Autor: Howard Zinn

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Howard Zinn, Professor Emeritus an der Universität in Boston; Autor des Werkes „A People`s History of the United States”, und anderen Werken. Er gewann 1998 den Lennan literary Award for non-fiction.

Englisch:

The Possibility of Hope

Deutsch:

Die Möglichkeit der Hoffnung

Raphael Gymnasium Heidelberg:
Stefanie Miltner, Nicole Jelen, Alexander Thiel, Kosma Gorski
Fachliche Unterstützung:

In the spring of 1988 I made a sudden decision to quit teaching. With my students in Atlanta, Boston, and Paris I had, for more than 30 years, been discussing the problems of contemporary US politics, the Vietnam war, social and racial justice, sexual equality, abortion, the rights of gays and lesbians. I had always insisted that a good education was a synthesis of book learning and involvement in social action, that each enriched the other. I wanted my students to know that the accumulation of knowledge, while fascinating in itself, was not sufficient so long as so many people in the world had no opportunity to experience that fascination.

Im Frühling 1988 traf ich die spontane (plötzliche) Entscheidung mit dem Unterrichten aufzuhören. Mehr als 30 Jahre diskutierte ich mit meinen Schülern in Atlanta, Boston und Paris die Probleme der gegenwärtige US-Politik, des Vietnamkriegs, des Sozial- und Rassenrechts, der geschlechtlichen Gleichberechtigung, der Abtreibung, sowie über die Recht von Schwulen und Lesben. Ich hatte immer darauf bestanden, dass eine gute Schulbildung eine Kombination ist aus Büchern zu lernen, sowie sich im sozialen Bereich zu engagieren, wobei das eine das andere ergänzen sollte. Ich wollte meine Schüler wissen lassen, dass Erwerben von Wissen für sich allein schon faszinierend- nicht ausreichte, solange noch so viele Menschen auf der Welt nicht die Möglichkeit besitzen diese Faszination selbst zu erfahren.

1) The decision to quit surprised myself, because I loved teaching, but I wanted more freedom, to write, to speak to people around the country, to have more time with family and friends.1) Die Entscheidung aufzuhören überraschte mich selbst, weil ich es eigentlich liebte zu unterrichten, aber ich wollte mehr Freiheit um zu Schreiben und mit Menschen im ganzen Land zu sprechen, und um mehr Zeit mit Freunde und Familie zu verbringen
2) I spent the next several years responding to invitations to speak here and there around the country. What I discovered was heartening. In whatever town, large or small, and whichever state, there was always a cluster of men and women who cared about the sick, the hungry, the victims of racism, the casualties of war, and who were doing something, however small, in the hope that the world would change. Wherever I was, I found such people. And beyond the handful of activists, there seemed to be hundreds, thousands more who were open to unorthodox ideas.2) Ich verbrachte die nächsten Jahre damit, Einladungen zu beantworten und hier und dort Vorträge zu halten. Was ich entdeckte ging mir zu Herzen. In welche Stadt, groß oder klein, und in welchen Staat auch immer, gab es immer eine Gruppe von Männer und Frauen, die sich um Kranke, die Hungrigen, die Opfer des Rassismus und die Verwundeten des Krieges sorgen machten und die etwas tun wollen, egal wie wenig sie erreichen können, in der Hoffnung, dass sich die Welt ändern würde. Wo immer ich auch war, fand ich solche Leute. Und über diese handvolle Menge von Tätigen hinaus, scheint es Hunderte, Tausende mehr zu geben, die offen für unorthodoxe Ideen sind.
3) But they tended not to know of each other’s existence, and so, while they persisted, they did so with the desperate patience of Sisyphus endlessly pushing that boulder up the mountain. I tried to tell each group that it was not alone, and that the very people who were disheartened by the absence of a national Movement were proof of the potential for such a movement. I suppose I was trying to persuade myself as well as them.3)Aber sie neigen dazu nicht von einander zu wissen und so betreiben sie in ihrer Überzeugung mit verzweifelnder Ausdauer des Sisyphus endlos den Felsbrocken auf den Berg zu rollen. Ich versuchte jeder Gruppe zu sagen, dass sie nicht alleine war, und das genau die Menschen, die vom Fehlen einer nationalen Bewegung entmutigt wurden, die Leistungsfähigkeit von solch einer Bewegung bewiesen wurde. Ich vermute, dass ich versucht habe, mich genauso zu überzeugen wie sie.
4) The war in the Persian Gulf against Iraq, in early 1991, was especially discouraging to people who had hoped that the era of large-scale military actions by the United States ended with Vietnam. The newspapers were reporting that 90% of those polled supported President Bush’s decision to go to war. The whole country seemed festooned with yellow ribbons in support of the troops in the Gulf. It was not easy to oppose the war while making it clear that we were really supporting the troops in our own way, by wanting to bring them home. In the heated-up atmosphere that seemed impossible to do.4) Der Golfkrieg gegen den Irak, im frühen 1991, war besonders entmutigend für Menschen, die gehofft hatten, dass die Ära der großen militärischen amerikanischen Einsätzen mit dem Vietnamkrieg endete. Die Zeitungen berichteten, dass 90% der befragten Präsident Bushs Entscheidung in den Krieg zu ziehen, unterstützen. Es war nicht einfach gegen den Krieg anzugehen, während man klar stellte, dass wir wirklich die Truppen auf unsere eigene Weise unterstützten, indem wir wollten, dass sie nach Hause gebracht werden.
5) Yet, wherever I went, I kept being surprised. I was not just speaking to small, self-selected anti-war audiences, but to large assemblies of students at universities, community colleges and high schools — and my criticism of the war, and of war in general, was being received with vigorous agreement. I concluded, not that the polls were wrong in showing 90% support for the war, but that the support was superficial, thin as a balloon, artificially bloated by government propaganda and media collaboration, and that it could be punctured by a few hours of critical inspection. 5) Dennoch wunderte ich mich überall wo ich hinging, dass ich meine Reden nicht nur an kleine, selbst ernannte Antikriegszuhörerschaften richtete, sondern zu großen Versammlungen von Studenten und Schülern sprechen durfte - und dass meine Kritik an diesem Krieg, an der Idee von Krieg überhaupt, auf lebhaftes Einvernehmen stie0. So kam ich zu der Schlussfolgerung, dass nicht die Umfragen falsch waren, wenn sie beweisen versuchten, dass 90% der Amerikaner diesen Krieg unterstützen, sondern, dass diese so genannte Unterstützung eben nur eine vermeintliche Unterstützung war. Eine Unterstützung, die dünn war wie ein Luftballon, von der Propaganda der Regierung in Zusammenarbeit mit den Medien künstlich aufgeblasen, jedoch nach einigen Stunden gründlicher Inspektion bereits wieder zum Platzen gebracht.
6) Arriving at a community college in Texas City, Texas (an oil and chemical town near the Gulf Coast) in the midst of the war, I found the lecture room crowded with perhaps five hundred people, mostly beyond college age — Vietnam veterans, retired workers, women returning to school after raising families. They listened quietly as I spoke about the futility of war and the need to use human ingenuity to find other ways to solve problems of aggression and injustice, and then gave me a great ovation.6) Als ich eines Tages an einem Community College in Texas (einer Öl- und Industriestadt nahe des mexikanische Golfes) ankam, fand ich den für meinen Vortrag bestimmten Raum überfüllt mit einer Menschenmenge von vielleicht fünfhundert Leuten, von denen die meisten bereits aus dem Studentenalter herausgewachsen waren – Veteranen aus Vietnam, pensionierte Arbeiter sowie Frauen, die zum ersten Mal nachdem sie ihre Kinder aufgezogen hatten wieder eine Schule von innen sahen. Sie alle hörten gebannt zu währen ich ihnen von der Zwecklosigkeit des Krieges erzählte und ihnen erläuterte, wie unumgänglich es für die Menschheit sei, ihren Intellekt zu nutzen um andere Lösungen zu finden für Probleme wie Gewalt und Unrecht, und spendeten mir anschließend begeisterten Beifall.
7) As I spoke I noticed a man sitting in the back of the lecture hall, a man in his forties, in coat and tie, dark-haired, mustached, and I guessed that he was from somewhere in the Middle East. During the long question-discussion period, he was silent, but when the moderator announced: “Time for one more question”, he raised his hand, and stood up.7) Schon während ich sprach fiel mir ein Mann Mitte der Vierziger auf, elegant gekleidet in Anzug und Krawatte mit schwarzen Haaren und einem Schnurrbart, der am Ende des Saales saß und vermutlich irgendwo aus dem mittleren Osten stammte. Während der doch ziemlich lange andauerten Diskussionsrunde verhielt er sich ruhig, erst am Ende, als gerade noch genug Zeit für eine Frage da war, hob er seine Hand und stand auf.
8) “I am an Iraqi,” he began. The room became very quiet. He then told how, two years before, he had become an American citizen, and that during the citizenship ceremony, members of the Daughters of the Confederacy handed out tiny American flags to the new citizens. “I was very proud. I kept that little flag on my desk at work. Last week I heard on the news that my village in northern Iraq, a place of no military significance, was bombed by American planes. I took the flag from my desk and burned it.” 8) „Ich bin Iraker“, begann er. Der Raum um ihn herum wurde ruhig. Dann berichtete er wie er vor zwei Jahren Amerikaner wurde und wie während der Einbürgerungszeremonie Mitglieder von „Daughters of Confederacy“ den neuen Bürgern winzige amerikanische Flaggen aushändigten. „ Ich war sehr stolz. Die ganze Zeit habe ich diese kleine Flagge auf meinem Schreibtisch im Büro aufbewahrt. Doch als ich letzte Woche erfuhr, dass mein Dorf im Norden des Irak, ein Ort ohne jede militärische Bedeutung, von amerikanischen Flugzeugen nieder gebombt worden war, nahm ich diese Flagge von meinem Schreibtisch und verbrannte sie.“
9) The silence in the room was total. He paused. “I was ashamed of being an American.” He paused again. “Until tonight, coming here, and listening to all of you speak out against the war.” He sat down. For a moment, no one made a sound, and then the room resounded with applause.9) Nun herrscht absolute Stille im Raum. Er legte eine Pause ein. „Damals schämte ich mich ein Amerikaner zu sein.“ Und wieder schwieg er. „Bis heute Abend. Bis ich heirher kam und hörte wie ihr euch alle gegen den Krieg aussprecht.“ Dann nahm er wieder Platz. Für eine Sekunde hätte man eine Stecknadel fallen hören können, keiner wagte auch nur einen Ton von sich zugeben. Und dann füllte sich der Raum mit tobendem Beifall.
10) My host in Texas City was a faculty member at the college. He became the object of controversy when a colleague of his accused him of being radical and anti-American, and suggested that he should be fired. A meeting was held, where student after student spoke of him as a wonderful teacher, and how he had broadened their thinking in so many ways. The college president said: “If criticizing our government constitutes being anti-American and pro-Communist...I suspect we are all guilty.” The school board unanimously voted to keep him.10) Ein Mitglied des Lehrkörpers der Universität hatte mich zu diesem Vortrag eingeladen. Nun wurde er zum Gesprächsmittelpunkt, als ein Kollege ihn beschuldigte radikal sowie anti-amerkanisch zu sein und vorschlug ihn von seiner Lehrtätigkeit zu entbinden. Es wurde eine Konferenz einberufen, in der, Student für Student von der besagten Lehrkraft von einem wunderbaren Lehrer sprach und betonte, wie durch diesen ihr Denken in vielfacher Weise erweitert worden sei. Und so kam der Präsident der besagten Universität zu dem Schluss, dass „wenn anti-amerikanisch und pro-kommunistisch sein soll, unsere Regierung zu kritisieren…wir wohl alle Schuld haben.“ Der Vorstand stimmte anschließend anonym dafür sich des Lehrers nicht zu entledigen.
11) During the war in the Gulf I was invited to speak to the assembled student body of a private high school in southern Massachusetts. I was warned that the students were “95% for the war”. In my speech I questioned the motives of President Bush and his administration, arguing that, while there were many enemies of freedom in the world, war itself was the greatest enemy and should be renounced as a solution for international conflicts. When I was through the students applauded for a long time. Probably most of them were still for the war; all I hoped to do was to raise troubling questions.11) Während des Golfkrieges erhielt ich die Einladung vor versammelter Schülerschaft einer Privatschule im Süden Massachusetts eine Rede zu halten. Zuvor hatte man mich gewarnt, dass die Schüler sich zu 95% für den Krieg aussprächen. In meiner Rede hinterfragte ich also die Motive von Präsident Bish sowie der von ihm geführten Regierung und führte während meiner Argumentation aus, dass es bewiesenermaßen viele Feinde für den Frieden in der Welt gab, dass Krieg an sich jedoch der größte aller Feinde ist und diesem als Patentlösung für internationale Konflikte entsagen werden sollt. Nachdem ich meine Rede beendet hatte, strömte mir lang anhaltender Beifall der Schüler entgegen. Dennoch hielten wahrscheinlich die meisten von ihnen diesen Krieg für richtig; alles was ich zu erreichen hoffte, war sie mit meinen Fragen zum Nachdenken zu bewege.
12) Going around the country, I was impressed, again and again, by how favorably people reacted to what, undoubtedly, is a radical view of society — anti-war, anti-military, critical of the legal system, advocating a drastic redistribution of the wealth, supportive of protest even to the point of civil disobedience. Especially heartening was that, wherever I have gone, I have found teachers, in elementary school or high school or college, who at some point in their lives were touched by some phenomenon — the civil rights movement, or the Vietnam war, or the feminist movement, or environmental danger, or the plight of peasants in Central America. They were conscientious about teaching their students the practical basics, but they were also determined to stimulate their students to a heightened social consciousness.12)
13) One high school teacher wrote to me from San Diego, telling me that she was using my book, A People’s History of the United States, in her course. The mother of one of her students, poring over the book, became enraged at what she considered a lack of respect for American heroes, from Christopher Columbus to Theodore Roosevelt, - and what she thought was outrageous criticism of the nation’s wars, from the Mexican War to Vietnam. She complained to the school committee, asking them to investigate the teacher. The committee then interviewed the students, who said that my book was used alongside a traditional text, that they found mine more interesting, and that they loved their teacher. That ended the matter. 13)
14) Teachers like this, a whole new generation of them, want their students to know about the forgotten Americans: women, Afro-Americans, Latinos, Asians, working people, native Americans, gay people. I saw this in 1992, when all over the country official festivities were planned to mark the Quincentennial of Columbus’ voyage to this hemisphere. Columbus’ “discovery” of America had been celebrated for over a hundred years. But now, for the first time, there was a national campaign to dissent from that adulation. Teachers all over the country, by the thousands, began to teach the Columbus story in new ways; to recognize that from the point of view of Native Americans, Columbus was not a hero, but a murderer, an enslaver. The point being, not just to revise our view of past events, but to be provoked to think about our values today.14)
15) What was most remarkable was that Indian teachers, Indian community activists, were in the forefront of this campaign. I thought: how far we have come from that long period of Indian invisibility, when they were presumed to be dead or safely put away on reservations. They have come back, five hundred years after their annihilation by invading Europeans, to demand that America rethink its beginnings, rethink its values. It is this change in consciousness that encourages me. Granted, racial hatred and sex discrimination are still with us, war and violence still poison our culture, and there is a hard core of the population content with the way things are, afraid of change. 15)
16) But if we see only that, we have lost historical perspective, and then it is as if we were born yesterday, and we know only the depressing stories in this morning’s newspapers, this evening’s television reports.16)
17) Consider the remarkable transformation, in just a few decades, in people’s consciousness of racism, in the bold presence of women demanding their rightful place, in a growing public awareness that homosexuals are not curiosities but sensate human beings, in the long-term growing skepticism about military intervention despite the brief surge of military madness during the Gulf War.17)
18) It is that long-term change that I think we must see if we are not to lose hope. Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act.18)
19) There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment we will continue to see. We forget how often in this century we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.19)
20) The bad things that happen are repetitions of bad things that have always happened — war, racism, maltreatment of women, religious and nationalist fanaticism, starvation. The good things that happen are unexpected.20)
21) Unexpected, and yet explainable by certain truths which spring at us from time to time, but which we tend to forget: Political power, however formidable, is more fragile than we think. (Note how nervous they are, those who hold it.) 21)
The power of peopleDie Macht der Menschen
22) It is very important for the Establishment — that distressed club of business executives, generals, and politicos — to maintain the historic pretension of national unity. In their perspective the government represents all the people, and the common enemy is overseas, not at home, where disasters of economics or war are unfortunate errors or tragic accidents, to be corrected by the members of the same club that brought the disasters. It is important for them also to make sure this artificial unity of the highly privileged and the slightly privileged is the only unity — that the 99 percent remain split in countless ways, and turn against one another to vent their angers.22)
23) But with all the controls of power and punishment, enticements and concessions, diversions and deceptive traps, operating throughout the history of the country, the Establishment has been unable to keep itself secure from revolt. Every time it looked as if it had succeeded, the very people it thought seduced or subdued, stirred and rose. Blacks, cajoled by Supreme Court decisions and congressional statutes, rebelled. Women, wooed and ignored, romanticized and mistreated, rebelled. Indians, thought dead, reappeared, defiant. Young people, despite lures of career and comfort, defected. Working people, thought soothed by reforms, regulated by law, kept within bounds by their own unions, went on strike. Government intellectuals, pledged to secrecy, began giving away secrets. Priests turned from piety to protest.23)
24) To recall this is to remind people of what the Establishment would like them to forget — the enormous capacity of apparently helpless people to resist, of apparently contented people to demand change. To uncover such history is to find a powerful human impulse to assert one’s humanity. It is to hold out, even in times of deep pessimism, the possibility of surprise.24)
25) True, to overestimate class consciousness, to exaggerate rebellion and its successes, would be misleading. It would not account for the fact that the world — not just the United States, but everywhere else — is still in the hands of the elites, that people’s movements, although they show an infinite capacity for recurrence, have so far been either defeated or absorbed or perverted, that “socialist” revolutionists have betrayed socialism, that nationalist revolutions have led to new dictatorships.25)
26) But most histories understate revolt, overemphasize statesmanship, and thus encourage impotency among citizens. When we look closely at resistance movements, or even at isolated forms of rebellion, we discover that class consciousness, or any other awareness of injustice, has multiple levels. It has many ways of expression, many ways of revealing itself — open, subtle, direct, distorted. In a system of intimidation and control, people do not show how much they know, how deeply they feel, until their practical sense informs them they can do so without being destroyed.26)
27) History which keeps alive the memory of people’s resistance suggests new definitions of power. By traditional definitions, whoever possesses military strength, wealth, command of official ideology, cultural control, has power. Measured by these standards, popular rebellion never looks strong enough to survive.27)
28) However, the unexpected victories — even temporary ones — of insurgents show the vulnerability of the supposedly powerful. In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbagemen and firemen. These people — the employed, the somewhat privileged — are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.28)
29) That will happen, I think, only when all of us who are slightly privileged and slightly uneasy begin to see that we are like the guards in the prison uprising at Attica — expendable; that the Establishment, whatever rewards it gives us, will also, if necessary to maintain its control, kill us.29)
30) Our hopes for change are not just imagination. They are not totally removed from history. There are at least glimpses in the past of such a possibility. In the sixties and seventies, for the first time, the Establishment failed to produce national unity and patriotic fervor in a war. There was a flood of cultural changes such as the country had never seen — in sex, family, personal relations — exactly those situations most difficult to control from the ordinary centers of power. And never before was there such a general withdrawal of confidence from so many elements of the political and economic system. In every period of history, people have found ways to help one another — even in the midst of a culture of competition and violence — if only for brief periods, to find joy in work, struggle, companionship, nature.30)
31) The prospect is for times of turmoil, struggle, but also inspiration. There is a chance that such a movement could succeed in doing what the system itself has never done — bring about great change with little violence. This is possible because the more of the 99 percent that begin to see themselves as sharing needs, the more the guards and the prisoners see their common interest, the more the Establishment becomes isolated, ineffectual. The elite’s weapons, money, control of information would be useless in the face of a determined population. The servants of the system would refuse to work to continue the old, deadly order, and would begin using their time, their space — the very things given them by the system to keep them quiet — to dismantle that system while creating a new one.31)
32) The prisoners of the system will continue to rebel, as before, in ways that cannot be foreseen, at times that cannot be predicted. The new fact of our era is the chance that they may be joined by the guards. We readers and writers of books have been, for the most part, among the guards. If we understand that, and act on it, not only will life be more satisfying, right off, but our grandchildren, or our great grandchildren, might possibly see a different and marvelous world.32)
The possibility of hopeGrund zur Hoffnung
33) Ordinary people can be intimidated for a time, can be fooled for a time, but they have a down-deep common sense and, sooner or later, they find a way to challenge the power that oppresses them. People are not naturally violent or cruel or greedy, although they can be made so. Human beings everywhere want the same things: they are moved by the sight of abandoned children, homeless families, the casualties of war; they long for peace, for friendship and affection across lines of race and nationality. We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when done by millions of people, transform the world.33)
34) Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of changes, moving not in a straight line but making its own zigzag way towards a more decent society.34)
35) To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that the history of the human race is not a history only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.35)
36) What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to act. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, it gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of making the world spin in a different direction.36)
37) And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is only 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. 37)

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