Democracy: Past, Present… and Future?

Democracy: Past, Present… and Future?


>>DON’T REMEMBER THE PAST? DOES THAT MEAN YOU’RE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT? WHAT DOES OUR COUNTRY’S PAST TELL US ABOUT OUR PRESENT AND HOW CAN IT HELP US IMAGINE A BETTER FUTURE? THIS WEEK, TWO LEADING THINKERS ON THE TRICKY CHALLENGES OF DEMOCRACY. WHAT ARE THE BEST TOOLS AND EVEN THE BEST WORDS WE CAN USE TO CREATE A BETTER FUTURE? THAT’S ALL COMING UP ON THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW, THE PLACE WHERE THE PEOPLE WHO SAY IT CAN’T BE DONE, TAKE A BACK SEAT TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING IT. WELCOME. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>HE STARTED FIGHTING WHITE SUPREMACY BACK IN THE 1980S IN THE MILITIA COUNTRY OF THE U.S. NORTHWEST AND HE’S BEEN A WARRIOR IN THE STRUGGLE TO ADVANCE RACIAL JUSTICE EVER SINCE, BUILDING AWARENESS, OFFERING SOLUTIONS AND LEADERSHIP ALONG WITH SOME PRETTY TRANSFORMATIVE IDEAS. HE’S EVEN BEEN CALLED BY SOMEONE, ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT HUMANS AROUND. NOW, SCOT NAKAGAWA IS CONTINUING HIS LANDMARK WORK, ANALYZING AND CREATING STRATEGIES TO COUNTER RIGHT WING MOVEMENTS AS A SOROS EQUALITY FELLOW AND HE’S PRODUCING AN ANTI-AUTHORITARIAN PLAYBOOK THAT DRAWS UPON THE WORK OF ANTI-RIGHT WING RESEARCHERS, SCHOLARS AND ACTIVISTS ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO CREATE A SET OF TRAINING MODULES AND EDUCATIONAL CURRICULA. HE IS ALSO A SENIOR FELLOW AT RACE FORWARD. SCOT, WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM. I SHOULD SAY YOU’RE AN OLD FRIEND AND WE’VE BEEN HAVING THESE CONVERSATIONS FOR YEARS.>>YEP. DECADES.>>I ALMOST WISH WE DIDN’T HAVE TO KEEP HAVING THEM AND WE COULD TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE. TALK A BIT ABOUT WHERE YOU STARTED AND WHERE YOU ARE NOW. WHAT THE HECK HAS HAPPENED AND WHAT HASN’T?>>WELL, WHERE IT COMES TO FIGHTING THE RIGHT IS CONCERNED, MY STORY STARTS IN 1988 IN PORTLAND, OREGON, WHERE I WAS A RESIDENT AT THE TIME. A MAN NAMED MULUGETA SERAW, AN ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANT WHO WAS A STUDENT AT PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY, WAS MURDERED BY NEO-NAZI SKINHEADS IN THE CITY. THEY BEAT HIM TO DEATH WITH BASEBALL BATS AND KICKED HIM UNTIL HE DIED. IT SHOCKED THE CITY THAT SUCH A THING COULD HAPPEN IN SUPPOSEDLY LIBERAL PORTLAND. BUT WE QUICKLY LEARNED THAT THE PEOPLE WHO COMMITTED THAT MURDER, WHO INCLUDED BY THE WAY A HOMECOMING KING AND SOMEONE WHO IS A FRONT MAN FOR A POPULAR BAND IN THE CITY, THAT THEY WERE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. THAT THERE WERE MANY NEO-NAZI GROUPS IN THE CITY, THAT THE WHITE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT IN THE U.S. HAD TARGETED THE NORTHWEST IN WHAT THEY WERE CALLING THE 10% SOLUTION OR THE NORTHWEST INITIATIVE. BELIEVING THAT BECAUSE WE WERE A VERY WHITE PART OF THE COUNTRY WITH A VERY WHITE SUPREMACIST HISTORY, THAT WE WERE RIPE FOR THE PICKING. SO IT WAS REALLY ABOUT THE KLAN REBRANDING ITSELF. RECOGNIZING THAT ITS TIME HAD COME AND GONE AND THAT IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO BUILD THE BASE AGAIN IN THE COUNTRY FOR THE POLITICS THAT THEY REPRESENTED, THEY NEEDED TO RADICALIZE THEMSELVES FURTHER. AND THAT’S WHAT THEY DID. THEY MADE INVESTMENTS IN THE NORTHWEST. THEY MOVED ASSETS THERE INCLUDING NEO-NAZI INTELLECTUALS IN ORDER TO BUILD A MOVEMENT FROM THE GROUND UP, PARTICULARLY INVOLVING YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WERE IN THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC SCENE IN PLACES LIKE PORTLAND, FEELING DISAFFECTED AND AS IF THEY WERE NOT FITTING IN. THEY WERE GOING TO BE THE FIRST GENERATION OF YOUNG WHITE PEOPLE WHO WOULD NOT BE AS SUCCESSFUL AS THEIR PARENTS HAD BEEN IN THE GENERATION BEFORE AND SO THEY EXPLOITED THAT ANXIETY.>>AND TODAY, NOT SO MUCH HAS CHANGED, BUT JUST TO TOUCH ON THE HISTORY FOR A SECOND, PEOPLE MAY THINK, “WHITE SUPREMACIST HISTORY, NORTHWEST OREGON, ISN’T PORTLAND KIND OF A LIBERAL CULTURE PLACE?”>>WELL, PEOPLE THINK THAT ABOUT PORTLAND AND ABOUT OREGON GENERALLY BECAUSE THERE’VE BEEN MANY POPULIST MOVEMENTS THERE, BUT OREGON WAS ORIGINALLY FOUNDED AS A WHITES ONLY STATE. IT WAS FOUNDED ACTUALLY AS A TERRITORY THAT SAID THAT PEOPLE OF COLOR AND PARTICULARLY BLACK PEOPLE, COULD NOT MIGRATE INTO THE STATE OF OREGON AND THROUGH THE TERRITORY OF OREGON. IN PARTICULAR, IN ORDER TO TRY TO AVOID BLACK PEOPLE AND NATIVE AMERICANS GETTING TOGETHER AND MOUNTING A REVOLT AGAINST THESE WHITE SETTLERS WHO WOULD’VE THEN BEEN IN A MINORITY. OREGON IS ALSO THE STATE THAT, IN ITS FOUNDING YEARS, TERMINATED MORE TRIBES THAN JUST ABOUT THE REST OF THE COUNTRY PUT TOGETHER, AND EXCLUDED BLACK PEOPLE FROM BEING ABLE TO IMMIGRATE INTO THE STATE FOR A VERY LONG TIME AFTERWARDS. THOSE LAWS STAYED ON THE BOOKS UNTIL THE 1920S AND DICTATED A PATTERN OF MIGRATION.>>SO, SKIP FORWARD TO TODAY AND YOU LOOK AT THE HEADLINES. THERE’S A LOT OF ACTIVISM BY AN ORGANIZATION CALLED PATRIOT PRAYER AS JUST ONE EXAMPLE. THEY’VE BEEN WRECKING THE OFFICES OF THE INTERNATIONAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD. THEY’VE BEEN DISRUPTING DSA MEETINGS AND ISO MEETINGS. A LOT OF THE SAME STUFF.>>YEAH, A LOT OF THE SAME STUFF. IT NEVER STOPPED. FROM 1988 UNTIL NOW, PEOPLE IMAGINED THERE WAS A KIND OF A TIME IN BETWEEN IN WHICH WHITE NATIONALISM SORT OF WENT AWAY. BUT THE REALITY IS THEY’VE ALWAYS BEEN THERE, BUT ORGANIZING UNDERGROUND. SO AROUND 1996, WHEN TIMOTHY MCVEIGH AS A CHRISTIAN PATRIOT COMMITTED THAT A HORRIFIC BOMBING OF THE OKLAHOMA CITY FEDERAL BUILDING, THE ALFRED P. MURRAH FEDERAL BUILDING IN OKLAHOMA CITY, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BASICALLY FORCED THE WHITE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT UNDERGROUND BECAUSE THEY FINALLY RECOGNIZED THAT THEY THEMSELVES WERE BEING THREATENED BY THIS MOVEMENT. AND UNDERGROUND, THEY BEGAN TO ORGANIZE IN A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF WAY ON THE DARK WEB, ON THESE WEBSITES THAT WE NOW KNOW ABOUT WHERE THEY’VE BEEN VERY ACTIVE ALL OF THIS TIME. BUT THEY WERE MOSTLY DISAFFECTED FROM POLITICS. IN 2016 HOWEVER, WHEN DONALD TRUMP BEGAN HIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, HE REALLY MADE A DIRECT APPEAL TO THOSE FOLKS, RIGHT? AND KIND OF BROUGHT THEM OUT OF THE MARGINS BACK INTO THE MAINSTREAM. NOW WE ARE FACING THIS.>>AND THAT’S WHAT WE’RE SEEING. SO YOUR WORK NOW AT SOROS AND AT RACE FORWARD IS TO GLEAN WHAT YOU CAN FROM YOUR HISTORY OF WORK WITH RELEVANCE TO THE FUTURE.>>YES.>>AND ONE OF THE THINGS YOU’RE DOING IS LOOKING AT A FILM THAT YOU RELEASED YEARS AGO ABOUT WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE. TAKE A QUICK LOOK AT IT TODAY AND THEN WE’LL TALK ABOUT IT. HERE’S A TRAILER.>>MUCH OF THE DISRUPTION IN OUR SOCIETY IS OCCASIONED BY ECONOMICS, GOOD ECONOMICS, POWER ELITE SEEK SERVANTS. SO SEND ACROSS THE BORDER, BRING IN THE PEOPLE TO DO THE STOOP LABOR. ECONOMY GETS BAD, NO LONGER SEEKING SERVANTS, SEEKING SCAPEGOATS. THE ECONOMY IS BAD NOW. SO THEY’RE LOOKING FOR SOME SCAPEGOATS TO SEND OUT INTO THE WOODS TO DIE.>>BECAUSE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU HAS A DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE FOR THIS COUNTRY, OUR HERITAGE, OUR VALUES, OUR FREEDOMS.>>HE STARTED OUT AS A NAZI AND THEN A KLANSMAN, BOTH OF WHICH WERE POLITICAL MOVEMENTS CLEARLY ASSOCIATED WITH AUTHORITARIANISM AND RACISM. AND HE ENDED UP A POLITICAL CANDIDATE IN A THREE PIECE SUIT AND A TIE, A FACE LIFT, A MAKEOVER, PHYSICALLY AND POLITICALLY.>>DUKE WASN’T AN ANOMALY. THAT’S THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM THAT DUKE WAS SOMEHOW MERELY A BYPRODUCT OF THE STRANGE SWAMP-LIKE POLITICS THAT PREVAIL IN LOUISIANA, THAT HE COULD BE EXPLAINED BY THE KIND OF WATER WE DRINK DOWN HERE OR THE CONTAMINATED OYSTERS WE CONSUME. BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE AT ALL. I THINK THAT INSTEAD OF US BEING OFF THE MAP, WE WERE, IN A SENSE, PREFIGURING AND ANTICIPATING WHAT WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN IN NATIONAL POLITICS.>>WE HAVE MORE BORDER PATROL NOW, STATIONED AT THE BORDER.>>THEY’RE EXTREMELY CONFRONTATIONAL. THERE’S ALL KINDS OF SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS AND DOGS. IT’S JUST A HORRIBLE REMINDER OF HOW THE BORDER FEELS LIKE A PRISON. IT’S COMPLETELY BEEN MILITARIZED.>>PROPOSITION 187 ASKS VOTERS TO REMOVE BASIC SERVICES LIKE PUBLIC EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE FROM UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT FAMILIES.>>AND I THINK PEOPLE SAY IF YOU’RE NOT WHITE, THEN YOU’RE NOT AN AMERICAN. WELL, I GOT SOMETHING ELSE COMING. MOST OF THOSE PEOPLE WERE IMMIGRANTS. THE ONLY AMERICANS ARE THE INDIANS.>>THIS ISN’T REALLY ABOUT IMMIGRANTS. IT’S ABOUT THE CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS IN THIS COUNTRY AND HOW IT REALLY SCARES SOME PEOPLE. DON’T TRY TO CHARACTERIZE THIS AS IF IT’S NOT RACIALLY MOTIVATED.>>ON ELECTION DAY, VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT TWO.>>AMENDMENT TWO IS VERY DETRIMENTAL, NOT ONLY TO THE GAY COMMUNITY, BUT ALSO TO THE MINORITY COMMUNITY. AND WHEN WE WERE FIGHTING AGAINST AMENDMENT TWO, WE WERE FIGHTING IT BECAUSE IT TAKES RIGHTS AWAY FROM THEM AND US.>>I THINK GAYS AND LESBIANS WERE THE TARGET OF AMENDMENT TWO FOR SOMEWHAT A CYNICAL REASON, TO RAISE MONEY FOR CONSERVATIVE GROUPS. AND AMENDMENT TWO BROUGHT IN A LOT OF MONEY FOR CONSERVATIVE GROUPS.>>I AM JUST SO GRATEFUL TO GOD THAT THE SUPREME COURT HAS SAID YOU CAN’T PUT PEOPLE’S HUMAN RIGHTS ON A BALLOT.>>SO SCOT, I MEAN, THAT WAS 1997 TALKING ABOUT INITIATIVES IN PORTLAND AND IN CALIFORNIA. YOUR NEW WORK IS MAKING THE POINT OF HOW CONTEMPORARY THIS IS. BUT IT’S REALLY STRESSING THE LEARNINGS. SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?>>WELL, WE’VE LEARNED A LOT OF THINGS. THE VERY FRONT END OF THAT CLIP MAKES THE POINT THAT WHEN THE ECONOMY IS BAD, IT IS OFTEN THE CASE THAT REACTIONARY MOVEMENTS RISE. WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED SINCE THEN IS THAT THERE ISN’T REALLY A CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THOSE THINGS. THAT ALL KINDS OF ANXIETY CAN CAUSE REACTIONARY MOVEMENTS TO RISE. SUDDEN WAVES OF AUTOMATION FOR INSTANCE, OR DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE, WHICH SEEMS TO BE WHAT’S DICTATING THAT KIND OF ANXIETY RISING AMONG THE WHITE POPULATION IN THE UNITED STATES NOW.>>BECAUSE PEOPLE ALWAYS POINT TO, WELL IF IT WAS JUST ABOUT ECONOMIC INSECURITY, WHITE OR BLACK WOMEN, THE MOST INSECURE, VOTE MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN JUST ABOUT ANYBODY ELSE.>>YES. SO, OF COURSE WE WANT A FAIR ECONOMY, BUT SIMPLY MAKING ECONOMIC APPEALS TO PEOPLE IS NOT ENOUGH. WE NEED TO DEAL WITH THE UNDERLYING CULTURAL ISSUES THAT ARE DRIVING PEOPLE TO REVOLT. AND IN THIS CASE, I THINK PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT IS DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE. AND WE NEED TO JUMP IN AND START TO TELL A STORY ABOUT THAT. IT’S VERY DIFFERENT THAN THE STORIES THAT HAVE BEEN TOLD SO FAR IN ORDER FOR PEOPLE TO MAKE SENSE OF IT AND TO ACCOMMODATE IT IN A WAY THAT EMBRACES PLURALISM AS OPPOSED TO THIS NOTION THAT IF ONE GAINS OTHERS LOSE.>>WELL, SO WHAT’S THE STORY? HAVEN’T YOU BEEN TRYING TO TELL THIS STORY FOR 30 YEARS?>>WELL, WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL THE STORY FOR 30 YEARS AND I THINK LATELY PEOPLE HAVE BECOME MUCH MORE AWARE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF NARRATIVE. AND SO I THINK WE ARE IN A MOMENT NOW WHEN WE’RE BEGINNING TO START TO THINK ABOUT HOW DO WE TELL THESE STORIES DIFFERENTLY IN WAYS THAT HELP US TO LOOK AT THE FUTURE AND EMBRACE THE FUTURE. FASCISM OF COURSE, BEING ABOUT JUST LOOKING AT THE PAST AND THINKING OF THE FUTURE HAS NO FUTURE, RIGHT? THAT THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE IS TO RETURN TO AN IMAGINED PAST. AND SO WE NEED TO START TO IMAGINE A FUTURE IN WHICH PEOPLE CAN SEE THEMSELVES THRIVING AND LIVING WELL.>>LET’S TALK ABOUT A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE. YOU’VE GOT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TALKING ABOUT TARIFFS WITH CHINA. FOR MANY PEOPLE, OF TRUMP SUPPORTERS ARE BEING HURT BY THOSE TARIFFS. BUT IF YOU LISTEN TO THEM, YOU HEAR THEM SAY, “BUT I LIKE THAT HE’S SOCKING IT TO CHINA BECAUSE CHINA’S GOING TO DESTROY THIS NATION AND IF WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A FUTURE, SOMEONE’S GOT TO STAND UP AND HE’S STANDING UP.” IT IS LOOKING BACK, BUT IT IS A FUTURE VISION OF US STRONGER AGAINST CHINA.>>WELL, IT’S LOOKING BACK TO THE TIME WHEN THE AMERICAN EMPIRE WAS MUCH MORE ROBUST IN THE IMMEDIATE WORLD WAR II PERIOD WHEN WE DOMINATED THE WORLD AND IMAGINING THAT WE CAN THAT AGAIN, SIMPLY BY IMPOSING TARIFFS. BUT THIS STORY ABOUT IF WE JUST SOCK IT TO CHINA IS ONE THAT WE HAVE BEEN CAUGHT IN OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. WHEN WE THINK ABOUT, FOR EXAMPLE, THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND ADVANCES MADE IN THAT PERIOD OF TIME, WHAT HAPPENED IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARD WAS THAT WHITE SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS STARTED TO TURN TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, RIGHT? AND THEY SAID, “IF THEY CAN JOIN OUR UNIONS, THEN WE DON’T WANT THEM. IF THEY CAN HAVE WELFARE, PARTICIPATE IN WELFARE PROGRAMS, WE DON’T WANT THOSE PROGRAMS. IF THEY CAN SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, THEN WE DON’T WANT THOSE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.” WE HAVE SEEN THIS KIND OF REJECTION AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. AND IT’S NOT JUST HAPPENING HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, IT’S ALSO HAPPENING IN EUROPE WHERE YOU SEE SOME OF THESE LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES IN EUROPE THAT ARE SAYING, NOW AS PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD WHO HAVE BEEN EXPLOITED BY THESE ECONOMIES FOR CENTURIES ARE COMING TO THEIR DOORSTEPS AS REFUGEES, THEY’RE SAYING, “IF THEY’RE GOING TO COME HERE, THEN WE DON’T WANT ANY OF THIS. IF DEMOCRACY IS AN OPEN DOOR, LET’S CLOSE IT.”>>SO WE WOULD RATHER HAVE NO SOCIAL SERVICES, NO PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR OUR KIDS, NO PUBLIC HEALTH CARE IF THOSE OTHER PEOPLE, DIFFERENT SKIN COLOR, DIFFERENT, WE MIGHT HAVE TO SHARE WITH THEM?>>YEAH.>>SO HOW DO YOU SPEAK TO THAT?>>WELL, I MEAN, I THINK WE NEED TO START TO TALK ABOUT HOW WE ARE CONNECTED TO ONE ANOTHER. RIGHT? SO, ON OUR SIDE OF THE ISSUE, I THINK WHAT WE NEED TO LOOK AT, AND THIS VIDEOTAPE FROM WAY BACK THEN TRIED TO MAKE THIS POINT, THAT EACH OF THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF BIGOTRIES THAT THE RIGHT EXPLOITS, THE SOFT ENTRY POINTS LIKE HOMOPHOBIA, AT A TIME WHEN NO ONE COULD IMAGINE THAT SOMETHING LIKE SAME SEX MARRIAGE COULD BE A REALITY.>>MISOGYNY. WOMEN ARE GOING TO TAKE YOUR JOBS.>>EXACTLY. EACH OF THEM IS A KIND OF TROJAN HORSE, RIGHT? THEY EXPLOIT THESE BIGOTRIES AND THEY USE THEM IN ORDER TO EDUCATE US ABOUT RIGHTS. SO IN THE YEARS THAT I WORKED PRIMARILY IN THE LGBTQ MOVEMENT, THEY MADE THIS APPEAL, THEY SAID THAT GAY RIGHTS ARE SPECIAL RIGHTS. THEY ARE IN FACT THE CONFERRING OF CIVIL RIGHTS ON GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHO DON’T DESERVE THEM, AND SO CIVIL RIGHTS ARE SOMETHING THAT ARE EARNED, THEY WOULD SAY BECAUSE OF INTERGENERATIONAL POVERTY, BECAUSE OF BEING ABLE TO DEMONSTRATE A HISTORICAL PATTERN OF EXCLUSION AND THEN MAKE THE POINT THAT WHITE MEN DON’T HAVE CIVIL RIGHTS BECAUSE YOU CAN’T PROVE THAT ABOUT THEM EITHER. AND SO IT’S THAT KIND OF TROJAN HORSE KIND OF WAY OF THINKING THAT GETS US TO THINK US AND THEM, US AND THEM, OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.>>ASIAN AMERICANS ARE GOING TO GET MORE AND MORE TARGETED, IT SEEMS LIKES IN THIS CONTEXT.>>OH YES. AND WE SEE AN INCREDIBLE INCREASE IN ANTISEMITISM NOW. ANTISEMITISM, WHICH PEOPLE SHOULD BE VERY, VERY AWARE OF AS A REALLY IMPORTANT RADICALIZER OF RIGHT WING MOVEMENTS.>>GIVE US THREE THINGS IN YOUR ANTI-TOTALITARIAN TOOLKIT THAT WE CAN OR COULD DO.>>WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I THINK WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS WE NEED TO DISRUPT THESE MOVEMENTS BY EXPOSING THEIR LEADERS AND THEIR REAL AGENDAS, RIGHT? WE NEED TO BE VERY EXPLICIT ABOUT THAT. WE ALSO NEED TO DIFFUSE SOME OF THESE TENSIONS BY NOT FALLING PREY TO THESE KINDS OF BINARIES. THESE US AND THEM BINARIES, BUT TO REALLY TALK ABOUT WHAT COMMUNITIES AS A WHOLE NEED AND AS WE DO THAT, WE NEED TO COMPETE MORE EFFECTIVELY FOR BASE WITH THE RIGHT. WE NEED TO LOOK AT WHO IS THEIR IMMEDIATELY PROJECTED BASE OF SUPPORT. THE PEOPLE THEY’RE TRYING TO RECRUIT AND WE NEED TO COMPETE FOR THOSE HEARTS AND MINDS BY SPEAKING TO THE ANXIETIES THAT THOSE PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING WITH COMPASSION AND TRY TO WIN THEIR LOYALTIES FOR OUR SIDE.>>SO SUPPORT GROUPS THAT YOU SEE DOING THAT WHERE YOU LIVE.>>YES, ABSOLUTELY.>>AT LEAST FOR STARTERS. SCOT NAKAGAWA. YOU CAN FIND MORE AND LINKS TO HIS WORK, PAST AND PRESENT AND FUTURE AT OUR WEBSITE. THANKS. ♪ [MUSIC] ♪>>DEMOCRACY. IS IT A NOUN OR IS IT A VERB? THAT’S JUST ONE OF THE MANY QUESTIONS AUTHOR AND FILMMAKER, ASTRA TAYLOR, ASKS IN HER LATEST DOCUMENTARY AND A NEW BOOK. REFLECTING ON A WORD EVEN SHE SAYS SHE HADN’T PAID MUCH ATTENTION TO, SHE DELVES INTO ANCIENT ATHENS AND TRAVELS THE MODERN DAY U.S. AND EUROPE, TALKING WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE RECKONING WITH DEMOCRACY’S, RACIST, SEXIST, PAST AND PONDERING ITS FAILURE TO ADDRESS INEQUALITY WHILE SORT OF RE-IMAGINING SOME POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES. AT THE END OF THE DAY, SHE SUMS UP HER INVESTIGATIONS IN WHAT I THINK IS THE PERFECT TITLE OF THE BOOK “DEMOCRACY MAY NOT EXIST, BUT WE’LL MISS IT WHEN IT’S GONE.” ASTRA’S FILM WAS RELEASED THIS YEAR BY ZEITGEIST FILM. THE BOOK’S JUST OUT FROM METROPOLITAN. ASTRA IS ALSO THE AUTHOR OF THE BESTSELLING, “THE PEOPLE’S PLATFORM.” I’M HAPPY TO HAVE HER ON THE SHOW. HI, ASTRA.>>HEY, THANKS FOR HAVING ME.>>SO DEMOCRACY, YOU SAY AT THE VERY TOP THAT YOU WEREN’T THAT INTERESTED TO BEGIN.>>YEAH, IT WASN’T A WORD THAT REALLY INSPIRED ME. SO I SPENT MY 20S IN THE AUGHTS BECAUSE 20 OR 21, WHEN 9/11 HAPPENED. AND SO I HEARD THE WORD OFTEN UTTERED BY GEORGE W. BUSH SAYING HE WAS GOING TO BRING DEMOCRACY TO IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN AND WE KNOW THAT, THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. AND SO THE WORD HAD THIS REALLY HOLLOW, TRAGIC QUALITY, RIGHT? IT WAS NOT A WORD THAT INSPIRED ME. SO WORDS LIKE LIBERATION, EQUALITY, REVOLUTION, SOCIALISM, THOSE WERE WORDS WHERE I WOULD WAKE UP AND I FELT THIS DISAPPOINTMENT. AND YET INTELLECTUALLY I KNOW THE WORD MATTERS. AND THAT WAS IN THE BACK OF MY MIND FOR A LONG TIME, THE FACT THAT THIS WAS AN IMPORTANT WORD I DIDN’T RELATE TO. BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY DURING 2011, THE WAVE OF MOVEMENTS CALLING FOR REAL DEMOCRACIES. SO, FROM THE ARAB SPRING, TO THE MOVEMENT OF THE SQUARES IN EUROPE, TO OCCUPY WALL STREET. AND SO PEOPLE WERE GATHERED AND CHANTING, “WE WANT REAL DEMOCRACY. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.” BUT I THOUGHT, “OKAY, IT’S TIME FOR ME TO INTERROGATE THIS WORD AND MY AMBIVALENCE TOWARDS IT AND TO FIGURE OUT WHAT DEMOCRACY MEANS TO ME.”>>ALL RIGHT, SO HENCE THE MOVIE, “WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?” HERE’S THE TRAILER, TAKE A LOOK.>>FOR ME, THIS PROJECT BEGAN WITH THE QUESTION, WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? AND I QUICKLY REALIZED IT’S NOT SOMETHING THAT’S EVER ACTUALIZED, BUT ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT IS IN MOTION, A KIND OF IDEAL WE’RE REACHING TOWARDS. BUT IN PRACTICE, EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, DEMOCRACY IS IN TROUBLE. PROGRESS CAN GO INTO REVERSE AND TERRIBLE THINGS HAVE HAPPENED IN THE NAME OF DEMOCRACY.>>YES. IT IS BEING SO ABUSED AND SO MISAPPLIED COMPARED TO ITS ORIGINAL MEANING, WHICH MEANS THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE, THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE. BUT SO MANY HAVE FOUGHT FOR THE REALIZATION OF A TRUE DEMOCRACY THAT IN A WAY IT’S IMPORTANT NOT TO ABANDON THE WORD.>>RIGHT. AND WE ALSO NEED TO THINK HARD ABOUT WHAT THAT WORD EVEN MEANS.>>YES.>>YOU SEE SILVIA FEDERICI THERE, THE GREAT HISTORIAN OF THE COMMONS, FEMINIST, ECO-FEMINIST AND MORE TALKING ABOUT THE PEOPLE. DID YOU COME AWAY THINKING DEMOCRACY IS ABOUT THE PEOPLE AND THERE IS SUCH A THING AS THE PEOPLE? IT’S BEEN PRETTY HARD TO GET EVEN WOMEN INSERTED INTO OUR NOTION OF THE PEOPLE.>>YEAH, IT’S REALLY INTERESTING THAT QUESTION OF THE PEOPLE. SO WHAT I THOUGHT WAS DEMOCRACY IS SORT OF HOLLOW EQUALITY, RIGHT? THIS VAGUENESS, NOW I SEE IT AS THIS AMBIGUITY THAT’S ACTUALLY REALLY POWERFUL. SO I QUITE LIKE THE ANCIENT DEFINITION OF DEMOCRACY, WHICH IS THE DEIMOS, THE PEOPLE RULE OR HAVE POWER. SO THAT’S CRATOS, RIGHT? AND WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT IS THAT THIS IDEA OF WHAT OR WHO THE PEOPLE IS CAN ALWAYS BE IMAGINED, REIMAGINED, REINVENTED, AND THEN HOW WE RULE IS ALSO UP FOR DEBATE, CONTESTATION. SO IT’S THIS CONCEPT THAT CAN EVOLVE AND CHANGE OVER TIME. OBVIOUSLY, IT BEGAN IN A VERY TRUNCATED FORM. IF YOU LOOK BACK AT ANCIENT ATHENS, FOR EXAMPLE, OR LOOK BACK AT THE FOUNDING OF THIS COUNTRY, THE PEOPLE DID NOT INCLUDE EVERYBODY. SO, I THINK THERE’S THIS CONCEPTUAL PROBLEM WHO THE PEOPLE IS, BUT ALSO THE FACT THAT OVER TIME THOSE WHO HAVE EXPANDED THE PEOPLE ARE PRECISELY THOSE WHO WERE OUTSIDE OF IT. SO WOMEN WHO WEREN’T FULLY ENFRANCHISE FIGHTING TO BE INCLUDED, FORMERLY ENSLAVED PEOPLE FIGHTING TO BE RECOGNIZED AS FULL HUMAN BEINGS. SO DEMOCRACY’S MOTOR PARADOXICALLY IS ALWAYS FROM THE OUTSIDE MOVING TOWARDS THE INSIDE. AND PART OF WHY I WANTED TO MAKE THIS FILM AND WRITE THE BOOK WAS TO SORT OF IMPLICITLY JUST PUT THAT DYNAMIC AT THE FOREFRONT, RIGHT? DEMOCRACY IS NOT JUST THIS IDEA THAT THESE FOUNDING FATHERS HAD AND WE’RE LIVING OUT THEIR PERFECT PLAN.>>HAS IT EVER BEEN TRUE? IS THAT ARC OF HISTORY, PEOPLE FROM THE OUTSIDE EXPANDING THE POPULACE, EXPANDING THE NOTION OF THE PEOPLE, EXPANDING THE NOTION OF WHAT IT IS TO RULE, HAS IT ALWAYS MOVED IN ONE DIRECTION?>>NO, YEAH.>>BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT’S MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION NOW.>>NO, I MEAN IT DOESN’T, RIGHT? I MEAN IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT’S MOVING THAT DIRECTION. AND THAT’S THE THING. AS I SAID IN THE SCENE YOU JUST SAW, PROGRESS CAN GO INTO REVERSE. THIS IS NOT SOME SORT OF LINEAR THING WHERE WE’RE JUST MOVING TOWARDS A MORE PERFECT UNION OR WE BASICALLY HAVE IT FIGURED OUT AND WE NEED TO SORT OF TWEAK THINGS ON THE MARGINS. SO I THINK THAT, THAT’S WHAT I WANTED TO GET TO WITH THE TITLE OF THE BOOK. “DEMOCRACY MAY NOT EXIST, BUT WE’LL MISS IT WHEN IT’S GONE.” WHAT I’M SPEAKING TO IS MY OWN AMBIVALENCE AS A LEFT WING PERSON, RIGHT? THIS IS NOT DEMOCRACY. WE LIVE IN AN OLIGARCHY. WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC POWER IS HELD BY A TINY NUMBER OF PEOPLE. AND LOTS OF STATISTICS BACK THIS UP AND LOTS OF STUDIES SHOW THAT REGULAR CITIZENS HAVE ALMOST NO SAY OVER POLICY, RIGHT? SO WE DON’T LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY. AT THE SAME TIME, WE DON’T WANT TO BE TOO GLIB AND DISCOUNT ALL THE PROGRESS THAT’S BEEN MADE, THE DEMOCRATIZATION THAT’S HAPPENED. AND SO BOTH PROJECTS TRY TO LIVE IN THAT TENSION.>>SO, AS YOU COME AWAY FROM THIS, WHERE IS THE GREATEST URGENCY AROUND ACTIONS? AND THEN I WANT TO GET TO THIS QUESTION OF NOUN OR VERB BECAUSE THAT’S ANOTHER IMPORTANT THING. THEY ALWAYS USED TO SAY, “ELECTIONS AREN’T DEMOCRACY, THEY’RE JUST THE TAKING OF THE TEMPERATURE OF THE DEMOCRACY. HOW HEALTHY IS IT?”>>YEAH, I LIKE THAT. WE LIVE IN A VERY POLITICIZED MOMENT. SO I BEGAN THIS PROJECT, I WROTE THE PROPOSAL FOR THE FILM IN 2013, WHICH SEEMS LIKE ANOTHER ERA, RIGHT? SO THE BOOK DOES NOT REALLY FOCUS ON THIS CURRENT MOMENT IN A NEWS DRIVEN SORT OF WAY. NEITHER DOES THE FILM. IT’S SAYING THE PROBLEMS WITH OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM GO BACK MUCH FURTHER THAN NOVEMBER OF 2016, RIGHT?>>RIGHT.>>AND LET’S TAKE THIS LONGER VIEW –>>ALTHOUGH THEY DO HELP US THINK ABOUT THIS MOMENT.>>YES. THEY TRY TO HELP US THINK ABOUT THIS MOMENT AND SORT OF WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE PROBLEMS THAT GOT US INTO THIS MESS?>>IS IT AS SIMPLE AS CAPITALISM? I MEAN, YOU WOULD THINK A SYSTEM THAT PUTS THE MAJORITY IN RULE OVER A MINORITY WOULD NOT HAVE A SOCIETY WHERE A MINORITY, A TINY ONE, HAVE ALL THE ASSETS AND THE RESOURCES AND ALL THE CONTROL.>>I MEAN, I 100% AGREE. SO I THINK THAT IS THE UNDERLYING THREAD OF BOTH PROJECTS THAT THE ROLE OF CAPITALISM AND THE FACT — I SAY IN THE INTRODUCTION, THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME ACTUALLY IS EXPANDING DEMOCRACY FROM THE POLITICAL SPHERE. SO THIS IDEA OF ENFRANCHISING EVERYONE TO THE ECONOMIC SPHERE, THE BIGGEST THREAT OF OUR AGE IS CAPITALISM, WHICH CONCENTRATES WEALTH, CONCENTRATES POWER THAT’S ANTITHETICAL TO DEMOCRACY. POST 1989 THE IDEA WAS THAT CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY ARE THE SAME THING. THIS IS THE IDEA I GREW UP WITH, RIGHT? I WAS TOLD, I DIDN’T BELIEVE IT, BUT YOU, YOU WERE TOLD THAT IF YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE IT, YOU WERE SILLY. BUT NOW THOSE ARE SPLITTING APART. AND SO WHAT I ENCOUNTERED WHILE MAKING THE FILM WAS THAT THERE ARE ACTUALLY A LOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE COMING DOWN ON THE SIDE OF CAPITALISM THAT TRUMP SUPPORTERS, THE YOUNG TRUMP SUPPORTERS I MET, THEY DON’T ACTUALLY DRESS THEMSELVES UP IN THE RHETORIC OF THE PEOPLE. THEY TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THEY WANT TO ACHIEVE THE AMERICAN DREAM. ONE GIRL SAYS IN THE FILM, “I CARE MORE ABOUT THE AMERICAN DREAM AND THAT ABILITY TO CLIMB THAN DEMOCRACY.” THEN WE SEE ANOTHER MOVEMENT, WHICH IS THE MOVEMENT I’M VERY EXCITED ABOUT, WHICH SAYS, WELL, HOLD ON, WE’RE ON THE SIDE OF DEMOCRACY AND IF WE WANT DEMOCRACY, IF WE WANT POLITICAL EQUALITY, WE NEED TO HAVE ECONOMIC EQUALITY, WHICH MEANS WE NEED TO JETTISON CAPITALISM AND CREATE SOMETHING, A NEW ECONOMIC SYSTEM, CALL IT SOCIALISM, ECO-SOCIALISM, DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM, SO THAT DEMOCRACY CAN FINALLY BECOME MORE ROBUST. SO I THINK CAPITALISM HAS TO BE RIGHT THERE AT THE CENTER. I THINK IF WE EVER TRANSCEND CAPITALISM, WE’LL JUST GET MORE INTERESTING DEMOCRATIC QUESTIONS BECAUSE FINALLY WE WON’T HAVE TO BE DEBATING THIS PROBLEM OF, SHOULD BILLIONAIRES CONTROL THE WEALTH IN THE WORLD? BUT WE’LL GET TO THINK ABOUT HOW SHOULD WE ACTUALLY GOVERN OURSELVES, WHICH IS REALLY TRICKY.>>AND YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT SOCIALISM, DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM, WHAT DO YOU THINK? I MEAN, A LOT OF PEOPLE IN SORT OF COLD WAR AMERICA EQUATED SOCIALISM AND COMMUNISM WITH TOTALITARIANISM, AUTHORITARIANISM.>>I THINK THAT’S A KIND OF THINKING THAT DOESN’T RESONATE WITH THE YOUNGER GENERATION WHO DOESN’T REMEMBER THE COLD WAR AND WHO UNDERSTAND THAT WE NEED THE STATE TO PLAY A POSITIVE ROLE TO CREATE THE CONDITIONS OF EQUALITY THAT ALLOW PEOPLE TO ACTUALLY BE FREE. BECAUSE IF YOU’RE IN DESPERATE NEED OF MEDICAL CARE OR EDUCATION, HOW CAN YOU REALLY PARTICIPATE IN A DEMOCRACY? AND WE HAVE TO ASK OURSELVES, “WHAT WOULD DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM MEAN? HOW WOULD WE ACTUALLY MARRY THOSE TERMS IN A PRODUCTIVE WAY?” SO I THINK THAT TO ME IS THIS SOURCE OF REAL EXCITEMENT AND HOPE THAT WE’RE HAVING THAT CONVERSATION. I, AGAIN, I THINK THAT, JUST SAYING, “OKAY, WELL WE NEED SOCIALISM” DOESN’T ANSWER THE QUESTION, “WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?” WHAT I TRY TO SHOW IN THE BOOK IS THAT THERE ARE ALL OF THESE PARADOXES, ALL OF THESE TENSIONS THAT WILL PERSIST. EVEN IF WE LIVED IN AN ECONOMICALLY EGALITARIAN WORLD, WE’D STILL HAVE TO BALANCE THE NEEDS OF THE LIVING WITH THE NEEDS OF PEOPLE WHO AREN’T YET BORN, THE NEEDS OF A LOCAL COMMUNITY WITH GLOBAL JUSTICE, WHO THE PEOPLE ARE, HOW WE RULE, THAT’S GOING TO KEEP EXPANDING. I IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE THE PEOPLE MIGHT EXPAND BEYOND THE HUMAN TO INCLUDE ANIMALS IN NATURE, THE RIGHTS OF NATURE. WE’RE SEEING SIGNS OF THIS AROUND THE WORLD. SO, I SEE DEMOCRACY AS SOMETHING ON THE HORIZON PERPETUALLY THAT WE’RE TRYING TO MIDWIFE INTO EXISTENCE, AND THAT ACTUALLY EXCITES ME.>>ME TOO. ALL RIGHT, ASTRA TAYLOR. THANK YOU SO MUCH. THANK YOU FOR THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE. YOU CAN FIND LINKS TO BOTH AND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DEMOCRACY PAST, PRESENT, AND POSSIBLE AT OUR WEBSITE. THANKS FOR WATCHING. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

3 thoughts on “Democracy: Past, Present… and Future?

  1. Past criminal treason like present.Hopefully future trials and executions.Anti American with no plans but America's demise.Look at the UK Canada and NZ for the nwo plan for hell on earth.

  2. Ah, she is not really a socialist she is a liberal. She gave herself away at 25:03 "we need the state to actually allow people to be free" That is liberal thinking. Socialist want the state also for equality, but not to be "free" but because it buttresses solidarity and social cohesion. Socialists want the state to implement principles of socialist justice (solidarity and equity) which society can be governed. In other words we want to govern away from freedom and more toward the common good, duties, obligations, responsibility, and care for one another and working together to build socialism. Liberty is at odds with such goals. If you want the state to ensure individual liberty and development then you are a liberal progressive not a socialist.

  3. First and foremost, the United States is not and has "never" been a democracy. So sick of elitist socialist idiots peddling this lie. We are a Democratic Republic. Look it up! 2nd, the KKK is and still is "left wing" idiots. They are national socialists who, like communists, socialists, fascists and islamists, despises our Declaration of Independence which is our mission statement and our U.S. Constitution which gives our govt. limited abilities while protecting our unalienable rights, freedoms and liberties. The farther right you go, the more Constitutional you become. The farther left you go, the more Marxist you become. That is only in the U.S. In Europe, the left and right are Marxists. There is no unalienable rights. The End.

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