FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chomsky’s Occupy

Noam Chomsky has seen a lot of social movements. He cut his teeth on the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. He participated in the anti-intervention struggles of the 1980s as well as in the World Social Forums that began in the 1990s. Now in his 80s, Chomsky has hardly slowed down with his schedule of writing and speaking and agitating. And he is certainly not one to watch the new Occupy movement from the sidelines.

The latest publication from the new Occupied Media Pamphlet Series brings together several of Chomsky’s intersections with the Occupy movement. There’s a lecture he gave at Occupy Boston in October 2011, an interview in January 2012 with a student about the meaning of Occupy, a conference call with hundreds of Occupiers later that same month, a subsequent speech on “occupying foreign policy” at the University of Maryland, and a brief tribute to his friend and co-agitator Howard Zinn.

Having spent so much time thinking about and engaging with social movements, Chomsky is both optimistic about the energy of Occupy and realistic about the challenges it faces. He appreciates the “just do it” ethos and embraces its radical approach to participatory democracy. But he reminds his audiences that all social movements reach further than they can grasp. The influence of money on U.S. politics, the huge weight of the military-industrial complex, the rapaciousness of financial speculation: these are forces not easily dislodged by people gathering together in public spaces and voicing their opinions. And yet, as Chomsky points out, the mostly non-violent, non-funded, and non-partisan set of actions radiating out from Zuccotti Park in Manhattan managed to change the national discussion about economic inequality.

This inequality, he argues, is the result of a 30-year-long class war that has hollowed out the middle class and put great pressure on the poor in the United States. The neoliberal push for privatization and lower trade barriers has carried that war to every corner of the globe. The Occupy movement is pushing back against the actors, the actions, and most importantly the consequences of this class warfare. Not surprisingly, given the vested interests being challenged, the pushback of the 99 percent has generated pushback in turn from the 1 percent.

What makes Chomsky’s perspective so interesting, aside from the wealth of his political experience, is the range of his interests. He draws from examples around the world to demonstrate his points. When talking about community-based media, for instance, he describes a scene from a Brazilian slum where media professionals set up a truck in a public square – to show skits and plays written by people in the community – and then walked around to interview people for their reactions. Why can’t we do something similar in the United States, Chomsky wonders.

It’s a big agenda that Occupy has identified, nothing less than a complete renewal of U.S. society and the U.S. role in the world. Chomsky sees not only the radical agenda but also the radical practice of the Occupiers. “Part of what functioning, free communities like the Occupy communities can be working for and spreading to others is just a different way of living, which is not based on maximizing consumer goods, but on maximizing values that are important for life,” he concludes in this valuable set of remarks and interviews.

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, writes its regular World Beat column. His latest book is Crusade 2.0: the West’s Resurgent War on Islam, published by City Lights.

 

More articles by:

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus, where this article originally appeared.

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail