Howard Zinn Says American Stature in the World Sinking
American author and historian Howard Zinn shares his views on the state of America with Al Jazeera.
US 'in need of rebellion'
Monday, September 08, 2008 19:27 GMT
Al Jazeera speaks to Howard Zinn, the author, American historian, social critic and activist, about how the Iraq war damaged attitudes towards the US and why the US "empire" is close to collapse.
Q: Where is the United States heading in terms of world power and influence?
HZ: America has been heading - for some time, and is heading right now - toward less and less world power, less and less influence.
Obviously, since the war in Iraq, the rest of the world has fallen away from the United States, and if American foreign policy continues in the way it has been - that is aggressive and violent and uncaring about the feelings and thoughts of other people - then the influence of the United States is going to decline more and more.
This is an empire which is on the one hand the most powerful empire that ever existed; on the other hand an empire that is crumbling - an empire that has no future ... because the rest of the world is alienated and simply because this empire is top-heavy with military commitments, with bases around the world, with the exhaustion of its own resources at home.
[This is] leading to more and more discontent and home, so I think the American empire will go the way of other empires and I think it is on its way now.
Q: Is there any hope the US will change its approach to the rest of the world?
HZ: If there is any hope, the hope lies in the American people.
[It] lies in American people becoming resentful enough and indignant enough over what has happened to their country, over the loss of dignity in the world, over the starving of human resources in the United States, the starving of education and health, the takeover of the political mechanism by corporate power and the result this has on the everyday lives of the American people.
[There is also] the higher and higher food prices, the more and more insecurity, the sending of the young people to war.
I think all of this may very well build up into a movement of rebellion.
We have seen movements of rebellion in the past: The labour movement, the civil rights movement, the movement against the war in Vietnam.
I think we may well see, if the United States keeps heading in the same direction, a new popular movement. That is the only hope for the United States.
Q: How did the US get to this point?
HZ: Well, we got to this point because ... I suppose the American people have allowed it to get it to this point because there were enough Americans who were satisfied with their lives, just enough.
Of course, many Americans were not, that is why half of the population doesn't vote, they're alienated.
But there are just enough Americans who have been satisfied, you might say getting some of the "goodies" of the empire, just some of them, just enough people satisfied to support the system, so we got this way because of the ability of the system to maintain itself by satisfying just enough of the population to keep its legitimacy.
And I think that era is coming to an end.
Q: What should the world know about the United States?
HZ: What I find many people in the rest of the world don't know is that there is an opposition in the United States.
Very often, people in the rest of the world think that Bush is popular, they think 'oh, he was elected twice', they don't understand the corruption of the American political system which enabled Bush to win twice.
They don't understand the basic undemocratic nature of the American political system in which all power is concentrated within two parties which are not very far from one another and people cannot easily tell the difference.
So I think we are in a situation where we are going to need some very fundamental changes in American society if the American people are going to be finally satisfied with the kind of society we have.
...(born August 24, 1922) is an American historian, political scientist, social critic, activist and playwright, best known as author of the bestseller A People's History of the United States.
Zinn has been active in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in the United States.
The author of some 20 books, Zinn is currently Professor Emeritus in the Political Science Department at Boston University. He lives in the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton, Massachusetts. His wife, the artist Roslyn Zinn died May 14, 2008 at home. They were married for 64 years. Both artist and editor, Roslyn had a role in editing all of Zinn's books and many of his articles. Zinn has two children, Myla and Jeff, and five grandchildren.