There are certain technical words in the vocabulary of every academic discipline which tend to become stereotypes and cliches. Psychologists have a word which is probably used more frequently than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” This word is the ringing cry of the new child psychology.

Now in a sense all of us must live the well adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophemic personalities. But there are some things in our social system to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I suggest that you too ought to be maladjusted.

I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of mob-rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic inequalities of an economic system which take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence.

I call upon you to be maladjusted. The challenge to you is to be maladjusted—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 judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream;” as maladjusted as Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; as maladjusted as Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery could cry out, in words lifted to cosmic proportions, “All men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the persuit of Happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus who dared to dream a dream of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men. The world is in desperate need of such maladjustment.

(Martin Luther King, April 25, 1957)

I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. …

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play. …

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit…

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment. …

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.”

(Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967)

It really doesn’t matter what happens now. …some began to … talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. … And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

(Martin Luther King, April 3, 1968)

King was assassinated the next morning, April 4, 1968.

posted January 17, 2005 04:40 PM (Superheroes) (11 comments) #


Stanford: Day 61
The People Themselves: A Debate
Subject to the Penalty of Death
D.J. Bernstein: The Good News Archive
Pick A Side
In His Own Words
Newspaper Writers on the Election
Stanford: Day 62
Jeff Hawkins on the Brain
Stanford: Day 63
Stanford: Day 64


Yeah all that’s just great, but the real question is could MLK slam dunk. If he couldn’t slam then he wasn’t a real homie…..Real homies can jump right out of the gym.

posted by james at January 17, 2005 06:00 PM #

Thanks for that post. It’s so rare to see any of MLK’s speeches or writings other than the “I have a dream” speech or the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” His eloquence extends beyond those, and it’s good to read it.

posted by Margaret at January 17, 2005 06:14 PM #

James, don’t forget football. There’d be no runningbacks or cornerbacks without civil rights. Well…..none that were any good.

posted by stacy at January 17, 2005 11:58 PM #

Having read a number of your postings, it’s clear that your primary concern is how intelligent you are.

All of these things existed before you were aware of them, so how much you change as a result of new information is a measure of how ignorant you were.

The trick is to avoid becoming an intellectual… or you’ll be ineffectively typing ever increasingly eloquent prose. The world is full of much smarter people who did nothing.

Sadly, I think you’ll end up this way.

posted by steve at January 18, 2005 03:45 AM #

I agree with your thoughts on the exceptions by which we should be maladjusted. However, that word carries such negative connotations that I’d like to propose a different word that better fits the spirit of your point:


Also, I hope this didn’t come from Birmingham Jail, but here is a favorite MLK quote to the point:

“Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expedience asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

posted by Russ Schwartz at January 18, 2005 06:54 AM #

It’s so easy to be maladjusted these days, but is there only a path that lends weight to one’s ideas, apart the path of deception ? Public space is jammed with the short term thinking of these cows that couldn’t even pretend to know about responsability. There is no room for a real public debate in the society as a whole.

Being maladjusted isn’t enough, we’ll still eat boeings (or worse) at breakfast, at this rate.

posted by Cn at January 18, 2005 10:26 AM #

Aaron, Thanks for the great collection of quotes from a man, who supported fairness without violence.
Unfortunately I cannot agree with King on every issue. For example, I believe that those idiots who made derogetory racial comments about King (seen above) should be taken out and shot like the rabid dogs. They are obviously defective, either genetically or physiologically (ie. brain damage).

P.S. I am white, but I HATE hate.

posted by David at January 19, 2005 04:33 AM #

Bleeding heart soliloquy and respectful hand waving aside, how do you reconcile King’s opinion regarding China’s nuclear arms threat (and conveniently absent resolution) against, agreeably belligerent, but still relevant western leadership ideas towards middle east zealotry and raw material economics?

posted by pete diemert at January 19, 2005 07:05 AM #

Having read the post by steve, it’s clear that being intelligent isn’t his primary concern.

There was a great program on PBS about MLK, part of the ‘American Experience’ series.

It’s too bad how much MLK has been overlooked. He was one of the brightest figures in American history. He belong right up there with the ‘founding fathers’. Imagine, his writings are some of the most lucid and insightful that I have read, yet I was never assigned any of his works in school. He should be an integral part of any class on American history.

As for pete diemert, is that a rhetorical question? How do you think MLK felt about nuclear arms and western leadership ideas? ‘raw material economics’? You’re too goddamn full of yourself.

posted by at January 20, 2005 02:54 PM #

Thank goodness for civil rights….A true sports fan can understand that so much better.:

The top 88 fastest times ever in th history the 100 yd/mtr dash were black. The top 25 NFL running back of all tiimes(in terms of total yards gained) were black. And could you actually inamgine a white heavyweight champoin in the world of boxing.The list goes on and on.

It’just ashame it has to all be related to basically running and jumping.

I know I myself would be happy if the homies could learn just one thing…just this one thing would make me very very happy..

please Jamal, when you hand me my big-mac and fries out through the window and I say “thank you” please….would it be to much trouble to say “you’re welcome”..I know it’s a small step, but for now thats all I ask. It doesn’t even need to be a very articulate “you’re welcome”, even a few “yo wemm, “abu ba bo” “welem” would be a grand step foreward. From there that might even be the key to unlock the commonly know trait “humans” have known as communicating.

I realize we wont be talking about nuclear fission any time soon but it sure would make me feel a little better.

That’s all I ask….”you’re welcome” : “Youz welome” : “yo Yeah” ” ungowa nikima welcom”….

I only ned the simple things in life.

posted by james at January 20, 2005 08:35 PM #

Wow, james, your comments get more sophisticated every time. Looks like you even put some thought into this one. You seem to reserve a special place in your heart for your resentments, don’t you?

And to think, you spent all that time on your crass little comments, only to appear like a total pathetic loser in the end.

posted by at January 21, 2005 01:01 AM #

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Aaron Swartz (