Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Howard Zinn

While I don't have enough time to actually write something (I'm dying to join the fray over the NYTW controversy), at least I have time enough to cut and paste. Here is something from historian Howard Zinn:

On Getting Along
By Howard Zinn

You ask how I manage to stay involved and remain seemingly happy and adjusted to this awful world where the efforts of caring people pale in comparison to those who have power? It's easy.

First, don't let "those who have power" intimidate you. No matter how much power they have they cannot prevent you from living your life, speaking your mind, thinking independently, having relationships with people as you like. (Read Emma Goldman's autobiography "Living My Life". Harassed, even imprisoned by authority, she insisted on living her life, speaking out, however she felt like.)

Second, find people to be with who have your values, your commitments, but who also have a sense of humor. That combination is a necessity!

Third (notice how precise is my advice that I can confidently number it, the way scientist number things), understand that the major media will not tell you of all the acts of resistance taking place every day in the society, the strikes, the protests, the individual acts of courage in the face of authority. Look around (and you will certainly find it) for the evidence of these unreported acts. And for the little you find, extrapolate from that and assume there must be a thousand times as much as what you've found.

Fourth: Note that throughout history people have felt powerless before authority, but that at certain times these powerless people, by organizing,acting, risking, persisting, have created enough power to change the world around them, even if a little. That is the history of the labor movement, of the women's movement, of the anti-Vietnam war movement, the disable persons' movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the movement of Black people in the South.

Fifth: Remember, that those who have power, and who seem invulnerable are in fact quite vulnerable, that their power depends on the obedience of others, and when those others begin withholding that obedience, begin defying authority, that power at the top turns out to be very fragile. Generals become powerless when their soldiers refuse to fight, industrialists become powerless when their workers leave their jobs or occupy the factories.

Sixth: When we forget the fragility of that power in the top we become astounded when it crumbles in the face of rebellion. We have had many such surprises in our time, both in the United States and in other countries.

Seventh: Don't look for a moment of total triumph. See it as an ongoing struggle, with victories and defeats, but in the long run the consciousness of people growing. So you need patience, persistence, and need to understand that even when you don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that you have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. Okay, seven pieces of profound advice should be enough.


Joshua said...

Big fan of Zinn -

Nothing really controversial about a theatre company bowing to political pressure - it happens all the time - it's sad and terrible, but not new and in my opinion, hardly controversial. It's just what happens.

People have to change it by not supporting institutions who do that.

Alison Croggon said...

Howard Zinn is a Good Egg. And quite wise.

Thanks for that. Yes, disobedience rules!

P'tit Boo said...

Oh that was great !

I 've never read him before...
Thank you.

YS said...

Hi Scott and All,

There is a great article about a Seattle Theatre company that speaks to so many of the topics being discussed lately.

Follow my Blog posting to find all of the links.

parabasis said...

Hey Scott-- I know you're busy, but I think what's going on at NYTW right now gets to the heart of a lot of the debates we've been having about theater and audience, coddling and challenging etc. I for one am missing your voice in this discussion greatly, as I think it would help further the dialogues we've been having.


Scott Walters said...

I will soon -- break just started, so time is about to happen!