February, 2010

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#163 – Dick Bernard: “I hope he fails….”

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Today is the Health Care Reform summit in D.C. It is scheduled to begin in a few minutes….

I have been thinking a lot about what most thought was an astonishing comment by Rush Limbaugh on January 16, 2009, before the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Limbaugh said it best, himself: “I hope he fails”.

I would venture that most people in this country, including those who like Limbaugh, were put off by his comment over a year ago. After all, who in his or her right mind would wish the failure of a democratically elected President of the United States, especially at a time in our history when quite literally all was virtually lost: the economy on the verge of total collapse, an unwinnable war bankrupting us, and on and on and on.

But Limbaugh said, “I hope he fails“, and for the past thirteen months the Republican party has adopted Limbaughs position as their own and incredibly an astonishing percentage of the American public have adopted in one way or another Limbaugh’s mantra.

People who study such things note that the obstruction mentality in the U.S. Congress is worse now than it has likely ever been, at minimum in modern American history.

It is as if we have some kind of death wish. To paraphrase George Orwell, in 1984, “Failure is success”…at least in the eyes of the Republican Party and those who support its aims.

The issue in the spotlight today will be reform of Health Care in this country. For six months or more, in all sorts of ways, the mantra has been to “Kill the Bill” or, at the very least, to make the resulting policy appear to be a total failure, and to make the failure appear to be the Democrats fault. It is, in medical terms, a “sick” strategy, but it seems to be working: work against, then vote against, health care reform, and blame the Democrats for the lack of adequate reform, and carry this forward to a win in Congressional races in November, 2010.

On every major issue, in every way, the focus has been on assuring failure of the President and the Democrats. Simply look at the record of the major votes in the House and Senate. It is unprecedented in its unity and its viciousness.

If the strategy succeeds (it appears that it is), we deserve exactly what we’re going to get as “American people”.

“I hope he fails”, are words that deserve, richly, to be eaten. As a country, we cannot afford this war against ourselves.

Dismiss me as “Democrat”, “liberal”, “socialist”, even “communist” if you wish. But think about the consequences of staying the course on this absurd strategy…if by some chance the Republicans “win” in November, why should the Democrats treat them any more kindly in 2011 and beyond? Where is the common sense?

“We, the people” need to play more than a spectator role in all of this.

PS: Astonishing to me is the fundamental lack of knowledge most of us have about even recent history in our own country.

Here’s the succinct summary:
1) Republicans controlled the U.S. House and the Senate from January 1995 to January 2009. Yes, the majority shifted in 2007, but as we have seen even a near 60% majority in the Senate can be (and has been) thwarted. Tactics the Republicans used freely (i.e. reconciliation) are condemned if possibly used by the Democrats Remember: The Congress makes the national policy. The President can only recommend.

2) From January 2001 through January 2009 Republicans ruled the roost in the White House and also in Congress (see 2007-2009 above).

3) The Republicans had 15 years to reform Health Care. Take an objective look at the results including 1996. It is not pleasant.

4) We, the people, are the government that we elect. If things are a mess, it’s not their fault, it’s ours.

The record speaks for itself.

Be aware.

#162 – Dick Bernard: Afghanistan

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Last night I made the wise decision to attend an informative talk and ensuing conversation entitled “Afghanistan, Pakistan – and India? The Curse of Bilateralism in American Foreign Policy. Afghanistan in Regional Perspective.”

The speaker, William Davnie, had extensive experience in the U.S. State Department, some of which was in the South Asia area. He, along with informed comment from many in the filled meeting room, contributed to my too-meagre knowledge of South Asia – an area which has been reduced to bad words like Taliban, and ‘they’re all alike’ kinds of descriptors. I won’t even attempt to summarize what I thought I heard last night, since I don’t want to garble someone else’s very coherent message, but my main take-away was to convey the sense that the entire South Asia situation is very complex, and the news media, politicians and military don’t make it any simpler to understand.

In the question period I asked if there was any “Afghanistan for Dummies” books that could be recommended. No recommendation was offered (See last sentence, below.)

It was the bombing of Afghanistan in October, 2001, that prodded me into getting off the couch and into the peace and justice fray. I could see nothing good coming out of that action, which 94% of Americans approved of at the time. I haven’t seen any refutation of my snap judgement of the 2001 situation over the last eight years, but news reports, positioning of advocates, films like “Charley Wilson’s War” and “Kite Runners” haven’t been very enlightening either.

A while back, I attended another briefing on the South Asia area which was officially off the record. That session was a good complement to last nights session.

It was the richness of the group interaction at the meeting last night that helped me better understand the multiple quandaries in the south Asia quagmire.

Yes, Davnie didn’t think President Obama made the right decision in sending more troops into Afghanistan; he seemed aware, though, of the dilemma faced by the President in making this decision.

In the shorthand way that we receive, and even demand, information, “Afghanistan” has, for most of us, a single meaning. Someone, perhaps the speaker, perhaps someone in the audience, said that’s tantamount to saying that “United States” has a single meaning, including during the time when we were systematically eliminating the Native Americans, and holding slaves. It isn’t so simple.

Assorted tensions, alliances, etc between Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other places were briefly discussed. The interests of the U.S., Russia, China, Iran in the area…the assorted ethnic groups which complicate matters in all of the countries…the long history of the region – all of these came into the conversation.

Particularly interesting note was made of the Pashtun ethnic group which makes up 40% of Afghanistan’s 32 million people. It would be one thing if the Pashtun’s were only in Afghanistan, but 15% of the population of Pakistan are also Pashtun – a significant minority in Pakistan, but nonetheless extremely significant since they number about 25 million of Pakistan’s 170 million people. There are more Pashtun’s in Pakistan than in Afghanistan. Taliban is the radical faction of the Pashtun ethnic group….

Then there’s India next door to Pakistan, with one billion people.

The U.S., of course, has a complicated and controversial role in the region, in large part governed by assorted political considerations. For example, U.S. military versus civilian agents (i.e. diplomats) is hugely disproportionate: 240:1. Even today 20% of State Department slots are unfilled; 20% are below grade. In the field, only 12% of military are in forward kinds of positions, while 68% of State Department employees are forward employees. If the military seems dominant, it is because it is dominant, and it is the American political will that it be so, the speaker suggested, and this has been true throughout our history. Politicians reflect the public.

The job for those of us who disagree with this assessment is to continue to make the case for diplomatic rather than military engagement be the most important.

Before we left the room, Mr. Davnie did recommend one writer that he trusts on the subject: Andrew Bacevich. You might want to look him up.

#161 – Janice Andersen: The Role of Forgiveness

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Janice, Director of Christian Life at my Church, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, is one of those many heroes and sheroes who inspire me when hope is gone. Her title belies her many roles in Peace and Justice at Basilica. She wrote the following column for our Church bulletin some months ago. I share it with her permission.

I read the book, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. This is a provocative book that shares the story of holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal. As a prisoner in a concentration camp, Mr. Wiesenthal is randomly chosen to hear the confession of a dying German SS soldier.

This soldier confessed to unspeakable atrocities, having killed defenseless Jewish men, women, and children. As the soldier lay dying in a hospital bed, he was looking for freedom from his guilt and forgiveness from a Jew so he confessed to Wiesenthal. As Wiesentahl shares his experience and response, he asks the reader what they would do in his place.

The book then presents a symposium of responses from theologians, holocaust survivors, and Nazi officials. Over and over one is asked: “What would you do in his place?”

What would I do? It is impossible to place myself in Wiesenthal’s position and pretend to know what I would do. However, I can get a glimpse into my experience of forgiveness when I consider the many ways in which I have been hurt, wronged, or oppressed in my life. How do I respond to them? Do I hold tightly to resentment? Do I seek to punish? Do I require atonement? How do I respond to the need for forgiveness in my life?

One of the responders in this book, Dennis Prager, suggests that there are specific differences between Jewish and Christian understanding of forgiveness – and a difference in their response to evil. The Jewish view of forgiveness requires a person who hurt another to ask forgiveness from his victim, and only the victim can forgive. Even God’s forgiveness is dependent on that person being forgiven by the victim. In this case, murder is an unforgivable sin. Prager contrasts this view with the Christian experience that is rooted in the belief that all people, even an “evil person,” are loved by God and thus are open to receive forgiveness. Distinctions are made between forgiving and forgetting: between forgiving – on an inner level, and reconciliation – on a public level. There is a call for repentance and a change of heart to prevent an experience of “cheap grace” or perpetual victimhood. Martin Marty speaks of the freedom found in forgiveness, transcending the injustice and experiencing creativity in one’s life. Mattieu Ricard suggests that forgiveness can provide an opportunity for inner transformation of both the victim and the perpetrator – changing the evil into good.

Today our society is full of division, inequity, oppression, injustice, and fear. The Sunflower opens up dialogue on an important dimension of our lives together. Personally and collectively, as communities and nations, we are being asked to consider how we respond to evil and to understand the role that forgiveness plays in our relationships. Let us consider how we reconcile with one another and how we can forgive in the face of continual hurt.

#160 – Bob Barkley: Context and alignment are everything.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Context and alignment are everything: Context determines how we think about things, how we see things and how we see each other. It is our unconscious reality – one we create for ourselves or is created for us through marketing and such.

As a result, many, no, most if not all, of us go through our lives in what can only be called fantasy. This is because context is not actual reality. It is simply the way we view reality at a particular point in time. Authentic learning is the process of consciously reflecting upon and adjusting one’s context to fit a new reality. Those who do not adjust are doomed to that fantasy.

Thomas K. Wentz in Transformational Change states it about as simply as it can be when he writes: “You can’t do things differently until you see things differently.” “Contextual blindness,” Wentz later adds, “is oppressive and demoralizing.” Wentz was applying this observation to business management, but I contend that it applies across the board to all personal and organizational settings. How many marriages have been torn apart by couples not sharing a common context for their thinking and behaving together? Is there a family anywhere that can’t relate to that observation somewhere amongst their kin? I doubt it.

Peter Barus, an extremely bright, wise, and articulate acquaintance of mine via the Internet, captured much of this with the following: “…human beings have no direct awareness of what is actually going on in the world around them, whatsoever. Instead our brains construct a kind of virtual-reality model of the environment, organizing the chaos of sensory input according to an arbitrary self-referential logic, simply ignoring whatever doesn’t quite fit, patching the gaps with bits of recorded memory, and we live as if these multi-sensory movies-in-the-head were reality. It is a survival adaptation that works astonishingly well. The brain needs to predict the immediate future well enough to keep you alive in the great outdoors, and it’s pretty good at this. You can go through life without ever waking up from this dream, and things will sort of automatically turn out ok, mostly. At least there will be a sort of continuity that is sufficiently reliable to increase population.”

This façade of reality that we all live with is context. And real context is something we can influence. It can best be described as creating focus and determination – Kennedy’s vision of “a man on the moon in ten years” set a context for the nation. It established focus on what could be, and how to get there, rather than on its improbability.

As we are ending the first decade of the twentieth century, context seems dramatically influential in our world. Are we focused on getting affordable health care for all, on reducing man’s negative impact on our climate, on removing money from undue influence in politics, on establishing an authentic sense of community where we all care for each other – that accepts that we all belong together? Or have we established up front, in a predetermined context, that all of that is unrealistic and impractical?

Do we common folks simply have a different context – a different sense of reality – than our elected leaders? I hope that is what it is. I hope neither of us is ignoring the need to learn and adjust – to grow our reality and refine our context. What else can explain Obama’s departure from what he promised in his campaign? Does he simply see things differently now? And if so, why does he not attempt to share that change with us? Tis a puzzlement.

But context is not all there is to it because, as Wentz observes; “When the context has changed, entirely new content will be created.” That new content can be both invigorating and productive or it can be chaotic and overwhelming. Which it is becomes a matter of the related concept of alignment.

So, if Obama’s context has changed, and he fails to share it convincingly, we are stuck with a predictable chaos, and the nation will stay unaligned. And I have to admit that this is what I feel right now – chaos.

What Kennedy’s statement did was get everyone headed in one direction and fully aligned. Clearly our nation isn’t there at the moment. The opening sentence of George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky’s book, The Power of Alignment, is the following quote from Jim Barksdale, CEO of Netscape: “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!

What is Obama’s “main thing?” I do not know and few seem to. He must correct this and soon or the chaos will continue.

So, context, either new or old, absent alignment ends up creating chaos. The role of leadership is to assure a shared context and foster alignment. This component is sorely missing from our recent national leadership on almost any issue. And the context that has been created and fostered by corporate and conservative-leaning leaders – of both parties and the media – has developed and exploited our unconscious reality to the point where the demise of our society is real, if not imminent.

Bob Barkley, counselor in systemic education reform, author, and retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association. Worthington, Ohio.
Email: rbarkle@columbus.rr.com

#159 – Dick Bernard: “We are the World”; the “Kin[g]dom of God is yours….” Luke 6:17, 20-26

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

It’s Valentine’s Day 2010.

Overnight came the new release of the 25th anniversary version of Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie’s We are the World. This years rendition, recorded after the earthquake, is dedicated to the people of Haiti (Ayiti). It is powerful. Do watch it.

Back home, today’s Sunday paper had not a single word about Haiti – at least none that I could see. It is now 32 days since the earthquake, and as I anticipated, Haiti has officially been disappeared from the radar screen for most Americans, even though the task of survival will remain job one for Haitians, and the matter of long-term recovery is far in the future.

It is how it is. With the exception of 9-11-01, which is still flogged into our conscious memory at most every opportunity to keep us fearful about the enemy, the ordinary life span of a life altering event is, roughly, a month. And a month has now passed since the earthquake.

It has been decreed that it is time to move on, or so it seems. Except for Haiti, where moving on will take lots and lots and lots of years, and continuing outside support.

This morning at Catholic Mass, the Gospel for the day was the scripture text noted in the title of this post. This text is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the meek”, etc.)

The Priest this morning, retired, a frequent visitor to our Parish, highly respected, invariably says “kindom” when the text says “kingdom”, and his error is very intentional. As he explained the story a year or two ago, on the Feast of the Three Kings: when he was pastor of an inner city parish that had, and still has, very active ministries to the downtrodden, particularly the homeless, his assistant once typed something for him, and misspelled the word “kingdom”, leaving out the “g”, resulting in “kindom” on his piece of paper. He noted the mistake, but he liked the alternate word, and has used it instead of Kingdom ever since. So, in the Lord’s prayer, an every Sunday part of Catholic Mass, while we read and most of us say the “official” version, “thy Kingdom come”, our Priest is saying “thy kindom come”.

And so, today, we heard about the kindom of God….

Lent begins on Wednesday for those so inclined. Father suggested a good opening exercise would be to read the 6th chapter of Luke in its entirety.

As he was talking, I thought of the front page of my reflections when I came back from Haiti in 2003. You can view it for yourself here.

So far, the data shows that the average American has contributed about $2 per man, woman and child to relief efforts for Haiti. Our government has supplied a bit over a dollar more per person thus far. While this is a vast outpouring of generosity for us, the vast majority of that money will simply recycle right back into the American economy through sale of goods and services, and salaries for people like the military or aid workers. Yes, we’re helping Haiti; we’re also helping ourselves, far more.

Now the time for the serious heavy lifting in Haiti begins. Maybe Lent is a good time to contemplate the meaning of another part of that Gospel of Luke read this morning: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolations. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry….” Whatever our personal circumstances, if we live in America, we’re rich.

Keep seeing Haiti, and all the other places which have less of the riches of the world than we. It’s the least we can do.

#158 – Bob Barkley: “Useful to those in power….”

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

I have been reading Howard Zinn’s A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. It is a collection of his essays on a variety of topics all of which portray the benefits of civil action to reign in the powerful.

About half way through there is an essay on Nationalism. In it I was struck by the term applied to certain factors that are “useful to those in power.” I had not thought of this label applied to many of the attributes the concern me but it is about as apt a description as I have heard for many of these negatives.

There is nationalism – the blind support for the fictitious boundaries that separate people only, for the most part, due to the pure chance of their birth. Nationalism is used to rally support for “your country” against any other country that does not agree with your leader’s espoused definition of what is best for your country. It is terribly useful to those in power in your country, and they almost always exploit it to their ends. Often those citizens who are not in agreement with their national leaders at a particular point in time are labeled as traitors to their nation.

There is religious fundamentalism – the extreme and historically and theologically unsupported allegiance to a literal interpretation of conveniently isolated and selected excerpts from the Bible or other holy document. Those in power in the US and in many Middle East countries almost always introduce or close their official statements with some utterance of loyalty to a popular divinity. It is exploited to the point that there is almost never a second thought given to it.

There is imperialism – the assumption that through whatever means your country has at its disposal, and for whatever purpose/need your leaders assume is justified, your nation can impose itself on others. By dramatizing that purpose/need, a nation’s leaders exploit popular zeal for imperialistic invasion and occupation of foreign lands. It is extremely useful to those in power to trumpet the threat of others to the selfish and often shortsighted wants of the people. Such behavior is specifically inconsistent with the teachings of all major religions yet this is conveniently ignored by those in power – EVEN many of those in power in these religions.

There is patriotism – the expectation for all those in a particular country to steadfastly display loyalty to one set of beliefs about how a country should behave as defined by that country’s leaders. Allegiance to those leaders themselves is misplaced for allegiance to what the country actually stands for or the principles upon which it was founded and established. Almost without exception national leaders define patriotism as loyalty to their particular beliefs and goals and anyone who does not espouse those particular beliefs and goals are branded as unpatriotic. In deed, we go on to celebrate events and people who have adhered to the popular beliefs and goals at a particular time in history even when history proves beyond doubt the inappropriateness of such adoration. Columbus Day comes to mind.

There is divine sanction – the almost incredible and inane conclusion that whatever evil or violence a nation imposes upon others is justified by some message from a divinity of some sort. While this grows out of the religious fundamentalism spoken to earlier, it is unfortunately and often unconsciously adhered to even by those that would not be considered religious. “In God We Trust” emblazoned on the coinage of the nation or on our license plates is an example of the aura of divine sanction that subtlety engulfs us all – often with not a second thought by many. We even have presidents who proudly proclaim that “God told me to do it,” or “I prayed about what to do” to explain away their actions that seem inappropriate to many of us.

There is the claim of moral purpose – the ultimate in an ends justify means mentality. And too often the moral purpose is, in fact, immoral and is little more than violent revenge and reactionary and driven by emotion rather than reason. At these times the hard work and competence demanded of nonviolence is rejected out of hand. And, throughout history, in the case of military super powers, the easiest alternative is military action justified by some strange morality.

There is the sense of moral superiority – the illusion that whatever is done is acceptable because of the erroneous assumption that ones own country is surely more moral than any of its competitors/enemies. This sense leads to the claim of moral purpose. Those in power almost never reveal any thought that their country could be wrong and is certainly as moral as it could possibly be – at least comparatively. And the people find it convenient to fall in step with such thinking, so leaders exploit it without exception.

To sum this up there is the over riding loss of any sense of proportion – the inability and/or unwillingness to apply reason and deep thought to the grand scale of what is happening around us. We have been wired to emotional and shallow reasoning. Psychologists have been pointing this out repeatedly. It is not new but it is fatal if not challenged. It is an outgrowth of a combination of stunted education and continual spin by the media and politicians. It is easier to follow than think, and leaders exploit this phenomenon endlessly.

All these characteristics are present in trump today. They serve our leaders well and we the people poorly. They must be raised to public consciousness and publicly challenged.

Bob Barkley, counselor in systemic education reform, author, and retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association. Worthington, Ohio.

#157 – Dick Bernard: Haiti et al, a little arithmetic lesson in caring and sharing

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Thursday of this week we showed a few photos from what, in retrospect, were better times for Haiti kids at SOPUDEP School in Petion-ville in December, 2003. Our audience was about 100 2nd graders at an elementary school in a nearby twin cities suburb. Kids relate to kids everywhere, and this audience of young persons paid close attention to the photos of their peers far away, and they enjoyed participating in a small lesson in Kreyol words I was able to teach them.

SOPUDEP school is no longer useable; many of its students were casualties of the earthquake. It has temporarily died, but will rise again with the help of places like that elementary school in the twin cities which is considering helping SOPUDEP recover with part of their relief efforts. It helps to be able to make a personal connection with a person or a place.

The day we were at the school this past week, they were collecting quarters from whoever wished to participate. It was a small amount, but a very intriguing idea.

The school was devoting a week, I gathered, to participate in some way in relief efforts, and was involved in various efforts to better understand Haiti.

Someone(s) had come up with a neat idea: on Monday, the collection began by collecting pennies; on Tuesday, nickels; Wednesday, dimes; Thursday, our day, quarters; and Friday, dollars. If you do the math, that’s $1.41 – a small sum, granted, but coins put together accumulate to real money quickly.

The teacher noted that the trip to the bank with the coins involved a bit of heavy lifting, so to speak.

The fundraising strategy has stuck with me, and this morning at coffee I did a little paper and pencil arithmetic.

IF a person did the same routine as the kids were doing at the school, and repeated the routine every five days over the course of a year, that $1.41 would grow to over $100 by years end.

Of course, one need not stop at a dollar. How about going to six days, and adding a $5 bill; or seven days, adding a 10; or eight, $20? And doing it repetitively, week after week? A seven day cycle would come out to about $850 a year; an eight day cycle, almost $1500…all this for
one cent +
five cents +
ten cents +
twenty-five cents +
$1 +
$5 +
$10 +

Let’s say that a single percent of Americans – only 3,000,000 people, 1% of a total of 300,000,000 – adopted the elementary schools five day plan, and followed through every day for an entire year. That would come out to over $300,000,000 dollars – all for $1.41 every five days. That’s serious money that could do a whole lot of good in a place like Haiti where a dollar a day is hard to come by, even for adults.

Give it some thought. And action.

Children at SOPUDEP School, Haiti, December 9, 2003

#156 – Dick Bernard: Howard Zinn

Friday, February 5th, 2010

However he’s looking in on we mere mortals, Howard Zinn is probably getting a kick out of all the attention he’s getting in death. Today, for instance, National Public Radio went to the trouble of admitting its obituary of Zinn was unfair. Zinn is likely smiling and would probably agree with the old variously attributed adage: “I don’t care what they say about me, just spell my name right.”

I’ve not yet read Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States”, nor his other books. I saw him in person once, April 9, 2009, doing his part in his “Voices of a People’s History of the United States”. He responded to a couple of e-mails I sent him, and he gave me his home address without a clue as to who I was. He came across as a really nice genuine gentle man.

Nonetheless, he was labeled as a radical, and a “revisionist” historian.

The latter label I got a particular kick out of: his task in life seemed to be to correct the earlier and abundant revisionist historical mythology about our own history as a country – more or less our Lake Wobegon view of ourselves, where pats on the national back are all we learned, and all that is acceptable; where outrageous national behavior is not spoken in polite company. We could do, and did, no wrong….

If Zinn was pilloried as departing from the party line of our history, then the worst that could be said about him was that he was the mathematical negative which, when multiplied by another negative, equals a positive. He balanced the national story – which made him frightening to some.

Somewhere I still have an audio tape of a speech he gave in St. Paul in 2002. It is a wonderful speech, gentle, pointed, spot-on. He acknowledges his WWII career in a bomber over Europe. He served his country. He then puts the war part of our national ethic into its less palatable perspective.

As one friend remembers it, Zinn commented in his People’s History that “orthodox history has been written ten times over…no need to do it again.”

Go to YouTube, and enter the name Howard Zinn, and you’ll have a good variety of Zinn-samplers.

The day after I learned he had died, I sent to my list the earliest Howard Zinn writing I had on file in my computer. My post is dated March 25, 2003; I don’t know when Zinn wrote it…doesn’t matter. In peace, Howard.

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 scientist 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 disable 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,
industrialists become powerless when their workers leave their jobs or
occupy the factories.

Sixth: When we forget the fragility of that power in the 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 worthwhile. Okay, seven pieces of profound advice
should be enough.
Howard Zinn