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Howard Zinn quotes (showing 1-30 of 124)

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
Howard Zinn
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
Howard Zinn
“I'm worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel - let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they're doing. I'm concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that's handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers.”
Howard Zinn
“Historically, the most terrible things - war, genocide, and slavery - have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.”
Howard Zinn
“How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?”
Howard Zinn
“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”
Howard Zinn
“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”
Howard Zinn
“History is important. If you don't know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”
Howard Zinn
“We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
Howard Zinn
“I wonder how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own.”
Howard Zinn
“The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.
Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.”
Howard Zinn, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
“If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”
Howard Zinn
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
Howard Zinn
“The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
“But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is... to tell the truth.”
Howard Zinn, Marx in Soho: A Play on History
“We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children”
Howard Zinn
tags: war
“Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals the fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such as world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
“I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.”
Howard Zinn
“The prisons in the United States had long been an extreme reflection of the American system itself: the stark life differences between rich and poor, the racism, the use of victims against one another, the lack of resources of the underclass to speak out, the endless "reforms" that changed little. Dostoevski once said: "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people.”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
“The cry of the poor is is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
“What struck me as I began to study history was how nationalist fervor--inculcated from childhood on by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, flags waving and rhetoric blowing--permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own. I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always wars against children, indeed our children.”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
“What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but "who is sitting in" -- and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”
Howard Zinn
“Any humane and reasonable person must conclude that if the ends, however desireable, are uncertain and the means are horrible and certain, these means must not be employed.”
Howard Zinn, Passionate Declarations: Essays on War and Justice
“I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don’t want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: “The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions--poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed--which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished.

It must surely be a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit that even a small number of those men and women in the hell of the prison system survive it and hold on to their humanity.”
Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times
“In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims. ”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
“Today everybody is talking about the fact that we live in one world; because of globalization, we are all part of the same planet. They talk that way, but do they mean it? We should remind them that the words of the Declaration [of Independence] apply not only to people in this country, but also to people all over the world. People everywhere have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When the government becomes destructive of that, then it is patriotic to dissent and to criticize - to do what we always praise and call heroic when we look upon the dissenters and critics in totalitarian countries who dare to speak out.”
Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War and Other Essays
“What most of us must be involved in--whether we teach or write, make films, write films, direct films, play music, act, whatever we do--has to not only make people feel good and inspired and at one with other people around them, but also has to educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world.”
Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War and Other Essays
“Why should we cherish “objectivity”, as if ideas were innocent, as if they don’t serve one interest or another? Surely, we want to be objective if that means telling the truth as we see it, not concealing information that may be embarrassing to our point of view. But we don’t want to be objective if it means pretending that ideas don’t play a part in the social struggles of our time, that we don’t take sides in those struggles.

Indeed, it is impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now. It is a world of clashing interests – war against peace, nationalism against internationalism, equality against greed, and democracy against elitism – and it seems to me both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts.”
Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology
“The Greatest Generation?
They tell me I am a member of the greatest generation. That's because I saw combat duty as a bombardier in World War 11. But I refuse to celebrate "the greatest generation" because in so doing we are celebrating courage and sacrifice in the cause of war. And we are miseducating the young to believe that military heroism is the noblest form of heroism, when it should be remembered only as the tragic accompaniment of horrendous policies driven by power and profit. The current infatuation with World War 11 prepares us--innocently on the part of some, deliberately on the part of others--for more war, more military adventures, more attempts to emulate the military heroes of the past.”
Howard Zinn

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