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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/11/11

Harvey Wasserman on How We'll Survive and Win

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HARVEY WASSERMAN: The second thing"sorry?

DAVID SWANSON: Can we sort of specify how we do it? Educationally, we can do it. We can convince people of it but it seems that we have to either impeach and unelect and persuading judges to start reading the English language as if it's the English language or we have to go in and amend the constitution of the United States to specify that persons shall be persons and corporations shall be corporations and the two are not identical, which seems obvious but we would have to actually rewrite the constitution.

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Yeah, so we'll have to rewrite the constitution. It'll take a constitutional amendment probably or something on that scale to do it; although, we could do its state by state. The strategy for changing this is just starting to be worked out. There are people who are proposing various legal remedies that would change the nature of corporations. I don't know exactly what's going to work. These next four things, these big political changes people say well how are you going to do that, how are you going to win and one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, Shakespeare In Love, is how they keep asking the ".

DAVID SWANSON: It's a mystery.

HARVEY WASSERMAN: By Jeffrey Rush, yeah, "How did this happen? I don't know, it's a mystery." It is a bit of a mystery. Were walking into new territory here but clearly the problem is identified. The problem is the legal requirement that corporations do nothing but make money. That is not sustainable and so all these gargantuan mega corporations, General Electric, Westinghouse, General Motors, all these other companies have to have a structural requirement to do something other than make money and we haven't figured that out yet. It's going to be an interesting process. It's going to take a while, but we don't have an alternative.

DAVID SWANSON: That's one of four things you said we need?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Yeah, the next one is to eliminate war. There was a discussion there between Chris Hedges and somebody else, I can remember the other person"

DAVID SWANSON: Paul Chappell.

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Yes, and people think that war is an inherent part of our nature. I'm not convinced. I think that war is the ultimate ecological destroyer. As Ben Franklin said, there's never been a good war, there's never been a bad peace. I tend to agree with that. You look back on the 20th century, you look at the Nazis, look at this and that, you can get into a whole debate and it's of interest, but we're in the 21st century now. I don't see any prospect on this planet for a good war, for a war that makes sense, for war that is sustainable and so these little wars against these evil dictators that all happened to be in the Middle East, you know, come on, what are we talking about, so was Saddam Hussein any worse than 20 other people around the planet who aren't sitting on oil wells, so war is not sustainable. That's a basic reality. War is not sustainable. We as a species have got to find a way to eliminate it as phenomenon. I think it's not only possible but necessary. Again, we're talking about the survival mechanism here. Our species with six, seven, eight billion people on this planet cannot sustain war as a phenomenon.
David: But that we need to do things to survive and that people work out their performances in Shakespearean plays and they don't know how I'd call it a mystery doesn't guarantee that we do the things we need to do and survive, right? It may be that we die and there are people who think it's already too late. I don't know at what point you think it will be too late but there's not some sort of guarantee that we make it is there?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Um, well, as someone who grew up on Disney movies"


HARVEY WASSERMAN: "I have five kids so I keep having to watch Disney movies and they always have a happy ending so you now, what can I tell you?

DAVID SWANSON: This is the real world!!! This is not a Disney movie.

HARVEY WASSERMAN: " well yes and no, but you have to look at our lives. My life, I guess I've just been spoiled rotten. My parents were wonderful people. They were Kennedy liberals. They were actually born, both my parents were born within a mile and a year of John Kennedy in Boston in 1918, so we grew up with the Kennedy idea. In 1962 I was 15. I went to my first demonstration and we tried to desegregate a roller rink here in Columbus, Ohio, and by god we did it. There were three of us and we had a demonstration and we got covered and the roller rink caved in. I've been spoiled ever since and I have seen in my lifetime as all of us have social movements that have worked and that have made a huge difference. As a historian, I look at race relations, I look at women, I look at the attitudes toward gays, I look at our successes in the antinuclear movement, I look at the movement against the war in Vietnam, terribly frustrating, full of failures, but in the long run we have a black president. We're not in Vietnam and things have changed. Things are terrible in many, many, many, many ways, there's absolutely no doubt about it but where the United States now is is entirely predictable. We are at the end of empire. It's always ugly. It's always nasty and the corporations are killing us and the military is killing us and all these terrible things are happening and at the same time we are winning quite a few battles. I think it's impossible to overstate by the way the impact of the transition to renewable energy. It is a huge deal coming not only ecologically but financially, culturally, spiritually, and it is a tremendous thing, as I also feel about the Internet by the way, and I think the Internet is an immensely positive force in the long term and it has changed things and will continue to, and so am I optimistic? Well, it's my nature to be optimistic. There are people who are born optimists and born pessimists. Thankfully for me, likely I'm an optimist and I've never seen a viable use as an organizer for pessimism. I would be an organizer if I was a pessimist. How can you be an organizer and be a pessimist? It doesn't make sense.

DAVID SWANSON: I do want to get onto the other two things we need to do but I have a concern with being dependent on optimism because some people are not perpetual optimists by nature. Some people need to see successes and be constantly reminded of successes and be shown that we're very likely to succeed next month before they'll be an optimist but unless they are an optimist they won't do anything, whereas it seems to me you can be morally driven to do the right thing regardless of optimism or pessimism and so I always have concerns about accepting this sort of dependence on small wins and optimism. I don't know how you"

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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