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howard zinn on civil obedience

Howard Zinn on Civil Obedience

Howard Zinn | Civil Disobedience as Activism

Quoted from Zinn’s 1970 Boston speech “The 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 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) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

Howard Zinn, historian, playwright, and social activist (1922-2010)

Do you agree with Zinn’s assertions? Is Zinn way off beam, or is he really onto something? Are his contentions as relevant today as they may have been 50 years ago? May be even more so?



Actor Matt Damon reads from Zinn’s speech at “The People Speak, Live!” show at the Metro Chicago on January 31, 2012


Carrie Reichardt and Craftivism

British artist Carrie Reichardt is one of many who have been inspired by Zinn’s activism. Reichardt’s main outdoor work consists of the above quote by Zinn unfurling along a staircase in downtown Stavanger (Norway).

Reichardt makes a “radical use of traditional things”, and she calls it ‘craftivism’ after the anti-industrial art movement born in the 1960s, when women turned their ‘hobbies’ (ceramics, embroidery and other traditional crafts) into protest artworks by dipping them into feminist theories and subversive political messages. Carrie Reichardt’s artworks frequently focus on empowering different local communities.


The illustration at the top shows Howard Zinn / Photo: Astrid Meyer-Knutsen

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