Today Noam Chomsky, still kicking it at the age of 82, addressed a standing-room only crowd at the Cox Auditorium on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
His hour-long speech boiled down to a simple principle: the powerful will continue to promote policies that help themselves as long as the masses are quiescent. If no one objects then the wealthy will get wealthier, the stronger will get stronger, and the dictators will become more dictatorial.
He contrasted this to the current unrest in the Middle East, first in Tunisia and then in Egypt. American foreign aid props up dictatorial regimes all over the world.
At home the power of Wall Street and the financial industry has grown exponentially over the last three decades. The power of unions and the working class has declined.
I’m reminded of the final scene of City of Hope, the 1991 film by John Sayles. The film isn’t on DVD but the ben29mc has uploaded the film in 9 pieces to YouTube.
“Help…help. Over here. We need help!!”
The best part of the whole event were the unintentional ironies.
The event was wildly over-attended. I arrived almost an hour before starting time and still barely managed to get in. The auditorium was just about filled when I entered and the emcee made an announcement from the stage to tell people to stop holding seats for people who hadn’t made it into the auditorium.
The woman next to me conveniently ignored this request and held two seats for two faculty members who were trying to get in. They did get in and sat down next to me and started telling about how hard they had to work to get in. They passed 30 people in line and navigated past a couple of ushers. All of this was described in a tone of complete justification. How could the ushers not see how important these people were?
I was tempted to lean over and tell them that they were perfect exemplars of privilege. Others who bypassed the ushers were turned back, but not them.
Perhaps I will take it to the street some other day.