyes of the public, despite the fact that this nefarious campaign has been well documented and that it indisputably did take place.
Readers unfamiliar with this specific aspect of the war against consciousness, carried out by agents of the US government against black leaders and specifically against Dr. King, may want to start with this Wikipedia overview of the COINTELPRO activities of the federal government during that period. They then might want to read the transcripts of the Church Committee Hearings that took place during the 1970s, after documents stolen from an FBI office revealed the existence of this program of institutionalized surveillance of citizens considered threats.
In this document, for example, the reader can see evidence being presented to congress that government agents staged a deliberate campaign to depose Dr. King, with one attorney saying of the FBI that "the Bureau at one point had a plan to select a leader who they thought ought to lead the blacks in this country, and at the same time to depose Martin Luther King, against whom they ran their most sustained and toughest program of any we have seen" (page 7 in the pagination of the original document, or page 16 of the pdf file linked).
That campaign included planting bugs and wiretaps to record Dr. King's activities, in the hope of discrediting him. Although the original congressional document linked above specifically states that the details of the surveillance data which was collected was being withheld from the record "out of consideration for the privacy of Dr. King's family" (see footnote on page 21 of the document as originally paginated, or page 30 of the pdf file), the section of this Wikipedia article on Dr. King entitled "allegations of adultery" cites evidence that the government surveillance included tape recordings of alleged extramarital affairs, which were then released to third parties and also mailed to Dr. King along with threatening notes.
This evidence of nefarious surveillance is extremely shocking and troubling, especially the evidence that suggests that there were specific government plans to remove Dr. King and replace him with a leader that the agents of the government felt would steer things in a direction that they liked better. This despite the fact that Dr. King was specifically committed to non-violence and civil disobedience in the face of clear and aggressive injustice.
During the hearings, Senator Mondale asked an attorney (on page 42 of the original pagination, or page 51 of the pdf file), "What was the threat that the FBI believed that Martin Luther King posed to this country?" The answer is telling:
You get different feelings on that, Senator, from the documents, but it is a threat of change. There is a flavor running in there of an assertion that he was influenced by Communists, but that does never seem to be followed through on or proven what his actions were. It was the threat of change, I would say. [. . .] I think it is easy to underestimate the impact the concept of civil disobedience had on the Bureau in general and Mr. Hoover in particular.
This little exchange goes a long way towards demonstrating the fact that the true situation involved a battle between consciousness and mind control. Dr. King had specifically disavowed violence, but his actions of civil disobedience posed a tremendous threat to people who did not want the consciousness of the public at large to be raised. Because his actions were designed to increase consciousness, the enemies of consciousness saw him as a threat.
Dr. King proved that the most effective actions for consciousness and against oppression do not involve the use of force. Oppression and the denial of natural rights always involves mind control, because human beings innately know what is wrong, even if they are often put into a trance state in which they stop seeing gross injustices being enacted right in front of them, gross injustices that they themselves might even be perpetuating. The most dangerous thing for the forces of oppression is a situation in which those masses of people who are in a trance begin to wake up to the injustices that they themselves are supporting.
The war between consciousness and the forces of anti-consciousness goes on today. Those who celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. know which side they are on in this conflict.