|Chomsky says the US can learn something from Bolivia’s democracy [GALLO/GETTY]|
Noam Chomsky, the renowned US academic, author and political activist, speaks to Avi Lewis on Al Jazeera’s Inside USA.
They discuss whether the US election this year will bring real change, the ongoing conflict in Iraq and why Americans should look to their Southern American counterparts for political inspiration.
Avi Lewis: I’d like to start by talking about the US presidential campaign. In writing about the last election in 2004, you called America’s system a “fake democracy” in which the public is hardly more than an irrelevant onlooker, and you’ve been arguing in your work in the last year or so that the candidates this time around are considerably to the right of public opinion on all major issues. So, the question is, do Americans have any legitimate hope of change this time around? And what is the difference in dynamic between America’s presidential “cup” in 2008 compared to 2004 and 2000?
Noam Chomsky: There’s some differences, and the differences are quite enlightening. I should say, however, that I’m expressing a very conventional thought – 80 per cent of the population thinks, if you read the words of the polls, that the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves not for the population [and] 95 per cent of the public thinks that the government ought to pay attention to public opinion but it doesn’t.
As far as the elections are concerned, I forget the exact figure but by about three to one people wish that the elections were about issues, not about marginal character qualities and so on. So I’m right in the mainstream.
There’s some interesting differences between 2004 and 2008 and they’re very revealing, it’s kind of striking that the commentators don’t pick that up because it’s so transparent.
The main domestic issue for years … is the health system – which is understandable as it’s a total disaster.
… Kerry did not bring up any hint of government involvement in healthcare because it has so little political support, just [the support of] the large majority of the population. But what he meant was it was not supported by the pharmaceutical industry and wasn’t supported by the financial institutions and so on.
In this election the Democratic candidates all have [health] programmes that are not what the public are asking for but are approaching it and could even turn into it, so what happened between 2004 and 2008?
It’s not a shift in public opinion – that’s the same as before, what happened is a big segment of US corporate power is being so harmed by the healthcare system that they want it changed, namely the manufacturing industry.
For most people in the US the past 30 years have been pretty grim. Now, it’s a rich country, so it’s not like living in southern Africa, but for the majority of the population real wages have stagnated or declined for the past 30 years, there’s been growth but it’s going to the wealthy and into very few pockets, benefits which were never really great have declined, work hours have greatly increased and there isn’t really much to show for it other than staying afloat.
Americans have a say by electing politicians with the best marketing staff, raise the most money and most clever ads. A country of individuals, that is shattered by an over-marketed lifestyle, is manipulated by charismatic mind controllers to elect corporate allies.
“My first day in office, I will bring the joint chiefs of staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war. Responsibly, deliberately, but decisively.” Here comes Obama, who is the most convincing. Promising to give America back, much like Edwards did, Obama is the clean slate, so far. His ties to corporations are hard to find … but, no doubt someone will find something. Obama’s agenda is noble. No one has been successful in taking Washington to the ‘Washing Machine’ to date. Every idealist has tried.
Obama may have what it takes to make more headway, cleaning Washington, than his predecessors … There are enough disenfranchised Americans ready to give this idealist a try. Americans once thought they had a voice, but 8 years of demonstrating that they don’t has taken a toll on attitude. Mistrust of the American government has become standard fare today. It will take a lot of honest work and political house cleaning to restore what has been destroyed. Americans may never return to the “glory days” that followed WWII, because we know too much.Cross Posted on TruthHugger