HOW CAN WE RE-CIVILIZE SOCIETY? excerpts
by James Boggs
“Urban Design and Social Change,”
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
Nov-3, 1988. (Thanks to Grace Lee Boggs for transcription)
We live in an age of both material and spiritual pollution, exploiting each other and our environment without any thought for future generations. We bulldoze forests to clear land to raise cattle for McDonald hamburgers, nor- caring, that are depleting the supply of oxygen which our atmosphere requires. We use chemicals which endanger our ground water and our soil. Every six minutes in our country a woman is raped, in one out of four cases by more than one person. Every five minutes someone is shot; every ten minutes someone is killed. In the last few years in Detroit alone at least two people have been killed every day’, more often than not by a family member or a friend. The homelessness of hundreds of thousands of Americans has become an international scandal. Yet in Ferndale Michigan, residents near St. Luke’s Episcopal Church have sued for an injunction to stop the church from providing shelter for 60-70 homeless people seven days a year. For the last 45 years, while our leaders have been telling us that our enemies were over there, they have actually been increasing over here, among and within ourselves …
Fortunately there are a few people in our country who are beginning to recognize that our country cannot continue on its present course, that we can no longer depend on runaway corporations or on big government for our social and economic well-being, and that somehow must begin to create new economic, social and political ties in our communities in order to gain some control over our lives. Communities have always been and will always be the basis for developing and maintaining human values and building personal character. Those who recognize this are still very few. But all great historical movements were started by a minority. The civil rights movement began in Montgomery, Alabama, with the 1955-56 Bus Boycott. Even capitalism, which was progressive 400 years ago because it offered freedom and independence from the bondage of feudalism, began with a few entrepreneurs.
The first question we need to ask is not how many people are beginning to think this way, but what is the good life in this historical period?” If we can explore this question together in a way that makes us more aware that we are human beings with, the unique capacity imagine, to innovate and to cooperate, our discussion tonight can be a step in the direction of making the 21st century a century that will go down in history as one in which humanity took a big leap forward towards becoming more human.
JAMES Boggs was born in Marion Junction, Ala.. in 1919.
“All of us know of the struggles that have been waged in this century around racism, not only in the United States but all over the world…But as we approach the 21st: century, the issues we face, especially in the United States, are even more complex than those of racism. The struggle of the 21st century is going to be over what will become of our cities.”