DVD: Howard Zinn - You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train
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Bonus footage: On Human Nature & Aggression; speech at Veterans for Peace Conference 2004; Speech at Boston Common on Civil Disobedience, Bonus features include:
• DVD-ROM materials:
• Zinn's Recommended Reading List;
• Transcription of Boston Common Speech 1971 (audio only) and more.
In these turbulent times, Howard Zinn is inspiring a new generation.
Following his early days as a shipyard labor organizer and bombadier in World War II, Zinn became an academic rebel and leader of civil disobedience in a time of institutionalized racism and war. His influential writings shine light on and bring voice to factory workers, immigrant laborers, African Americans, Native Americans and the working poor.
Featuring rare archival materials and interviews with Zinn and colleagues such as Noam Chomsky, Marian Wright Edelman, Alice Walker, Tom Hayden, Daniel Ellsberg, and others this documentary captures the essence of this extraordinary man who has been a catalyst for progressive change for more than 60 years. As Chomsky said, Zinn is a "model and inspiration for those who seek justice and peace. His contributions are truly incomparable."
[The film] "Allows (Zinn's) significance to register and his charisma to shine." - Jonathan Rosenbau, Chicago Reader
His final words in his autobiography "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" are good balm for these troubled times.
"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
"Sometimes I find the thoughts of Zinn's detractors to be at least as interesting as those of his admirers. Bernard Chapin's negative review was no exception. Chapin holds a world view that our militarists are constantly pushing in an attempt to rationalize their aggression; that is, "foul acts like murder, slavery, and wanton destruction are ubiquitous to humanity, and were committed by people all over the world since the beginning of time" (to quote Chapin's review of Pat Buchanan's "State of Emergency"). There is usually an element of truth to effective propaganda and, no doubt, the Nazis, Genghis Khan, Stalin, child abusers, rapists and others have resorted to similar rationalizations for their own "foul acts." Zinn, on the other hand,
resists the perception management efforts that make war easy. Instead, he's been a tireless advocate for the causes of peace and justice. He's been at the war protests, stood in the picket lines, lectured/written tirelessly, and he's supported groups like "Emergency" that sends doctors into war zones to try to stitch together the bodies torn apart by the "wanton destruction" of Western so-called Civilization.
Zinn himself has directly participated in that destruction. As a World War II bombadeer, he was part of a raid that pioneered the use of napalm. It was an act for which many would have sought some psychologically comforting justification. Zinn instead chose to be honest about the inexcusable barbarity of burning civilians alive, and dedicated himself to resisting the efforts of our warlords. One of his many insights that undercut the narratives of our military establishment is this bit of good news that appears towards the end of the film, Zinn is quoted as saying, "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 . . . 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."
It's this reminder, that wanton kindness is just as much a part of our nature as anything else, that is the most subversive message of Zinn's work. It also is the teaching of the Dalai Lama, our mothers, and other people very much worth listening to." - Preston Enright 1/21/07
"As an undergraduate at Boston University in the 1980's I had the advantage to take two of Dr. Howard Zinn's courses. Unfortunately, as a somewhat naive student from a conservative midwestern upbringing I did not take full advantage or fully appreciate the opportunity of studying under Dr. Zinn. Today, I was quite pleased to see a documentary about this amazing, yet controversial man.
Whether or not you agree with Dr. Zinn's politics, it cannot be denied (especially after watching this documentary) that his motives are genuine. Dr. Zinn is really fighting for a better and truer form of what he defines as justice. It may be easy to disagree with him (I certainly do not agree with all his ideas or actions), this documentary makes it impossible to disagree that he is a man who really cares about what he is fighting for.
The documentary begins with his meager upbringing and discusses that although as a shipbuilder he could have received a deferment from fighting in World War II, he enlisted believing that fighting fascism in Europe was the right thing to do. However, some of the things he was called upon to do as a pilot forced him to ponder on what means can and should be used to achieve a just end. The documentary then depicts the start of his activism as a white teacher in a black college in Atlanta during the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the South. The documentary covers his life from those early days throughout his career.
Although the documentary is not what you could call balanced in that none of Dr. Zinn's opponents are interviewed, I do not find that as a fault. I do not think the purpose of this documentary was to be a completely balanced protrayal leaving it up to the viewer to make his or her own decision about Dr. Zinn; but instead the documentary is meant to be a heartfelt synopsis of a fascinating man.
From a filmmaker's point of view, the documentary certainly works as well. It is well edited with loads of great old footage intertwined with the interviews. All-in-all, this is a documentary that works. Love or hate Dr. Zinn's politics, this documentary will still give the viewer new insight into his life and what drives him." – Joseph Weber 5/31/05
"This is a marvelous film about an amazing man. Depending, of course, on your point of view. Which is Zinn's point. In any case, if you agree with Zinn, you'll love the movie. If you don't, but have an open mind, you might be interested in his ideas. And if you're Bill O'Reilly, don't even bother. Please.
The film follows Zinn from his experiences as a bomber pilot in WWII, through the birth of modern American activism in Atlanta (where he was fired from Spelman College for encouraging students in non-violent activism), through the Vietnam war, and up to his current activities and ideas. It also contains a very nice section about his book "The People's History of the United States," which looks at American history from the point of view of the victims. AND, it is the only mention I have ever seen in film or television of the tragic Ludlow, Colorado massacre of the strikers by those staunch defenders of American democracy: the Pinkertons. That's right, the mine owners brought in their own private army of Pinkertons who burned the strikers' tent city in the middle of a Colorado winter and then shot the survivors.
This film reminds us of what moral indignation is all about and the importance of taking a stand against tyranny in all its forms. Bill O'Reilly will, of course, disagree." - Robin Wolfson 5/19/05