Uncle from America
Ralph Nader Visits Berlin
By Ullrich Fichtner
[These excerpts from a June 2002 Spiegel article are translated from the German in: Der Spiegel 22,2002.]
Some regard him as world famous while many have never heard his name. Still the man born in 1934 is a living legend, an American hero, son of Lebanese immigrants, Princeton- and Harvard graduate, from dishwasher to civil rights advocate. In the middle of the sixties, he rose up against unsafe cars from General Motors and brought the auto company to its knees in a nearly single-handed effort. The "public citizen" was born.
Nader may call himself the first Green presidential candidate of the US. Without a chance, Nader gave so many burning addresses during the election campaign that the Left left of the Democratic party loves him and the Right fears him. His reputation resounds in Europe. Nader the Raider... Streets don't have to be blocked for Green candidates or hotels cleared. Nadar is only an itinerant preacher...
"I say to you here in Europe", Nader said amid the clatter of coffee cups, "If you want to see the future, look to America and see a society that was social when there were taboo zones against commercialization. See a society where people fear sickness because they can't pay the doctor anymore, see a society where people work until their backs break and receive nothing, a society where a sign announces everywhere `For sale'."
The audience sits spellbound. Continuing for an hour, Nader is only interrupted by applause. He speaks of a "silent coup d' etat" of the corporations, world trade as a criminal organization and the "torture factories" of the multinational conglomerates in the Third World.
He won the loudest laughter for his remark that the "sugar-and-fat-diet" of Burger Kings and McDonalds is "nothing but a weapon of mass destruction" given the obesity rates in the US... Perhaps the first populist of globalization, a polemicist, a class champion with the charm of a fairylale uncle, an auto salesman who demonizes cars...