Matt Damon’s Anti-War Speech: “What We Need Is Civil Disobedience” (Video)


By Sophie McAdam at

Damon makes some crucial points in this passionate rant against the system, and what he calls a “topsy-turvy” world.

“I start from the supposition that the world is topsy turvy. That things are all wrong,” begins actor and writer Matt Damon in this powerful speech calling on people to question authority.

“The wrong people are in jail, and the wrong people are out of jail,” Damon goes on. “The wrong people are in power, and the wrong people are out of power. Wealth is distributed in such a way as to not just simply require small reform, but a drastic re-allocation. All we have to do is to look at the state of the world today, and you can see it’s topsy-turvy. You might watch TV and think it’s ok, but you just have to detach and come back, and you’re horrified.”

Damon then references the theme of the conference, which is ‘civil disobedience’. “As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you’re saying our problem is civil disobedience,” He says.

“That is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.

“Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of their governments and have gone to war. And millions have been killed because of this obedience. We recognize this from Nazi Germany,” Damon says, referring to blindly obedient citizens as “herd-like people”. “We know that the problem there was obedience. That the people obeyed Hitler. People obeyed. That was wrong. People should have challenged it, they should have resisted. And if we were only there, we would have showed them.”

Or would we? There’s food for thought.

Damon’s message is that blind obedience to authority is not necessarily the ethical choice. Obedience can’t replace your moral compass. In fact, it’s the root cause of all the millions of young lives wasted in senseless wars throughout the ages.

“The rule of law maximizes injustice. The rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people. We ought to begin to recognize this. What we are trying to do is to get back to the principles, the aims and the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority.”

Damon advocates disobeying laws that do not serve the greater good or go against basic morality: those new, but increasingly common injustices, like jailing the kind-hearted people who feed the homeless or prosecuting people for collecting rainwater. Like trying to sue those who choose to grow vegetables on their lawn, or making parents’ lives hell for preventing them from giving cannabis oil to their sick child–  a child whose life could be saved if the plant were decriminalized (…globally). Damon thinks we should stand up against all these injustices and more.

But, he says, it doesn’t stop there. Above all, we must stop obeying the call of corrupt, lying leaders to go fight against other innocent human beings in endless, bloody wars that simply make no sense, and don’t benefit anyone except the arms dealers, the rebuilding contractors, and the oil corps. We must stop making war, and we must stop believing that to honor the fallen we have to buy into the government and the mainstream media’s glorification of war.

Comment and share if you agree.

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  1. I am confused by the headline. Your YouTube info says “Matt Damon, a lifelong friend of Howard Zinn and his family, read excerpts from a speech Howard Zinn gave in 1970 as part of a debate on civil disobedience.” So is this speech Matt Damon’s speech or Howard Zinn’s speech.

  2. I agree with part of what he says, but…There are times when you must fight. You can pick the place of the fight, or you can leave it to your adversary to pick the place, but fight you will. Sir Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” There is evil in the world, and if we don’t recognize it and terminate it at it’s root, it will grow as a bush with thorns and destroy all the good men who fail to stand against the evil. I wonder if Matt would be willing to share his exorbitant assets with me. Maybe a proportional split would benefit us both. LMAO

    • IMHO, one of the biggest problems with the corporate owned and controlled media (yes, only 6 giant corporations OWN nearly all media in the US)is that they make people believe there is an enemy when there really is not. The only enemies we have in the world now are the ones the elites deliberately created to justify continual war (because that is what fills their pockets with billions of our tax dollars – we are being fleeced!) If another country bombed your city for no reason and killed members of your family, you would definitely become their “enemy”. All that is really needed is for the US to STOP bombing people all over the world so they can exploit their resources and subject them to a central bank. We as the people can make reparations and regain the goodwill of most of the world if we make the elites not so elite any more and refuse to be scammed by them, and removed them from our monetary system and our govt. If every soldier refused to be their pawn any longer – if every one of us turned off the media that pumps lies and propaganda into our homes daily and decided not to support their murderous, criminal behavior – then the world would know peace and we could restore our lost freedoms in a very short time.

      • Of all the wars on the planet right now, 9 in total, all of them have belligerents of jihadist groups with fidelities with each other, same flag and same goal. They have been consistently hacking their way around the world for the last forty years. That is an incontrovertible truth. We have literally been in a world war with radical islamic factions for decades. That’s not just some “FOX News” opinion, that’s a plain fact. There is no one thing anyone did to upset them, much less the US. And you would rather take the word of a man who stands on little baby heads and says that he is the righteous one, that his anger is just.
        All of this is available information. The fact that you can’t even attempt to push yourself to view it says a lot about you. It’s ironic because anyone can use the ‘group-think’ nationalist excuse. You people just happen to actually fit the bill. You don’t need a flag to fall into it. You can do it just by being an idi0t and listening to people like Damon who tout an admitted false historian like Zinn as the new leader of supreme knowledge. You refuse basic facts and love to spur fun conspiracy theories. Like kids believing in Santa Claus. That’s exactly the kind of logic that starts wars. Zero reason, pure, unfiltered hatred. Just because you ‘hate’ a flag or a system doesn’t make you noble. You probably wear the murderer Che shirts too right?

        • You gotta Lotta weird ideas sir, and I support that. I regret to tell you that your ideas are wrong. You speak like so many of the chronically mis-informed who receive their education from the Television, and tow the corporate line blindly. Sad that there is little hope of ever reprogramming you. Maybe like many of your cohort, you are aged, and actually powerless, and in any case will be gone soon. The young will have enough work cleaning up the sewage we are all standing in. They will be better off if they don’t have to battle you to do it.

        • Read American history. And the European invasion of the Western Hemisphere. How many nations have we invaded, including this one, since we landed on these shores? How do those numbers compare to those of other nations we like to consider as ‘aggressors’? Blind nationalism, posing as ‘patriotism’ is useless in a rational discussion. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that the rest of the world is unaware of our history and our exploits for domination and profit. I’m not anti-American, I’m anti-bullshit. Your closing sentence illuminates your mentality. What do you really know about Ernesto Guevara? How many murders did he commit compared to Lyndon Johnson, or Richard Nixon, or George W Bush?

          “You people just happen to actually fit the bill” What people? What bill?

          • You know the biggest genocide in history was conducted by Americans. How many Natives did US people kill when colonizing? How many innocent people have you nuked in WW2? How many invasions have the US conducted, prime example Iraq War, “they have bombs” when you get there ” no bombs here…. A country controlled by weapon making, drug selling, manipulators and killers are really in good graces? All Americans that preach bs then attack another race without justifiable provocation are evil, plain bad and generally simple minded fools. And that’s why US citizens are well below average IQ.. you can’t even shoot strait…. So when I hear Ignorant BS coming from a US citizens mouth all I can do is laugh…. Because these dumbasses are causing their own failings and inevitable destruction. And no Not trolling just stating my opinion you don’t like it too bad 🙂 Statement from Dennis Nilsson – When you think evil is outside of you, then you become blind to your own capacity for evil.

    • He was talking about evil in the world and all this things that seem to be wrong, not about rich and poor or money equality. That is another topic even when most of the time we relate both, as if rich meant evil.

  3. a speech Howard Zinn gave in 1970 as part of a debate on civil disobedience.

    This performance was part of “The People Speak, Live!” with Matt Damon and Lupe Fiasco at the Metro in Chicago, on January 31, 2012, produced by Voices of a People’s History ( in collaboration with Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival.

    Here’s what Howard Zinn writes about this speech in his introduction to the full piece in his book Voices of a People’s History of the United States, written with Anthony Arnove and first published in 2004 by Seven Stories Press:

    “In November 1970, after my arrest along with others who had engaged in a Boston protest at an army base to block soldiers from being sent to Vietnam, I flew to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to take part in a debate with the philosopher Charles Frankel on civil disobedience. I was supposed to appear in court that day in connection with the charges resulting from the army base protest. I had a choice: show up in court and miss this opportunity to explain — and practice — my commitment to civil disobedience, or face the consequences of defying the court order by going to Baltimore. I chose to go. The next day, when I returned to Boston, I went to teach my morning class at Boston University. Two detectives were waiting outside the classroom and hauled me off to court, where I was sentenced to a few days in jail. Here is the text of my speech that night at Johns Hopkins.”

  4. its always nice to see people like Mr. Damon stepping up to the plate and being a decent human being and actually using their fame to reach out to the masses…plus i have always like Matt he would actually be someone i wouldnt mind sitting and having a beer with …didnt watch the video but i will blind obedience as well as blind patriotism are definitely part of the problem…however a larger part of the problem is apathy in every sense of the word the mentality that the “STATE” is the supreme “AUTHORITY” in everything and should direct the daily lives of its citizens and they continue to give legitimacy to it by obeying its dictates without any thought what so ever to whether or not it is fundamentally right or wrong of course this repulsive mentality is formed and shaped at a very early age in this country throughout our childrens so called “EDUCATION” were in the only thing they are being educated on is keep your mouth shut and do what your told and of course its reinforced continually through the mainstream media which thankfully is all but defunct in the information age while reading this article two things came to mind the first a quote by Dr Martin Luther King …”there comes a time in a mans life when he must take a position that is neither safe, nor popular, nor politic…but because conscious tells him it is right”… the second by Gandhi …”you assit an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. an evil system never deserves such allegiance. allegiance to it means partaking in the evil. a good person will resist an evil system with their whole soul”…

  5. I wish they would stop calling it his speech. Whether he endorses these ideas himself or not, the words are those of Howard Zinn. Show some respect!

  6. Our constitution.
    I am simply amazed at how people insist that the document is something it is not.
    You and many others may ask why we don’t just use the constitution, the way it used to be.
    But the fact is that we do. That document is actually quite simple, even though people try and make it sound complex and complicated, and it certainly is not.
    There is a bunch of mumbo jumbo about how certain bodies will be formed, and more about how members of those bodies will be appointed, or elected, which is in fact the bulk of the document.
    Then there are some required responsibilities of those bodies and officials. (Which too many take to mean as limiting, but are not, they simply enumerate requirements)
    THEN there are the amendments, which specify certain rights which are to be protected from legislative acts.
    In the midst of all that nonsense, is the actual process specified that the US government uses to enact laws.
    It’s a simple and easy to understand process.
    Congress passes laws of their choosing.
    The president signs those laws, (or not).
    The Court decides whether to agree or disagree with the laws passed by congress.
    That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
    Now here is the funny thing. As long as congress passes a law, the president signs it, and the court does not disagree, that law is legal and constitutional.
    EVEN if that law directly contravenes a protected right enumerated or not, held by the people or states.
    Case in point, the 2nd amendment, laws have been passed, and adjudicated that clearly strip the right to bear arms from citizens. Some you may agree with, others you may not. However that may be, your agreement, or opinion is NOT part of the process specified in the constitution.
    Let me cite an example of a 2nd amendment contravention by legislative act, that you might agree with.
    In Most states, it is illegal for a convicted felon to own or possess a dangerous weapon. Most notably, while imprisoned! That makes sense, correct?
    People who are in prison for a violent felony clearly should not be armed.
    But read that 2nd amendment again, now show me where it says that ONLY non convicted felons can have the right to bear arms.
    You cannot, because it does NOT say that.
    A LAW was passed and signed by the congress that changed the conditions under which a citizen may NOT have that right to bear arms.
    ONCE we agreed that the congress has THAT authority, we opened the floodgates to ANY legislative act that can restrict ANY right we normally think of as protected. And YES, it is constitutional, because they used the fucking constitutional process to do it.

  7. Why are you NOT being represented in government?

    Because our constitution does not specify that we elect representatives. It specifies that we elect rulers.

    A ruler makes decisions for you. You may have an opportunity to voice your opinion, but that ruler is not obliged to consider or respect your opinion, because they are elected to make that decision for you.

    A RULER invokes THEIR decision, not YOURS!!!

    A representative invokes YOUR decision, not theirs.

    It is vitally important to understand this difference, between a ruler and a representative, because it is the difference between self governance and being ruled.

    In our current constitution, we get together to elect someone and that election places them in a position of rule. They now have the authority and power to make decisions for the population that held that election. For that ENTIRE population, not just the people who voted for that person, but also the people who voted against that person, and also the people who chose not to vote at all. How is that “representing” the entire population??

    Now you might suggest that this is the way we do things and there is no better way.

    However I retort, bullshit.

    There IS a better way, and the fact that THEY have not figured out a better way in no way is any evidence that a better process does not exist.

  8. People seem to enjoy blaming the state of our nation on the “apathetic” public.
    We are not apathetic, we never have been actually.
    What we have been is apoplectic! ( look that one up people )
    That situation has been caused by the reality that we have zero meaningful or significant control of our government.
    We were promised self governance, and all we got was a chance to trade one set of asshole rulers for another set of assholes.

    That is the ONLY control we have, and that is neither meaningful nor significant control at all.

    We have never been apathetic sheep, we have been angry, frustrated and attempting patience for over 200 years for somehow this purported great system to finally produce reliable, consistent rational results, and all we got was a continuing and increasing stream of lies, excuses and bullshit.

    Our patience is ending.

  9. A representative, constitutional republic, using a democratic decision process. There are layers within my proposal, that are not obvious, because the concepts I designed are new, never been even considered.
    The public will never be authorized to write laws.
    That removes the “mob rule” problem. We elect congress to write laws. Those people have no authority to enact the laws they write, that removes any corruption from that layer. They have no “power” to corrupt. They have a job, not a position of authority.
    The court reviews their work, and adjudicates that work against our existing Bill of Rights, and existing law. If it passes it gets to the next layer. If not, it is rejected as flawed.

    The executive branch has no authority to enact law, the president has a job, not a position of authority. that job is to review and filter requests for federal solutions, and to review and filter the solutions proposed by congress and passed through the court as legal. The executive review determines if the solution proposed is plausible, and directly addresses the problem. Which means there are no more multi issue laws, with thousands of pages of bullshit unrelated to the main concern.
    The executive branch also reviews the proposed solution for accounting accuracy, who pays for what, and will those taxes actually pay the costs?

    Once all that process is completed, any proposed law comes to a vote, by the public. WE decide if that is how we want to solve that problem, if that is how we want to pay for that law.

    The chosen representatives is the concept that seems to confuse people the most. A representative is NOT elected to an office of power or authority. they are an optional convenience for the public to administer their decisions, while not being always actively engaged.

    A citizen has the option to choose a representative that seems to accurately reflect the thoughts and feelings of that citizen. However that is a circumstance that is absolutely under the control of the citizen, not the representative. If a Rep, is about to cast a vote that the citizen does NOT agree with, that citizen always has the opportunity to cast their vote without that rep, or choose a different rep, or not vote at all.
    That choice belongs to the citizen, and can be employed for any vote, at any time before each vote is cast.
    Which means that a citizen that IS engaged on a specific issue, has absolute control of how their vote is cast on that issue.

    It also means that on issues that the citizen is not particularly interested in, they have a representative that can vote on their behalf.

    Much of the process I am proposing was never possible, before the advent of communication at the speed of electricity. It simply was not possible.

    I am NOT saying we should use the internet, or computers.
    With the concerns for network security i am opposed to that with current tech.

    However once we had TELEGRAPH, my proposal was possible. Now that we do have fast communication, what i propose is not only possible, but it also fulfills the original INTENT of the founding documents, a SELF GOVERNING NATION.

  10. People think sometimes it’s just going to be easy, and we’ll just follow what the founding fathers left us. Well, the truth is, what they left has been being twisted by the the rich and powerful (and wholly more greedy and unenlightened) for a long time. People are just going to have to stand up sometime in the future, and say, “NO! I won’t let this happen” And when our government needs to be reshaped or reinvigorated, we know enough about things by now, that we can put in a rule of law that actually fits our times.

  11. My God! There IS hope for the world. As a former “child of the Sixties”, I was sickened by the total disinterest in the state of our country by the youth of today. Their self absorption in ” I, Me, Mine” left me dumbfounded.
    Matt Damon might not be a millennial,but he can reach and teach them. That gives me hope the we can stand against the plutocracy of the privileged few, that we can say no to being their cannonfodder in their wars for profit.

  12. HAALLT!! What does one know EXACTLY what Mr Damon STAND FOR??! He is a millonaire, which can make him look quite suspicious! You TRUST him, WHY?! Because he’s a “good guy actor”?! Exactly what do you know of HIS PERSON, his PRIVATE.. person??! What DO you know??! He is enticing for something that the U.S. Forces (‘our sons & daughters’) – and other foreign forces have BEEN TRAINING FOR, here in the U.S.; THIS! ..CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE UPRISING. Research for it! Im sure Mr Damon KNOWS!

  13. We need a system that doesn’t reward corruption. We need oversight and transparency and citizen involvement in the political process to prevent the centralization and perversion of power that is so common today. The immune system works constantly, around the clock, it is ever vigilant, if it stops looking for corruption for one instant the body is in big trouble. Democracy is the same way, the second you let your guard down corruption centralizes and corrupts power and you have an infection that hurts and may even kill the host. Democracy has to be watched over very closely. I agree with Matt, it’s high time we act to clean up the infections and restore citizen oversight and self-rule.

  14. “we must all fear evil men, but what we should fear most is the indifference of good men.” – boondock saints.

    “when the system is wrong its your duty to go against it” – Prince Ea.

    just a couple quotes, food for thought.

  15. Howard Zinn wrote that speech. Matt Damon is just a pretty mouth piece reciting someone’s work. Howard Zinn is a name more people should know. He wrote ‘The People’s History of the United States’ and was an activist and professor.

  16. It is always so easy to compare negative world events to Hitlers Germany. Too bad no one seems to knows how great the Germans had it under Hitler’s rule. My friends mom was married and living in Germany during WW2, and when she talks about Hitler it is with glowing pride. Hitler set up universal daycare, everyone had jobs and money and food, and he implemented many social programs that made life better for most of the people of that country. People did not know about most of the stuff that Hitler was up to until it was all underway, and even then it took a while for people to wake up to the free gift with purchase that they got when electing Hitler. They convinced people that getting rid of mentally handicapped people or prostitutes was good for the country, and back then, people agreed. Not so much with eliminating and entire race, but many of the military were out promoting all the pro-Hitler propaganda and people were confused.

    What we do not have here in the West ,currently, is government working to make our lives better. Giving the police free reign to kill or imprison people for petty reasons; rampant poverty; the needs of the few outweighing the needs of the many, and all the while still touting that old chestnut that the US is the best country on earth- which has not been true since the 60’s. The constant scare tactics used by the Republicans after 9/11 shows that they actually fear that the people will wake up to reality one day, so they need to have their rights taken away before that day. This is so sad.

    Civil disobedience does not work unless the majority of people are on board with it. Michael Moore showed us that in his movie Sicko. In that documentary, the people of France were shown marching in the street against some new policy that the government was trying to bring in. In France, the people do get together to stop things that they know go against the common good. Here in North America, people watch these things on tv, and if they disagree, they change channels. And then go to work the next day and bitch about it.

    Put up some pictures of Bush next to Hitler and tell people that Republican policy has created a world where black people are shot by police just for crossing a street. See if anyone has an opinion on that. Not saying Democrats are better, only that it happened on the Bush watch.

  17. Actually, it’s not Matt Damon’s speech: he read out Zinn’s speech. If I quote the Buddha, it does not mean I am that wise.
    Nonetheless, a great speech indeed and just shows Damon’s character: fantastic to see people like him and DiCaprio putting in their name to try to make the world a better place by informing people about the Truth of things and by opening up their eyes, starting a revolution of the mind, hopefully in time before we have no way back.


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