The only direct connection this week’s Monday Pearl has to Omega is that it is a part of a body of research collected in connection with an Omega conceived and inspired social action project that members of the Third District History and Archives Committee are supporting. That’s it. Nonetheless, I was so struck by this historical point of reference and its relevance to our country’s current political circumstance, I thought the Brothers would appreciate it as much as I did.
In 1972 James Baldwin published “No Name in the Street,” which was effectively a series of essays reflecting Baldwin’s perspective on several historical events and figures central to the fight for human and civil rights in America. After its publishing, the Atlantic Monthly opined that “No Name” was “more eloquent than W.E.B. DuBois, more penetrating than Richard Wright…It contains truth that cannot be denied.” Please indulge me by reading the following excerpt and give some thought to whether you agree.
Excerpt from “No Name in the Street” by James Baldwin (1972)
“It is true that political freedom is a matter of power and has nothing to do with morality; and if one had ever hoped to find a way around this principle, the performance of power at bay, which is the situation of the Western nations, and the very definition of the American crisis, has dashed this hope to pieces. Moreover, as habits of thought reinforce and sustain the habits of power, it is not even remotely possible for the excluded to become included, for this inclusion means, precisely, the end of the status quo – or would result, as so many of the wise and honored would put it, in a mongrelization of the races.
But for power truly to feel itself menaced, it must somehow sense itself in the presence of another power – or, more accurately, an energy – which it has not known how to define and therefore does not really know how to control. For a very long time, for example, America prospered – or seemed to prosper: this prosperity cost millions of people their lives. Now, not even the people who are the most spectacular recipients of the benefits of this prosperity are able to endure the benefits: they can neither understand them, nor do without them, nor can they go beyond them. Above all, they cannot, or dare not, assess or imagine the price paid by their victims, or subjects, for this way of life, and so they cannot afford to know why the victims are revolting. They are forced, then, to the conclusion that the victims – the barbarians – are revolting against all established civilized values – which is both true and not true – and, in order to preserve these values, however stifling and joyless these values have caused their lives to be, the bulk of the people desperately seek out representatives who are prepared to make up in cruelty what both they and the people lack in conviction.
This is a formula for a nation’s or a kingdom’s decline, for no kingdom can maintain itself by force alone. Force does not work the way its advocates seem to think it does. It does not, for example, reveal to the victim the strength of his adversary. On the contrary, it reveals the weakness, even the panic of his adversary, and this revelation invests the victim with patience. Furthermore, it is ultimately fatal to create too many victims. The victor can do nothing with these victims for they do not belong to him, but – to the victims. They belong to the people he is fighting. The people know this, and as inexorably as the roll call – the honor roll – of victims expands, so does their will become inexorable: they resolve that these dead, their brethren, shall not have died in vain. When this point is reached, however long the battle may go on, the victor can never be the victor: on the contrary, all his energies, his entire life, are bound up in a terror he cannot articulate, a mystery he cannot read, a battle he cannot win – he has simply become the prisoner of the people he thought to cow, chain, or murder into submission.
Power, then, which can have no morality in itself, is yet dependent on human energy, on the wills and desires of human beings. When power translates itself into tyranny, it means that the principles on which that power depended, and which were its justification, are bankrupt. When this happens, and it is happening now, power can only be defended by thugs and mediocrities – and seas of blood. The representatives of the status quo are sickened and divided, and dread looking into the eyes of their young; while the excluded begin to realize, having endured everything, that they can endure everything. They do not know the precise shape of the future, but they know that the future belongs to them. They realize this – paradoxically – by the failure of the moral energy of their oppressors and begin, almost instinctively, to forge a new morality, to create the principles on which a new world will be built.”
Make it a great week Brothers. Be noble!
3rd District History and Archives Committee
The Monday Pearl is provided by the Third District History and Archives Committee and is a weekly sharing of fraternity content, commentary, and research of historical value we hope Brothers will enjoy and from which Brothers will draw inspiration. Previous “Pearls” can be found at https://3rddistrictques.org/about-us/overview/monday-pearl/. The Committee encourages your feedback. Should you have reactions, comments, information, anecdotes, documents, and the like, related to any of the content we share, we’d very much like to hear from you. Please send all communication to firstname.lastname@example.org.