Monday, December 21, 2015

Bill MoyerS. Questions or objections. A World of Ideas. | Public Affairs Television, Inc. 1989.

1.      You were at Berkeley during the demonstrations of the sixties. What can we learn today, good or bad, from the sixties?
2.      Power to the People?
3.      Do you see any signs of political creativity today at the grass roots level?
4.      But nothing you just mentioned seems to have much of an Ideological purpose or passion.
5.      Do you think that the expectations raised by the sixties, of democratic Participation and Power to the People, have been largely frustrated?
6.      Is this for better or worse?
7.      So the national Government becomes stronger, but the Participation, Knowledge, and Involvement of the People diminish.
8.      But aren’t the conservatives trying to assert a classic principle of the public Health, even though it may impinge upon the Rights of the Individual?
9.      I grew up in East Texas, where Conservatism used to be defined by a Fear, if not a Loathing, of Government. Now conservatives pay deference to the State, and talk at times of President Reagan almost as if he were a Sovereign, in the same way that Tories used to talk about George III.
10.   When you talk about the decline of the Civic Culture, what do you mean?
11.   Nurturing the public Life.
12.   Are you seeing these practices threatened today?
13.   It took a long time to create a Constitution, and it took a long time to amend that Constitution. It took time to nurture the change promoted by the political process. You’re saying that now the time it takes Politics to transform Society is far longer than the Time it takes for radical technological and scientific change.
14.   What are the Consequences?
15.   The New England town hall of two hundred years ago is a far cry from Wall Street with its junk bonds and golden parachutes, and from Silicon Valley out here in California with its freeways and Technologies that are changing the landscape almost overnight. That kind of Democracy is really anachronistic, is it not?
16.   Do we have a Democracy now?
17.   We have a rather thinly concealed Power structure of large public Institutions and private Corporations.
18.   What do you mean? Give me an example.
19.   So that the Interest of the Manager and the Institution becomes paramount over the People to whom the Institution is ultimately responsible.
20.   What does that say to you?
21.   A structure of Government and private Institutions that is interlocking intertwining and self-reinforcing.
22.   Is this what you meant when you wrote that every one of this Country’s primary Institutions is antidemocratic in spirit, design, and operation?
23.   That’s a strong statement.
24.   Yet as you talk, I recall the criticisms of the last ten of fifteen years that there’s been an excess of Democracy. We have too much Democracy, too much Participation, growing in part out of the 1960s – that’s a criticism from some sources.
25.   A prominent writer said last week that with a little less Democracy, we could have won the War in Vietnam, and the whole History of the Period since would have been different.
26.   But these critics are saying that the United States has become a pitiful, helpless giant in the World. We can’t accomplish what we want to because of an excess of Democracy and too little Executive Power. You obviously disagree with that.
27.   But President Kennedy and President Johnson both thought that they were engaged in a Moral enterprise in Vietnam, in the shouldering of a great burden for the Freedom and Well-Being of other Nations and Peoples, not as just an Expansion of military or technological Power.
28.   – the “seven deadly Virtues.”
29.   Certainly one Consequence of it was this long train of executive abuses that you talk about – from Vietnam, to Watergate, which was really Richard Nixon’s effort to silence the critics of the War in Vietnam, to the Iran-Contra expansion of White House National Security Power. There does seem to be an unsavory creature that grows deep beneath the rock of Power.
30.   I never met a President who didn’t mean well.
31.   I remember Lyndon Johnson looking out the window after seeing demonstrators on Television, and saying, “What are they doing this to me? I’m the Commander in Chief.” Our Presidents began to confuse the State with the Self.
32.   This is why the founders put checks on Power. They did not believe that one man alone should presume to speak for the State or that he should have untrammeled license to accomplish his purpose. Do you think the checks on executive Power are breaking down?
33.   You quote Madison, who said that if every Athenian were Socrates, the Athenian Assembly would still be a Mob.
34.   Do you agree with that?
35.   Irving Kristol says that we are all democrats, but we have a fear of Democracy that goes back to the beginning. Do you think that’s so?
36.   How does your idea of Democracy differ from those liberal values?
37.   Explain that to me, because I hear you saying that we’ve got to learn how to get along well together, even though we differ ethnically, culturally, religiously, historically, geographically, psychologically, politically, and ideologically.
38.   The Organisation Man.
39.   How do we do it, then?
40.   That’s what de Tocqueville saw. He wrote about the volunteer associations of Life he saw here.
41.   You seem to be calling for a much more intensive Participation at the local level by Citizens, in all forms of political decision-making at the very Time, to take your own diagnosis, that the impetus of Society toward larger, more hierarchical, more remote, and more powerful Organisations. Aren’t those two fundamentally at odds with each other?
42.   So what happens then?
43.   You sound like Reagan.
44.   Why do you think he doesn’t mean it?
45.   –myth-making.
46.   How do you explain this longing of Americans for the past?
47.   Even as we leave the garden, we want to go home. It’s the mobility of American Society that is destructive of many of the things that conservatives honour. Family Life, Community stability, Neighbourhood – all of those human relations that require Time are rent asunder by the rapid change that is remaking our Society.
48.   I think I have an understanding of it. This year President Reagan vetoed the bill providing for sixty days’ notice to workers who are laid off. That to me was a conservative bill. Sixty days’ notice is a fair requirement if you want to give Families Time to prepare, if you want to give Schools Time to get ready for shock, and if you want to give men and women who are breadwinners a chance to relocate. That is a conservative measure, not a liberal measure. But the Freedom of Capital, the Freedom of Property, took precedence over the Moral requirements of traditional relationships.
49.   Conservatives always seem to opt for the Freedom of Capital over the Freedom of Individuals.
50.   What happens to a Society when it has People who are so easily wasted?
51.   Something happens to your own Myth when that occurs.
52.   I drove around Los Angeles last night, in the sections where the Gangs have been much in the News and in the affluent sections, places like Beverly Hills. Going through these affluent Neighbourhoods, I was struck with the signs, one after another, that said, “security system,” “armed response security system,” “armed weapons security system,” “armed guards.” More and more People are retreating behind armed walls.
53.   Do we need a Revolution?
54.   You speak of Education. What are the skills of Citizensihp and how do we gain them? How do we teach them?
55.   But if you want to empower People to function in an economic order, don’t you give them a vocational skill that they can use to their advantage?
56.   Does this place you squarely on the side of Secretary Bennett, who’s arguing for Values of Western Civilisation being at the core of everyone’s Education?
57.   What philosophical principle leads you to that conclusion?
58.   But we know we’re different. Isn’t the great task, as we move to the twenty-first century, to find ways that, being different, we can nonetheless collaborate in the building of a Society that has room for everybody?
59.   And that’s a political Art?
60.   –how to actively collaborate, not just isolate yourself from People who are different economically, ethnically, and religiously.
61.   I hear so little talk of Civic Virtue. What’s happened to political Language to our Time?
62.   You’re saying we talk about Money and Economics.
63.   –for the Common Good.
64.   So for all the talk about Morality today, we’re really getting more economic talk than genuine Moral discourse?
65.   The inscription above the main entrance of the [UT-Austin], my alma mater, says, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” A few years ago a student ran for the Student body Presidency on the one single platform of changing “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” to “Money talks.” It is the idiom of our Time. Here in Los Angeles, there’s concern about the loss of the Language of Print, the Language of Time and History – which it’s said is being replaced by a video Language. Do you see evidence that that’s happening, and is it having an effect on the Moral discourse of Politics?
66.   It seems to me you’ve really put your finger on it here. How do we as a Society, given our talk about Economics and our Self-Interest, solve the problems that otherwise will make our planet uninhabitable?
67.   Don’t we need to begin by developing a political Language that we can share? Language sets the limit of what we talk about and think about.
68.   What are the questions we must ask as we move toward the year 2000?
69.   “We, the People of the United States, in order to –“
70.   Is it romantic to think that each of us, High and Low, Black and White, Male and Female, has an Opportunity to contribute to the answer to that question?

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