On the topic of HUMAN RIGHTS:
NC: “The declaration of independence states the fundamental human rights and the role of the United States is variant in those three. The first is Life the second is Liberty.
The third component (the Pursuit of Happiness) which is related to cultural and community rights is simply ignored, such as the debates on social and economic rights such as the right to education healthcare and proper/decent employment.
It is worth noting that from the OR- Organisation of the Rich countries- The US ranks at the bottom of this list of approximately 30 countries. The US is practically alone in the developed world without some form of general health care. And that is not because people do not want it. When the question is posed in an appropriate way (because we know that a lot of answers stem from how the question is posed) – so without some sort of manipulaive political agenda- when the question is posed the right way people’s answers are quite generally in favor of universal health care. However polititians (in the Reagan administration when reforming the bill) claimed that universal healthcare did not have political support. (Nevermind the fact that when asked sbout it about 2/3 thought of course yes in favor while the other 1/3 already thiught that universal health care was provided and mandated in the constitution – as this great sacred document of all guidelines). Of course, conglomerates from the farmaceutical and insurance industries were not supporive. And there is is this thing called the population but they do not have political support.”
About DAY TO DAY ACTIVITIES OF ACADEMICS AND HUMAN RIGHTS:
DR: “People are often trying to anticipate what the outcomes of their practices could be.
With all new technologies coming up we can run into unintended consequences. GPS was developed for environmental purposes and got translated into surveillance and warfare, for instance.”
NC: “Well there are movements that deserve our attention such as the Network of Concerned Geographers – which are widely about aspects such as the human terrain issues. The fact is that at this point the Top of the agenda for everyone should be:
Human survival. There are two areas recognised by anthropologists which are The Anthropocene and the Nuclear era that started after WWII that have drastically impacted the relationship of humans and the environment. Now The US is racing towards the precipice of environmental disorder while simultaneously the nuclear tension increases in the Russian border.
The doomsday clock established in 1947 (composed by data scientists and serious researchers) has established how close we are from midnight (which symbolises the apocalypse of the end of time as you will call it. The clock points have gone back and forth in minutes and the closest it was to midnight was in 1953. A couple of weeks into the Trump administration the clock has been the closest since 1953 and that is a result of the ominous threat of environmental capacity and nuclear warfare. Those should be topics of interest to geographers and researchers but also to human inhabitants in general.”
About LINGUSTICS and its connection to HUMAN RIGHTS
NC: “Well you see linguistics from the time that I started was developed widely in army language schools. Interestingly enough around the time that I started at MIT in the 50s, MIT was about 90% supported by Canada. My department, however, was 100% funded by the Army Services. The Pentagon from the 50s to 70s was the US government’s industrial development sector. It frightened the population into thinking the Russians are coming and put money into technologies and the high-tech economy which were decades later handed over to private enterprises for a profit.
The cutting edge of research and development in the university has switched from electronics to biology, and now the taxpayers are subsidising the biological economy which will be handed over to large companies for a profit. Much of the basis for modern tech economy was funded through the Pentagon.
If we look at infrastructure. The interstate highway was part of the national defence highway system to move missiles around. This was a way to undermine other types of transport (such as rail) to switch energy systems to fossil fuels. This is the way the economy functions pretty generally, these are far from being conspiracy theories (insert here the example of Exxon and GM which were sued for ruining the California railroad system and after trial convicted of paying the feeble U$ 5,000 fine).”
ABOUT THE NATIONALISM TRENDS?
DR: “We have seen this as a cyclical event in history and do you think we are not back again on this process moving closer to the precipice of dictatorship?”
NC: “Yes, there is now is a rise of populism, nationalism, fear of the foreign. The US has always been a very frightened society. It does not take much to scare people. At this moment in Europe the majority of the population wants to keep all the Muslims out of their countries. All of them as if that makes sense.
The real question is why is this showing up everywhere now? It has to do with the actual (predictable) consequences of the social and economic (neoliberal) programs with the Washington consensus that were instituted in the 1990s of letting the market lead everything – which in practice is largely not true since we know massive subsidies have been established to large conglomerates.
The radical counterpart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the view that if people are not doing well right now its because they did not work hard enough. There has been stagnation and decline for large parts of the populations. Middle aged white males with mortalities increasing in America? That does not happen in modern developed society! These are people who do not want to take hand me down from the government- who have contempt for the people who do- and want to have a purpose and do some honest work. But this has all been taken from them by very specific policy.
Look at the Troika for instance? Along with this attack on basic human rights there has been a clear attack on democracy. And people are aware of this. There is a general hatred and contempt for government and a lot of things that come out of that are very dangerous while others are very hopeful. Let us not look at the victory of Trump but at the success of Bernie Sanders (loud clap from the audience). This contradicts the very good predictor of candidate success which has always been campaign funding. Sanders comes along disregarded by the media, using scary words such as socialism and no corporate funding- and he who could very well have won the electon if it wasn’t for party shenannigans.
When social and economic conditions bring about stress, despair and anger. One reaction is violence and xenophobia. Another kind if futility let us just give up. Another reaction is to think that there are drastic things that can be done.”
THE CONCENTRATION OF WEALTH AND OWNERSHIP OF THE MEDIA BY A FEW.
DR: “It is a difficult course [to achieve radical change] when you have a media controlled by coorporations with similar strong agendas.”
NC: “There are two paralel tracks: to change the media. There is still plenty wrong but it is a fact that society has become more civilized. That is the impact of the activism of the 60s- to educate people on all sorts of subjects and society did become more civilized. The media is more informed than it was years ago. If we look at the extermination of indigenous populations in the entire continent for instance, anthropologists stated it was about 1 million people who had no ownership of the land. It was a long way to go but that false history has been significantly overcome and high school students now can actually learn a good deal of what happened. There is a reaction to that. People in the media also grow out of false facts. The other path is the creation of new media which is a lot easier now. It is a matter of doing the things that you have opportunities for.
We should not disregard the hardships of the past of course but also recognize how far we have come. And what were the conditions that enabled this change in irder not to fall into futility and despair. (He gives the example of growing of a jew in the 1930s. The resson why MIT became so established was because anti semitism in the 1950s which prevented great scholares from getting employed in Harvard for instance. He acknowledges the difficulties of the tensions of the past).”
HOW ABOUT BOYCOTTS TO THE CURRENT FACTIONS OF POWER AND THEIR EFFICIENTY.
NC: “There is a boycott movement right here [at AAG]. I was supposed to be interviewed by a young journalist who is British and whose grandparents were from Syria and he got barred from entering the United States. You know that several scientits chose not to come to AAG this year and this does bring to light the question of how should professional societies respnd to issues like these. Should professional meetings even be taking place in countries that have these sort of sanctions? The ultimate point about boycotts is that they can be very efficient but we must ultimately be very strategic and think of how the victims can benefit the most from it. Boycott the srategy of warfare, we should always have in mind the victims caught in the middle of humanitarian crisis.”
DR: “Your thoughts on the rise of china. Do you imagine a time in the future in which the dominant Chinese internationa network would transcend that of the us and europe?”
“If we go back a couple of centuries China and India were the most industrially developed nations. Of course that has all changed through colonialism, but now china is starting to reclaim its place. In many ways it is threatening, in others necessary. There are several studies claiming that the center of power will shift over the pacific. Now yes, China does have a big economy and has been increasing its purchasing power but it is an extremely poor country and have been pretty much been stuck there. They do have problems that we do not have such as the lack of a strong agricultural technology. It is astounding though that even though they do have astounding problems, the world has somehow been looking for China for answers while the US is going backwards. However, the idea that America is over is fearmongering. WWII was very beneficial for the US economy and unprecedented growth rates from that period still makes the US a very rich country. While its power and wealth has declined, China has a very long way to compete.
If we look at how China has a huge assembly plant, the profits that come back from that process are very low. In the case of Apple, for instance, the richest corporation in the world, their design is made here and assembly made in China but they are still and making most of the profits. Even though a lot has been going through China, they are far from those who benefit the most.
We have moved from a period in which the identified rich nations were actually those who owned corporations. But now coorporations have global reach, setting up complicated supply chains. While still needing national base and taxpayers support obviously but they have independent lobbying capacities. So, okay if we step back and we look – aside from country capacity, 50% of the global economy is owned by american corporations, and that is very indicative. I dont see much chance of an asian century, even though it may not be a bad idea at this point.”
NC: “As you know anarchism covers a broad sPectrum. It is a valuable one, one that converges with libertarian marxism, there is a point in which some varieties come together.
Let us look at the huge problem of de-industrializing america. In 1977 US Steel decided to close down their plant in Youngstown Ohio, which was a town largely built by unions. The union offered to buy the plant and hand it over to the workforce. The company did not like that probably due to class reasons. Coorporations sometimes prefer not to make profit to undermine class struggle. This case went to court, the coorporation won, but people did not give up and established small worker owned enterprises in the old Rustbelt and integrated in the new service economy that has been forming there. These are things that can certainly be done at a very large scale.
The Obama Government in the 2008 crash nationalised the auto industry. The choice that was taken was determined by the ideological structure of the country: to bail out the companies and hand them back to the same banks and managerial institutions and have them now produce cars. A more sensible option both political, human and environmental would have ben to hand it over to the workforce and have them produce what the country needs. Not more cars for traffic jams but for decent public transportation. Well that was never considered, and if that is the case it is because of people like us. Who have the responsibility to act and mobilize and did not do so.
The same is true of the environmental problem. The federal government is a wrecking ball acting in the name of profit, but states, small governments can have an impact. And it has to be done. To prevent the federal government from destroying all of us.”
DR: “You have done so much. Have you considered the South of France, taking up a new musical instrument? There are rumours of you maybe taking up a new career and having a new gig in Vegas. Is it true? (this picture was shown haha).”