You can’t be neutral in a moving train.
That’s the title of Howard Zinn’s autobiography (1994) and the title only says it all. If we are on board of the train of greed, privatization and ignorance, aren’t we part of the ride? The time to stop the totalitarian-corporate-capitalistic train has come, and if it is not stopping, we better get ready to jump. For some time I wanted to find a clear metaphor to remove apathy from people and I think this is it. This train of neoliberal governments, corporations and society based on fear, pollution, consumerism, violence and war is approaching a canyon and there is no bridge. To not be aware, to remain sat in the face of economic/environmental injustice and destruction, to leave our children in the hands of the blind machinist (“the system”) while we sit comfortably in the entertainment wagon, is not “neutral” but _suicidal_.
The good news is that many of us have spotted a new rail road, with a slowly moving train, a silent solar powered train, a transitioner train, a victory-of-the-commons train, a Great Turning train, an inner (r)evolution train, that is waiting for us to smoothly transfer. If we pay attention and look at the poverty, the ignorance, the apathy and the violence all around us, including our minds, there is no choice but to do something about it.
That’s what Howard Zinn did after he removed the veil of war that was covering his eyes and that made him to drop the first napalm bombs. After serving as a shipyard worker and then an Air Force bombardier in World War II, Zinn went on to become a lifelong dissident and activist. He went to college under the GI Bill, received his PhD from Columbia. As a professor at Spelman College in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was an early faculty supporter of student civil rights agitation. Zinn wrote SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee): The New Abolitionists (1964) one of the first books on the student organizing of the sixties. He was active in the civil rights movement and many of the struggles for social justice over the past half-century. He taught at Spelman College, the historically black college for women in Atlanta and was fired for “insubordination”: for standing up for the women. Zinn was fired from his — tenured — position for siding with student activists against the administration. Little did they know that they encouraged him more to stand up for freedom and justice (as this short video shows: Empire or Humanity? What the classroom didn’t teach me about the American Empire). It only strengthened his satyagraha.
Satyagraha is the power unleashed from the depths of the human spirit. This is the force which is born of truth and love or nonviolence. It is far from passivity or submission to evil. Satyagraha implies a dynamic resistance to personal, social, economic and political exploitation. But we must use the weapon of love. We must expose the injustices to the apathetic population. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Structural violence (in the form of poverty and exploitation), physical violence (as police brutality) and psychological violence (i.e. consumerism) continue the fracture of community. So, yes, we stand up to the violation of community; yes, we stand up to the violation of personhood; but we don’t exacerbate the fracture of community with more violence. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Perhaps the great affinity I feel towards Howard Zinn comes from his nonviolent/anarchist perspective:
“The rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and poverty in such calculated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.”
As he said in the short video above (the one about civil disobedience): “The law is not holly.” In other words, as an anarchist, the only law he followed was the Law of Love, or in Gandhi’s words:
“Political power, in my opinion, cannot be our ultimate aim. It is one of the means used by men for their all-around advancement. The power to control national life through national representatives is called political power. Representatives will become unnecessary if the national life becomes so perfect as to be self-controlled. It will then be a state of enlightened anarchy in which each person will become (her)his own ruler. (S)He will conduct (her)himself in such a way that (her)his behavior will not hamper the well being of (her)his neighbors. In an ideal State there will be no political institution and therefore no political power.”
Howard Zinn physically died yesterday and his legacy is enormous. Published almost 3 decades ago, A People’s History of the United States (1980) is a book that has sold more than two million copies, continues to sell more copies each successive year and changed the lives of countless people. This classic changed the way many U.S. citizens look at history in this part of the Planet. Several actors and activists joined the effort to awake more hearts and consciousness and participated in the vibrant project: The People Speak. Also, here is a collection of his appearances in Democracy Now!
“We can not be secure by limiting our liberties, as some of our political leaders are demanding, but only by expanding them…We should take our example not from the military and political leaders shouting ‘retaliate’ and ‘war’ but from the doctors and nurses and … firemen and policemen who have been saving lives in the midst of mayhem, whose first thoughts are not violence, but healing, and not vengeance, but compassion.”
“What matters is not who’s sitting in the White House. What matters is who’s sitting in!”
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
These Zinn’s quotes might be Michael Nagler’s version of: “Ultimately the creation of a new paradigm in the contemporary society is not about putting the right kind of people in power, but the right kind of power in people.”
Howard Zinn, an inspiring satyagrahi who awoke millions of hearts will be always present in the Universal Love rebellions to come.
Are you coming? Are we transferring together to get on board of the Earth Community train? Then, Rise up! It is the next stop. Actually, some of us are already WALKing…
In radical love,
Planetizing the Movement of the Ahimsa (R)evolution from some corner of our round borderless country…