January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn (1922-2010)

A great American died this evening.
[Civil disobedience] 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 ... 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.


Philip said...

A brilliant historian and Massachusetts local...I would have loved to meet him.

L-girl said...

He was my hero.

Funny Philip said that, because I always hoped I would meet Zinn in person one day. I never had the chance.

I do have email from him, though - cheering on the war resisters campaign. Something to treasure!

James said...

Man, one of my favorite authors. I saw him speak a few times, and ran into him once at the Dunkin Donuts off Harvard Square, right across from where the 66 bus drops you off. This is a tremendous loss; I'm not sure if we'll ever see anyone like Howard Zinn again.

Philip said...

Followed by Salinger...a bad two days for brilliance.

George said...

A sad day indeed.
Nice O-Bit from the Globe, and the most national press Chomsky has gotten since Hugo waved his book around at the UN.

The AP has a slyly dismissive O-bit, god forbid someone on the left should be allowed to pass without their ideas being dismissed.

I guess I'm sad and need to rant, thanks for the outlet.

MacLeodCartoons said...

As a tribute to the author of The People's History of the US, a great poem by Brecht:

Questions from A Worker Who Reads

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the name of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished.
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song,
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Years' War. Who
Else won it?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the bill?

So many reports.
So many questions.

"Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters" - translated by M. Hamburger
from Bertolt Brecht, Poems 1913-1956, Methuen, N.Y., London, 1976

L-girl said...

god forbid someone on the left should be allowed to pass without their ideas being dismissed.

So true. I avoided the obits for that reason. This feels like a personal loss to me, and it would be awful to read that.

Scottish James, thanks for the Brecht.

Joe Gravellese said...

Howard Zinn spoke at my high school when I was a freshman (an incredible coup for my school, which is a pretty crappy/poor urban public school).

What an honor it was.

I'll be rereading A People's History this month.