Taking Martin Luther King Jr’s Call For Creative Maladjustment Seriously


By Sophie Faught
MindFreedom International Communications Coordinator

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:

mlk-cant-wait3There are some things in our nation and in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted
… I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity.  I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, and to the self-defeating effects of physical violence…

And I call upon you to be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized… 

Yes, I must confess that I believe firmly that our world is in dire need of a new organization – the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment…Through such maladjustment we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Don’t Sleep Through The Revolution,” speech delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Hollywood, Florida (May 18, 1966)

Throughout his career as a human rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr. often repeated a call for the formation of an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment [IAACM]. Though TIME magazine referred to this as a “half-joke,” we at MindFreedom ask: What about the other half? What about the people who don’t think of it as a joke?

Certainly, our society’s need for creatively maladjusted individuals, or “disciplined non-conformists,” as King also called them, is very serious indeed. There are so many things to which it is only healthy and right for people of good will to be maladjusted to! Violence, dehumanization, the forfeiture of human rights and individual liberties, environmental degradation, institutionalized oppression… to name only a few. I’m sure you can name more.

IAACM: An Association for ALL HUMAN BEINGS

mlk-cant-wait2There’s no doubt about it: we are all different. We have different religious beliefs, different cultures, backgrounds and life experiences, different philosophies, different problem solving methods, and myriad ways of looking at the world.

There are also certain expressive tendencies in society that try to divide us by labeling those differences, classifying them, and often times dehumanizing the individuals so labeled. Some of us may have been labeled by the mental health system, some by the public school system and other institutions, some by our families, and some of us by internalized hurts.

Yet here is something that unites us: we are all human beings.

Ultimately, the IAACM is an association OF human beings, FOR human beings, celebrating our common fight for the RIGHT TO BE HUMAN, to put an end to “man’s inhumanity to man,” people’s inhumanity to each other. As David Oaks often said, “We are the 100%!”

YOU are a leader in the IAACM

Which means YOU are a leader in the International Association for the Advancement of the Creatively Maladjusted [IAACM]. With every display of mad pride in yourself and your humanity, every non-violent action you take to express yourself and BE yourself, you make King’s dream a reality.

How can you exercise your leadership in the IAACM?

1. Follow Martin Luther King, Jr.’s guidelines for positive creative maladjustment.

The word “maladjustment” may have some negative connotations. It’s even been said that Adam Lanza was “maladjusted.”

Clearly this is not what King – a lifelong advocate for nonviolence – had in mind. In fact, he placed a strong emphasis on disciplined nonconformity, which comes from a loving place:

Nonconformity in itself, however, may not necessarily be good and may at times possess neither transforming nor redemptive power. Nonconformity per se contains no saving value, and may represent in some circumstances little more than a form of exhibitionism… Nonconformity is creative when it is controlled and directed by a transformed life and is constructive when it embraces a new mental outlook…

Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength to Love — Chapter 2: Transformed nonconformist (1963)

2. Express your creative maladjustment LOUD and PROUD!

Given the current state of affairs, it seems unlikely that there will be a time in the near future when creative maladjustment is not needed. May we all live each and every day in creative maladjustment!

mlk-cant-waitMindFreedom International would especially like to invite you to display your mad pride and disciplined nonconformity during the inaugural CREATIVE MALADJUSTMENT WEEK, from July 7-July 14, 2013.

We’ve got a lot of ideas for exciting, innovative, and highly visible ways to express our creative maladjustment during that time (stay tuned…), but we also want to hear from YOU – the widely dispersed and hugely creative potential leaders of the IAACM.

What are you creatively maladjusted to, and what are some creative solutions to the problems our society faces?

How can we take a stand – in the face of all the dehumanizing institutions that seem to govern our society – for humanity?

As King once said:

This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists… The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority… Human salvation lies in the hands of the creative maladjusted.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength to Love — Chapter 2: Transformed nonconformist (1963)

(photo credits: LIFE Magazine)


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  1. Thank you for posting this, Sophie. My own introduction to politics was the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, and like many millions of other young people (yes, I actually was young once) I was intensely inspired by Doctor King. If only he were still with us, if only he had survived, what a better country this might have been.

    As our people face the most vicious campaign of dehumanization and contempt, endorsed by our President, that I have seen in my lifetime, I hope we can unite in the spirit of Doctor King and make the sacrifices and take the risks that he and the other brave people in the civil rights movement did.

    If we are going to survive, we have to do this.

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