Maladjusted

“You know, there are certain words in every academic discipline that soon become stereotypes and clichés. Every academic discipline has its technical vocabulary. Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” You’ve heard that word. This is the ringing cry of modern child psychology. And certainly we all want to live well-adjusted lives in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But I must say to you this evening, my friends, as I come to a close, that there are some things in my own nation, and there are some things in the world, to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation, discrimination, colonialism and these particular forces. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I must say to you tonight that I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence, for in a day when Sputniks and explorers are dashing through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. It is no longer the choice between violence and nonviolence; it is either nonviolence or non-existence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation. And I assure you that I will never adjust to the madness of militarism.

You see, it may well be that our whole world is in need at this time for a new organization—the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment—men and women—men and women who will be as maladjusted as the Prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”; as maladjusted as the late Abraham Lincoln, the great president of our nation, who had the vision to see that the United States could not survive half-slave and half-free; as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who, in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, could etch across the pages of history words lifted to cosmic proportions: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”; as maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth, who could say to the men and women of his day, “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” And through such maladjustment, we will be able to emerge from the long and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

May I say to you that I still believe that mankind will rise up to the occasion. In spite of the darkness of the hour, in spite of the difficulties of the moment, in spite of these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, I still have faith in the future, and I still believe that we can build this society of brotherhood and this society of peace.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., London, Dec. 7th, 1964

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