"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 scientists 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 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, industriaists become
powerless when their workers leave the jobs or occupy
Sixth: When we forget the fragility of that power in
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
Okay, seven pieces of profound advice should be