By ELLIANA KOPUT
Noam Chomsky had a conversation with David Barsamian at Pima Community College’s Proscenium Theatre on Nov. 4.
“Conversation on a Progressive Future” was a benefit for the magazine “Progressive.”
Chomsky is a political activist, cognitive scientist and renowned scholar. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. Chomsky was a member in the Harvard Society of Fellows, and has taught linguistics around the world, including at the University of Arizona.
David Barsamian, an investigative journalist and the founder of Alternative Radio, has collaborated with Chomsky in many conversations and non-fiction works. He lectures on economic and political systems, world affairs, media and revolution.
The Progressive, “a voice for peace, social justice, and the common good,” is a Madison, Wisconsin-based magazine. It aims to promote Left-Wing politics that uplift common good, free speech and nonviolence. The magazine began its career in 1909, founded by Sen. Bob La Follette and his wife, Belle.
Attendees, young and old, gathered to witness the theories and motivations of Chomsky.
“He’s only one of the most progressive voices of our time!” exclaimed a woman, who was frantically awaiting the opening of the doors.
Chomsky addressed a series of questions gathered and facilitated by Barsamian. Together, they regarded many current affairs and comparisons between world politics and the United States.
The topic of Chilean economics emerged alongside questions and considerations for U.S. citizens, especially milennials and the working class.
“There’s something in the air,” Barsamian quoted an article from The Economist, “Why are so many countries witnessing mass protesting?… All of the countries that have been demonstrating in really unparalleled numbers, hundreds of thousands of people have gathered from Santiago, Chile, to Beirut, Lebanon, to Sudan, to Hong Kong, Haiti, country after country … Iraq. What is prompting this massive upsurge in citizen activism?
“Well of course, each country we look at has its own particularities, special reasons,” Chomsky began. “But there are some common features, which are often captured pretty well by the demonstrator in Chile, whose comment became a slogan at the huge demonstration, is that ‘It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.’ ”
Citizens of Chile have risen in protest of severe economic inequality. Chilean president Sebastián Piñera recently made the decision to increase the cost of public transportation. The majority of those who use this system belong to the lower and working classes and have struggled in the past to meet the already outlandish prices.
According to labornotes.org: “70 percent of Chilean workers make less than $700 (U.S.) per month. The median pension is $70 per month for men and less than $26 for women. The average household in Chile has total debts equivalent to 70 percent of their yearly income, making it very hard to get out of debt.”
“That’s roughly the period of the neo-liberal programs that took over much of the world. They have pretty have pretty deleterious effects for the general population. There’s other factors in other countries,” Chomsky continued. “Meanwhile, (in the United States) 0.1 percent, not 1 percent, 0.1 percent of the population have over 20 percent of the country’s wealth. That’s been increasing since the Great Recession.
“The United States is pretty extreme in this respect with all of the other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development),” Chomsky said.
Chomsky explained that while the disparities of Chile and the United States are not equal, they are comparable.
“Normally most of those would have some form of national healthcare,” Chomsky said. “The result is that the cost is about twice as high, as the average, to live. The discontent is extreme for the first time in over a century.
“As you probably know, mortality is increasing, particularly among the working age sector of the white population. Mortality is increasing; that hasn’t happened anywhere in a developed society since the huge flu epidemic a century ago.”
Chomsky continued to identify social implications of imbalanced economic concentration in the United States, including financial stagnation among individuals and the decline in functioning democracy due to campaign buyouts.
While the issue of economic and social inequality is nearly impossible to pinpoint in short dialogue, Chomsky clearly advocated for the working class, the “general population,” of the nation and the globe.
“Requiem for the American Dream,” a book outlining Chomsky’s analysis of neoliberalism, provides a greater disclosure to the issues of economic disparities and fulfillment in the United States.