N: We were really curious as to what in your background made you get into this line of work and drew you to this in terms of your parents, your upbringing or what in that area you felt lacking in.
R: Well, there would be probably three places. The first would be a television program when I was growing up, "You are There." I was fascinated by that program, and I remember saying to myself, "Wow, just think if we'd had film or tape recorders or whatever back in those days, wouldn't that have been great; and wouldn't it be great to record this for posterity now instead of having an interpretive thing." Then, later on, I would go to conferences and hear incredible speakers and I would try to tell people about it and they would either want to know more about it or else the leaders of the organization who also went to the event would say things like, "Oh, well, it wasn't all that great a conference, or whatever."
M: Who impressed you particularly?
R: No, one person, just the events impressed me, that here I was with other
people that felt similar and we were hearing information that we hadn't heard
before. The final reason that I am doing this is that I got a history degree
at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Then I had also wanted to make
a film. I started thinking to myself that we should be out there taping
things that go on in America because we are much bigger than what people and
the media tell us we are, so let's start sharing this information.
Two other things happened that led to this. One was that during the early '80s I got involved with a Reggae band up here in Central Maine. I'd go around and help tape them, and so after a while the head of the band would let me borrow his recording equipment. Whenever I would go to these events, conferences, I would start taping them and bring the tapes back for people to listen to. And then in 1988 I fell through a ceiling. I was very, very seriously injured in a work accident that put me on worker's compensation. I got permission from all the lawyers to start doing this recording on a part-time basis, because I knew then I would never be able to get back to the line of work I had been involved in, which was working as a construction estimator. And, so, here I am today still trying to make a living out of this sort of thing. So, it is no one person, it is just the general events of the times and the desire to record those events and make sure that future generations will have an opportunity to either listen or hear the events, the speakers and the times.
M: Do you get a good response from your listeners? How broad is your audience?
R: That's the problem, I don't have that many listeners, in terms of being heard through the radio stations. I'm banned on almost all public radio stations, because I will not sign on to their censorship requirements—except they call it "word editing." Are you familiar with C-Span?
M: Yes. L: I am the C Span of the left.
M: Is that why you get censored?
R: Well, most community-based public radio stations require that every show has to be either twenty-nine minutes or fifty-nine minutes. In the early days of radio, even every song had to be a certain number of minutes long. Later a whole new form of radio station was created where they played music no matter how long it was, and then later in our history comes along C-Span, which plays not only Congress unedited, but they carry events and speakers unedited too. Most radio stations hate that; they think of twenty-nine minutes and fifty- nine minutes.
M: I don't think there is any kind of prior, even self-censorship on our local public station.
R: Oh, there is in America, believe me there is. There is always censorship in America. The first question to be askedof them is, "Is your radio station democratic? Is the Board of Directors of your radio station elected or is it an appointed Board?" If we are going to have community-based public radio there have to be some conditions met first.
M: If it is a good station that brings people in on a very broad spectrum of concerns and gives space for the kinds of things that you are doing on your radio, why criticise them on theoretical grounds? I don't define democracy theoretically, because people are people and I want to have people around me that I can work with so that we form a cohesive, cooperative unit. I don't see that creating a self-chosen Board is necessarily going to have that result. If you have a job to do, you want to get the job done the best way that you can, otherwise you aren't going to be there.
R: Then don't go around saying that you have a public radio station or
community- based radio station. Say, "We are a radio station controlled by a
small group of people that is going to do what is right for you." I was
involved in civil rights stuff and I can remember the SNCC people saying,
"Excuse me, but you older white people are not going to liberate us. We are
going to liberate ourselves."
I look at it from the bottom up, I don't want some system out there telling me it is doing something for me and that I have no right to choose who its leaders are, who its representatives are. Do you understand what I am saying? It is sort of a dictatorship.
M: When you are talking about radios, you are talking about each listener in his own house making up his own mind whether or not he thinks you are doing a good job. Our local public radio station raises three hundred and fifty thousand dollars three times a year. If people who think they are doing a good job, not just ideologically but in terms of offering a broad spectrum of views that enable people to make up their own minds about what they think the truth can really be or is, then they will pledge. How much better can you get?
R: The problem is that poor people who have no money to donate don't have
anything to say about that system. A public radio station is a public entity.
The license was granted to the public, and it is up for private hands to grab
onto. So, just like everything else within our public system, we have got to
figure out a way to elect a Board of Directors for that radio station. What
happens after a while with all those systems is that management takes over the
Board of Directors.
I don't care about commercial radio and private radio, they can do whatever they want, but with a public radio or a community-based radio station we are in a whole new thing. That is democracy, that is government, that is for the public. And you know, the thing about raising money and so on, again, why does that have to do anything with it, especially if you notice that the people who contribute the most money get on the Board of Directors? I have seen places where they have become democratic and it has changed things and improved things.
M: I have too, but you are making a generalization.
R: No, it's just that I remember that back in the late '60s or early '70s with the Model Cities program, more and more people started getting involved in government, more and more participation, and things started changing. So the first thing the Feds and the state government do, is, "Hey, lets get rid of these democratic systems." It's like Chomsky says, "When people start being able to say where they want their school located, how they want their roads to be repaired and things like that, they are getting involved in government."
M: You know it is not that I disagree with you about your premise, as a generalization, but when the first response you make to anything you hear is, "Ah ha, this is no good, because it doesn't fit the definition, that is where I would say, it sounds to me that maybe you are living in a world of white hats and black hats and I thought we'd gotten beyond that.
R: Oh, no, ma'am, we haven't (laughing)!!!
M: But if you bring the model of "good guys" and "bad guys" to the issue of marriage, marriages don't survive.
R: Well, first of all, you are talking to a person who is not very interested in marriage. I take the same view of marriage as Emma Goldman that it is legalized prostitution.
M: Marriage would be easier if we had an environment in which people acknowledged the fact that they are not always right. People who see life in terms of good guys and bad guys aren't always making such distinctions. We have both kinds of issues in this country. There are some issues where you have to choose, like flipping a light switch. A jury says you are either guilty or you are innocent. That is the issue of power, because we are all human beings. But look at Israel. They have applied that same idea that we are the guys with the white hats, and the Palestinians wear the black hats. This is what men do to women. We are the guys with the white hats, the women wear the black hats. Whenever you polarize, you have to oversimplify somewhat. When are we going to get to human faces?
R: I don't know. But along the way I just want to make sure that everybody has an equal say, an equal input.
N: You have contact with a lot of people who are saying things that the public doesn't often hear. Do you hear them saying how we can get to the human level? Do they have solutions, other than just getting the information out?
R: No, they are actually not getting that much information out. That is one of the things that I am discovering every day. And the other problem I am discovering is that a lot of these organizations now who put on these events and so on have just given up totally in terms of both regular media and alternative media. I just recently talked to the people who are the Democratic Socialists of America in the Boston area. They had an event coming up. I said, "Well, did you contact the media? "No." "Did you contact the alternative media?" "No." "Well, why didn't you? Don't you want people to know about this" "Oh, I don't know if you do or not." When they said that, I realized, wait a minute, what are we battling up against here? You know, one of the problems of the left is that we don't get information out to people. I find in this day and age we are even doing less. I don't even think that they realize we have alternative media because a lot of people hardly ever see it.
M: It's true in other areas of conflict. People seem reluctant to stand and fight for what they know is right. For example, the government of New York State is conducting a kind of witch hunt right now against midwifery. We are associated with just about the only midwife who hasn't run for cover. The other midwives do their practice under cover. It has led to disaster. One women was handcuffed and led away to jail because the midwives in New York State had not come out publicly as a group and fought for the kinds of regulations that they need in order to do their job. We are right here in Albany and so we have been toe to toe with the legislative committee that is trying to establish the criteria for the credentialization of midwives. When you pull back and refuse to fight, you allow the others to take over. This is exactly the problem that I see with polarizing. People become very paranoid and they think that everybody is out to get them and they start hiding and they lose their effectiveness. Midwives need to work with doctors, not against them.
R: I see another thing here. There is a book calledFatal Masochism in
Everyday Life. It is an incredible book that shows that we don't need a
police state in America, because we have a self-policing state. But we keep
forgetting about that. One good example is community-based radio—they are
constantly censoring themselves. "We won't put this on; we can't put that on;
we have restricted this; we will play our stuff during the day and we will
play music at night." Well, how many working-class people get to listen to the
stuff unless they are listening at night? And we have this continuously
throughout our society. The one thing that we lack, and I keep talking to
people about this, is democracy within our society. Go into the archives in
City Hall and ask to take a look at a ballot from the 1930's. When you pick up
that ballot you will see sometimes it is three, four, maybe five pages long.
The reason is because we elected everybody then. The Commissioner of Public
Health was elected, judges were elected—it was just incredible. During the
last fifty years, the number of positions elected at the local level have
decreased by something like close to 70%, because we have moved professionals
into these positions. Now we appoint good professional people who can do the
self-censoring. I have been elected twice in my life and I went to work right
away! I didn't get re-elected but boy, I made some changes during that period
of time. And that is why I am constantly harping on democracy.
Let's go back to your thing about the midwives and medical practice. One of the ways in which MDs took over in America is that during the late 1800s there became the issue of public health in America. Towns started doing something about it and started electing Boards of Health. When those Boards of Health were first created they were elected and they involved all kinds of people within the community. What is even more interesting is that they involved herbalists, homeopaths; all kinds of alternative medicine people were on those Boards. What eventually happened was that the medical profession through their economic pressure was able to pressure the communities into making these Boards appointed and then only appointing professional people. Therefore, the MDs got in and took over and then basically created a system whereby they would be the only people allowed to do medical work.
From the point when it went from elective to appointive it was used as a tool of oppression as opposed to a tool of expression, if I can do a Jesse Jackson thing there. Something that we have to think about is that we have had in the past democratic systems and we have destroyed them. Again, going back to what I said about Model Cities in the late 60s and early 70s, all kinds of citizens' communities were created. Probably because of the funding of that time, some of those citizens' communities had to be elected instead of being appointed. I worked in two different cities where that happened, where neighborhood Boards had to be elected instead of appointed. And things started changing overnight in those communities. Yes, there was strife, yes, there were people who saw issues in terms of "white hat, black hat," and so on, but at least people had a chance to get involved and they didn't have to worry about being appointed—they were elected. It makes a whole big difference, because when you get appointed and you're working for someone, you get pressure, whereas if you get elected, there is less chance to put pressure on you.
M: What do you think is the biggest problem we face for the next several decades to come?
R: Economic disparity in America. The gulf is widening, and creates all kinds
of problems within our society in terms of equality, in terms of expression,
in terms of input. Everything that women have gained in the last seventy
years is going to be lost.
There is a magazine put out by prisoners for prisoners to use all around the country that reports on problems in the prisons. An article in a recent issue of the magazine makes the point that prisons are the growing institution in America. They are slowly replacing colleges, universities and so on. The author says, "I have seen black people in prison, I have seen white people in prison, I have seen Latinos in prison, the one group of people I haven't seen in prison are rich people." And he notes in this article how people like Jim Bakker and some of the other rich folks over the years have been treated. Not only did they get all kinds of special attention when they went to prison, but they were released early, not a matter of being on probation or anything like that, they were just released early. And that doesn't happen to everybody.
M: How do you propose addressing this issue of prejudice against the poor and the non-white races?
R: Let's get rid of the poor, and let's give rich people some of that justice that they have been missing out on for so many years.
M: How do we get rid of the poor?
R: First of all, instead of having minimum wage we can have a maximum wage law that says you can't make over a certain amount. I don't joke about that. Right now the Congress is dealing with the inheritance tax. In the 1930s Huey Long, when he was in the United States Senate along with six other senators, tried to enact a law that nobody in America could inherit over one million dollars. That is one way to start putting some restrictions on wealth.
N: What was their proposal? If you were supposed to inherit more than a million dollars, what happened to the rest of the money?
R: It went into the General Fund of the government.
M: That's what the income tax was supposed to take care of.
R: Right, and it doesn't. Income tax is used as a tool against the poor also.
M: Whatever man can devise to change a system can be neutralized by equally applied ingenuity on the other side. It's part of human nature. If people want to get rich because of the status of wealth in our country they are going to do it by whatever means they can devise.
R: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. We need to bust up America. America is just too big.
M: But it's not going to happen. NYNEX and Bell Atlantic are talking about joining forces, and also American Airlines and British Airways. It's as though you are talking about "belling the cat," which is a wonderful idea, but who is going to do it? How is it going to get done?
R: Well, one of the ways that America retains its power is because of its police forces and its army. Imagine that you don't have America any more and imagine that you don't have those armies any more. And there is nothing wrong with imagining that. Also imagine five, six, ten, twenty, maybe thirty nations here in North America. That is what we have to start working for, and that is why I am an anarchist. Long time ago I read E. F. Shumacher's Small Is Beautiful, Eonomics as if People Mattered. I remember saying to myself, "You know, if this is good for economics, it is good for government too." The problem is that we have this huge government.
M: How are you going to get there? We can dream up an ideological scenario or fantasy about how it should be, but in terms of real people and how they operate, and it's all true, but it doesn't help. How are we going to do it?
R: Okay, first of all, you have to have the contexts of history in order to do that.
M: Many graduates of our schools don't even know who Vasco Di Gama was, let alone more recent leaders. We are not getting kids out of the education mill that are capable of thinking clearly.
R: Well, this is where I turn back to what Nader talks about. Nader says that in our school system, we do not teach people how to live in a democracy. Everything is actually designed to teach people not to think. E: Right, right, that is what John Gatto says.
R: Also you are not taught this beautiful rich history that we have. That is
one of the things I try to do. For instance, I try to record people when they
are talking about workers in the thirties and forties and things like that,
because when people realize that people in America went up against greater
obstacles then what we have and made tremendous changes, then that serves as a
model for them in the future. One of the things that Chomsky says to the
people when they ask him. "How do we do it?" he says, "Look what happened
before you. Read back about the workers and the CIO, read back about the Irish
women at the turn of the century that organized unions in Boston, read back
about those working class women who organized unions and then put out their
own newspapers, read about the civil rights movement," that is another area
that I would like to work on.
I see myself as two things: one, as a historian, because I am recording this primary source, and second, as a teacher. I get letters every once in a while from people who say, "I work on an assembly line and I listen to your tapes. I drive to work. It takes me an hour every day and I listen to your tapes." So I feel as though I am doing my job in terms of retrieving this information which would have been lost, putting it on audio tape for those who don't have the time to read and maybe don't enjoy reading everything, but like to listen to the voice, and getting that out. And I try to do it in such a way that I give you voices you generally don't hear. David Barsamian does a good job of that. I owe David a lot, but I know that he is restricted too.
M: Your range of taping is magnificent. I noticed you include Elaine Pagels and the Gnostic Gospels.
R: I want to do everything on the left, believe it or not. Sometime within the next two years I want to start doing tapes with professional athletes to show how their organizing goes on. I want to show people that the Green Bay Packers is a socialist team. Were you aware of that?
N & M: No (laughing).
R: Yes, the Green Bay Packers is one-third owned by the city. E: Yeah, I heard that.
R: The key thing there is that the community has control over it, so therefore, they can't just pick up and move out some day and also they control the revenues. You know, throughout Europe all the sports teams are controlled by the communities, and they turn that money back into the community. Here in America, of course, thanks to private ownership... Let me give you a better idea of this. Take Crock, the guy that created McDonald's. When he died, his wife was very liberal, the complete opposite of him. She put money into the democratic party and all kinds of groups. Her husband owned the San Diego Padres. She wanted to give the San Diego Padres baseball team to the city of San Diego, but the owners met, and since it is a monopoly they voted no way. Why? Because when they turned that baseball team over to a public group for the first time ever, the books would be open to the public, and you would find out that George Steinbrenner is making a fortune even though he hasn't paid his rent on Yankee Stadium for close to seven years now, and all of these things. Another important role within the democracy is that when you make more and more things public, you become more and more aware of them.
N: Since we are interviewing you for our issue on lying. I am going to ask you a very broad question. What in your opinion, and from what you hear from all the people you tape, is the biggest lie in America?
R: Recently Phil Berrigan and others in the Prince of Peace group were arrested. This was way back in February at the Bath Ironworks, which is actually owned by General Dynamics, but you don't want to tell the Maine people that it is owned by General Dynamics because they will think, oh, big corporation. I mean the Maine people know it but it is a PR thing, a big lie. Berrigan went in with the others and they damaged the wheel house and spread blood around and then they were arrested. Then they came back for another day and the federal agents came and arrested them and I arrived after that and I taped John Shuchard. I was able to record a seven minute speech that John Shuchard gave out on the streets in Bath about the biggest lie in the world, and that was the lie told during the Cold War. "Oh, we have to fight these Communists, we have to have this big defense system, but don't you worry, after this Cold War is over with, you will have brand new hospitals, you will have brand new highways and so on." Well, the Cold War is over, and that is the lie—we going to fight this person here, we going to fight that person there, and when it is all over we will be able to share the blessings of America with everyone.
N: We were also wondering how all this information that you get out there affects you personally, how you feel inside?
R: It depends on what I am taping. A couple of years ago it really depressed
me, because of the information that I was getting. During the past year I have
been extremely uplifted. For instance, I tape every year an event called the
Socialist Scholars Conference. This is the best conference in America that I
have ever been to. It is held every year in New York City. On Easter weekend,
about two to five thousand people will pass through over a three day period.
They will have over one hundred workshops panels with incredible people. They
also bring in people from overseas. Back in 1991 I remember meeting Green
Party people from what was then Yugoslavia. I have met people who run workers'
organization in Japan, so it is a good place not only to network but to also
find out what is going on in the world.
This year what I found out from a representative of the French Workers was that they were predicting that they were going to win, and the predictions were also in that Labor was going to win in Great Britain. The biggest prediction was how in Brazil next year the workers' party will win by about five to seven percentage points. I know now that there is a rollback going on around the world and people are fighting back and are winning places, as long as they are allowed a democratic chance. You have to look at Israel and Palestine. It is a totally different thing over there because it is non- democratic. But even in places like Chile they are now starting to get some changes. It looks as though they may change their social security system back to being public, as opposed to a private one. So, I am very uplifted. That book, Our Bodies Our Selves has been translated into over eighty-five languages and is leading a revolt throughout the world, not only in terms of health care but also in terms of citizen involvement in health care so that you are no longer dependent upon the professions to run everything. A few years ago I taped a woman from Kenya, a professional person, a university professor. She noticed the women in her country were always having these problems finding firewood for cooking, so, she organized the women in Kenya to go out and plant trees. At that event someone got up and said, "I would like to come to Kenya and work with you. My husband is a professional forester." Do you know what she said? "Thank you very much, but we do not want to have him there, because our people are not professionals and if you bring the professional in, it changes it and it makes it non-democratic." In the last few years you have seen what has been going on in Kenya—a struggle for democracy and for the right to elect their leaders.
M: My quarrel with the notion of just democracy per se is that people who come out of a non-democratic education system are not really in a position to establish true democracy, which necessitates not just head count and polarizing but thrashing out the problem until you get all the way to the roots of the thing so that you acquire at least some form of consensus. To me that is more human than just pro forma democracy, because when someone is elected, you just get whoever gets in there. They will vote their convictions, but you don't necessarily get something that is directly related to the solution of the problem you are trying to solve. Bbecause of the influence of television and advertising, plus the media and mass education, kids get hooked before they are even able to speak in total sentences. So you sound old fashioned to me.
R: The word democracy to me is like possibly the word equality used to a woman. You know her basic belief would be equality and how she defines equality would come into play later. But here is the basic. But to me democracy is the base. Without the democracy you have nothing.
M: Democracy and equality are both inner qualities before they get translated to the outside, and that to me is the question. How does one acquire the inner? You've got it, I've got it, but an awful lot of people don't have it and they are never going to get it, no matter how much power they may acquire.
R: Going back to that Model Cities program in the 60s, I have seen people get on to city boards or commissions or communities and I have seen a certain change in their lives; they start feeling that they have a possibility of changing things. They develop hope. One of the things that we are constantly getting from the media pundits now as to why we are having low voter turn out is because nobody believes anything will happen so they have lost hope within their democratic system. What I want to do is to provide information to tell people that you can have hope. The government did not give people forty-hour work weeks. They fought and they won them. The government did not give workers and businesses did not give health care benefits. They fought for it and they won it and they won it in democratic ways. They went out, they organized, they came together in groups, they elected representatives, they marched, they did all the things that you do in a democracy.
M: Some of the stories you hear about people's ideas about nature of democracy upset me. For example, there was a thing on NPR the other day about the impossible idea that working class people can just go buy stock and then they will all join the capitalist class and everyone will be happy. The program was pointing out the illogic there, that this is never going to happen. In the first place, it is the wrong time, it is ten years too late—if they wanted to get in on the market they should have started ten years ago—and secondly, all their income is taken up in just surviving.
R: Besides that, if everybody looks forward to a day where they can sit around consciously worrying about what their stocks are doing or whatever, twenty- four hours a day. I mean, excuse me, aren't we supposed to provide people with a decent life in America? I pay my money to my government, not because I can have a nuclear submarine, not because I can finance the government, but because I can have health care, a decent education, housing, streets, recreation and food.
M: But, what do you think about capitalism?
R: First of all, we should remove all supports, all government supports for capitalism for five years and during that five years it will wither away.
N: Tell me, for somebody like me, what does it look like to remove government support from capitalism? Explain that a little bit.
R: Capitalism exists because of government support. It could not exist any other way.
M: You are referring to the "corporate welfare" that Ralph Nader talks about?
R: Yes. For instance, these highways that we build. If businesses had to pay for their actually use of them, we citizens would never have to pay for anything. The whole airport system in America is incredibly subsidized. The whole airline industry. When you look at all the things, like, excuse me, isn't it time for the railroad companies to pay us back? Again, the whole big thing in Microsoft computers and so on, none of that would have ever come around without government funding.
N: What about the farmers? The farmers are subsidized too. What do you think about that?
R: Well, first of all the farmers that are subsidized are not usually small farmers. If you look at a lot of the US Dept. of Agriculture guidelines for subsidies and so on, they generally don't apply to farms of under two hundred acres. I grew up in South Champagne-Urbana, Illinois. That was farmland and small farmers went out of existence maybe twenty-five years ago. If you have a farm there now you own three, four thousand acres and that makes you eligible for the grants and everything like that. But most of these farmers that have gone under, they haven't gone under because of subsidies like that, they have gone under because if you are under that certain size you have to take out guaranteed loans. But that is where they do the foreclosing on the people who took out the guaranteed loans. I don't know if you know how farmers work. Most farmers borrow seed money in the spring and then pay back the loan in the fall.
M: What about the freedom to take surplus money and invest in the stock market, thereby making more money and the more you do that, the richer you get? What about that level? It's the stock market level in capitalism that really bothers me.
R: Well, you know, I have a lot of problems with stock markets. I don't see that as capitalism. I see that as gambling.
N: Yes, that is right.
R: You know, there are even people in the business world that don't like the stock market idea and feel it's too great a risk area in which to manipulate businesses and to manipulate the government. So I guess overall I would be opposed to stocks in any kind of economic system. It is very interesting that a lot of this depends on usury. When you go back to the Middle Ages, usury was something that was banned at one time in this world. I had the opportunity to get to Israel and the occupied territories. I'd known about the Islamic law against usury, but it was really made clear then. So and so borrowed a thousand dollars to build a business and they were going to pay back one thousand dollars. No interest. I am a big believer in a religious sense of a jubilee concept. Every seven years, ten years or whatever, you reorganize all the wealth. It makes sense to me because one of the problems that we constantly have is that after a while wealth becomes centered in certain families that take over.
N: I wanted to go back to your statement agreeing with Emma Goldman about marriage as legalized prostition. Was that personal or historical?
R: Mainly historical, although my own parents didn't get along at all well. A while ago I read a book on same-sex marriage in the church that showed the Catholic church up until at least the 18th century sanctioned same-sex marriages. I also know during the same time that Luther was leading his little rebellion in Germany, down in the area known as Bohemia, peasants were revolting and setting up free love communes, no longer wanting to be restricted by this thing of well, you just have to bear with one person. I remember when I first came across Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger and starting to read what they said about marriage during that period I starting thinking, "Why restrict human beings to this type of bond for the rest of your lives? It just doesn't make any sense," and so I started taking a look at different types of living arrangements. But marriage as we know it in America right now is almost like economic servitude.
M: I agree with a great deal of what you are saying but there is also an issue of when there are children, children are entitled to know that they have two parents and that they have equal access to each one of them and that they are not fighting and destroying each other's well being. We don't have that in this country.
R: Well, you know what? We didn't have it when I was growing up and my parents weren't divorced. In some ways, looking back upon that period, I would have liked it if my parents had gotten divorced.
M: I am not saying that these family groups I am talking about would necessarily have the marriage bond. That puts it into a governmental dimension and means that you have to get unhooked, which it is very painful and difficult, but nevertheless, when children are small and as they grow older they do need equal access to male and female as models and they need to have the feeling of a relatively conflict-free relationship, a reasonably stable relationship; otherwise you are damaging the next generation. How do you suggest we do that?
R: I don't have any suggestions. I grew up in a totally dysfunctional family. I have no idea what a good marriage, a good family relationship, is. And most of us don't. What I do know is, from a very early day, realizing the impact that economics had within the family unit, how we were all constantly struggling to get ahead and how it was all controlled, either by my father or by outside forces. We were all economically dependent, and I could see that at a very early age. As far as emotional support from my parents went, I got some of that, but a lot of it was manipulative.
M: Responding to your statement brings up for me the issue of upward mobility, always striving to get more and more and experiencing a lot of unhappiness. It seems to me we could learn to live much more simply and be satisfied with the kinds of things I grew up with as a New Englander in a village—finding an apple in my Christmas stocking, that kind of thing, and thinking, wow, that is wonderful. If we were not so influenced by looking at how "the other half" lives, would we feel so totally dissatisfied with whatever we had got?
R: That is a real tough one, because there are a lot of things that are running through my head. First of all, the role that the extended family plays in any family is very important. To depend upon just a mother and father to raise a child is the most absolutely insane thing I have ever heard.
M: It certainly is.
R: You know, you need other people to do that, and you need other role models for the children to look at. In our society consumerism is the number one thing. I just can't help but think that capitalism hates families. It really does because in fact what capitalism loves more than anything else is divorce. Because then instead of one refrigerator you have two refrigerators, one T.V. you've got two T.V.'s, instead of one apartment you have two apartments. I think they want to see us eventually break down to where one individual is watching a T.V. and is buying, buying. So, how do you reverse that? I am stuck on that question, I still tape a lot of people in that regard. Mostly environmentalists who talk about our need to get to some type of simplicity. I am very much aware of the back-to-the-land movement that occurred many years ago and still goes on here in Maine.
N: I am going to answer my own question that I posed to you half an hour ago about the biggest lie in our country. I believe the biggest lie in our country is that there will never be an end to anything, that there will always be plenty of everything and we can keep going exactly as we are going.
R: That sounds like a good lie too. I don't think we ever do a good job in
America of teaching kids how lucky we are. In terms of natural resources
alone, this country is absolutely incredible. Take water, in comparison with
the rest of the world and the amount of fresh water they have within their
borders. For instance if Mexico had been a little bit stronger there would
have been a big fight over the Colorado River. This is a nation that blocked
out the Colorado River so that eventually when it did enter Mexico there was
nothing more than a trickle. There is this arrogance that allows us to be that
strong and again something we forget about, but again going back to our
incredible rich resources, our weather systems and everything like that. So,
yeah you are right that is a pretty big lie that we will never run out of
anything, we will always have it.
Let me share this with you. Having a family is the most vulnerable thing that you can do in the whole world. When Brazil created a workers' democracy in the early '60s we sent a man by the name of General Vernon Walters down there and he engineered eventually the military overthrow of the government. Vernon Walters was an innovative man, and he knew that you couldn't bring people into a room and torture them, they would not talk to you. He developed this whole new system. Bring the person in and sit them down and bring their child in and torture the child. That person talked. One of the reasons I never had any children is because I was always afraid of their being able to use that against me some day.
M: In one sense of the word, children are held hostage in public schools, because of the coerciveness of public education, and that fact is upsetting a lot of families. Are you aware of the rapid growth of the homeschooling movement?
R: Yes, I am but I am not too sure if that is the answer either, because that seems like the topless dancer, eventually you will have a homeschooling system so everyone will have to go out and buy this and buy that and get approved here and so on. There are a lot of reasons I believe in collectivization, I believe in bringing kids together, I think that it is extremely important. But it's also sort of like how we treated the American Indians. We took away their child or children when they were four years old.
M: Watch it when you say collectivism. That can be anti-democratic.
R: Collectivization in a voluntary system is totally different from collectivization in a forced system. It is like sex, when it is forced it is horrible; when sex is enjoyed by everybody, it is great. M & N: (laughing)
M: You have been as democratic as an interviewee as anyone we have ever talked with. You live your beliefs.
R: I try to do the thing about wearing your beliefs on your shoulder or your arm or whatever. You know what, let me close at that. That opens so many doors. Whenever people call me up, they ask, "Why take the left? What is that?" I will explain what it is, and they will say, "Well, you know, I feel that way." Recently a telemarketer had called me up and we started talking and she said to me, "Well, you know, I do that," and then she started talking about her involvement in In Fact. In Fact is the group that led the Nestlé boycott. She got involved through her church and does lobbying throughout the state. But again most of us out there work for "the man" and so we have to keep our mouths quiet, but it is amazing' there are more of us out there then we realize.
M: I think that is true, David Korten is saying that too.
R: Yes, David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World.
M: He is saying there are more coming up from underneath, bubbling up, the mix is starting to go.
N: Thank you, Roger.
M: Thank you very much.
R: Okay, thank you. Bye, Bye.
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