I winded down my Wednesday night, like I do most nights, browsing Netflix and HBO GO looking for something interesting to watch. I stumbled upon Requiem for the American Dream, a film by Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott featuring Noam Chomsky, a renowned professor of linguistics at MIT. His name might sound familiar to you from his work in linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science or from one of the hundreds of books he's written on America's involvement in war, mass media, or politics in general.
The movie is more of a lecture, but think - one of those phenomenally memorable lectures from university and not the stereotypical boring old guy droning on lectures. The main topic that Chomsky discusses is the impact the concentration of wealth and power has had on American politics. With his eloquent delivery, Chomsky takes you through a history lesson from the very beginnings of democracy and the fundamental issue confronting the "masters of the society" when setting up a democracy, specifically how to keep the poor from taking all the property from the wealthy. From Aristotle to Adam Smith to James Madison, he discusses how the same issue has continually surfaced and ultimately dealt with. He then takes you through American history since the turn of the century and focuses on 10 maxims that have been pushed by those seeking to concentrate wealth and power.
While the lecture is clearly a perspective from the left, it does seem to hit common ground on both sides of the political spectrum today. From Trump supporters that want him to "Make America Great Again" to Bernie supporters that feel the American Dream is no longer accessible to the poor, there's plenty of intellectual meat there for both groups. One of the real memorable points for me that Chomsky made was around the common anti-American slur thrown out in our society to anyone who challenges or questions seemingly indoctrinated American ideals and how such behavior is more reminiscent of a totalitarian society then a free democratic society. He compares this situation to if someone in Italy was called anti-Italian for expressing their distaste for Berlusconi's policies that the result would be everyone in Rome laughing. Food for thought for sure.
Overall, I found it to be a really thought inspiring perspective on American society. I think Chomsky really sees this as a call for that society to be aware of such concentration of wealth and power and ultimately for the individuals of that society (those being people not corporations) to seek to self-govern once again. It's definitely worth a little over an hour of your weekday night.
If you want to catch it, you can see it on Netflix here, iTunes here and Vimeo here.