Chomsky on Obama and Occupy

Chomsky makes some interesting comments about Obama and the Occupy movement in an interview with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now. There is a transcript of the interview on the site.

On Occupy Chomsky says that they “changed the national discourse” so there is now a dialogue about inequality; but it’s his second point that nails the value of the movement:

The other aspect, which in my estimation may be more significant, is that the Occupy movement spontaneously created something that doesn’t really exist in the country: communities of mutual support, cooperation, open spaces for discussion. They just developed a health system, a library, a common kitchen—just people doing things and helping each other. That’s very much missing. There is a massive propaganda—it’s been going on for a century, but picking up enormously—that you really shouldn’t care about anyone else, you should just care about yourself. You pay attention to yourself; we don’t want anything else. You take a look at the attitudes among young people, that’s—it’s polled, it’s studied. It’s remarkably high. So, there was just a study that came out from the Harvard Public Policy Institute, found that—pretty scary results, I thought. Less than—this is kids 18 to 24, you know, college students, basically. Less than half of them think that the government has a responsibility to deal with things like healthcare or food, and so on. When they say the government doesn’t have a responsibility, that’s kind of an interesting concept. If people thought they were living in a democracy, they would say—they would ask the question whether it’s a public responsibility. But again, the propaganda system is designed to make you feel that the government is some alien force, and it’s against you. You know, you want to keep it away from your affairs.

This is important. Occupy is not just a movement making ‘demands’ it is an agitation on a conceptual level that challenges the predominant paradigm of individualism. This paradigm runs deep in the American psyche, associating ‘heoric individualism’ with success, progress and personal liberty. It is articulated in the philosophy of Ayn Rand and mythologised in her novels.