Perspective on the world from Noam Chomsky “How the world works?”
Towards the end of the question-and-answer period someone asked you about the power of the system and how to change it. You said it’s a very weak system. It looks powerful but could easily be changed.” Where do you see the weaknesses?
I see them at every level. We’ve discussed them earlier, but here’s a summary:
· People don’t like the system as mentioned earlier, 95% of Americans think corporations should lower their profits to benefit their workers and the communities they do business in, 70% think businesses have too much power and more than 80% think working people don’t have enough to say in what goes on, that economic system is inherently unfair, and that government basically isn’t functioning, because it’s working for the rich.
· Corporations – the major power system in the West – are chartered by states, and legal mechanisms exists to take away their charters and place them under worker or community control. That would require a democratically organized public, and it hasn’t been done for a century. But the rights of corporations were mostly given to them by courts and lawyers, not by legislation, and that power system could erode very quickly.
Of course, the system once in place, cannot simply be dismantled by legal tinkering. Alternatives have to be constructed within the existing economy, and within the minds of working people and communities. The questions that arise go to the core of socioeconomic organization, the nature of decision making and control, and the fundamentals of human rights. They are far from trivial.
· Since government is to some extent under public control – at least potentially – it can also be modified.
· About two-thirds of all financial transactions in the globalized economy take place in areas dominated by the US, Japan and Germany. These are all areas where - in principle, at least – mechanics already exist that allow the public to control what happens.
People need organizations and movements to gravitate to.
If people become aware of constructive alternatives with even the beginning of mechanisms to realize those alternatives, positive change could have a lot of support. The current tendencies, many which are pretty harmful, don’t seem to be all that substantial, and there’s nothing inevitable about them. That doesn’t mean constructive change will happen, but the opportunity for it is definitely there.
Speaking the truth to the power makes no sense. There’s no point in speaking the truth to Henry Kissinger- he knows it already. Instead speak the truth to the powerless – or better, with the powerless. Then they’ll act to dismantle illegitimate power.
A Canadian journal called Outlook ran an article on the talk you gave in Vancouver. It concluded with quotes from people leaving the hall: Well, he certainly left me depressed. And: I’m more upset than I was before I came. And on and on. Is there a way to change that?
I’ve heard that a lot, and I understand why. I fell that it’s none of my business to tell people what they ought to do- that’s for them to figure out. I don’t even know what I ought to do.
So I just try to describe as best I can what I think is happening. When you look at that, it’s not very pretty, and if you extrapolate it into the future, it’s very ugly.
But the point is – and it’s my fault if I don’t make this clear – it’s not inevitable. The future can be changed. But we can’t change things unless we begin to understand them.
We’ve had plenty of successes; they’re cumulative, and they lead us to new peaks to climb. We've also had plenty of failures. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.