Here is the 2011 question and Chomsky's response (edited for length), plus some 2012 thoughts of his on the topic of community building.
From Noam Chomsky's 2011 speech at Occupy Boston (video, text)
Q. Should we rewrite the system? How can we mobilize the American public?
Chomsky: The only way to mobilize the American public that I’ve ever heard of—or any other public—is by going out and joining them. Going out to wherever people are—churches, clubs, schools, unions—wherever they may be. Getting involved with them and trying to learn from them and to bring about a change of consciousness among them. And, again, this can be very concrete.
Let’s take the electoral system in the United States. It has a lot of flaws—like what I mentioned: public policy and public opinion are so radically divorced. But there are some narrower things that you can do something about right away.
We’re coming up to the presidential election’s primary season. Suppose we had a functioning democratic society. Let’s just imagine that. What would a primary look like, say, in New Hampshire? What would happen in a primary would be that the people in a town would get together and discuss, talk about, and argue about what they want policy to be. Sort of like what’s been happening here in the Occupy movement. They should formulate a conception of what the policy should be. Then if a candidate comes along and says, “I want to come talk to you,” the people in the town ought to say, “Well, you can come listen to us if you want. So you come in, we’ll tell you what we want, and you can try to persuade us that you’ll do it; then, maybe we will vote for you.” That’s what would happen in a democratic society.
What happens in our society? The candidate comes to town with his public relations agents and the rest of them. He gives some talks, and says, “Look how great I am. This is what I am going to do for you.” Anybody with a grey-cell functioning doesn’t believe a word he or she says. And then maybe people vote for him, maybe they don’t. That’s very different from a democratic society.
Making moves in the direction of real democracy is not utopian. Those are things that can be done in particular communities. And it could lead to a noticeable change in the political system.
Sure, we should get money out of politics, but that’s going to take a lot of work. One way to go at it is just to elect your own representatives. It’s not impossible. The same is true all across the board. [...]
So there are things that are quite feasible. Proposals have to be made and brought to the population in a convincing way. And most of the population already agrees with most these things. But you have to turn the population into a force that will be active and engaged. Then you could have results.
The question of how to respond to it—the primary way is one of the points that you made: reaching out to bring into the general Occupation, in a metaphorical sense, to bring in much wider sectors of the population. There is a lot of sympathy for the goals and aims of the Occupy movement. They’re quite high in polls, in fact. But that’s a big step short from engaging people in it. It has to become part of their lives, something they think they can do something about. So it’s necessary to get out to where people live.
That means not just sending a message, but if possible, and it would be hard, to try to spread and deepen one of the real achievements of the movement which doesn’t get discussed that much in the media—at least I haven’t seen it. One of the main achievements has been to create communities, real functioning communities of mutual support, democratic interchange, care for one another, and so on. This is highly significant, especially in a society like ours in which people tend to be very isolated and neighborhoods are broken down, community structures have broken down, people are kind of alone.
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