Ralph Nader Audience Q & A at Berkeley’s Hillside Club

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MEDIA ROOTS – Ralph Nader answers questions from the audience at Berkeley’s Hillside Club on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at the First Annual Peter Miguel Camejo Commemorative Lecture.  [Transcript Below]

Ralph Nader discusses Occupy Wall Street, Gandhi’s ‘Seven Deadly Social Sins’, media reform, his presidential candidacy and what people can do to fight back.


Ralph Nader:  “Gandhi’s ‘Seven Deadly Social Sins,’ you’ve probably heard them, that’s his words, ‘Seven Deadly Social Sins.’  Everyone has three words.  Gandhi was really the sound-bite champion.  He’d have been great on TV.

“‘Politics Without Principle.  Wealth Without Work.  Commerce Without Morality.  Pleasure Without Conscience.  Education Without Character.  Science Without Humanity.’

“Science is building drones.  You heard about the coming drone.  You heard about the coming drone?  This is one that’s what’s called Self-Automated.  That is, a software will select the suspects, locate the suspects, execute them.  They don’t even need a button-pusher in Nevada or Langley.  The next drone is gonna be a size of a hummingbird.  With nanotechnology, they’ll put the drone in your hair for surveillance.  You’ll never know it.  It’s a, it’s a coming, 1984 is a masterpiece of understatement. 

“And then, ‘Worship Without Sacrifice.’

“You know, that’s like the so-called organised Christians who organise for war.  You know, they organise for destroying the rights of poor people.  I wonder if Jesus Christ would’ve condemned.

“I added two more.  You gotta bring it up to date.

“Belief Without Thought.’  This is what Peter [Camejo] was against.  ‘Belief Without Thought.’  And ‘Respect Without Self-Respect.’  That’s the most important one of all ‘cos if you respect yourself you don’t say, ‘I don’t have any power.  Why should I do anything?  It doesn’t matter.  It won’t change anything.  It won’t have any effect ‘cos everyone else is not gonna do what I’m doing.’  No.  You do what you do.  And you try to talk to others to convince them.  You never say, you don’t wanna go out of your way to discomfort yourself because a million other people haven’t told you, in one way or another, that they’re doing the same thing. 

“So, the key is how to get people who know what the prob-, there are very few people in this country who are ignorant of the injustices.  I mean they get it handed to ‘em every day.  Right?  You have to, you have to have people who say to themselves that if I know something I have a moral obligation to do something about it, personally.  I don’t care if ten million people don’t do it.  I can’t live with myself, unless I do it.  And once that spreads, you’ll get ten million people.  So, that’s, that’s what we have to look ahead for.”

Question:  What do you think about the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Ralph Nader:  “Well, you know, we don’t know what it is, but it’s refreshing whatever it is.  It’s the young people, uh, probably without jobs, a sense of theatre, uh, make sure there’s no leaders, no organisers, so they’re, become [more] resistant to infiltration.  And they’re modestly violating permits.  Like, uh, the permit to march in the City of New York and, therefore, they’re provoking the police to try to channel them with these orange fences.  And they’re spreading to other areas.  And that’s the kind of spark that gets things underway. 

“I wrote a column years ago, months ago.  I said, ‘How do we know when the spark comes?  I mean, the spark doesn’t usually come from [a] predictable source.  It doesn’t come from the usual suspects, like a bunch of oppressed people in some ghetto, in some city.  It comes like the Tunisian spark, see?  Who would have ever thought a fruit peddler, slapped by a police woman who is rippin’ off his stall…?  And look what happened.  So, this may be a spark. 

“What usually launches things are totally unpredictable episodes that suddenly say to a lot of people, ‘That’s it!  We’ve had enough!’  You know?  So, we’ll see how it turns out.  They’ve got a big band coming to get a bigger crowd.  I always worry about that, if people come just for the music.  Cornel West, Michael Moore, they’ve spoken to ‘em.  Uh, the authorities are very worried about this ‘cos they saw what happened in London.  And they saw what happened in the Middle East, the Arab Spring, and all.  They’re very worried about that.  And so we’ll see.  I think we’re gonna have to wait [many] days and see what goes on.”

Question:  “A number of people have asked, Mr. Nader, given the present crisis and this Presidential year, will you make your announcement here for your candidacy for President of the United States?”  [audience chuckles]

Ralph Nader:  “No. 

“I, [audience laughs] I ran unofficially in the Green Party in 1996.  I ran a none-of-the-above, really unofficial, Candidacy in New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 1992, just none-of-the-above.  I got almost as many votes as Jerry Brown.  And he was a rival in New Hampshire.  Then I ran officially in 2000 and 2004 and 2008.  […]

“Four out five people who declared to the pollsters they were gonna vote for us, Nader-Camejo, Nader-Gonzalez, didn’t when they got in the voting booth.  They chickened out and voted for the Democrats or the Republican, whatever.  Mo-, people think all our votes would’ve gone to the Democrats.  No.  The exit polls in 2000 by a Democratic pollster have, uh, Nader-LaDuke, said that 25% of our votes would have voted for Bush, 39% for Gore, and the rest would have stayed home. 

“So, to make a long answer short, it’s time for other people to do it, uh, because, uh, I’m tired of pushing strings.  I’m tired of having a lot of people agree with our positions and they don’t put their vote behind our positions.  And, uh, unless, that’s what I mean by ‘Respect Without Self-Respect.’  We are supported on many issues by a majority of the American people.  A majority of the people wanted us on the Debates.  These are traditional poll, polling companies.  A majority of the people wanted us on the Presidential Debates.  We didn’t get on.  And a majority of the people, I mean, the people, you meet all over the country, ‘I voted for you!’  And I look at ‘em and I say, ‘Uh, where did you vote for me?  Where?  North Carolina?’  I’ll say, ‘I wasn’t on the ballot in North Carolina.’  [audience chuckles]  You know, I mean, people feel like, you know, they wanted to, but.”

Question:  “I just, feeling, hearing all this, I’m just feeling so much that, you know, we get the government we deserve.  When people voted for the lesser-of-two-evils instead of voting for their heart I felt that we really get the government we deserve.  That’s my statement.  My question to you is:  Is there any way that we can get the, uh, the telecommunications and the communications and the airwaves and all that back to the people.  That was our public domain.  And I think if we control that again, we would be able to control the length of the political season that goes on, which is interminable, because the TV, uh, people wanna make profits and they love to create fights that, that they’re not even, they don’t even care who wins.  They’re just making money.  And I think we can also get the money out of, uh, politics.  If we the people own the airwaves, we give the Candidates the right to be on those airwaves, an equal time kind of situation.  They don’t have to pay the TV, get ‘em, put ‘em on free.”

Ralph Nader:  “Yeah.  Well, that was one of the agendas we ran on.  And probably helped keep us off national TV. 

“We own the public airwaves.  We’re the landlords.  The FCC is the real estate agent.  And the radio and TV stations, the tenants.  And they pay us no rent.  They haven’t paid us any rent for this valuable property since 1934, the Communications Act of 1934.  And they decide who says what and who doesn’t say what on our property, namely the TV and radio, the public airwaves.  So, you know?  That’s an easy one, right?  I mean, who’s gonna be against controlling what we own?  Having our own audience, network, our own radio and TV.  It’s our property.  We can say we want two hours a day, here.  We want three hours a day, here.  And then we’ll rent you the rest of the time.  You’ll have to pay rent.  We’re gonna take the rent and put it into studios and reporters and programmers and producers.  And communicate with one another.  And mobilise one another on anything we want, from serious to humour.  Boy, I mean, can you imagine getting on national TV with that?  You see? 

“So, that was a larger part of the Commons.  We had a policy on the Commonwealth where we control what we own.  We own a third of the, America, the public lands and, you know, who controls it the timber, oil, gas, gold, whatever, the companies.  And we own trillions of dollars of government taxpayer R & D.  Who do you think created the internet?  Who do you think built the biotech industry?  Who do you think built the semiconductor industry?  Who do you think built the aerospace?  It was all government R & D!  You wouldn’t recognise it.  I mean, it was all government R & D, out of the Pentagon, NASA, National Institutes of Health.  Half, three-quarters of the anti-cancer drugs came from tax-payer-supported research from the National Cancer Institute with no controls on the prices that the receiving drug companies could charge us.  They were given all this free.  So, you gotta dialogue like that.  You know, you can’t do it with sound-bite. 

“But we’re shut out of our own property.  That should be the calling card.  Let’s start with our assets!  Our assets are the biggest wealth in America.  $5 trillion dollars of pension funds owned by workers.  That could control the New York Stock Exchange Members.  That could control the companies in the New York Stock Exchange.  I mean, about a third of all stock is held by worker pensions.  But, it’s not controlled by worker pensions.  It’s controlled by the banks and the insurance companies or the intermediate. 

“So, you see, it’s not that hard once you get people, uh, just thinking a little bit, getting excited.  You gotta ask ‘em the basic question, ‘Do you want power?  Or do you want to be powerless?  You want multiple choice tests?  You want power or do you want powerlessness?  So, you need thousands of people talking to millions of people.  Just like the populist tradition.  They call themselves lecturers.  I’d have [texted this, no calling].  And they talk to people.  So, if you have a thousand people who are talking to a thousand people a week with these messages.  They would talk to a million people face to face in rooms like this.  You have 10,000 people.  They talk to a thousand people a week in different venues.  You have ten million people.  That’s the way we gotta think.  The hell with the media for the meantime.  One thing they can’t stop us from doing is talking to one another.  And there are a lot of empty auditoriums and empty spaces around the country that we could use to do that. 

“That’s why we need a few very rich people, like George Soros or Ted Turner or whatever.  You know, there’s always a few tiny ones, a tiny percent.  All you need, a tiny percent to say, ‘Here’s a billion dollars.  We want you to hire 20,000 organisers in the country, all over the country.’  You will see remarkable dramatic changes.  There’s no social movement in the country that was created without organising.  And the lack of organisers delay the maturation of these movements, women’s suffrage, abolition. 

“But remember, and there’s a fella yesterday, he came out, gawd, these guys are like so predictable.  This guy was real hardcore, socialist, idealist.  He said, ‘How dare you write a book called Only the Super Rich Can Save Us.  I said, well, remember, it’s in quotes.  It’s in fiction.  He said, ‘I know!  But I saw you on TV!  You explained it.  And you think that we have to rely on rich people to mobilise the masses.’  So, I said, ‘Well, how are you gonna hire the organisers?’  And he wouldn’t listen.  So, I said, ‘Well, you ever heard of the Abolition Movement?  Slavery?’  He said, ‘Yeah.’  I said, ‘Don’t you know that a lot of proper Bostonian rich people funded William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and others?  How about the Women’s Suffrage Movement?  Some rich women funded those people.  Women who were on the ramparts all over the country.  How about the early Civil Rights Movement?  Did you ever hear?’  He, he went away by then.  [audience laughs]  ‘How about the Stern Family?  How about the Curry Family of the 1950s?  Gave a big lot.  Who’s gonna pay for those buses?  Who’s gonna pay for the expenses, the organisers?  […]

“It’s ridiculous.  But, you know what?  After he left, I said, I had the best response to him.  You always think after it’s over.  Here’s what I would’ve said to him right after that:  ‘Hey, you’re a socialist, right?  He’d have said, ‘Damn right!  I’m proud of it!’  ‘All power to you.  You gotta fight those corporate socialists.’  Okay.  I’d say ‘Hey, you ever hear of Karl Marx?’  He’d say, ‘What?  Are you bein’ funny?’  I’d say, ‘Well, who do you think funded year after year after year Karl Marx?  His name was Friedrich Engels.  And he got co-authorship of the Communist Manifesto.’  But he funded the living expenses of Karl Marx.  And a number of children.  And he didn’t earn it writing Das Kapital

“So, we have to, people feel overwhelmed.  They feel depressed, discouraged.  They can’t do anything.  The country’s gettin’ worse.  The world’s goin’ to hell.  [audience chuckles]  Break it down and let’s each do our thing.  And then build it.  Someone strikes gold with a enlightened billionaire whose in their 80s or 90s and has a sense of posterity and is quite enlightened.  As far as I’m concerned, if you had two multi-billionaires givin’ us 15, 20 billion.  And mind you, some of these people are worth 30, 40 billion.  15, 20 billion’s nothing.  You can turn the country around.  How do I know?  I wrote 700 pages of this book only just to prove it.  Very, very detailed.  Once the money, the resources, top-down, bottom-up, movement.”


Photo by flickr user Sound From Way Out

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