Occupy Indy - Howard Zinn Quote

Surely, peace, stability, and order are desirable. Chaos and violence
are not. But stability and order are not the only desirable conditions
of social life. There is also justice, meaning the fair treatment of
all human beings, the equal right of all people to freedom and
prosperity. Absolute obedience to law may bring order temporarily, but
it may not bring justice. And when it does not, those treated unjustly
may protest, may rebel, may cause disorder, as the American
revolutionaries did in the eighteenth century, as antislavery people
did in the nineteenth century, as Chinese students did in this
century, and as working people going on strike have done in every
country, across the centuries.

Are we not more obligated to achieve justice than to obey the law? The
law may serve justice, as when it forbids rape and murder or requires
a school to admit all students regardless of race or nationality. But
when it sends young men to war, when it protects the rich and punishes
the poor, then law and justice are opposed to one another. In that
case, where is our greater obligation: to law or to justice?6

The answer is given in democratic theory at its best, in the words of
Jefferson and his colleagues in the Declaration of Independence. Law
is only a means. Government is only a means. “Life, Liberty, and the
pursuit of Happiness”—these are the ends. And “whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the
People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.”

True, the disorder itself may become unjust if it involves
indiscriminate violence against people, as the Cultural Revolution in
China in the period 1966–1976 started out with the aim of equality but
became vengeful and murderous. But that danger should not lead us back
to the old injustices to have stability. It should only lead us to
seek methods of justice that, although disorderly and upsetting, avoid
massive violence to human rights.

Should we worry that disobedience to law will lead to anarchy? The
answer is best given by historical experience. Did the mass
demonstrations of the black movement in the American South, in the
early sixties, lead to anarchy? True, they disrupted the order of
racial segregation. They created scenes of disorder in hundreds of
towns and cities in the country (although it might be argued that the
police, responding to nonviolent protest, were the chief creators of
that disorder). But the result of all that tumult was not general
lawlessness.7 Rather the result was a healthy reconstitution of the
social order toward greater justice and a healthy new understanding
among Americans (not all, of course) about the need for racial

The orthodox notion is that law and order are inseparable. However,
absolute obedience to all laws will violate justice and sooner or
later lead to enormous disorder. Hitler, calling for law and order,
threw Europe into the hellish disorder of war. Every nation uses the
power of law to keep its population obedient and to mobilize
acquiescent armies, threatening punishment for those who refuse. Thus
the law that inside each nation creates conscript armies leads to the
unspeakable disorder of war, to the bloody chaos of the battlefield,
and to international turmoil.

If law and order are only ways of making injustice legitimate, then
the “order” on the surface of everyday life may conceal deep mental
and emotional disorder among the victims of injustice. This is also
true for the powerful beneficiaries of the system, in the way that
slavery distorts the psyches of both slave and master. In such a case,
the order will only be temporary; when it is broken, it may be
accompanied by a bloodbath of disorder—as in the United States, when
the tightly controlled order of slavery ended in civil war and 600,000
men died in a country of 35 million people.

Zinn, Howard (2009-12-02). Passionate Declarations (Kindle Locations

2197-2226). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.  

This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to www.yola.com and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola