[Marxism] An unreasonable man
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 5 17:34:49 MST 2007
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, at the same time that An Unreasonable Man
has been released, you have a new small book out called The Seventeen
Traditions, which is different from the other books that you have
written. It's very much about your family life, how you grew up in
Winsted, Connecticut. Can you talk about what the seventeen traditions are?
RALPH NADER: Well, there are seventeen ways my mother and father
raised their four children -- two girls and two boys -- in this
factory town crossed by two rivers and highlighted by a wonderful
lake in northwest Connecticut. And I call them "traditions," because
I would like to encourage other families to look into their own
wisdom and insight and experience in their generation line -- say,
grandparents and great aunts and uncles and parents -- because if
those traditions are lost, they're lost forever, and they're not
transferred to young people who often are adrift in periods of
change. So, we have the tradition of learning, was the first one in
the book. My mother said you have to learn to listen, and if you
learn to listen, then you'll listen and learn, something I wish
George Bush was raised to do. We have a tradition of history. They
would always immerse us in history at the dinner table, and we'd have
books about history. So, we have stamp collections to teach us geography.
Then there are traditions of charity, traditions of business. My
father had a restaurant, where they said for a nickel you got a cup
of coffee and ten minutes of politics. So it was a big restaurant
with a lot of politics from the workers in the textile mills, of the
jurors on the lunch break from the courtroom, and salespeople and
doctors and carpenters, you name it.
Traditions like the tradition of scarcity; they never overloaded us
with things so we wouldn't appreciate them. There was a tradition of
simple enjoyments, not commercial enjoyments today, like a $100
Nintendo toy. We had bicycles. We had puzzles. We had hiking in the
woods and the fields, etc.
There were tradition of civics. We watched our parents, while they
took us to the town meetings and the courtroom. But we watched them
active in the community and absorbed that kind of family value. Civic
values, they saw, were family values. And so, there were these kinds
of traditions of health, for example, and teaching us to take care of
ourselves. These are the traditions that raised us.
The other day, watching George W. Bush, it occurred to me that if
mother raised George W. Bush, we wouldn't be in the Iraq war at the
AMY GOODMAN: Both your parents were born in Lebanon?
RALPH NADER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And you went back to Lebanon with your brothers and
sisters when you were little? Your mother took you there for about a year?
RALPH NADER: Yes. I was about three and a half.
AMY GOODMAN: And how does that influence your worldview today?
RALPH NADER: Well, obviously, it gave us a bigger arc of concern and
interest in the world. I mean, we went to the ancient ruins in
Baalbek in Lebanon. We obviously were immersed in the culture there.
We learned the language. We learned the lore of our background, our
great great grandparents. You know, there was an oral tradition
there. We learned how to ride donkeys, too.
AMY GOODMAN: The bombing of Lebanon this past summer and the Iraq
war, what does your being an Arab American -- how do you feel that
informs your view?
RALPH NADER: Well, you don't have to be an Arab American. You just
have to be interested in understanding historical precedence. For
example, Iran's prime minister was overthrown by our country in 1953.
The US government under Reagan encouraged and supplied Saddam Hussein
with the materials to invade Iran and slice it off for -- part of it
off for Iraq. We have labeled Iran an axis of evil. That has a
tremendous impact, especially since we did it to Iraq and invaded
them next door, has a tremendous impact on a proud Persian history. I
mean, there was a time when they were the dominant force in the
world, and they remember those things. And they feel humiliated.
George W. Bush came to the presidency. I think he had been abroad
once or twice. He didn't know anything about world history. And he
was proud of saying he didn't read newspapers. He was proud of his
ignorance. And we're paying the price for that. It's not just his
obsession. It's not just his messianic militarism. It's his profound ignorance.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, your father used to ask you, "What did you
learn in school today?"
RALPH NADER: Yeah. One day I went home and in the backyard, and he
said, "Ralph, what did you learn in school today? Did you learn how
to believe or did you learn how to think?"
Another event I remember in the backyard -- a beautiful spring day,
my parents were there with my siblings -- and my mother said, "How
much is a dozen eggs?" We knew all the prices, because we were
restauranteurs' children. And so, she said, "How much is a bushel of
apples? How much is a pound of butter?" And then she stopped and she
looked up, and she said, "Nice cool breeze, isn't it? How much is
that? What's that sunshine worth? Look at those birds. Hear those
birds singing those beautiful songs. What price should we put on
that?" That really at an early age taught me that there are certain
things that should be never for sale. And that's, in our democracy,
elections should never be for sale. Politicians should never be for
sale. Teachers should never be for sale.
So, from those seventeen traditions, I developed a linkage with the
civic advocacy and things that I wrote and spoke about as an adult.
And I think that people are very interested in this book, because
it's personal, it has good stories about life in New England at that
time, which will resonate with parents and children in terms of their
own recollections. I think people have to recollect more. They have
to rebuild the solidarity of their family line in a period of great
tumult and change, when they think that everything is out of control
around their lives, their jobs and their children.
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