|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
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
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
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