Howard Zinn Quotes

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1. “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.”

Tags : Autonomy Complacency Ethics Independence Politics Proactivity Self Determination Society
Author : Howard Zinn

2. “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.”

Tags : Crimes Criminal Justice System Cycle Of Violence Desperation Greed Homelessness Imprisonment Incarceration Jail Justice Poverty Prison Punishment Racism Retribution Unemployment
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

3. “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

Tags : Nationalism Patriotism War
Author : Howard Zinn

4. “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.”

Tags : Hope Optimism
Author : Howard Zinn

5. “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”

Tags : Activism Civil Disobedience Democracy Dissent Law Protest Truth Telling
Author : Howard Zinn

6. “But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is... to tell the truth.”

Tags : Revolution Truth Telling
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Marx in Soho: A Play on History

7. “You can't be neutral on a moving train.”

Tags : Convictions History Indifference Justice Neutrality Passivity
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

8. “The courtroom is one instance of the fact that while our society may be liberal and democratic in some large and vague sense, its moving parts, its smaller chambers--its classrooms, its workplaces, its corporate boardrooms, its jails, its military barracks--are flagrantly undemocratic, dominated by one commanding person or a tiny elite of power.”

Tags : Commandeering Concentration Of Power Courtroom Domination Elite Injustice Power
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

9. “There is a power that can be created out of pent-up indignation, courage, and the inspiration of a common cause, and that if enough people put their minds and bodies into that cause, they can win. It is a phenomenon recorded again and against in the history of popular movements against injustice all over the world.”

Tags : Collective Action Coruage Indignation Injustice Inspiration Popular Movements
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

10. “How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?”

Tags : Blowback Propaganda Terrorism War
Author : Howard Zinn

11. “Some of the New York Radical Women shortly afterward formed WITCH (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell) and its members, dressed as witches, appeared suddenly on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. A leaflet put out by WITCH in New York said:WITCH lives and smiles in every woman. She is the free part of each of us, beneath the shy smiles, the acquiescence to absurd male domination, the make-up or flesh-suffocating clothes our sick society demands. There is no "joining" WITCH. If you are a woman and dare to look within yourself, you are a WITCH. You make your own rules.”

Tags : Feminism Women S Liberation
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

12. “I could only think one troubling thought: the police, the state, did the bidding of the holders of great wealth. How much freedom of speech and freedom of assembly you had depended on what class you were in.”

Tags : Classism Police Zinn
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Marx in Soho: A Play on History

13. “Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act.”

Tags : Fear Inaction Pessimism Self Fulfilling Prophecy
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

14. “Being fired has some of the advantages of dying without its supreme disadvantages. People say extra-nice things about you, and you get to hear them.”

Tags : Fired Funeral Furlough Layoffs
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

15. “I've always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives who talked of how, in America, if you worked hard you would become rich. The meaning of that was if you were poor it was because you hadn't worked hard enough. I knew this was a lie, about my father and millions of others, men and women who worked harder than anyone, harder than financiers and politicians, harder than anybody if you accept that when you work at an unpleasant job that makes it very hard work indeed.”

Tags : American Dream Falsity Of The American Dream Hard Work Indignation Of The Poor Lies Victim Blaming
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

16. “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.”

Tags : Patriotism United States War
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

17. “The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent, and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. It is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased. There is no system of control with more openings, apertures, leeways, flexibilities, rewards for the chosen, winning tickets in lotteries. There is none that disperses its controls more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media--none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty.”

Tags : United States
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

18. “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.”

Tags : Discrimination Justice System
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

19. “I was astonished, bewildered. This was America, a country where, whatever its faults, people could speak, write, assemble, demonstrate without fear. It was in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. We were a democracy...But I knew it wasn't a dream; there was a painful lump on the side of my head...The state and its police were not neutral referees in a society of contending interests. They were on the side of the rich and powerful. Free speech? Try it and the police will be there with their horses, their clubs, their guns, to stop you.From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical, believing that something fundamental was wrong in this country--not just the existence of poverty amidst great wealth, not just the horrible treatment of black people, but something rotten at the root. The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society--cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.”

Tags : American Society Authoritarianism Bill Of Rights Constitution Democracy Egalitarianism Failed Liberalism First Amendment Free Speech Injustice Police Power Interests Radical Politics Usa
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

20. “But by this time I was acutely conscious of the gap between law and justice. I knew that the letter of the law was not as important as who held the power in any real-life situation.”

Tags : Discord Injustice Justice Law Legal System Power Privilege
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

21. “They have the guns, we have the poets. Therefore, we will win.”

Tags : Guns Nonviolence Pacifism Poetry Poetry Love Spirituality Poets Violence War And Peace
Author : Howard Zinn

22. “Politics is pointless if it does nothing to enhance the beauty of our lives.”

Tags : Beauty Politics Process
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

23. “A jury is always a more orthodox body than any defendant brought before it; for blacks it is usually a whiter group, for poor people, a more prosperous group...Another lesson about the justice system: the way the judge charges the jury inevitably pushes them one way or the other, limits their independent judgment.”

Tags : Criminal Justice System Impartiality Judicial Power Jury Jury Instructions Orthodoxy
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

24. “I didn't want to spent a lot of close time with someone who believed that fun is a bourgeois indulgence.”

Tags : Bourgeois Indulgence Fun Priests
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

25. “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.”

Tags : Neutrality Objectivity
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology

26. “There has always been, and there is now, a profound conflict of interest between the people and the government of the United States.”

Tags : Democracy Government Oligarchy Plutocracy
Author : Howard Zinn

27. “The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured. Those special people who speak out in such a way as to shake up not only the self-assurance of their enemies, but the complacency of their friends, are precious catalysts for change.”

Tags : Catalyst Change Defiance History Opposition Self Assurance
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

28. “The Constitution. . . illustrates the complexity of the American system: that it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers, to build a broad base of support. The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the blacks, the Indians, the very poor whites. They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law--all made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity.”

Tags : Constitution United States
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

29. “Civil disobedience, as I put it to the audience, was not the problem, despite the warnings of some that it threatened social stability, that it led to anarchy. The greatest danger, I argued, was civil obedience, the submission of individual conscience to governmental authority. Such obedience led to the horrors we saw in totalitarian states, and in liberal states it led to the public's acceptance of war whenever the so-called democratic government decided on it...In such a world, the rule of law maintains things as they are. Therefore, to begin the process of change, to stop a war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience, as Southern black did, as antiwar protesters did.”

Tags : Acquiescence Civil Disobedience Dangers Of Obedience Justice Oppression Rule Of Law
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

30. “Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?”

Tags : Civil Rights Equality Faith Government History
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

31. “But human beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice that they dare to declare their independence. In that historical possibility lies hope.”

Tags : Confidence Conformity Declaration Of Independence Hope Individuality Non Conformity Resolves Self Assurance
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

32. “Human beings, whatever their backgrounds, are more open than we think, that their behavior cannot be confidently predicted from their past, that we are all creatures vulnerable to new thoughts, new attitudes.And while such vulnerability creates all sorts of possibilities, both good and bad, its very existence is exciting. It means that no human being should be written off, no change in thinking deemed impossible.”

Tags : Adaptability Dignity Humanity Love And Respect For All Vulnerability
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

33. “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”

Tags : War
Author : Howard Zinn

34. “I knew that a historian (or a journalist, or anyone telling a story) was forced to choose, out of an infinite number of facts, what to present, what to omit. And that decision inevitably would reflect, whether consciously or not, the interests of the historian.”

Tags : History Journalism Objectivity Politics
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

35. “Slavery was immensely profitable to some masters. James Madison told a British visitor shortly after the American Revolution that he could make 257 dollars on every (black slave) in a year, and spend only 12 or 13 dollars on his keep.”

Tags : American Revolution Food For Thought Founding Fathers Slavery Slavery History Slavery In The United States
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

36. “Perhaps the most important thing I learned was about democracy, that democracy is not our government, our constitution, our legal structure. Too often they are enemies of democracy.”

Tags : Constitution Democracy Government Justice Law School Legal System Subversion
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

37. “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.”

Tags : History
Author : Howard Zinn

38. “Tyranny is Tyranny, let it come from whom it may.”

Tags : History
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

39. “If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive movements of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.”

Tags : History People
Author : Howard Zinn

40. “That chain of relationships made me think of how connections are made--you read a book, you meet a person, you have a single experience, and your life is changed in some way. No act, therefore, however small, should be dismissed or ignored.”

Tags : Experience Importance Of Interconnectedness Relationships
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

41. “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.”

Tags : Defiance Future Hope Now The Present Victory
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

42. “I see this as the central issue of our time: how to find a substitute for war in human ingenuity, imagination, courage, sacrifice, patience...War is not inevitable, however persistent it is, however long a history it has in human affairs. It does not come out of some instinctive human need. It is manufactured by political leaders, who then must make a tremendous effort--by enticement, by propaganda, by coercion--to mobilize a normally reluctant population to go to war.”

Tags : Alternatives Creativity Ingenuity Peace Political Propaganda War
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

43. “Capital punishment could not be justified in any society calling itself civilized.”

Tags : Capital Punishment Zinn
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Marx in Soho: A Play on History

44. “I had always insisted that a good education was a synthesis of book learning and involvement in social action, that each enriched the other. I wanted my students to know that the accumulation of knowledge, while fascinating in itself, is not sufficient as long as so many people in the world have no opportunity to experience that fascination.”

Tags : Action Education Educational Enrichment Educational Inequity Knowledge Acquisition Learning
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

45. “We need to expose the motives of our political leaders, point out their connections to corporate power, show how huge profits are being made out of death and suffering.”

Tags : Corporatocracy Politicians War Zinn
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Just War

46. “In his book The African Slave Trade, Basil Davidson contrasts law and in the Congo in the early 16th century with law in Portugal and England. In those European countries, where the idea of private property was becoming powerful, theft was punishable brutally. In England, even as late as 1740, a child could be hanged for stealing a rag of cotton. But in the Congo, communal life persisted. The idea of private property was a strange one, and thefts were punished with fines or various degrees of servitude. A Congolese leader told of the Portuguese legal codes asked a Portuguese once, teasingly, 'What is the penalty in Portugal for anyone who puts his feet on the ground?”

Tags : Food For Thought Slavery Slavery History Slavery In The United States
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

47. “When private bands of fanatics commit atrocities we call them "terrorists," which they are, and have no trouble dismissing their reasons. But when governments do the same, and on a much larger scale, the word "terrorism" is not used, and we consider it a sign of our democracy that the acts become subject to debate. If the word "terrorism" has a useful meaning (and I believe it does, because it marks off an act as intolerable, since it involves the indiscriminate use of violence against human beings for some political purpose), then it applies exactly to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Tags : Terrorism War
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : The Bomb

48. “The resources of a university, of a college, should not be wasted in merely academic pursuits.”

Tags : Academics
Author : Howard Zinn

49. “I've always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives, who talked of how, in America, if you worked hard, you would become rich. The meaning of that was, if you were poor, it was because you hadn't worked hard enough. I knew this was a lie—about my father, and millions of others: men and women who worked harder than anyone.”

Tags : Class Labor
Author : Howard Zinn

50. “How can you have a war on terrorism while war itself is terrorism!”

Tags : Politics Relegion Trrorism
Author : Howard Zinn

51. “In the problem of women was the germ of a solution, not only for their oppression, but for everybody's. The control of women in society was ingeniously effective. It was not done directly by the state. Instead the family was used- men to control women, women to control children, all to be preoccupied with one another , to turn to one another for help, to blame one another for trouble, to do violence to one another when things weren't going right. Why could this not be turned around? Could women liberating themselves, children freeing themselves, men and women beginning to understand one another, find the source of their common oppression outside rather than in one another? Perhaps then they could create nuggets of strength in their own relationships, millions of pockets of insurrection. They could revolutionize thought and behavior in exactly that seclusion of family privacy which the system had counted on to do its work of control and indoctrination. And together, instead of at odds- male, female, parents, children- they could undertake the changing of society itself.”

Tags : Equality
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

52. “Emma Willard told the legislature that the education of women "has been too exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty" The problem, she said, was that "the taste of men, whatever it might happen to be, has made into a standard for the formation of the female character." Reason and religion teach us, she said, that "we too are primary existences...not the satellites of men.”

Tags : Character Equality Feminism
Author : Howard Zinn

53. “History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history--while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance--might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth.”

Tags : Critical Thinking Government History Knoweldge Proof Questions
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

54. “You call this progress, because you have motor cars and telephones and flying machines and a thousand potions to make you smell better? And people sleeping on the streets?”

Tags : Homelessness Zinn
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Marx in Soho: A Play on History

55. “Give people what they need: food, medicine, clean air, pure water, trees and grass, pleasant homes to live in, some hours of work, more hours of leisure. Don't ask who deserves it. Every human being deserves it.”

Tags : Health Care Zinn
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Marx in Soho: A Play on History

56. “We must recognize that we cannot depend on the governments of the world to abolish war because they and the economic interests they represent benefit from war.”

Tags : Government War Zinn
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Just War

57. “The government is an artificial creation, established by the people to defend everyone's equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And when the government does not fulfill that obligation, it is the right of the people, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, to 'alter or abolish' the government.”

Tags : Government Zinn
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Just War

58. “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.”

Tags : Justice
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

59. “And in such a 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.”

Tags : Independent Thought
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

60. “Control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. It requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factories, whose lives are filled with cause for rebellion, be taught that all is right as it is.”

Tags : Control Society
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

61. “The willingness to undertake such action cannot be based on certainties, but on those possibilities glimpsed in a reading of history different from the customary painful recounting of human cruelties. In such a reading we can find not only war but resistance to war, not only injustice but rebellion against injustice, not only selfishness but self-sacrifice, not only silence in the fact of tyranny but defiance, not only callousness but compassion.Human beings show a broad spectrum of qualities, but it is the worst of these that are usually emphasized, and the result, too often, is to dishearten us, diminish our spirit. And yet, historically, that spirit refuses to surrender.”

Tags : Compassion History Hope Injustice Optimisim Spirit
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

62. “A writer in early 1930, boosting the beauty business, started off a magazine article with the sentence: "The average American woman has sixteen square feet of skin.”

Tags : Beauty Skin
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

63. “The essential ingredients of these struggles for justice are human beings who, if only for a moment, if only while beset with fears, step out of line and do "something", however small. And even the smallest, most unheroic of acts adds to the store of kindling that may be ignited by some surprising circumstance into tumultuous change.”

Tags : Fighting Spirit Inspirationsal Struggle Of Existence Thought Provoking
Author : Howard Zinn

64. “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.”

Tags : Dissent Patriotism Politics
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : Artists in Times of War and Other Essays

65. “If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, not as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one's country, one's fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.”

Tags : Civil Disobedience Patriotism
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy

66. “It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.”

Tags : Objectivity Propaganda
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States

67. “How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods, in a violent exchange of impoverished schools, while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers. How ingenious to meet the demands of blacks and women for equality by giving them small special benefits, and setting them in competition with everyone else for jobs made scares by an irrational, wasteful system. How wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminals bred - by economic inequity - faster than they can be put away, deflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices.”

Tags : Capitalism Oppresion Politics
Author : Howard Zinn
Source : A People's History of the United States