Why Thom is optimistic, 13 November 2009
Caller Craig asked Thom how he keeps a good, positive attitude given that corporations have got stronger. Thom replied:
"I think it was Margaret Mead, in fact I'm quite sure it was Margaret Mead, who said, 'never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, indeed, that's the only way it's ever happened'. Susan B. Anthony didn't live to see the fruit of her actions. W. E. B. Du Bois didn't. I mean, so many. Go all the way back to, I mean, you could go back to the Greeks with their experiment with democracy 3,000 years ago. Things don't always happen rapidly. But just, here's what makes me most optimistic.
Number one, the arc of history is progressive, it is in a progressive direction.
Number two, people are waking up.
And number three, consider, for 7,000 years, the 7,000 years that we've had what's called modern western civilization, although it encompasses eastern civilization as well, going all the way back to the founding of the Chinese empire and the founding of the western empire in what was then called Ur, Uruk, the Epic of Gilgamesh 7,000 years ago. For 7,000 years, the writing of the old testament, the new testament, the prophets, Jesus, all this, you know, through all this stuff, you know, religious, political, everything, out of that 7,000 years, let's say it was absolutely 7,000 years to this day, it wasn't, but just for purpose of argument. Out of that 7,000 years, 6,800 of those years, it was accepted as conventional wisdom that humans could be the property of other humans as slaves, and that women were the property of men.
For 6,700 of those 7,000 years, it was accepted as conventional wisdom that it was impossible for people to govern themselves, that they had to be governed by a ruling elite who were informed by God or the gods. And in just 300 years we have gone from no democracies on Earth to over 100. In just 200 years we've gone from, or really, 150 years, we've gone from the absolute conviction in the United States that slavery, or at least the majority opinion, that slavery was an acceptable thing to viewing it with horror.
In the last 70, 80 years, 100 years in the United States, well, 80 years in the United States, we've gone from the idea that women shouldn't vote and should essentially be the property of men to a strong consensus that women not only should have the same rights as men, but should be a strong and dominant force in our society, or at least a strong and equal force in our society.
We have gone from fighting wars of genocide and wars that were just incredibly brutal like World War I, you know, the war to end all wars, and the Civil War. Some of the wars that were fought over the last 3, 400 years were unbelievable in the horrors and the reasons for those wars, to having legitimate, legitimate's the wrong word. To having loud and honest debates about war and to having people like Matthew Hoh in the State Department resigning over what's going on in Afghanistan.
Yes, we have had cycles in the United States where corporations have risen in power. They were very low in power after the American Revolution. It was a war against corporate power, against the British East India Company, principally, and corporate power gradually rose into the 1830s, 1840s and really picked up steam in the 1860s after the Civil War, 1870s, but then it got knocked down by Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement, and further knocked down by Franklin Roosevelt and reached, I'd say, its low point in 1950. And then it started slowly coming back, then Reagan brought it back.
So we have these cycles of progressive times and conservative times in the United States, of corporate power and people power. And I frankly believe that right now we are entering, we are at the early stages, this is the birth pains, that we are entering a new progressive era. A new era of pushing back against corporations, not just in the United States, but all around the world. And frankly, I think that it's a tremendous thing. I am very optimistic.
I have a long list of complaints. I can give you all the things that even the Obama administration's done wrong, that I'd like them to do better and they should do more and we need to, you know, and we talk about those things from time to time.
But I have a lot of hope and optimism, and I think that there's evidence for it, number one.
And number two, I also know that if you don't take the despair that you feel or the anger that you feel or whatever, and convert it into positive action, you end up paralyzed. We all need to be active."
Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.