On Getting Along

You ask how I manage to stay involved and remain seemingly happy and adjusted to this

awful world where the efforts of caring people pale in comparison to those who have power?

It’s easy. First, don’t let "those who have

power" intimidate you. No matter how much power they have they cannot prevent you

from living your life, speaking your mind, thinking independently, having relationships

with people as you like. (Read Emma Goldman’s autobiography LIVING MY LIFE. Harassed, even

imprisoned by authority, she insisted on living her life, speaking out, however she felt


Second, find people to be with who have your values, your commitments, but who also

have a sense of humor. That combination is a necessity!

Third (notice how precise is my advice that I can confidently number it, the way

scientists number things), understand that the major media will not tell you of all the

acts of resistance taking place every day in the society, the strikes, the protests, the

individual acts of courage in the face of authority. Look around (and you will certainly

find it) for the evidence of these unreported acts. And for the little you find,

extrapolate from that and assume there must be a thousand times as much as what you’ve


Fourth. Note that throughout history people have felt powerless before authority, but

that at certain times these powerless people, by organizing, acting, risking, persisting,

have created enough power to change the world around them, even if a little. That is the

history of the labor movement, of the women’s movement, of the anti-Vietnam war movement,

the disabled persons movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the movement of black people

in the South.

Fifth: Remember, that those who have power, and who seem invulnerable are in fact quite

vulnerable, that their power depends on the obedience of others, and when those others

begin withholding that obedience, begin defying authority, that power at the top turns out

to be very fragile. Generals become powerless when their soldiers refuse to fight,

industriaists become powerless when their workers leave the jobs or occupy the factories.

Sixth: When we forget the fragility of that power in top we become astounded when it

crumbles in the face of rebellion. We have had many such surprises in our time, both in

the United States and in other countries.

Seventh: Don’t look for a moment of total triumph. See

it as an ongoing struggle, with victories and defeats, but in the long run the

consciousness of people growing. So you need patience, persistence, and need to understand

that even when you don’t "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that

you have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile.

Okay, seven pieces of profound advice should be enough.

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