Ahmed Afzaal

Requiem for the American Dream (2)

What follows is my interpretation of Noam Chomsky’s words, as presented in the film “Requiem for the American Dream.” My aim in these blog posts is not to provide a full and faithful representation of Chomsky’s thinking; he is perfectly capable of doing that on his own. Instead, I will emphasize those of his points that I think are worth emphasizing, ignore or downplay the ones that I don’t find important or interesting, and add my own elaborations whenever I feel the urge to do so. Moreover, I won’t try very hard to distinguish my own sense of what Chomsky means from what he actually says in the film; I leave that task to the readers.

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Requiem for the American Dream (1)

“Requiem for the American Dream” (73 minutes; 2015) is a documentary film by Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott, based entirely on interviews that the filmmakers conducted with Noam Chomsky, the well-known linguist and political commentator, over a period of four years—along with some historical footage and cool animations. According to its official storyline, the film is supposed to be “the definitive discourse with Noam Chomsky,” intended to illuminate the processes and mechanisms that are responsible for creating and maintaining an unprecedented “concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few” in the United States.

Requiem

The premises of the documentary are fairly straightforward: (1) income inequality has been a long-standing feature of American society, but (2) it has become increasingly worse since the 1970s, which is due to (3) a massive concentration of wealth in a tiny segment of the population, since (4) under capitalism, most of the income comes from wealth. Given these premises, which are easy to establish empirically, the question arises: How did we end up in this situation? What are the processes and mechanisms through which our present state of unprecedented inequality has come about? This is precisely the question that the film seeks to answer. The question has more than academic significance, since no attempt to reverse the trend towards inequality can be successful if it doesn’t take into account the forces responsible for causing and maintaining it in the first place.

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Earth-Honoring Faith (1)

Rasmussen_book

Larry L. Rasmussen is a prominent Christian ethicist and the author of numerous books, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance (1972), Moral Fragments and Moral Community (1993), and Earth Community, Earth Ethics (1996). (I remember reading the last mentioned book during my first semester of graduate school in the fall of 1999.) Rasmussen served as the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York from 1986 until his retirement in 2004. In his latest book, Earth-Honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key (2013), Rasmussen offers a wide-ranging exploration of the ecological predicament of humanity, presenting what he believes to be the essential building-blocks for a new kind of religious ethic intended to inspire and empower the world’s religious communities to address that predicament.

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