“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
This quote, I think, sums up Zinn’s legacy. He was an optimist, and believed in our capability to act and change things. He is right to be optimistic, having witnessed his people fight — and triumph against — unjust wars, laws, and actions, in his lifetime. Zinn, of course, also studied history and saw that pattern unfold: The people, not the empowered and moneyed, actually make history and constantly push society to change. His book The People’s History of the United States exhibited a rigor in amassing historical facts and documents, fuelled by a deep appreciation of and respect for the capabilities and creative energies of an enlightened people.
Progressive journalists can draw inspiration from Zinn. He taught us to view societal events within the context of people struggling for change and not that of governments, ruling classes or entrenched leaders seeking to stop history from unfolding. Throughout his career, Zinn showed that the prime movers of history, and therefore of current events, are not the leaders and the political, economic and cultural elite, but the broad, enlightened and creative movements of people at the forefront of radically changing society for good.
Therefore, the Edsa uprisings are not Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile defying the dictatorship, but really the students, the workers, the urban poor, the peasants, involved in various uprisings from the 60s to the eve of that great uprising of February 1986. Every great change has been achieved, said Zinn, because there were the people who organized the protests, the pickets, who braved the truncheons, the bullets, the repression, to assert their rights and to exert pressure on the powers-that-be.