tv Tavis Smiley WHUT November 2, 2011 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
smiley. tonight a conversation with one of latin america's most famous voices, and ariel dorfman. he was exiled in chile in 1973. now the chair of the latin uke, hen studies in d wrote "feeding on dreams: confessions of an unrepentant exile." we are glad you joined us. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard.
it's the cornerstone we all ow .kn it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: ariel dorfman is an acclaimed novelist and human activist who served in chile before 1973.
he is the chairman of latin american studies at duke and author of "feeding on dreams: confessions of an unrepentant exile." is great to have you on the program. >> thank you. i love the program. >> i will do my best to call you ever go. >> i asked that, and i ask everyone to call me ariel, so why shouldn't you? tavis: i have asked ariel to start by reading a passage from this text, which i think will set us on a beautiful direction for a fascinating conversation with a fascinating man, so would you do me the honors of reading what i asked you to read? >> i have danced on the streets of santiago on november 4, 1970 when allende became president
and danced again 38 years after the day my fellow citizens celebrated the inauguration as president of a man who believed in social justice and peace. my fellow citizens voted for a man that would stop torture, a man who had been as of press as our poor had been oppressed, so again i danced on the streets. i dance even if inside me the specter of chile was murmuring, be aware of too much. the change would face the rabid opposition of those who would not give up privileges without a struggle. i knew as my body and weaved and some of and down, i knew that barack obama would have to tackle many of the issues of the new share -- of pinochet during
our own transition to democracy. if you go too fast like allende, you risk losing it. you may not change the world at all, if at all, but if you advance to cautiously, you risk losing your soul. you may not make much of a difference. you will lose the necessary to fight for lasting modifications. i have seen the chilean revolution flounder in the 1970 costs. i have seen the regime of avarice in the 19 80's. it capped a twisted group on the multiple levels of power. -- it kept a twisted grip on multiple levels of power. our desire for democracy was cornered by fear. tavis: given all that you have exile and aller
yohave seen, what do you make of this moment now that you and fellow citizens are entering in this country? >> it is strange, but this is a book about exile. it is a book about losing your country and not being able to go back to it. one would think that is a phenomenon of someone who has fear of his life like so many refugees around the world. if you think of these young people who are protesting now, they are exiles in their land. they do not recognize america. they want america back. i think it should be called the occupier -- called reoccupy
america. this country has been the country of greed rather than need, and we find ourselves in a situation where they are saying enough is enough, so what they are really doing is saying, this is my home, and i am ready to defend my home. i do not want someone taking over my home. america is being foreclosed upon. it is being a tank erupted upon. -- being bankrupted upon, so i see people saying i want my country back. there are many america's fighting for the soul of our country, and one is the america that aspired to overthrow the democratic president of she lay -- of chile many years ago and the other is the america that has welcomed me.
it is a different america. the question is which of these is going to prevail. as someone who was brought up in the united states, i was as american as anyone. . was a yankees fan i was a kid in new york. i like the dodgers and giants as well. i collected baseball cards as a kid, and then i became a chalet and revolutionary. i fell in love with my wife, -- became a chilean revolutionary. i fell in love with my wife. i speak spanish. i found myself in a position where when they tell you it is not possible to dream of the different reality, that is precisely when you have the dream of a different reality. that is when you have to not
accept the silence they imposed upon you. >> you were exiled for dreaming that new reality. you were exiled for imagining a different kind of world. >> i love that word. when you are silent, when you accept reality as it is, it is a failure of the imagination, and we can live with lots of things, but we cannot live without hope. in some sense, when i went into exile, i imagine my country a certain way. this happens to all of us all the time. we leave our home, and we are constantly having the salsa, but when we come back we say, but the third -- we are constantly saying, the turkey is cold. the dream is social justice. it becomes complicated. i returned to chile, and i found i had changed too much and the country had changed too much,
and i feel more at home in -- i call it a mongrel nation. i am a mongrel and the sense i am spanish, latino, and jewish. get all of those things are mixed. what we need to understand is that identity is the identity we need to embrace, and they are all conflicting with each other, but we can live with that. tavis: when you go back to chile, and you say the country has changed too much, explain that. >> i left inspired by the people who had been fighting so many years for justice. i took them with me in a sense in june exile, and they gave a voice to me. they gave me a refuge. i was wandering in the earth, very poor, without a job, and
when i went back, 17 years had tld wor have fhad the world have filled me with all sorts of new. ideas w de the ways in which gays were treated, the way blacks were treated, the ways and indians were treated, the way children and domestic servants were treated, it riled me up. i could not keep quiet. i would be in a meeting, and somebody would say these homophobic remarks, and i would say, listen, it does not make sense for you to be doing that. what you are doing is providing a group of people. you do not even realize it, so they would say, all of a sudden you became gay. i am straight, but that does not mean i do not feel bad about the way you are speaking, so it was
a sense in which the country was not ready. chile has become a different place, but our real problem was the damage to the country was so large because of the dictatorship. a dictatorship damages you, and there is a sense in which you say, we do not want to think about the past. stop talking about what happened, but if you do not think about the past, you do not bury it well. if you do not turn your dead into ancestors so they are well buried, you know what you do with the dead? you turn them into goes, and you cannot kill a goes. you can kill a man or a woman -- new turn them woman o&y -- you turn them into a ghost, and you cannot kill a ghost.
leave them alone so you will rest in peace many years from now when you are dead. it is a strange, almost mystical vision on my part. >> i am with you every step of the way. it is getting fascinating for me. contextualize where we find ourselves. give me a sense of where we are in this country in this moment, not now burying our past so well on the issue of the economy. >> if you look at the history of the united states, it is a history of the struggle for memory and the prevalence of and the show. amnesia. we do not exist in relation to
the past. the past has been made sweet. i think to reclaim the past with all its struggle and complexity, we live in an age of extreme complexity. now i believe in ambiguity. the idea that it is complicated and we have to think our way out of a crisis. one of the things i like about obama is he is very smart. he thinks. some people say he thinks too much, but he is someone who sees the complexity of an issue, and his greatest moments are a moment of crisis, and instead of waving the flag, he unfurled a flag and looks inside of it. he begins to think about these things, and i really liked that. i have criticism of him, but i feel this is a country that
needs to come to terms with the fact that there is a past and that is not well-very. speaking of reconstruction, nobody knows what happens during those times. martin luther king, who was lionized for his human rights workers, and everyone forgets that he was in memphis and because of a garbage workers. his crusade was for economic rights, because if you do not care about the economic well- being, there is not fairness in the system, people lose faith in the system, and the same thing happens in south africa. last year i gave a lecture in johannesburg, and i had an hour with him, and he wasn't pretty good shape. -- he was in pretty good shape. we talked about the fact that there was a fight against
poverty that has to go hand-in- hand with the fight against democracy. you cannot say we are going to have political democracy and economic democracy so people do not have a chance. if someone works their whole life, there is no reason they should not have some security. there is no reason for starvation in a world where we have surplus of capacity biologically and botanically. it makes no sense. it may make no sense, but to say so is class warfare, and the real class warfare is when a small percentage of the people get incredibly rich and an enormous amount of people are incredibly poor. that is class warfare. the people who are incredibly poor say, can we have a little bit of crumbs? that is not class warfare. that is justice. tavis: speaking of america and your love for it and how you do
better here than in chile, what is fascinating is the reason you were in chile is because you got kicked out of here. that is a fascinating story. how does one come to love of country when you got kicked out of its years ago? >> what happened is was my dad was a left wing person working at the un. mccarthy took a real dislike to him. i made a joke in my memoir when i said it is strange that joe mccarthy is depriving me. that poppet whom i love, so i was an american kid. i went to chile against my will. i did not speak spanish. i wanted to be an all-american
kid, and i went to chile, fell in love with she lay, -- with chile, fell love with my wife, the spanish language, and embarked on the revolution for fairness and equality, and strangely and not, that country that had been my country i loved so much and still love and then was conspiring with the cia and kissinger to overthrow the legitimate democracy of another country. this was not a tyrant a were overthrowing. they were overthrowing someone who had been elected by their own people. it is as if someone from chile decided to come in and overthrow bush or clinton. tavis: we have done that a couple times in the world. but the democracy means you have
to except with the majority of people are deciding to do. leaving chile, i decided i did not want to come to the united states, but at the same time, there is no place i felt more at home, because when i first came to washington, i would walk down the street and say behind those facades in washington is where they have conspired to overthrow democracy where i was coming from, and then a street vendor would put up his radio, and it was singing ella fitzgerald singing cole porter or george gershwin, so you might have the pentagon, but you also have a look fitzgerald, so i will take a love fitzgerald over the pentagon in the day. if you could have the pentagon taking care of ella fitzgerald and making sure they have a chance of going up, which happens in the u.s. military, which is a steppingstone for many people of color, it is a
strange country, so i felt this ambiguity about america, which is the same one i mentioned. i danced in the streets, and i can dance in the streets of santiago or north carolina, but there is always a sense of ambiguity. i think many americans feel as exiled and alienated from their own country as i do with the united states, so i am not alone when i am with a person like van jones, who was a friend of mine, who was working against police brutality. i meet all these people i put in my place, because i have a play, and we have done it all over the world, so when you have someone like van jones, he is american. it turns out this is a country in which america is also dick
cheney, who orders torture and says torture is fine and goes against the united states itself and has not only signed but tried to make a worldwide convention of it, so the struggle of this country is on going. i hope this book will contribute to soul-searching, because we have somebody who has gone into exile, who has lived through these phenomenon and has been able to transform himself. i lived through migration. the world expanded, and i became a different person than this young man. i am now this young man who has been thinking, what is happening? >> i think this book can contribute to the things an american needs to do, but it seems to me soul-searching has to begin a with been willing to tell yourself to face the truth,
been willing to be unsettled by the truth, and i wonder whether or not we are a country that is willing to do this, and maybe this is better positioning us to do that. you tell me. >> his book is full of startling revelations about myself. when you go into exile, when you are fighting a dictatorship, the temptation is that you become like a dictator. i will give you an example of this. when you are fighting someone thee general peteinochet, country is of prison. what do you do at that moment? you do anything to get rid of that man. that means you see a rich old
woman, and you in some sense see not for what she is. you see her as someone who has got money and you use that for the cause. this happens during every movement. i used people. i do not do that anymore. i am not saying i am perfect any more, but i lived through the process of doing things that do not make me proud, because very often in order to combat a morality, but you do unethical things. there is -- to combat immorality, you do unethical things. though it is the collective process, it is also an individual process. when you speak about being unsettled, settlement is the opposite of exile, so you have
to exile from yourself. you have to look at yourself from a difference, and i think you have to do it with love. you have to be able to let someone criticize you and say, i think i know what you are saying. when you allow someone to destroy you, you add to the aggression. the story was how i left with an enormous rage and discovered that rage is very good and almost inevitable to survive, but you cannot build a life with it. you cannot live enraged. it can help you through difficult moments, and rate has to do with courage. -- rage have to do with courage. you have to be unafraid. one thing our realist about the united states is this is a country riddled with -- one thing i realized about the united states is that this is a
country riddled with fear, fear of the bombs, fear of the plague, a fear of themselves, fear of recall affects, and there is no reason to be scared. there are reasons for other countries to be scared, but for this country to be that scared that because we have these 3000 unwanted and innocent dead we should then visit upon other countries thousands of corpses and mutilated lives, it makes no sense. the united states becomes less secure the more fear it has. when you are without fear, you are really secure. >> this has been of free master class with ariel dorfman, courtesy of tbs, another reason to make a contribution, to keep fine programs like this on air. where else do you get this conversation for half an hour with one of the greatest minds
of the country and the world, and i still have not done justice to what you will read in the new text called "feeding on dreams: confessions of an unrepentant exile." this has been an absolutely delightful conversation. >> you are the one asking the questions, so the answers come from your soul as well. tavis: sometime i have to go sit in your class. >> you can teach my class. >> i will take a back row seat any day. >> come and find me, and we will have some north carolina barbecue, which is very different from texas. tavis: that is our show for tonight. thanks for tuning in. as always, keep the faith.
>> join me now for our next discussion with juan gonzalez. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. you. thank you.