Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.
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.
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.
There is a hard core of people in the United States who will not be moved, whatever facts you present, from their conviction that this nation means only to do good, and almost always does good, in the world, that it is the beacon of liberty and freedom.
Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.
Throughout American history, the political leaders have always exhorted the American people to be nice and quiet and leave things to them. But when very serious evils confronted the American people, they had to go beyond the Congressmen and Senators, and they had to commit civil disobedience and they had even to break the law.
Through repeated practice of the body scan over time, we come to grasp the reality of our body as whole in the present moment. This feeling of wholeness can be experienced no matter what is wrong with your body. One part of your body, or many parts of your body, may be diseased or in pain or even missing, yet you can still cradle them in this experience of wholeness. -- Jon Kabat.
Though the Americans can be fooled, as they have been, and they can be propagandized, as they have been... But, as Lincoln said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time." And so hope lies in the fact that little by little, even if the American people can be fooled, even if they continue to be fooled in the 2004 presidential election, they will gradually learn, as they have learned -- for instance, in the Vietnam War and turned against the Vietnam War.
I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.
The mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction-so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people's movements-that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission.
We cannot be secure by limiting our liberties, as some of our political leaders are demanding, but only by expanding themWe 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.
There has always been, and there is now, a profound conflict of interest between the people and the government of the United States.
King's stress on love and nonviolence was powerfully effective in building a sympathetic following throughout the nation, among whites as well as blacks.
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.
Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.
I believe that it is preferable sometimes to have one candidate rather another candidate, while you understand that that is not the solution. Sometimes the lesser evil is not so lesser, so you want to ignore that, and you either do not vote or vote for third party as a protest against the party system.
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.
We all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.
Each situation has to be evaluated separately, for all are different. In general, I believe in non-violent direct action, which involve organizing large numbers of people, whereas too often violent uprisings are the product of a small group. If enough people are organized, violence can be minimized in bringing about social change.
Sometimes the difference between two candidates is an important one in the immediate sense, and then I believe trying to get somebody into office, who is a little better, who is less dangerous, is understandable. But never forgetting that no matter who gets into office, the crucial question is not who is in office, but what kind of social movement do you have. Because if you have a powerful social movement, it doesn't matter who is in office.
Whatever we poor men may not have, we have free speech, and no one can take it from us.
I am an anarchist, and according to anarchist principles nation states become obstacles to a true humanistic globalization.
Surely, we must renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.
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.
Politics is pointless if it does nothing to enhance the beauty of our lives.
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.
Most wars, after all, present themselves as humanitarian endeavors to help people.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Thoreau in jail and asked, 'What are you doing in there?' it was reported that Thoreau replied, 'What are you doing out there?'
But the idea of a peace dividend could not be stifled so long as Americans were in need. Shortly after the war, historian Marilyn Young warned:
The U.S. can destroy Iraq's highways, but not build its own; create the conditions for epidemic in Iraq, but not offer health care to millions of Americans. It can excoriate Iraqi treatment of the Kurdish minority, but not deal with domestic race relations; create homelessness abroad but not solve it here; keep a half million troops drug free as part of a war, but refuse to fund the treatment of millions of drug addicts at home... . We shall lose the war after we have won it.
When people don't understand that the government doesn't have their interests in mind, they're more susceptible to go to war.
No doubt that anarchist ideas are frightening to those in power. People in power can tolerate liberal ideas. They can tolerate ideas that call for reforms, but they cannot tolerate the idea that there will be no state, no central authority. So it is very important for them to ridicule the idea of anarchism to create this impression of anarchism as violent and chaotic. It is useful for them.
The term 'just war' is an internal contradiction. War is inherently unjust, and the great challenge of our time is how to deal with evil, tyranny and oppression without killing huge numbers of people.
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.
Behind the deceptive words designed to entice people into supporting violence -- words like democracy, freedom, self-defense, national security -- there is the reality of enormous wealth in the hands of a few, while billions of people in the world are hungry, sick, homeless.
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.
Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on -- have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.
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.
I start from the supposition that the world is topsyturvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don't have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down.
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.
What we have is a more sophisticated form of imperialism, which is economic. But lurking in the background, always ready to go, is an armed force.
I do take the threat of terrorism seriously. You cannot eliminate that threat or diminish that threat by bombing a country.
The First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights in the United States Constitution were being violated in Albany again and again -- freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the equal protection of the laws -- I could count at least 30 such violations. Yet the president, sworn to uphold the Constitution, and all the agencies of the United States government at his disposal, were nowhere to be seen.
I have a little boy at home,
A pretty little son; I think sometimes the world is mine In him, my only one... 'Ere dawn my labor drives me forth; Tis night when I am free; A stranger am I to my child; And stranger my child to me..
I did not know much history when I became a bombardier in the U.S. Air Force in World War II. Only after the War did I see that we, like the Nazis, had committed atrocities... Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, my own bombing missions. And when I studied history after the War, I learned from reading on my own, not from my university classes, about the history of U.S. expansion and imperialism.
Why do we have to be a military superpower? Why can't we be a humanitarian superpower?
I was a Shoemaker, and got my living by my Labor. When this Rebellion come on, I saw some of my Neighbors got into Commission, who were no better than myself. I was very ambitious, and did not like to see those Men above me. I was asked to enlist as a private Soldier... I offered to enlist upon having a Lieutenants Commission; which was granted. I imagined my self now in a way of Promotion: if I was killed in Battle, there would be an end of me, but if my Captain was killed, I should rise in Rank, and should still have a Chance to rise higher. These Sir! were the only Motives of my entering into the Service; for as the Dispute between Great Britain and the colonies, I know nothing of it.
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.
War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times.
War is terrorism ... Terrorism is the willingness to kill large numbers of people for some presumably good cause. That's what terrorists are about.
And our topic is topsy-turvy: civil disobedience. As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem.... Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over 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 all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem.
I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.
From 1964 to 1972, the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world made a maximum military effort, with everything short of atomic bombs, to defeat a nationalist revolutionary movement in a tiny, peasant country-and failed. When the United States fought in Vietnam, it was organized modern technology versus organized human beings, and the human beings won.
The Anti-Imperialist League...carried on a long campaign to educate the American public about the horrors of the Philippine war and the evils of imperialism. It was...united in a common moral outrage at what was being done to the Filipinos in the name of freedom. Whatever their differences on other matters, they would all agree with William James's angry statement: 'God damn the U.S. for its vile conduct in the Philippine Isles'.
Beyond the futility of armed force, and ultimately more important, is the fact that war in our time inevitably results in the indiscriminate killing of large numbers of people. To put it more bluntly, war is terrorism. That is why a 'war on terrorism' is a contradiction in terms.
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.
But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is to tell the truth.
Objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.
We must transfer our anger to the brutalities of our time.
We need to organize ourselves and protest against existing order -- against war, against economic and sexual exploitation, against racism, etc. But to organize ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organize ourselves in such a way as to create kind of human relationship that should exist in future society. That would mean to organize ourselves without centralize authority, without charismatic leader, in a way that represents in miniature the ideal of the future egalitarian society.
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.
In the United States today, the Declaration of Independence hangs on schoolroom walls, but foreign policy follows Machiavelli.
You can't be neutral on a moving train.
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.
If democracy were to be given any meaning, if it were to go beyond the limits of capitalism and nationalism, this would not come, if history were any guide, from the top. It would come through citizen's movements, educating, organizing, agitating, striking, boycotting, demonstrating, threatening those in power with disruption of the stability they needed.
The strike, the boycott, the refusal to serve, the ability to paralyze the functioning of a complex social structure-these remain potent weapons against the most fearsome state or corporate power.
New York Times military analyst Hanson Baldwin wrote, shortly after the war:
The enemy, in a military sense, was in a hopeless strategic position by the time the Potsdam demand for unconditional surrender was made on July 26. Such then, was the situation when we wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Need we have done it? No one can, of course, be positive, but the answer is almost certainly negative.
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.
The atmosphere of war brutalizes everyone involved, begets a fanaticism in which the original moral factor is buried at the bottom of a heap of atrocities committed by all sides.
Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?
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.
All you have to do, gentlemen, for you have the numbers, is to unite on one idea -- that the workingmen shall rule the country. What man makes, belongs to him, and the workingman made this country.
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.
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.
Memorial Day should be a day for putting flowers on graves and planting trees. Also, for destroying the weapons of death that endanger us more than they protect us, that waste our resources and threaten our children and grandchildren.
Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.
Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it. It is a corrective to the sluggishness of "the proper channels," a way of breaking through passages blocked by tradition and prejudice. It is disruptive and troublesome, but it is a necessary disruption, a healthy troublesome.
So long as atrocities remain remote, abstract, they will be tolerated, even by decent people.
When you fight a war against a tyrant, who do you kill? You kill the victims of the tyrant.
If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, is dissent the highest form of patriotism?
War itself is the enemy of the human race.
Transcendentalism is, we might say, an early form of anarchism. The Transcendentalists also did not call themselves anarchists, but there are anarchist ideas in their thinking and in their literature. They were all suspicious of authority. We might say that the Transcendentalism played a role in creating an atmosphere of skepticism towards authority, towards government.
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.
Terrorism and war have something in common. They both involve the killing of innocent people to achieve what the killers believe is a good end.
I began to think of war, even so-called "good wars" like World War II, as corrupting everybody. Violence begetting violence. The good guys beginning to act like the bad guys. And when I studied the history of wars, it seemed to me that that was the case. Athens vs. Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians presumably the democratic state. The Spartans the totalitarian state. But as the war went on, the Athenians began to act like the Spartans. They began committing atrocities and cruelties. So I saw this as a characteristic of war, even so-called "good wars.
I had volunteered for the Air Force and was an enthusiastic bombardier. While dropping bombs on Europe, I generally didn't understand what I was doing.
Whenever I become discouraged (which is on alternate Tuesdays, between three and four) I lift my spirits by remembering: The artists are on our side! I mean those poets and painters, singers and musicians, novelists and playwrights who speak to the world in a way that is impervious to assault because they wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary political discourse.
The Roman Empire came to an end, but the Roman people didn't come to an end, so I see the American Empire coming to an end just as other empires have come to an end.
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.
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.
If you work through the existing structures you are going to be corrupted. By working through political system that poisons the atmosphere, even the progressive organizations, you can see it even nowadays in the US, where people on the "Left" are all caught in the electoral campaign and get into fierce arguments about should we support this third party candidate or that third party candidate. This is a sort of little piece of evidence that suggests that when you get into working through electoral politics you begin to corrupt your ideals.
Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper in Ruleville, Mississippi, became legendary as organizer and speaker. She sang hymns; she walked picket lines with her familiar limp (as a child she contracted polio). She roused people to excitement at mass meetings: "I'm sick an' tired o' bein' sick an' tired!
Control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. It requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factorites, whose lives are filled qith cause for rebellion, be taught that all is right as it is. And so, the schools, the churches, the popular literature taught that to be rich was a sign of superiority, to be poor a sign of personal failure, and that the only way upward for a poor person was to climb into the ranks of the rich by extraordinary effort and extraordinary luck.
We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness-embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.
If the gods had intended for people to vote, they would have given us candidates.
So, Son, instead of crying, be strong, so as to be able to comfort your mother ... take her for a long walk in the quiet country, gathering wild flowers here and there... But remember always, Dante, in the play of happiness, don't you use all for yourself only... help the persecuted and the victim because they are your better friends... In this struggle of life you will find more and love and you will be loved.
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.
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.
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.
The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is.
Let's face a historical truth: we have never had a "free market," we have always had government intervention in the economy, and indeed that intervention has been welcomed by the captains of finance and industry. They had no quarrel with "big government" when it served their needs.
There is one central characteristic of anarchism on the matter of means, and that central principle is a principle of direct action -- of not going through the forms that the society offers you, of representative government, of voting, of legislation, but directly taking power.
The term anarchism has become associated with two phenomena with which real anarchist don't want to associate themselves with. One is violence, and the other is disorder or chaos. The popular conception of anarchism is on the one hand bomb-throwing and terrorism, and on the other hand no rules, no regulations, no discipline, everybody does what they want, confusion, etc. That is why there is a reluctance to use the term anarchism.
The resources of a university, of a college, should not be wasted in merely academic pursuits.
What happened in World War II was what happened in war generally, and that was whatever the initiating cause, and however clear the moral reason is for the war in which one side looks better than the other, by the time the war ends both sides have been engaged in evil.
We cannot create blueprint for future society, but it is good to think about that. It is good to have in mind a goal. It is constructive, it is helpful, it is healthy, to think about what future society might be like, because then it guides you somewhat what you are doing today, but only so long as this discussions about future society don't become obstacles to working towards this future society. Otherwise you can spend discussing this utopian possibility versus that utopian possibility, and in the mean time you are not acting in a way that would bring you closer to that.
I did not feel very patriotic. I did not feel proud of our country, seeing that we were bombing peasant villages, that we were not just hitting military targets, that children were being killed. We were terrorizing the North Vietnamese with our enormous Air Force. They had no Air Force at all. They were a little pitiful country and we were terrorizing them with our bombs. And no, I did not feel proud at all.
It's not right to respond to terrorism by terrorizing other people. And furthermore, it's not going to help. Then you might say, "Yes, it's terrorizing people, but it's worth doing because it will end terrorism." But how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately dropping bombs?
In short, Beard said, the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates.
Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.
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.
The Reverent Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister in Boston, combined eloquent criticism of the war with contempt for the Mexican people, whom he called 'a wretched people; wretched in their origin, history, and character,' who must eventually give way as the Indians did. Yes, the United States should expand...by 'the steady advance of a superior race, with superior ideas and a better civilization...by being better than Mexico, wiser, humaner, more free and manly'.
...The racism for Parker was widespread. Congressmen Delano of Ohio...opposed the war because he was afraid of Americans mingling with an inferior people who 'embrace all shades of color....a sad compound of Spanish, English, Indian, and negro bloods...and resulting, it is said, in the production of a slothful, ignorant race of beings'.
The problem of giving health care to everybody cannot be solved so long as we're spending huge sums of money for war. Already we have a very wasteful healthcare system, the most wasteful healthcare system in the world. I mean, we spend the most money and still have 40 million people without insurance. Compare us to Cuba. Cuba is our enemy, run by a dictator, Fidel Castro. But people in Cuba get health care at least equal to that of the United States -- with very scarce resources. So I think this issue is the most important domestic issue.
There is civil disobedience against the military machine, protest against police brutality directed especially at people of color.
It's a strange thing, we think that law brings order. Law doesn't. How do we know that law does not bring order? Look around us. We live under the rule of law. Notice how much order we have?
We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism..
The President of the United States isn't going to solve our problems. The problems are too big.
The future is an infinite succession of presents.
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.
When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this.
How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?
If you want to end terrorism, you have to stop being terrorists.
The United States government was proud that, although perhaps 100,000 Iraqis had died in the Gulf War of 1991, there were only 48 American battle casualties. What it has concealed from the public is that 206,000 veterans of that war filed claims with the VA for injuries and illnesses. In the years since that war, 8,300 veterans have died, and 160,000 claims for disability have been recognized by the VA.
One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and the unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.
And always, as a way of drowning class resentment in a flood of slogans for national unity, there was patriotism.
One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression.
We better rethink the position of the United States in the world and whether we want to be an empire. Being an empire puts all of us in jeopardy. The American Empire, while it was just wreaking havoc on other nations, didn't bother us.
I suggest that if you know history, then you might not be so easily fooled by the government when it tells you you must go to war for this or that reason -that history is a protective armor against being misled.
When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not fall in meekly behind them. We who protest...are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.
George Orwell said, "Whoever controls the past controls the future," by which he meant that history is incredibly important in shaping the world view of the next generation of people.
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.
People who have no respect for human life or for freedom or justice have taken over this beautiful country of ours. It will be up to the American people to take it back.
If you don't know history, it is as if you were born yesterday.
Right after women got the vote, the measure of their social progress can be seen in an advice column written by Dorthy Dix that appeared in newspapers all over the country. The woman should not merely be a domestic drudge, she said:
...a man's wife is the show window where he exhibits the measure of his achievement... The biggest deals are put across over luncheon tables; ... we meet at dinner the people who can push our fortunes... The woman who cultivates a circle of worthwhile people, who belongs to clubs, who makes herself interesting and agreeable... is a help to her husband.
In a two-party system, if both parties ignore public opinion, there is no place voters can turn.
I think a way to behave is to think not in terms of representative government, not in terms of voting, not in terms of electoral politics, but thinking in terms of organizing social movements, organizing in the work place, organizing in the neighborhood, organizing collectives that can become strong enough to eventually take over -- first to become strong enough to resist what has been done to them by authority, and second, later, to become strong enough to actually take over the institutions.
The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interest, where any chosen emphasis supports some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial, or national or sexual.
But remember, this power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. When people stop obeying, they have no power.
Historically, the most terrible things -- war, genocide, and slavery -- have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.
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.
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.
To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. 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.
Because of the control of the media by corporate wealth, the discovery of truth depends on an alternative media, such as small radio stations, networks, programs. Also, alternative newspapers, which exist all over the country. Also, cable TV programs, which are not dependent on commercial advertising. Also, the internet, which can reach millions of people by-passing the conventional media.
The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured.
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.
The crisis was built into a system which was chaotic in its nature, in which only the very rich were secure. It was a system of periodic crisis -- 1837, 1857, 1873 (and later: 1893, 1907, 1919, 1929) -- that wiped out small businesses and brought cold, hunger, and death to working people while the fortunes of the Astors, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Morgans, kept growing through war and peace, crisis and recovery.
There was something horrifying in the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call 'civilization,' we have carved up what we claim is one world into 200 artificially created entities we call 'nations' and armed to apprehend or kill anyone who crosses a boundary.
Yes, we're dreamers. We want it all. We want a peaceful world. We want an egalitarian world. We don't want war. We don't want capitalism. We want a decent society.
I see a time when the farmer will not need to live in a cabin on a lonely farm. I see the farmers coming together in groups. I see them with the time to read, and time to visit with their fellows. I see them enjoying lectures in beautiful halls, erected in every village. I see them gather like Saxons of old upon the green at evening to sing and dance. I see cities rising near them with schools, and churches, and concert halls and theaters. I see a day when the farmer will no longer be a drudge and his wife a bond slave, but happy men and women who will go singing to their pleasant tasks upon their fruitful farms. When the boys and girls will not go west nor to the city; when life will be worth living. In that day the moon will be brighter and the stars more glad, and pleasure and poetry and love of life come back to the man who tills the soil.
The Mexicans had fired the first shot. But they had done what the American government wanted, according to Colonel Hitchcock, who wrote in his diary, even before those first incidents:
I have said from the first that the United States are the aggressors... We have not one particle of right to be here... It looks as if the government sent a small force on purpose to bring on war, so as to have a pretext for taking California and as much of this country as it chooses, for, whatever becomes of this army, there is no doubt of war between the United States and Mexico... My heart is not in this business... but, as a military man, I am bound to execute orders.
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.
There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.