While reading the two assigned essays for this week’s class, Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education”, I found myself thinking about a song from one of my favorite bands, SOJA. Their song “Everything Changes” reflects many of the ideas presented in both works of writing. King and Kolvenbach both address the idea of justice for the human race as a whole, excluding no one. Black or white, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, spiritual or not; King and Kolvenbach present similar ideas of equality in the opportunities we have as humans. Where King was more focused on civil rights issues for blacks in the United States, Kolvenbach presented his ideas of promoting justice on a global scale.
Kolvenbach sums up his idea of promoting justice as, “The dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world’s resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level” (41). While this may seem like an entirely idealistic view of what the world should be, I would assert that this idea of looking at the whole world as a single community is an idea that more people should embrace and work toward achieving. I would also suggest that if King were alive today, he would be a supporter of Kolvenbach and this idea of the world working together as a single unit. King mentions multiple times, in different ways, the importance of equality and the reasons why equality among all humans is something every person should desire. While Kolvenbach is looking at these issues globally, King lived in a time when his God-given rights were being taken from him and his entire race in his own country.
King speaks to Kolvenbach’s point in his agenda to promote justice for all peoples. It is important to understand that King lived in a time where his race was denied many of the basic freedoms and privileges that other Americans had. King mentions well-known men that created radical, sometimes unpopular change in history, trying to help his fellow clergymen understand that not all change may seem right at the time, but in retrospect, it was. King writes, “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be” (7). This short quotation sums up what Dr. King was trying to say through this letter. He was trying to help his white brothers under God understand that the change he was trying to make at this time WOULD happen; it was only a matter of HOW it would happen. The injustices that blacks were suffering were so egregious that King saw no other option but to facilitate change. Both King and Kolvenbach touch on ideas of equality where a human is a human, and that human is an individual that deserves the same opportunity and basic rights that God intended for all peoples. As I alluded to earlier, King and Kolvenbach’s ideas of the promotion of justice and equality remind me of a song called “Everything Changes” by the band, SOJA.
I believe that music can shape the views and beliefs of people, and help one to understand and consider different views in all aspects of life. Until I was about 19 years old, I listened to mostly rap music. All rap and hip hop as a genre cannot be put into one category of bad or good, because music is subjective; the quality of the music depends on what the person that is listening to it thinks of that song or artist. At around the age of 19, I was introduced to reggae music, and I eventually started listening to several other kinds of music. We all have different opinions of what makes a song or artist appealing, but I believe that even if you don’t like reggae music, the message in “Everything Changes” by SOJA is undeniably true and tells a story that we as humans live everyday. The title “Everything Changes” is partly misleading because the song is mostly about how we as people say we want to make change, and try to make changes, but in the end, our efforts are futile because in order to make real change, we need to do it together. Here are a few excerpts from the song:
What do we really need in this life?
I look at myself sometimes, like it’s not right.
People out there with no food at night,
We say we care, but we don’t, so we all lie.
What if there’s more to this than one day?
We become what we do, not what we say.
Nothing ever changes
It’s the only thing I know
Nothing ever changes
I’m looking down this road
Nothing ever changes
Look at your dreams and your intentions
How selfish it is for you to mention
Turning your thousands into millions
Marry a model, and you have some children
Well they got their dreams too, I imagine
Like water that won’t come back to kill them
Sleeping at night without a murder
In some little town you’ve never heard of
Maybe we need shoes on our feet
Maybe we need more clothes and TV’s
Maybe we need more cash and jewelry
Or maybe we don’t know what we need
Maybe we need to want to fix it
Maybe stop talkin’, maybe start listenin’
Maybe we need to look at this world
Less like a square, more like a circle
Maybe just maybe God’s not unfair
Maybe we’re all his kids, and he’s up there
Maybe he loves us for all our races,
Maybe he hates us when we’re all so racist
Everything changes, and nothing stays the same
No everything changes, and if you feel ashamed,
Maybe you should change this, before it gets too late
Maybe you should change this, my brother were standing at the gate
Some of the main ideas in this song are easily interpreted, such as the idea that God does love everyone, regardless of race. There are other ideas that are more complex, and require more reflection. Don’t we live in a society where more is better? Where material objects take priority over helping others in need? I know that I am surely guilty of this, and I believe that this idea of using more than we need, and not giving back to other human beings that are less fortunate is exactly what Kolvenbach is talking about when he uses the phrase ‘promotion of justice’; justice is not just putting murderers in jail and making thieves return stolen goods. Justice is working as a single unit to improve the lives of every being that inhabits this earth. Dr. King might have at one point thought that the fight for the rights of blacks was unattainable. Perhaps we, as one people, need to fight for our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate, as Dr. King did 50 years ago for his.