Dreaming the Possible
    Category: Column By : James Kallman Read : 994 Date : Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - 05:44:24

    Although I find it hard to believe, but 50 years have passed since the summer of 1963 when massive civil rights protests took place across the U.S. demanding the freedom and equality promised in the Constitution. This summer of protest culminated on August 28 with the 250,000-strong March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech advocating racial harmony and justice

    Back then, suggesting that an African-American would one day become the nation's president would have been considered crazy. Yet there were those who did believe and challenged the establishment to obtain their inalienable rights. This belief was particularly strong in a younger generation who were not only less susceptible to the pressures employers exerted on their parents, but also prepared to stand up for justice. Many were recruited to the cause through music, often maligned and misunderstood by those in authority, and radio was the media that linked the audience not just to what was going on but also to what was about to go on.

    Offering social comment was by no means new. In this case, however, social comment had been taken one step further to become social activism, using modern technology to generate support for a cause, particularly amongst the young, and using the same concept of nonviolent civil disobedience that Mahatma Gandhi had pioneered so successfully to frustrate the British in India.

    A generational leap in communication technology, meanwhile, has provided today's activists with new tools. For if Google has largely replaced the Yellow Pages then the multi-featured mobile phone offers far more immediacy than the deejays ever could over the radio. Yet while this ability to instantly share not only words but pictures with anyone in the world has proved a boon to countless millions around the globe, there are some who view it with far less enthusiasm.

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, for instance, is quoted as saying, “To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” It's a sentiment shared in a number of countries in the Mideast, and elsewhere too. The Internet, after all, is a very public forum. That normal standards of public behavior also extend to it is something else to be learned, for even in normally tolerant Britain, people have been charged with making “malicious communications” or arrested under the Public Order Act on “suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred” over the internet.

    Nevertheless, 50 years on we have come a long way towards realizing Martin Luther King's dream, not just in America but also at the global level in bringing freedom and justice to many around the world. For if the struggles of the ANC to achieve similar aims in South Africa and took longer to accomplish, the overthrow of apartheid was achieved without the bloodbath many feared, thanks in no small part to the pragmatism of both Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk. 

    The history of mankind has been built by people who dared to dream, and as Alexander Pushkin wrote: “It is better to have dreamed a thousand dreams that never were than never to have dreamed at all.” On a personal level, meanwhile, August 28 will always be a special day, for not only does it mark the anniversary of King's speech but it is also the birthday of my daughter who, coincidentally, shares the same three initials, MLK. May her dreams prove possible too.