Howard Zinn wrote a letter to James Harmon for him to publish in his book Take My Advice, and in his letter he wrote about the incredible connections between people and the power that unified people can generate. He encourages the reader to find their own truths in life, and to seek an independence built through mindfulness. Zinn writes, “Understand that money and weapons are fragile forms of power.” He is criticizing institutions and their leaders in this statement. To me, this sentence builds the idea that the most powerful people are the people who are connected with others through real and meaningful relationships. These people are not powerful in the way that the winner of Shark Tank or high profile attorney’s are powerful. Their power is not built by influence, but rather empathy and a true concern for the people around them. While money can dwindle and is not a true representation of the value of an individual, and weapons can be used by government to coerce and intimidate people, Zinn writes that people, when united, become more powerful through relationships than weapons and money (the use of both weapons and money against a united people will only strengthen the bond which empowers those people).
A book I plan to read is called, Generation Me, and it focuses on the psychological differences between generations. The author was recently on a political podcast that I listen to frequently, and she stated that as our society becomes more individualistic our attitudes towards institutions, government, and other people begin to become more negative. We loose trust in each other and in institutions, adopting an every man for himself attitude where we focus on obtaining our own wealth regardless of the state of others. This is interesting to me because it seems to slightly contrast Zinn’s message while at the same time supporting it. Zinn is advocating that we try to connect with more people to build powerful and lasting relationships, yet he is decidedly anti-institutional. The author of Generation Me would certainly advocate for greater social connections and interactions which would strengthen our sense of community through relationships, yet she would not implore people to hold such a rebellious attitude towards government and other institutions.