Professor Zinn: the Yoda to my Obi-Wan
by Saab Lofton
"[Proof of intelligent, extraterrestrial life] unites Humanity in a way no one ever thought possible when they realize they're not alone in the universe. Poverty, disease, war -- they'll all be gone within the next fifty years."
--from the movie, Star Trek: First Contact
"Unaware of what year it was, Joe wandered the streets desperate for help. But the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valleygirl, inner-city slang and various grunts. Joe was able to understand them, but when he spoke in an ordinary voice he sounded pompous and faggy to them."
--from the movie, Idiocracy
This modern world's comfortable standard of living is entirely hinged on how smart the majority of the population is. This ain't an opinion, it's a fact. One hundred years ago, Africans were literally assumed to be subhuman troglodytes -- and since I'm only sexually attracted to women who look like Natalie Portman or Reese Witherspoon, my black ass would be toast (BURNT toast) were I ever marooned in the past; Marty McFly of Back to the Future fame was white FOR A REASON.
Therefore, in order to steer A.D.D. (America's Dumbed Down) away from Mike Judge's Idiocracy and towards Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, every-single-citizen without exception must be an intellectual. In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an eight year old boy is caught roaming the halls of The Enterprise during school hours -- when Commander Riker asked why was he cutting class, the kid expressed a deep-seated hatred of calculus ...
... and if children in the United Federation of Planets (which includes Earth) are being taught calculus at eight, you damn well better believe they're also being given copies of Professor Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. THAT accounts for why there's no poverty, bigotry or atrocity within the Federation -- NOT some gadget or gizmo. I hate to sound like some Cosby-esque, ABC Afterschool Special, but education IS the key.
Professor Zinn died yesterday, on Jaunary 27th, 2010, in Santa Monica, California at the age of 87 of a heart attack ... 'Least, it BETTER be a heart attack; if I come to find out some C.I.A. agent murdered my mentor, I might have to re-evaluate my superhero-inspired stance against the killing of one's enemies.
And yes, Professor Zinn was my mentor. He endorsed my first novel (A.D., 1995) and my latest, as-yet-unreleased novel, but most importantly, his wisdom taught me there's NO such thing as "Human nature" -- that ever-present scam specifically designed to desensitize the potentially empathic and even end acts of kindness before they can begin: Why risk your life/livelihood to save/improve the Human race if Humans are a bunch of hopeless savages? Forget about all those horror stories from Amnesty International -- just kick back in your MC Hammer mansion, watch American Idol and sail adrift on memory bliss ...
That cop-out "Human nature" has been used as a chicken-shit excuse not-to-do or not-to-care more than any other, but thanks to Professor Zinn, I had the necessary information to combat snide cynics who insist that a Roddenberryian utopia is supposedly out of our reach. As Professor Zinn put it: "History is full of warfare; one cannot find an era free of it; this must mean that it comes out of something deep in Human nature, something biological, a drive, an instinct for violent aggression. This logic is widespread in modern thought, in all classes of people, whether highly educated or uneducated. And yet, it is almost certainly wrong. And furthermore, it's dangerous. Wrong, because there is no real evidence for it. Not in genetics, not in zoology, not in psychology, not in anthropology, not in history, not even in the ordinary experience of soldiers in war. Dangerous because it deflects attention from the non-biological causes of violence and war."
Non-biological causes of violence -- such as a war profiteer's desire to wallow in an opulent, MTV Cribs lifestyle based on the sales of weapons, for instance, or some adrenaline-addicted good ol' boy who ain't satiated by paint ball or pro-wrestling and can't conceive of a world without some (non-white) boogeymen to fight. Stuff like that.
The good news is both the war profiteer and the adrenaline-addicted good ol' boy COULD'VE been reared on John Brown instead of John Wayne; having been raised in a superior culture would've resulted in them becoming better Human beings. The bad news is FOX News reaches tens of millions HOURLY whereas A People's History of the United States has only sold one million copies since its 1980 release. Can we say, David and Goliath, boys and girls?
Speaking of, another thing Professor Zinn taught me is that free speech ain't just a quality, it's also a QUANTITY; in other words, the size of your audience is at least as important as whether you're allowed by the church/bank/state to have one. So telling the left-wing (the poor and/or oppressed) to settle for passing out flyers on a street corner while the right-wing (the rich and/or powerful) gallivant throughout the talk show circuit is a crime against Humanity worthy of a Nuremberg trial.
Thank God for Matt Damon! Whenever I get blank, deer-caught-in-headlights stares upon mentioning Professor Zinn, all I (usually) have to do is bring up that scene in Good Will Hunting when Damon's character tells Robin Williams' character, "If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. That book will knock you on your ass." Like I always say, the name of the game is FAME.
It's ironic that Professor Zinn died just as Obama was giving the State of the Union address. We the people are long overdue for a Greenpeace version of F.D.R.'s New Deal; tax the rich and cut that bloated military budget in order to provide enough revenue to create eco-friendly jobs which pay a LIVING wage to build electric cars, install solar power panels or make fuel, fabric, paper and plastic out of industrial hemp.
Sadly, all too many are still too swayed (i.e. paralyzed) by that colossally overrated pretty boy's charisma to demand the creation of such jobs, but as he did all his life, Professor Zinn gave us the HOPE we needed to carry on. Right before the 2008 election, The Real News Network ran this quote from him: "Obama will not fulfill that potential for change unless he is enveloped by a social movement, which is angry enough, powerful enough, insistent enough, that he fills his abstract phrases about change with some real content."
Words to live and die by.