Quotations by Zinn, Howard

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.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

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.


Howard Zinn (1922-2010) American historian, academic, author, social activist
“The Optimism of Uncertainty,” The Nation (2 Sep 2004)

Adopted from Zinn's essay of the same name in Paul Loeb (ed.), The Impossible Will Take a Little While (2004). See also Zinn, "A Marvelous Victory" (23 Feb 2004).
Added on 28-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Dec-16
Link to this post | 1 comment
Topics: , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Zinn, Howard

History can suggest to us alternatives that we would never otherwise consider. It can both warn and inspire. It can warn us that it is possible for a whole nation to be brainwashed, for “enlightened” and “educated” people to commit genocide, for a “democratic” country to maintain slavery, for oppressed to turn into oppressors, for “socialism” to be tyrannical and “liberalism” to be imperialist, for whole peoples to be led to war like sheep. It can also show us that apparently powerless underlings can defeat their rulers, that men (for at least moments of time) can live like brothers, that man can make incredible sacrifices on behalf of a cause.

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) American historian, academic, author, social activist
The Politics of History, ch. 17 (1970)
Added on 9-Aug-11 | Last updated 9-Aug-11
Link to this post | No comments
More quotes by Zinn, Howard