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
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 disabled persons'
movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the movement of Black people in the
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.