There are many ways to make change in the world, many sorts of paths to achieve your goals. Anyone familiar with the X-men stories will recognize the non-violence tactic versus the action packed version (often with deadly results), as exemplified by Professor X and Magneto.
What is perhaps lesser known is that the Marvel comic, created back in the 1960s by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, can also be seen as a social commentary on the civil rights movement…. The two tactics of the superhero mutants are analogous with Martin Luther King and Malcom X… civil disobedience versus by any means necessary…
And it is this latter point that makes this inquiry so contemporary, so immediately worth of our investigation.
Because, let’s be honest, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, there is a good chance at some point in the last year you have pointed your finger at the other side and said, “now, that violence is not okay”.
Before you begin to shout at me that none of this is relevant to the classics… Superheroes and MLK came around 2,000 years too late to be considered within our realm of expertise… hear me out.
The classical world, too, had its violent instigators and pacifist leaders. Indeed, the gadfly of Athens, Socrates himself, could be considered MLK’s ancient counterpart. In the words of our contributing writer, Van Bryan:

Socrates the gadfly.

“Socrates, a man who sought to persuade Athens to seek wisdom, would rattle the cages of those in power, embarrassing them in the process. He would inevitably attract the disdain of many prominent men. He would attempt to persuade them to change, to accept wisdom rather than ignorance. He would be punished. And while suffocating under the weight of cruelty, he would gracefully accept his punishment, throwing into stark contrast the injustice of society.
“Some two thousand years after Socrates had had this conversation with Crito, Martin Luther King Jr. found himself sitting in a jail cell as well. It was on April 12th, 1963 that King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama in response to a coordinated series of sit-ins and nonviolent demonstrations. During his time in jail, King wrote an open letter that addressed the need for nonviolent resistance, civil disobedience, and the perils of racial inequality in America.
“…King and Socrates appear to be bound by their struggle for progress. King even mentions the great philosopher in his letter when he writes…
“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
– Martin Luther King, Letter From Birmingham Jail
And so as we connect the thread of thousands of years of contemplation, we must ask the corollary to Socrates -and Martin Luther King’s- approach.
Is it EVER okay to have violence? And if so, when? And who decides?
As always, you can comment below or write me directly at [email protected].