Requiem for the American Dream – A Timely Discourse on the Disrupting Forces of Democracy

Noam Chomsky the political philosopher and linguistic professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), who is called as ‘the most influential intellectual of our time’ (by NY Times), discusses on the forces & principles that caused economic inequality in the enlightening, long-lecture documentary “Requiem for the American Dream” (2015). Made over four years by director trio – Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared Scott – this documentary is said to be the final & long-form exhibition of the 87 year old professor’s definitive ideas. Mr. Chomsky has been criticizing the elites & profit-minded system for more than five decades. He is interested about exploring the inherent conflicting nature between capitalism and democracy. His 30+ political books plus hundreds of interviews and articles have been an eye-opener, instigating our thoughts rather than elicit a plain, knee-jerk reaction.

In “Requiem for the American Dream”, Mr. Chomsky lays out the ‘Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power’ to showcase how the tinier fraction of power elite have brought about the death knell for American middle class. He argues about the decline of class mobility and the halt of upward mobility in the middle class. As a result, the power elite have extinguished the partly real, partly symbolic ‘American Dream’ to replace it with worker insecurity and make the common people to bounce between low-paying jobs. In laying out his principles, Chomsky is able to circumvent the American bipartisan politics. He also notes the basic flaw in the political system (by drawing on ‘Aristotle’ to ‘Adam Smith’) that screams for less democracy.

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Chomsky may not be a dynamic speaker, but his ideas are engrossing and well-reasoned. It is thought-provoking when he claims how the sacred constitution were set out by wealthy elites and in the crisis, the democracy would be waved away to ‘protect the minority of the opulent’. The deregulated limitations on corporate dealing in the last four decades or so, the rewritten tax codes, the increasing number of bank bail-outs and the knocking down of labor unions speak of a current, stark reality, where the rich elite continue to shape the rules and regulations only for their well being. While lamenting on the economic inequality, Chomsky also talks about the advertising media’s ‘manufactured consent’ which lures away the younger generation (or transforms them to server only as consumers) from understanding the sociopolitical or socioeconomic problems (“The point is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices. That’s what advertising is all about” says Chomsky).

Mr. Chomsky’s reasoning about the word ‘anti-American’ makes sense in a broader context, since in many democratic nations (including our India), social or political critiques are immediately played down by using words like ‘unpatriotic’ or ‘anti-‘ labels. The professor also persuasively argues that despite the complex and dire nature of the situation, the solution is as simple as citizen awareness or engagement in a larger, massive scale. The stitching up of Chomsky’s past interview appearances and the archival footage of democratizing tendencies in the 1960’s would seem monotonous for those aware of these times and Chomsky’s lucid ideologies. But, those might help ones seeking the illuminating vision of famous political activist for the first time. Despite the structural integrity, Chomsky imbues throughout the documentary, it may nevertheless be dismissed by those who relate his name with a preordained label.

“Requiem for the American Dream” (73 minutes) distinctly showcases the insightful, thought-provoking, and unassailable ideas or contentions of Mr. Noam Chomsky on the economic inequality. It is a must watch for anyone interested in the clash between democracy and the increasingly superfluous mode of capitalists.

 

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