In 1970, historian and activist Howard Zinn lamented: "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 all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”
HISTORIAN AND ACTIVIST HOWARD ZINN, who died in 2010, was the author of the magnificent A People’s History Of The United States. It is one of Amazon.com's 1000 best selling books of all time. It continues to be the top seller in the US history category, with over 100,000 copies purchased every year.
In 2004 Zinn published Voices Of A People’s History Of The United States,which brought together some of Zinn’s most notable speeches alongside the words of historical figures featured in his original People’s History.
Among the collection is Zinn's 1970 speech, “The Problem Is Civil Obedience,”, which he gave as his opening remarks in a university debate.
The speech was a call for revolutionary change, with Zinn attacking the political and economic injustices of American and global capitalism:
“I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth.”
Actor Matt Damon was a lifelong friend of Howard Zinn and, as a boy, lived next door to him. In his 1997 film, Good Will Hunting, Damon's character says: "If you wanna read a real history book read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. That book will fuckin' knock you on your ass".
Here, Matt Damon reads from 'The Problem is Civil Obedience', as part of a 2012 Chicago performance of Voices.