Ralph Nader spoke to the students and the faculty at Fordham University on December 3, 2009. He delivered a lecture on gaining control in the marketplace where we grow up corporate. In a subtle analysis of culture Nader offered insights into how citizen’s imaginations are constrained by corporate power restricting their possibility for action. For Nader, it’s all about action which makes his outlook existential in essence. Existence for him is defined by the conflict between the consumer and the corporation where at evert possible turn the corporation seeks to upsurp the rights of the consumer to promote it’s vested interests and deny citizens their lawful rights for the possibility of action.
In Mr. Nader’s view, American society is thoroughly corrupted by the all pervasive interest of the corporation. This means that all the institutions of society reflect the will of the corporation. To support this view he offered several personal amusing ancedotes which made the young audience laugh. Despite the serious nature of his talk, Mr. Nader has a very comical demeanor at times which belies the crusty image fostered on him by the mainstream corporate media. Regarding the field of education talked about his efforts in vain to learn about laws for food safety and the rights of tenants. Students are taught the skills that are handsomely rewarded by corporations so during his days at Harvard law tax law was a big field of interest because corporations require the talent to circumvent tax law. Making a subtle point Mr. Nader remarked how students are not don’t any consumer or civic skills. Hence we politicians selliing their services to high bidding lobbyists to enact laws which are agaiinst the interests of consumers.
Evoking the English poet William Blake, Mr. Nader made his probing point on how the lack of imagination restricts our actions and hence our possibilities as individuals humans to realize our true potential.
Within this context Mr. Nader cites the failure of the two party system. In his view the Republican and Democratic parties are bought of by lobbyists and beholden to their special interests. This results from the crisis of imagination. Since citizens do not learn civic skills, they demand very little from the political process. Politicians pay lip service to democratic ideals while promoting the minority goals of corporate special interests. President Obama, while being extremely gifted with rhetorical skills, is just another politician acting in this fashion. Cynically citing the threat of the Taliban, which itself is a gross simplification as the Taliban is made up of several tribes, President Obama exaggerates their threat so as to justify the need for intervention and hence the importance for keeping a robust military industrial complex. It is this lack of imagination that Mr. Nader was citing in his lecture. At its most sublime point, we see how this does restrict our possibilities as individuals as it restricts our role to act.