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"The Answers Are Coming from the Bottom": Legendary Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs on the US Social Forum

Boggs calls Detroit a "symbol of a new kind of society, of people who grow their own food, of people who try and help each other."

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Goodman: Grace Lee Boggs, we're here with you in Detroit at the time of the US Social Forum--Detroit, the center of the fossil fuel economy--at a time where, in the Gulf of Mexico, it's experiencing the worst environmental catastrophe in US history, the BP oil geyser. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are continuing. How do you put these together? And what needs to be done about them?

Boggs: Well, I think we have to see this as an opportunity and not just as a danger. I mean, it's difficult to do that and look at the catastrophe in the Gulf and to look at what's happening in Afghanistan and not think that the world has come to an end. But it's a fantastic opportunity to--you see this T-shirt? It says, "Revolution is evolution." It's this fantastic opportunity to advance our humanity, to become more creative, to know that there are other ways to live and the way that we have lived has been at the expense of so much, so many other people and so many of the earth, and that we don't have to live that way, that that only was only 300 years, that before that, people thought that the earth was more important than land and that work was more important than a job. This capitalist society has not lasted forever; it's only a few hundred years old.

Goodman: Your assessment of how President Obama is dealing with these issues? Exacerbating them or solving them?

Boggs: Well, I think that anyone who attempts a top-down solution can't succeed. And I don't think that, from the very beginning, he was so close to the grassroots. I think that he had--I think he--I don't know. I remember asking Bill Ayers once, who knew Obama in Chicago, "How would you characterize him?" He says, "He's a very ambitious person. He believes in advancing and climbing the ladder." A lot of people believe that, that when you climb the ladder, and you end in the White House, and you have the Pentagon, and you don't--and you rehire Bob Gates and Lawrence Summers. It's very sad. It's very sad. But I think it's very helpful to understand that, you know, when--I'm going to be talking to Wallerstein. Wallerstein understands how the feudal lords could not run European society, how the serfs were running into the cities, how disease was spreading, and they became dysfunctional. And I think we see the dysfunction in the White House. We see the dysfunction at the top level. We see how they propose top-down solutions for education, for example: testing, more testing, more standardized testing, punishment. The answers can't come from the top. And that's why Detroit's so important, why the Social Forum is so important. The answers are coming more from the bottom.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now! .

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