Wednesday, July 18, 2018

#199 / Zinn Talks Trains

Howard Zinn, pictured, was an American historian, playwright, and activist. Among other things, he is the author of A People's History of the United States

Thanks to Jim Weller, who is a resident of Santa Cruz, California and a community minister with Peace United Church of Christ, I am now armed with a Howard Zinn quote that I had never heard before. Writing about rent control, Weller quotes Zinn as follows: 

You can’t be neutral on a moving train.

By this, Weller says, Zinn means that "if you are on the train, you’re going where the train goes, like it or not, unless you can somehow stop the train, and then you’ll still be on it wherever it stops."

Looked at in one way, this observation is profoundly discouraging. We are, indeed, all "on the train," and the train seems to be heading straight to Hell. This would be a fair evaluation of the state of politics, social solidarity, and environmental and economic policy in the United States today. 

I don't remember Zinn's writings, including that People's History, as suggesting that we are doomed and that we must inevitably go where the "train" of history seems to be taking us. 

I seem to recall that Zinn suggested that we could stop the train. And if we found ourselves in a place we didn't like we could then redirect our travels, towards the place we really want to go.

You can't be "neutral" on a moving train. You are going where it goes. That is definitely the truth.  Unless we do something about it, that train is going to continue on down the tracks in the direction it is going now. 

Zinn's "train talk," though, is just the "beginning of wisdom." It is not "the end of the story."

Don't you want to head in a different direction?

Let's get together and stop that train! That's the first step...

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