Ralph Nader, who is almost 80, says his "thirst for justice" and "fact-driven moral indignation" keep him going. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
First Aired on Q (08/01/2013)
We live in an age of economic turmoil, warfare, global poverty and political corruption --
and Ralph Nader, the author of Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns, thinks we could be doing things much better. The prolific author, political activist and attorney gave an impassioned interview recently on Q.
His book contains columns from the past 10 years in which he chronicles his political views. "It was an intensely corporatist and militarist time with excessive commercialism," he said. "There was an expansion of the American empire through military use and looking at foreign problems with a framework of brute force...instead of peace and diplomacy."
During the time, Nader said that Wall Street also collapsed on the economy and caused eight million workers to lose their jobs and losing trillions of taxpayer dollars -- only to be bailed out and become even more concentrated in power. "Large companies now gain power in direct proportion to how they mess up. That's a sign of a severely imbalanced economy between the few and the many."
Nadar is particularly concerned with how much say corporations have in political dealings."The word corporation or company never appear in the our [U.S.] constitution, so why are we ruled by them? You can see the grotesque twisting of the constitutional government and what money does to politics," he said, adding, "All empires eventually devour themselves."
Nader believes the Occupy movement was a good first step in combating this tyranny, but the movement lacked leadership and organization. He's optimistic though. "It'll come back. [In] every society that allows the concentration of power in few hands and injustice and a of blocking of solutions... people have a breaking point, and you see this all around the world."
Nader envisions a democracy in which competing views can be heard, and a political system free of the confines of a two-party system. As someone who has run for the presidency of the United States several times as a third-party candidate, he is an advocate for new agendas, different political parties and a more collaborative approach. "Both Canada and the U.S. are countries with problems that they don't deserve and tons of solutions that they don't apply," he said. The author and activist believes that the political left and the right should converge on issues that concern everyone such as poverty, health care and the environment. He hinted that this might be the topic of his next book.
Asked if he finds that people are disengaging from politics and activism, even in a the age of abundant digital information, Nader responded that it is a self-inflicted situation. "People often think 'I'm powerless, I can't affect anything'... it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your sense of powerlessness, multiplied by millions of people, turns into mass apathy."
Nader said that as more people educate themselves and get engaged, the more they can become empowered to create change. "The more you know about how the power structure manipulates us and how the combination of concentrated greed and power is at the bottom of it all -- the more motivated you are to change it," he said. "It's fact-driven moral indignation."
What keeps him going, at the age of 80? "A thirst for justice, and knowing that if we can reach enough people, we can make this such a wonderful society...so we become humanitarian superpower instead of a military superpower."