Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Matt Damon reads from Howard Zinn’s “The Problem is Civil Obedience”

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This performance was part of “The People Speak, Live!” at the Metro in Chicago, on January 31, 2012, produced by Voices of a People’s History in collaboration with Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival.

Howard Zinn explains the context of this speech in Voices of a People’s History of the United States

“In November 1970, after my arrest along with others who had engaged in a Boston protest at an army base to block soldiers from being sent to Vietnam, I flew to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to take part in a debate with the philosopher Charles Frankel on civil disobedience. I was supposed to appear in court that day in connection with the charges resulting from the army base protest. I had a choice: show up in court and miss this opportunity to explain — and practice — my commitment to civil disobedience, or face the consequences of defying the court order by going to Baltimore. I chose to go. The next day, when I returned to Boston, I went to teach my morning class at Boston University. Two detectives were waiting outside the classroom and hauled me off to court, where I was sentenced to a few days in jail. ”

Josh Jones says of Zinn’s speech: “Say, for example, that a gang of obscenely rich mercenaries with questionable ties and histories had taken power with the intent to destroy institutions so they could loot the country, further impoverish and disempower the citizenry, and prosecute, imprison, and demonize dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities. Such a scenario would cry out, one might think, for civil action on a never-before-seen scale. Millions, one might imagine, would either storm the castle or refuse to obey the commands of their new rulers. We might describe this situation as a topsy-turvy turn of events, should, say, such an awful thing come to pass.

“Topsy-turvy is exactly the phrase Howard Zinn used in his characterization of the U.S. during the Vietnam War, when he saw a situation like the one above, one that had also obtained, he said, in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.”

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.

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One comment on “Video: Matt Damon reads from Howard Zinn’s “The Problem is Civil Obedience”

  1. Mark A Pierce
    January 16, 2018

    Mr. Damon got to read this from his book. I was honored to be taught by this beloved man who embraced my intellect in a way a no man, other than my father, ever gave me. Rest in peace, my professor.

    Liked by 1 person

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