[Marxism] An unreasonable man

Louis Proyect 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 
present time.

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.

full: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/05/1532248





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