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Noam Chomsky Speaks to Occupy: If We Want a Chance at a Decent Future, the Movement Here and Around the World Must Grow

In a speech to Occupy Boston, the linguist and icon hailed the "unprecedented" first weeks of OWS. He cautioned protesters to build and educate first, strike later.

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There are very dangerous developments in the international arena, including two of them which are kind of a shadow that hangs over almost everything we discuss. There are, for the first time to human history, real threats to peace and survival of the species. One has been hanging around since 1945 and it’s kind of a miracle we’ve escaped it and that’s the threat of nuclear weapons. That’s a threat that’s being escalated by the administration and its allies. Something has to be done about that or we’re in real trouble. The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Every country in the world is taking at least halting steps toward trying to do something about it. The US is also taking steps, namely to accelerate the threat. The US is now the only country that’s not only not doing something constructive…it’s not climbing on the train. It’s pulling it backwards.

Congress is right now reversing legislation instituted by the Nixon administration. (Nixon was really the last liberal president of the United States, and literally, this shows you what’s been going on!) They’re dismantling the limited measures the Nixon administration took to try to do something about what’s a growing and emerging catastrophe. This is connected with a huge propaganda system, perfectly openly declared by the business world, that it’s all just a liberal hoax. Why pay attention to these scientists? We’re really regressing back to the Medieval period. It’s not a joke. If that’s happening to the most powerful and richest country in history then this crisis is not going to be averted and all of this we’re talking about won’t matter in a generation or two. All of that’s going on right now and something has to be done about it very soon and in a dedicated and sustained way. It’s not going to be easy to succeed. There are going to be barriers, hardships and failures along the way. Unless the process that’s taking place here and around the world, unless that continues to grow and kind of becomes a major social force in the world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.

Q&A

Q: What about corporate personhood and getting the money out of that stream of politics?

A: These are very good things to do, but you can’t do any of these things or anything else unless there’s a very large and active base. If the Occupy movement was the leading force in the country then you could move it forward. Most people don’t know that this is happening or they may know about it and not know what it is. Among those who do know, the polls show there’s a lot of support. But that assigns a task. It’s necessary to get out into the country and get people to understand what this is about and what they can do about and what the consequences are of not doing anything about it.

Corporate personhood is a good point, but pay attention to what it is. We’re supposed to worship the Constitution these days, but the 5th Amendment of the Constitution says no person shall be deprived of rights without due process of law. The founding fathers didn’t mean “person” when they said “person.” For example there were a lot of creatures of flesh and blood who were not persons. The entire indigenous population was not considered persons. They didn’t have any rights. There was a category of creatures called 3/5 human -- they weren’t persons and didn’t have rights. Women were not entirely persons, so they didn’t have full rights. A lot of this was somewhat rectified over the years. During the Civil War, the 14th amendment raised the 3/5 to full humans at least in principle, but that was only in principle.

 
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