Bill Ayers on Fresh Air with Terry Gross

This is an except from the end of the interview that I thought was relevant to the questions we’re asking in How to Win.

Gross: Do you think some of the tactics that you took on were in some part this youthful expression of anger, something that only a young person would do?

Ayers: Absolutely.

Gross: What fits into that category?

Ayers: Well I think that you’re caught up in a street demonstration and you are young and full of fire and you just spontaneously find yourself spilling onto the streets. Leaving the line of march. And deciding to throw a rock at the window of a military recruiter. That’s spontaneous opposition. It’s not well thought out, um, but it makes a certain amount of sense but it’s not part of a larger strategy that’s thought through.

Gross: Is there a level of doubt that you feel when you were young you didn’t allow yourself to entertain because you had to feel so committed to the cause and what your plan was that you couldn’t allow certain doubts to enter your mind?

Ayers: Yeah I think that I live with doubt today, every day, all the time. And it is different than being young and certain and jacking yourself up to do certain things. I argue to my students, I argue to young people all the time that you cannot live a political life – you can’t live a moral life – if you’re not willing top open your eyes and see the world more clearly. See some of the injustice that’s going on. Try to make yourself aware of what’s happening in the world.

And when you are aware, you have a responsibility to act.

And when you act, you have a responsibility to doubt.

And when you doubt, you can’t get paralyzed. You have to use that doubt to act again. And that then becomes the cycle. You open your eyes, you act, you doubt, you act, you doubt.

Without doubt you become dogmatic and shrill and stupid.

But without action, you become cynical and passive and a victim of history. And that should never happen.

P.S. If you haven’t seen the Academy Award nominated Weather Underground documentary, I highly recommend it. You can watch it in its entirety below: