Reading Zinn



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Note. (link)

From Howard Zinns, A People's History of the United States:
"It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map. My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the mapmaker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual."

In today's world, built on the spirit of competition and conflict that came out of the European renaissance, there is no objectivity, only competing interests. Even those who desire neutrality are thrust onto a side because all that exists has been touched by that same spirit. Africa was thrust into the puzzle of complexity even though she certainly did not want any part of it. Therefore, in this world of conflict between "victims and executioners" (Zinn) it is the "responsibility of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners" (Albert Camus).


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