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
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.
"When I pray for peace, I pray not only that the enemies of my own
may cease to want war, but above all that my country will cease to do
things that make war inevitable."
-- Thomas Merton