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Transcript:

April 30, 2010
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal. Once upon a time, a whole lot of just plain Americans woke up to realize the economic system was working against them. They had believed in it; they worked hard to make it work for them. They knew its shortcomings but saw in it the way to a decent return for their labor and a better future for their families.

Then, one day, calamity struck: The system turned on them. And they discovered that they had been betrayed, bamboozled, by the people at the top.

But they didn't hang their heads and turn tail, like a dog whipped by its master. They organized and fought back — millions of them in a grass roots movement for democracy. What they did became known as the Populist Moment, an extraordinary time in our country's history.

But, the flimflam gang returned with a vengeance in our time — the monied interests and political mercenaries who connived to bring on a calamity that lost eleven million Americans their jobs, robbed people of their homes and pensions, and brought the world's economy crashing down.

But once again, people are organizing and fighting back; as they did in that early Populist Moment that took on the monopolies and financial trusts. The stirrings of a popular insurgency could be seen late this week as thousands marched on Wall Street. These people are angry at the banks that have cost them so dearly and they want reforms to prevent similar disasters in the future. They want to break up the Wall Street oligarchy and require the banks to use their capital to build and revitalize and innovate, to create jobs and security.

Similar protests occurred this week in San Francisco, North Carolina and Kansas City, where people rallied to demand an accounting from the giant Bank of America.

Among their ranks was a contingent from Iowa, proud and vocal inheritors of America's populist spirit. We first met them at a rally last fall.

BILL MOYERS: In October, some five thousand people came to Chicago to rally outside the convention of the American Bankers Association.

CROWD: ABA, you're the worst! Time to put the people first!

BILL MOYERS: This is not the Tea Party crowd, chanting against "government takeovers" and "creeping socialism."

CROWD: We're fired up! Can't take it no more!

BILL MOYERS: They are populists of the old school. They want the government on their side battling against predatory monopolies, trusts, and corporations.

MIKE MCCARTHY: We're losing jobs. We're losing state employees. We're losing industry and businesses. We're losing farms and homes. And meanwhile, these people across the street are trying to divvy up their record profits, in tens of millions of dollars worth of bonuses. And that's not fair, it's not fair.

CROWD: Bust up! Big banks! Bust up! Big banks...

BILL MOYERS: Mike McCarthy and a busload of his Iowa neighbors rode almost six hours to get here.

CROWD: Bust up! Big banks...

BILL MOYERS: They belong to an organization called Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Or CCI. They take their fighting spirit, everywhere they go.

LARRY GINTER: If you've seen your pensions or retirement take a hit, stand up. Dissent is apple pie and ice cream. If you think it's time to put people first and hold banks accountable, stand up. Our founding fathers spoke out against the injustice. I mean, they were great populist, great radicals.

CROWD: We're fired up, can't take it no more...

LARRY GINTER: You just can't sit back and let the big boys walk all over you. You have to stand up and fight. Give yourselves a hand!

BILL MOYERS: Larry Ginter still lives on the Iowa farm where he was born. He spent two years in the army, and more than fifty on the prairie scratching out a living from the land.

LARRY GINTER: I seen a lot of heartache out here on the farms family farmers not getting the fair prices. And then you see workers not getting a fair wage. And things like this always got to me. I always felt I had to get involved in that. There's a saying, "Revolution begins in a peasant hut." You got to fight for the justice. You got to fight for the fair wage. You got to fight for housing. You got to fight for healthcare. Fight for the elderly, fight for family farmers and workers. Fight for the environment. And that's what Iowa CCI does.

BILL MOYERS: For more than thirty years, they have marched their Midwest brand of outrage through city streets, rural towns, and bank lobbies.

CROWD: Put people first...

BILL MOYERS: Right into the corridors of the statehouse in Des Moines

CROWD: Put people first! Put People first!

HUGH ESPEY: Alright, we're asking folks to move into room 116. We're going to be starting in there in about a minute and a half.

The power of groups like CCI is its members. It's people that's going to give legs to our organization. People give legs to democracy. We're just everyday people, regular folks. Grandmas, grandpas, people you see in the grocery store. People you see in church. People you see at school. Just regular folks that don't want to be trampled on by big money.

CCI MEMBERS: We talk, we act, and we get it done! That's right.

JOHN BLASINGAME: Louis Brandeis, the Supreme Court Justice said one time that you can have great wealth concentrated in a few hands or you can have democracy. You can't have both. And I believe him. You can't.

MIKE MCCARTHY: We are right-

BILL MOYERS: John Blasingame is a union laborer and a student of history.

MIKE MCCARTHY: And we will win.

BILL MOYERS: Both have taught him about the strength of solidarity.

JOHN BLASINGAME: People have immense power. We've got immense power. If we can just understand it and believe it, and use it.

BILL MOYERS: John and his CCI compatriots have come to the capitol to take on a familiar foe: Big Agriculture. One of the most powerful business interests in Iowa.

They are fighting a bill that would allow industrial scale farms to spread liquid manure on top of frozen or snow covered fields; a practice deemed hazardous to the environment and a potential health risk.

CCI MEMBER: People are spreading manure on frozen ground and as soon as it starts to melt, it is going to run into the drinking water.

BILL MOYERS: Despite those warnings, the bill was passed out of committee, and on to the Assembly for debate. Lobbyists for factory farming interests were sent to push the bill through. CCI members were there as advocates for the people.

ROSIE PARTRIDGE: House File 2324 is an attempt by corporate agriculture to gut clean water protections that were enacted by the legislature last year.

JOHN BLASINGAME: You really have to get in there and tell your leaders where you want them to lead. And if they're not leading that way, you got to demand why of them. They have to hear from you.

ROSIE PARTRIDGE: Sincerely, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

CROWD: Kill the bill! Kill the bill!

JOHN BLASINGAME: And sometimes you have to raise a fuss as Rosa Parks did. Raised a fuss. Got things changed. And what Rosa Parks said, to me, I always see it this way, is, she didn't just say, "No, you can't have my seat." She actually said, "No, I will no longer participate with you in my own exploitation." That's what she said.

CROWD: Put People first! Put people first!

JIM KALBACH: If you don't get involved, if you don't protest, or complain, they can go ahead and pass their bills the way they want.

CROWD: Enough is enough! Enough is enough!

JIM KALBACH: And that's what you got to do. You keep protesting, you keep protesting and protesting.

BILL MOYERS: Jim Kalbach was born into farming, raised in the populist tradition of dissent.

JIM KALBACH: My dad used to complain and protest. I was on the tractorcades. We went down, we protested with tractors and it was blowing and snowing so bad we had to break all the way to Des Moines. That's 35 miles from here, and we broke our way all the way there, through snow banks and drifts, just to make a protest.

BARBARA KALBACH: What's wrong?

JIM KALBACH: Oh, the batteries are cold.

BILL MOYERS: Jim and his wife Barbara farm 1200 acres of corn and soybeans in Adair County. They joined forces with CCI during a pitched battle to stop a monster hog farm from moving in next door.

BARBARA KALBACH: That factory farm was going to be an industry. And everyone around it was going to be impacted, and we felt impacted adversely. We felt that way, but also all of our neighbors felt that way and we all got together and we worked really hard. And what that created in the neighbors and in myself was empathy. I think it's the creation of-- of empathy and being able to empathize with someone else's situation, because you've been in a bad situation yourself. And your bad situation needed the help of others to be resolved. And so, you're willing to step forward and say, yeah, you are in a bad situation. And I remember what that feels like, and I'm going to help you. Now, some-- some citizens want to be very polite about that, but sometimes polite doesn't work. Sometimes you have to be a little more forceful and get a little bit growly about the whole thing. Goldman Sachs had a big piece of the housing bubble...

BILL MOYERS: From massive hog farms polluting her community to giant banks crippling the economy, Barb Kalbach's activism has carried her far off her Iowa farm.

BARBARA KALBACH: And Goldman Sachs got a ten billion dollar bailout from guess who.

CROWD: Us!

BARBARA KALBACH: We the people! You have to try to explain to people why certain things are an injustice to the population as a whole because if no one speaks out, nothing's going to change.

CROWD: Shame on you! Shame on you!

BARBARA KALBACH: And what we feel, is not that we want government completely out of our lives. And that's what the Tea Party people say. They say, well, we don't want government in our schools, and we don't want government making any health plans for us. And government's too big and it impacts our life. What we see is that government needs to impact people's lives in certain areas.

LARRY GINTER: The preamble of the constitution says promote the general welfare. Well, does that sound like a government that's hands off? That isn't involved into the overall well-being of everybody in this country? So this idea of get government out of my life- I don't know how that works. Because we're supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. So how do I just take government out of my life? I am government!

CCI MEMBER: ...First time meeting him, this is Jim Larew, the governor's general counsel and top policy advisor. Let's give him a round of applause.

JIM LAREW: I'd like to start out with a few comments-

ROSIE PARTRIDGE: Well, I'm going to start. Jim, I'm sorry. (Laughter). I'm Rosie Partridge.

JIM LAREW: Yeah, nice to see you Rosie.

ROSIE PARTRIDGE: We've met before...

JIM LAREW: Yeah. Nice to see you.

ROSIE PARTRIDGE: And I'm going to start off with a little bit talking about...

HUGH ESPEY: The role of government, as it's evolved, has been kind of to serve the interests of the wealthy few, of the elite. So what they've done is they've turned democracy on its head.

JIM LAREW: Legislators and the governor worked hard on the manure on ice bill. It took a lot of work, not everyone got everything that they wanted. But it was a reasonable compromise, on what, for many people felt were difficult issues.

HUGH ESPEY: What we're doing is turning it back so that it's just, so that it's right. In other words, that government serves the people, it serves the common good. It serves the public interest.

LARRY GINTER: Now is the time where Governor, stand up and say "No more messing around corporations, we're putting our foot down." Because the corporations, are running rough shot over every part- section of our economy, and it's damn time somebody stood up.

JACK TROEGER: Listen to me. I put a bathtub in your house. Let's pretend that little bugger is just a-filling up so fast, water's just a-rolling and a-gushing out of that faucet. And it's flowing over the rim of that bathtub. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Are you going to grab a little Dixie cup and start taking that water out and pouring it into the sink? Or are you going to go over to the medicine cabinet and get an eye dropper and start taking drop after drop out and put it into the toilet? That's what you're doing! Stop fiddling around the margins, the edges. Get on with it! We all know, all of us! In this entire country, in this entire country, there are three-hundred million of us who know, you don't get it!

HUGH ESPEY: Good to see people having a voice. People speaking out and speaking truth to power.

MARIA ALVAREZ: I got involved in CCI through the organization of the immigrant issue in my community. But through CCI I have realized all of the different ways the government puts politic and corporate interests before the people.

Society is no longer the people. Society is the money. And that's what society is based upon right now. The money, and who has the power to change society to their way or to their benefit. The people have lost their voice.

DIEGO ALVAREZ: But CCI is here to take it back.

MARIA ALVAREZ: Yup. Because we are the voice.

DIEGO ALVAREZ: I want to live in a state where they have clean water, and puts the health of all Iowans first.

BILL MOYERS: Maria and Diego Alvarez came to America as young children with their mother, to escape hunger and poverty in Mexico. They settled in Marshalltown, Iowa, where their mom works butchering hogs in a local meatpacking plant.

DIEGO ALVAREZ: All day she has to be cutting the meat, and standing up all day, and she only gets one or two breaks a day, even though she's supposed to have like three. And that's why her hands are all the way they are. They don't get straight any more. They just curl up. So-

MARIA ALVAREZ: She says that physically they demand so much out of them and that if they go complain or make complaints, you know, the managers will fire them.

MARIA ALVAREZ (Translating for her mother): When you're physically done, you get fired. That's when Swift doesn't need you anymore.

We're tired of people complaining and not doing anything. So we started working with a bunch of organizations, and slowly we moved up to CCI. And we meet people like Larry-

DIEGO ALVAREZ: Larry's awesome.

MARIA ALVAREZ: Who prep us up and is basically, like, "You know what? This is what happened in my history. This is what happened. This is what I saw. This is- and this is how it could affect you guys." And we're just, like, "Oh yeah, Larry. We got your back." We must stand together. Urban and rural, immigrants and native Iowans, united for what's right.

CROWD: Kill the bill! Kill the bill!

MARIA ALVAREZ: And he has our back, and we have his back. And that's how it works.

BILL MOYERS: It worked. The power of organized people helped kill the bill. One small victory in a never-ending fight.

LARRY GINTER: We had, I don't know- I think we had about a hundred and fifty people there.

As a Catholic, there's one thing that I've always felt about the bible that was, to me, was the ultimate truth. And that is loving your neighbor. Did you find out any more about that rally we were going to have? If you truly love your neighbor, you're going to make sure that that neighbor's treated fairly. Because if that neighbor is taken care of and he knows that you care or she knows that you care about them, maybe just maybe they're going to care about Larry Ginter. And that's going to catch on.

JOHN BLASINGAME: You can fight. In fact, you've got a duty to fight. There's some words to a song that get right to the heart of this.

(SINGING) You law abiding citizens, listen to this song. Laws were made by people and people can be wrong. Once unions were against the law, but slavery was fine. Women were denied the vote and children worked the mines. The more you study history, the less you can deny it. A rotten law stays on the books 'til folks with guts defy it.

And that's right at the heart of the matter. We defy the bad ones and we fight for the good ones. And that's what we're about.

BILL MOYERS: I don't know anyone who embodies that old-time, populist gospel, the high spirits and fierce commitment to justice that you just witnessed among the good people of Iowa more than my longtime friend, Jim Hightower.

With a down home wit and a finely honed outrage, Hightower pins the tail on the plutocrats.

A recovering politician, one time commissioner of agriculture in Texas, he now broadcasts daily radio commentaries and publishes this indispensable monthly newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown." I admire the journalism in "The Lowdown" so much I helped raise money to raise its profile some years ago. In the spirit of fair trade, Jim has allowed me to borrow some of his best lines, including that rousing populist cry from deep in our native East Texas, "the water won't clear up until we get the hogs out of the creek."

He's been at it so long that this weekend, Jim is being honored at Texas State University in San Marcos with an exhibition celebrating his life's work as a populist journalist, historian and advocate.

They're calling the event "Swim Against the Current" because that's what he does, and in fact, that's the title of his most recent book.

Welcome to the Journal.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Thank you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think about those people from Iowa?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, the thing that struck me most is, it's a coalition of farmers, of environmentalists, workers, young people, old people, working for the community. And it's not just about me, me, me all the time. They're exactly in the tradition of people who, you know, are mad as hell but do something about it. You know, it's one thing to be mad. But it's another thing to get organized, and find your way around it. You know, my mama told me that two wrongs don't make a right, but three left turns do.

And that's what we have to do. We have to figure a way around these blockages of Wall Street today. Of the corporate interests that are squeezing out small business. Of the blockages in the marketplaces. The drug companies, for example, that are gouging consumers. Have to figure out a way around that. It's not enough to whine. Even in the media.

You know? Because the populists faced that same thing of the media of the day, being primarily newspapers and magazines. Wouldn't cover this populist movement. In fact, when I worked for Ralph Yarborough, years ago, a Senator from Texas, "The Dallas Morning News" just ignored the progressives of that day. And Yarborough could have a meeting in Dallas and there'd be 5,000 people there. And not a word in "The Dallas Morning News." So, we had a new name, a new subtitle for the Dallas News. If it happens in Dallas it's news to us.

BILL MOYERS: Populism began in Texas, didn't it?

JIM HIGHTOWER: It did. In 1877, out near Lampasas. A group of farmers sitting around a table much like this. And getting run over by the banks and by the railroad monopolies, not unlike what's happening today. People were being knocked down by corporate power. And that power was initially the banks that just gouged them. Usurious rates of lending. Cause farmers live on credit. You know, they were getting stuck with, you know, 20 percent, 25-30 percent interest rates. And realizing they were going to go broke. And said, "We've got to do something." And out of that, you know, that question has come up so much throughout history. We got to do something.

And people figure it out. And it became an incredible, they, the most extensive and most successful mass grassroots movement ever in this country around economic issues. It didn't begin as political movement. They found ways to get credit, establish their own credit system. Bypassing the banks.

Their own supply system. Seed, fertilizer and that sort of thing. And then their own marketing system. And then they began to build a cultural movement around it, as well. They educated people. They had a speaker's bureau. They had 40,000 members in it. So--

BILL MOYERS: They had quite a network of intellectual power, didn't they?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Yes. And it was an intellectual movement. It was an education movement, cultural movement, economic movement. Then it became political. They, and they elected all across the country, by the way, New York to California.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, it spread from Texas to Kansas and--

JIM HIGHTOWER: Up to the Plains States. And over into the Upper Midwest. And then east and then west and then down through the South. So, it was everywhere. And a very powerful movement.

BILL MOYERS: They were the first party to call for a woman's right to vote. To call for the direct election of Senators. To oppose all subsidies to corporations. They called for pensions for veterans. They wanted to corral the power of lobbyists. What do we owe them?

JIM HIGHTOWER: We owe them imitation. We owe them the continuation of that spirit that we do not have to just accept what is handed to us. We can battle back against the powers. But it's not just going to a rally and shouting. It's organizing and it's thinking. And reaching out to others. And building a real people's movement.

BILL MOYERS: How does the Tea Party differ from the people you're talking about? We have two groups of Americans, both angry and defiant, and both calling themselves populists. What don't they have in common?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Here's what populism is not. It is not just an incoherent outburst of anger. And certainly it is not anger that is funded and organized by corporate front groups, as the initial Tea Party effort is, and as most of it is still today. Though there is legitimate anger within it, in terms of the people who are there. But what populism is at its essence is a, a just determined focus on helping people be able to get out of the iron grip of the corporate power that is overwhelming our economy, our environment, energy, the media, government. And I guess that's one big difference between real populism and what the Tea Party thing is, is that real populists understand that government has become a subsidiary of corporations. So you can't say, let's get rid of government. You need to be saying let's take over government.

BILL MOYERS: Why don't you call yourself a liberal?

JIM HIGHTOWER: The difference between a liberal and a progressive is that liberals want to assuage the problems that we have from corporate power. Populists want to get rid of corporate power. An example is what's happening, right now, with the Wall Street reform that's in Washington.

BILL MOYERS: I heard quotation marks around that word reform.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Here come the Democrats, again, you know, just weaker than Canadian hot sauce. You know? Offering a little reform. I saw one of the Senators, Democrats, saying, we're going to have a robust disclosure program. Oh, good. They're going to tell us they're stealing from us. But at least we're going to know. So, instead, liberals like--

BILL MOYERS: We need to regulate the corporation.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Yes, yes. Rather than break it down. When you're too big to--

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean break it down?

JIM HIGHTOWER: If you're too big to fail, you're too big period. And now they've become not only too big to fail, but too big to care.

BILL MOYERS: So when you identify yourself as a populist, what are you saying?

JIM HIGHTOWER: I'm saying pretty clearly that I see the central issue in politics to be the rise of corporate power. Overwhelming, overweening corporate power that is running roughshod over the workaday people of the country. They think they're the top dogs, and we're a bunch of fire hydrants, you know? Out here in the countryside. And they can do what they want to with us. What's been missing is what can we do about it? And those people in Iowa, by the way, are not alone. There are people in Minnesota doing that, people in Oregon that I know. People in Texas. All across the country.

It's about the long haul. And the target is not government, it's those who are pulling the strings of government, which are those corporate lobbyists and the money that the corporate executives and now corporations directly can put into our campaigns.

BILL MOYERS: Because of the recent Supreme Court decision.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Yes. Citizens United, which is a, really a black robed coup by five men on the Supreme Court. And Bill, there's another fraud. Is these people on the Supreme Court call themselves conservatives. And the media goes along with it. The conservative majority in the Supreme-- but there's nothing conservative at all about that decision to allow corporations to be people. And to contribute all the money that they want out of their corporate treasuries into our campaigns. That is a usurpation of democratic power.

BILL MOYERS: You wouldn't call them conservative, what would you call them?

JIM HIGHTOWER: I would call those five really traitors to the democratic ideal that was put forward of self government of people, not of corporations.

BILL MOYERS: I was taken recently by something you said in-- about all this. You said in the last 30 to 40 years, our landscape has been radically altered.

JIM HIGHTOWER: And both political parties have been a part of this. Have basically gotten away with it. But the altering has been done by the corporate interests. And they have changed the way our economy works. And beat up on labor unions. So that they can now fire at will. They can offshore. They can downsize. They can do what they want with the workers.

BILL MOYERS: You quote a Wall Street honcho who says quote, "American business is about maximizing shareholder value...You basically don't want workers."

JIM HIGHTOWER: Exactly. And that's what's happening. And so, they've changed the whole dynamic in the way our-- in where power is in our economy. It is now concentrated in these corporate-- suites. They have the lobbying power. And the financial contributions to our members of Congress. That enormous power. Already corporations have amassed almost half a billion dollars for the 2010 elections.

And that doesn't count the-- what's going to come with the Supreme Court decision. When all that, the money from the corporate treasuries themselves can be unleashed on candidates. Already the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending more money than either the Democratic National Party or the Republican National Party in our politics.

Now, it'll become a major front group for these kind of-- and all sorts of other front groups exist for this. And rather than, let's pass an amendment that says, no, a corporation cannot contribute its money to politics. And in fact, originally most of the state charters in the country prohibited any corporate involvement in politics whatsoever.

They not only regulated corporations the founders, Jefferson and Madison, they feared corporate power. Because they knew it could amass unlimited amounts of money that would overwhelm the government.

They put strict standards for performance, because this was a selfish entity that had really no public responsibility. And so, it was a dangerous threat and it has to be, not only strictly regulated but structured in such a way that serves us rather than vice versa.

BILL MOYERS: And yet, isn't part of the problem the fact that so many people in high places are afraid of populism? I mean, they see it--

JIM HIGHTOWER: Of course.

BILL MOYERS: --as a menace to their position. Let me show a little montage we have here.

SENATOR JUDD GREGG: Well the problem we have is that there's populist fervor, sort of this Huey Long attitude out there that says that all banks are bad and that the financial system is evil and that as a result we must do things which will basically end up reducing our competitiveness as a nation...

MAYOR MIKE BLOOMBERG: And the real danger here is that we write a bill based on populist reaction, "I'm going to get those S.O.B.'s," because of a financial crisis which incidentally they may or, they had something to do with but were not the only ones responsible for.

SENATOR BOB CORKER: Look, we, this is important stuff. This isn't about populist ideas and this isn't about a political issue. We're going to have to live with this. It's going to affect our competitiveness around the world in big ways.

BILL MOYERS: They're afraid of you.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Absolutely. I mean, if ignorance is bliss, these people must be ecstatic, because they don't have a clue about what's going on in the countryside. It is not just populist anger. It's information. It's education. People are informed, they do know what's going on. And in fact, despite Senator Judd's comments there, people do not hate all banks.

They know the difference between Goldman Sachs and the local community bank. They know the difference between JPMorgan Chase and their credit union. They know who's serving the community and who is not. And who's offering financial products that actually serve our society and those that are just gimmicks to further enrich the rich.

BILL MOYERS: You were very influenced, I know, in this, by your father. What was it he said? Everyone--

JIM HIGHTOWER: Everybody does better when everybody does better.

BILL MOYERS: Which means?

JIM HIGHTOWER: That means that instead of tinkle down economics, which we've been trying for the last 30 years in this country. Let's just help the rich and then the rest of us will-- we'll all enjoy a seven course dinner. Well ours turns out to be a possum and a six pack. You know? So-- and--

BILL MOYERS: He was a small business owner.

JIM HIGHTOWER: He was a small business guy.

BILL MOYERS: Where?

JIM HIGHTOWER: The Main Street newsstand in Denison, Texas. And had a wholesale magazine business. And he and my mother did. And, but he never thought that he did that by himself, you know? He knew there was something called the New Deal that offered a lot of opportunities. And, but he was always having to battle the banks. And then ultimately battle Wal-Mart and the chain stores.

He knew about the power of the oil lobby down in Austin and the legislature. So, he thought he was a conservative. But when you talk to him about these issues, then he was a William Jennings Bryan radical. He wanted to go get them. And that's the kind of politics, I think, the Democratic Party has to have. Because that's why the Democratic Party exists. Not to be friends of the corporate interests. The Goldman Sachs and et cetera, but to challenge those corporate interests on behalf of everybody else.

BILL MOYERS: There's someone we both know said to me just this morning, the Republicans work for Wall Street and the Democrats are afraid to work against them.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Isn't that strange? You know, the-- it's odd to me that we've got a President who ran from the outside and won. And now is trying to govern from the inside. You can't do progressive government from the inside. You have to rally those outsiders and make them a force to come inside.

I grew up in Denison, Texas, I said. A small town. I was a small guy. So, I learned early on, you should never hit a man with glasses. You should use something much heavier. And our heavy weight is the people themselves. They've got the fat cats, but we've got the alley cats. And we need to organize them and bring them inside. But I'll tell you right now, the Democrats, not Obama, not Nancy Pelosi, not Harry Reid, none of them, really organize the grassroots. They'll say, "Well, write your Congressman or send an email or make a call."

BILL MOYERS: Send us five dollars on the internet.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Yeah, exactly. But rather than seeing that this is our strength. And we have to organize that strength in strategic ways. And in tactical ways. To come to bear on these issues. You know, Jesse Jackson said something strong. He said, we might not all come over on the same boat, but we're in the same boat now. That's a powerful political reality. When people grasp that, they can see the possibility of getting together and doing something.

BILL MOYERS: So, what is a good populist to do in this regard? I mean, corporations are here to stay. They do employ millions of people. And many of them do good things in the country like supporting this broadcast.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Yes, well--

BILL MOYERS: What do we do?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, you support those that support us. And there are corporations that do that. But you also do something else. And that is devise alternatives. There's a huge cooperative movement in America that you almost never hear about. There are some 72,000 co-ops operating today. Most of them are consumer co-ops. There are insurance co-ops. There are health care co-ops. There are food co-ops, of course. There are banking co-ops. There are all kinds of cooperatives out across the country. And those entities have 120 million people participating in them. Members.

You never hear about this movement. I've worked with a number of them. There's a great one, Madison Cab Company. Union Cab Company, Madison, Wisconsin. A bunch of cabbies going broke back in the '70s. Getting treated like Kleenex by the manager. And so, they formed a union. And the owner said, well, hell with that. I'm not dealing with any union. You know, I'll just sell the thing.

So, they said, well, what the hell. We do the work here. You know, we do the dispatching and the driving and mechanical work. We could run it. So, they created a co-op. And they had a lot of ups and downs. But over the next 30 years, they were able to make it. And it's the most successful cab company in all of Madison, Wisconsin. They get a high consumer approval rating.

And I learned about this, because I rode a cab to the airport there in Madison once. And the guy turned around, full body, by the way, to look at me in the back. And you know, you're in a union cab. And I said, well, no, I didn't. And then he told me the story. But he said, he was one of the original founders. And he had been able to put his two kids through college driving a cab. Because the owners were the workers themselves. And doing a great service to the public.

BILL MOYERS: You know, I have to say it's been interesting to watch you over these 30 years. Because you've suffered a lot of defeat. You got defeated in your last race by the man who's now been Governor of Texas longer than anyone in history, whose campaign mentor was Karl Rove.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Karl Rove.

JIM HIGHTOWER: A guy who puts the goober in gubernatorial. By the way--

BILL MOYERS: But I mean you got beat there. You-- a lot of what you want hasn't happened. And yet, every time I see you or hear you, you haven't-- you don't give up.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Yeah. Well it could be stupidity. But what it really is, is that I'm a lucky duck. And that I travel a whole lot. I give a lot of speeches. And that takes me all across the country on a regular basis. I've been just about every place that's got a zip code, I think. And what I find in every one of those places is someone or some group of someones who is in rebellion.

And again, not just ranting about it, but actually organizing others and taking on some aspect of this corporate power. And winning. So, I see victories just every week across the country in my travels. You can go anywhere and you see victories. Some of them political. But most of them in terms of just civic action. People engaged in, and making a difference in their communities. So, you want to see the populist movement where it actually is today, it's at the zip code level. It's in the communities.

BILL MOYERS: Like those people in Iowa.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Yes, exactly. I go all the way back to Thomas Paine, of course. I mean, that was kind of the ultimate rebellion. And then when the media tool was a pamphlet. You know, a pamphleteer or a broadside that you put on the community bulletin board. So the whole American Revolution itself, but not the great men. They didn't-- they wrote the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. But that didn't create democracy. It made democracy possible.

What created democracy was Thomas Paine and the Shays Rebellion the suffragists and the abolitionists and on down through the populists, the labor movement. Including the Wobblies. Tough in their face people. The-- Mother Jones, Woody Guthrie, you know, the cultural aspect of it, as well. Of course, Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez. And now it's down to us.

You know, the-- these are agitators. They extended democracy decade after decade. You know, sometimes we get in the midst of these fights. We think we're making no progress. But, you know, you look back. We've made a lot of progress. And you've seen it. And I have, as well. You know, that agitator after all is the center post in the washing machine that gets the dirt out. So, we need a lot more agitation. And that's the only thing that succeeds from a progressive side in changing politics in America.

BILL MOYERS: So, is that what you mean when you say the water won't clear up until we get the hogs out of the creek?

JIM HIGHTOWER: That's it. That's right. They are in the creek. And they're fouling our environmental, political and economic waters. And you don't get a hog out of the creek, Bill, by saying, here hog, here hog. You know? You got to put your shoulder to it and shove it out of the creek.

BILL MOYERS: Jim Hightower, have fun this weekend.

JIM HIGHTOWER: I will, thank you.

BILL MOYERS: Good to see you.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Same here.

BILL MOYERS: You've no doubt figured out my bias by now. I've hardly kept it a secret. In this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of broadcast news.

Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don't try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don't mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy.

Plutocracy is not an American word but it's become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side. By the next spring, Citigroup decided the time had come to publicly "bang the drum on plutonomy."

And bang they did, with an "equity strategy" for their investors, entitled, "Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer." Here are some excerpts:

"Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper...[and] take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years..."

"...the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the US-- the plutonomists in our parlance-- have benefited disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US...[and] from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor."

"...[and they] are likely to get even wealthier in the coming years. [Because] the dynamics of plutonomy are still intact."

And so they were, before the great collapse of 2008. And so they are, today, after the fall. While millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings, the plutonomists are doing just fine. In some cases, even better, thanks to our bailout of the big banks which meant record profits and record bonuses for Wall Street.

Now why is this? Because over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists — choose your poison — have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding. Remember that Citigroup reference to "market-friendly governments" on their side? It hasn't mattered which party has been in power — government has done Wall Street's bidding.

Don't blame the lobbyists, by the way; they are simply the mules of politics, delivering the drug of choice to a political class addicted to cash — what polite circles call "campaign contributions" and Tony Soprano would call "protection."

This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. According to a study from the Pew Research Center last month, nine out of ten Americans give our national economy a negative rating. Eight out of ten report difficulty finding jobs in their communities, and seven out of ten say they experienced job-related or financial problems over the past year.

So it is that like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy.

Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs.

So along with Jim Hightower and Iowa's concerned citizens, and many of you, I am biased: democracy only works when we claim it as our own.

As you can imagine, I thought long and hard about who I would invite to be my last guest on the Journal. So many people have inspired my own work that I had a difficult time making that choice. But i finally decided to ask someone whose curiosity about the world, and pursuit of it, have set the gold standard for all of us whose work it is to explain those things we don't understand.

For decades Barry Lopez has called western Oregon his home, but from there he has roamed the world: from the playas of Texas and the deserts and canyons of the American southwest, to the frigid extremes at both the polar ends of the earth and across Asia and Africa. Then, always home again, to write about what he has seen and learned... And such writing it is.

I first came upon Lopez when he published "Arctic Dreams" 24 years ago — and won the national book award for it. The books kept coming, "About This Life," "Winter Count," "The Rediscovery of North America," "Crossing Open Ground," "Resistance." The raves of critics kept coming, too. "Barry Lopez," said "The Wall Street Journal," "Crosses disciplines the way he conquers continents." "The New York Times" compared his language to "The snap and hiss of a campfire."

You need a long shelf to hold Barry Lopez's novels, essays, articles and short stories, the volumes of travel, photography, and language, vivid portraits of landscapes, emotions, and experience. Common to them all is one man's effort to go out into the world, to discover what is beyond and within us. One reviewer put it this way, Barry Lopez "Restores to us the name for what it is we want." It's a pleasure to welcome you to the Journal.

BARRY LOPEZ: Thank you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: I've been looking forward to this conversation for longer than you can imagine. And I have a lot of things I want to talk about. But first, how does it feel to be back in the canyons of New York City?

BARRY LOPEZ: I like it here. I had a blessing, I think, in my life that I was born in Port Chester, New York, outside the city. And when I was three years old we moved to Southern California. My father left. He just walked away and left us. And my mother raised my brother and me. And she was a teacher. She was a schoolteacher. And she worked three jobs to keep everything going in our household.

But my mother worked overtime to expose my brother and me to a world wider than the one that we might have known had we just stayed where we were. She took us to Grand Canyon. She took us out in the Mojave Desert. And I got, as a kid, I got to run. I got to open myself up into the world and just go.

And for many years, I think as a child, all I wanted to do was to go and to see. That, I want to go and look. I want to go and see. And then my mother married again, we moved to New York, we moved to Manhattan. And I was 11 years old. And I had never had much experience with museums. And I walked into the Frick Collection and saw for the first time probably a Vermeer painting. I, that was the moment in which I saw this convergence of the world that mesmerized me as a child, and this world of ideas and theater and things that are part of the living blood of New York.

So, I love being here. And in my home, you know, I can look up, out the window, and on a particular day see black bears or, you know, I mean, in--

BILL MOYERS: In Oregon, right?

BARRY LOPEZ: In Oregon.

BILL MOYERS: The same house you've lived in how long?

BARRY LOPEZ: For 40 years I've lived there.

BILL MOYERS: Wow.

BARRY LOPEZ: But I like it here. The thing that lifted my heart this morning is when I opened the windows and saw that blue sky. There is a shade of blue in the sky in New York that I associate with this city. And whenever I see it, driving in from the airport or something like that on a winter evening, just moonlight and the blue and the canyons-- I don't, I've never had this sense of antipathy toward cities. You know, it's the best we can do.

And when you see a vibrant, aggregation of human imaginations underneath this mantle of a blue sky, it renews my sense of hope. I don't have a sense, "Oh my God, I'm coming into Sodom and Gomorrah or some dead end place for humanity."

BILL MOYERS: Paradoxically, as you're describing that blue sky, do you know what I was thinking about? The sky on the morning of September 11th. I-- we were just, you know, we're just a couple of miles from the site there. And there's-- my wife and I were coming to work, the sky was so beautiful. And at that very moment, the first of those planes was driving into the World Trade Center. So, I will always associate that blue sky that you just beautifully described with that moment. Now, what does that do-- you know, you talk a lot about courting the imagination. What does that do to your imagination? When you've had that kind of experience?

BARRY LOPEZ: It's a caution. That, you know, we have a way of talking about beauty as though beauty were only skin deep. But real beauty is so deep you have to move into darkness in order to understand what beauty is.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?

BARRY LOPEZ: And that's what you-- well, it's just what you said. You're talking to your wife in this blue sky goes gray. And a horror, a horror visits us. If you- try to separate these two things, you're in trouble. What you must do is build a system of civilization that is as aware of darkness as it is of beauty. I would feel on thin ice if the world were nothing but beauty.

I need to remind myself by going to Auschwitz or by going to Afghanistan or by going to Northern Sumatra after the Boxing Day tsunami, and talking to people. And, you know, you used this word. And I use it all the time, too. Hope. How can we maintain our sense of hope when to go deep into the news is to encounter the kind of terror that can traumatize a person for the rest of their life? I think hope is a space holder that word. It's not the false word, but it's just- for me, it's just holding a place for another word to turn up.

BILL MOYERS: Action. I mean, don't you think? I mean, hope is actually- toxic. If you hold it long enough without some resolution.

BARRY LOPEZ: I would say yes. I would affirm that you have to have action. But I think the virtue that is, that we-- you know, there are certain things that people say you shouldn't talk about, because it makes people nervous.

The things that make us uncomfortable in public are a person who wishes to speak of what is beautiful. That makes everybody a little bit nervous, because many of us keep this jaded, cynical separateness with the world, because we're cautious. We're cautious. How many people do you know whose crying out is for intimacy? They want to be known. They want to be touched. But they can't make that intimate connection without being vulnerable. You have to be vulnerable in order to achieve this exchange of intimacy. And you can't be vulnerable unless you can trust the situation. And what we're learning, many of us, is the world is not trustworthy enough for you to be vulnerable to it and gain that intimacy.

Another thing that makes people nervous is if you speak of faith, because immediately people think, Christian faith? Or Islamic faith? Or what kind of faith are you talking about? I'm not talking about any of those. I am talking about the belief in other people. The faith-- when I have been in situations that are dangerous, physically dangerous, you know, in Antarctica or, you know, diving underneath ice down there, for example, which I did for awhile.

My faith is in my colleagues. And when I meet other writers, journalists, who've been doing this for a long time, trying to make us aware of what it is that we're living in, I put my faith in those people. And so, the word that has come alive for me in recent months is to have faith in each other.

BILL MOYERS: But there is something- you say trust others. We say in my business, trust the process.

BARRY LOPEZ: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: That you know the next person in line above or behind you or beside you or below you or above you are going to do their bit.

BARRY LOPEZ: Oh, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: To make the system, the production work. That's what life is, isn't it?

BARRY LOPEZ: It is. And you open a door to something that is, I'm being presumptuous, but I have to think that there've been times in your own life, as a journalist, when you've lost faith or you've- looked into a situation that made you feel you were never going to recover from- what it is that you saw. But you do. And you do because somebody sent you a letter. Or somebody phoned you on the phone. And that circle of people who just stay in loose touch with each other, renews a sense that it doesn't take a very large group of people to bring everyone to a kind of awareness that we must have now about what we call the fate of the earth. You know? We're not- somebody said to me the other day, "People talk about saving the earth, but what they want to do is save the Holocene." You know, the last 10 thousand years, that what they're interested in. They don't care about. So, you know, the world'll be fine if we're not here. But, you know, we're all like to root for the home team. I like to root for humanity. And I want to see a place where this great dream in whatever epistemology you find it in, whatever religion that you find this idea, it's all over the world, that we can come to a state of grace. We can come to a state in which we do better than we're doing now. I believe fiercely in that. And I meet people in every corner of the world who affirm it.

BILL MOYERS: You said once that for those of us living in North America, nature is the oldest metaphor in our story. Is that still true?

BARRY LOPEZ: That's our ancestral stuff. And when you had an emotion that you had no language for, or I had an emotion I had no language for, I would have to find a referent out there to bring it in to you. So, it's the oldest metaphor, because our stories began where we used animals and wind and light as a context in which to develop something that was very complicated. And that's how we communicated with each other.

We have from, you know, the beginning of the Holocene, you know, the raising, the creation of cities in the Tigris/Euphrates, we have created a world in which we marginalize that which we don't think serves us as well as it could. We've turned nature into a thing. You know, Martin Buber's wonderful I/it relationship and I/thou relationship. This is an "it." The book is an "it." It is soulless. It is utilitarian. I can throw it on the ground if I want. But if it's an I/thou relationship, you never make those kinds of presumptions. So a lot of what traditional people when you watch- when you're in their environment, everything is I/thou. The relationship to the wind; the wind is alive. It has a soul. It's part of the moral universe.

And we've created something in which we have excluded from our moral universe everything but us. And in fact, a lot of people have been excluded from this central White Western European dominant culture. Everything else is an I/it relationship. With African Americans or, you know, in Aboriginal people, whatever it's going to be. But when you-- with traditional people, the relationships with everything are about the holiness of the other, the mystery of the other. That's that I/thou relationship.

And what I would like to I guess encourage people to understand is that for the sake of our own convenience, we created an "other," and that other was nature. And we said, if it doesn't serve us, kill it, move it, destroy it, crush it. Make it serve us. And if it doesn't, it's no good.

And what we're trying to do now is to wake up to what humanity has known for longer than 10 thousand years, was that you can't direct the play. The play is not directable. You must participate in the play. You must get out of the director's chair of telling everybody what to do and how to behave and who can be on stage. You must put all that aside and step onto the stage with other men and women. And say, we're in this together. And we need to find an arrangement how-- in order to take care of each other. But we can't exclude. We can't make nature the banished relative, no part of the human family.

BILL MOYERS: So, is the new metaphor not nature, but the stage? That's a powerful idea that we all- have walk on parts in this drama that never ends.

BARRY LOPEZ: But who is it, Bill, that says, one person has a walk on part? You know? That's a political question. Who is it that's standing there saying, that person, this person, that person, those are walk on parts. And this person over here will be the star of the show. I don't like that. I don't like to hear it. What happens if a person speaks imperfect English in a culture like ours, is not articulate, but can dance in a way that makes you shiver? Why is that a walk on part? When it comes to a political statement, for example? You know, television, God bless television. But television--

BILL MOYERS: But God hasn't, so go ahead.

BARRY LOPEZ: No, no, he's withholding judgment, I think. But--

BILL MOYERS: She certainly is.

BARRY LOPEZ: It's an-- you know, you can turn on the television and see people who claim expertise that they don't possess. And I say that, because the kind of expertise we need is not a facile grasp of policy, but a love of humanity. That's what we need.

BILL MOYERS: But some people are hard to love.

BARRY LOPEZ: Humanity. And, you know, what Charles Taylor or Idi Amin did, or Hitler or Stalin or any of these reprehensible human beings. What they did is-- we should condemn. Humanity is also Michelangelo. Or humanity is also Darwin. Humanity is Epictetus or anybody that you want to pull out of the fabric. I mean, if you have the Bach cello suites in your head at the same moment that you're looking at a gas chamber at Auschwitz. Then to me you've got some hope of being fully aware of what it is that we're enmeshed in.

BILL MOYERS: Well, this, of course, is the puzzle, isn't it? I mean, in that quote, high civilization of Germany at the time. The generals walked in the garden, listening to Bach and Beethoven, while a mile away, the gas chambers were working overtime.

BARRY LOPEZ: There was no capacity to imagine their own humanity was being destroyed there. The way in which they were ethically compromised by what they were doing. What I hope that I'm saying is that there is in the interior of those six cello suites that Bach wrote. An homage to a quality that is apparent to a Western imagination about beautiful proportion and rhythm; increment and spatial volume.

There's something captured in them. And that is the fuel that you use to open yourself up to everything else, even those things that- break your heart. You have to see into the whole. You know, we talk about wilderness. People talk about- did you ever see a wilderness calendar that wasn't full of lyrical images? You know, I used to think when I was a kid, "Well, that's not nature. Nature's not a lyrical experience of a kind of Bierstadt paintings. Nature is the full expression of life."

And you have to be present to all of it. And then you have to ask yourself, "Why does the Dalai Lama laugh? Why does Desmond Tutu--you know, was somebody that I worked with once--why is he capable of such laughter?" And I think part of the answer is that they're fully comfortable with the riotous expression, the darkness and the light, of what it means to be alive.

BILL MOYERS: Someone told me you're working on another book as we speak?

BARRY LOPEZ: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: A book that takes you from the cradle of humanity in South Africa to Australia.

BARRY LOPEZ: All over the--

BILL MOYERS: From Antarctica to the Galapagos?

BARRY LOPEZ: Well, I was always so self conscious about this. Somebody would say, "Well, how can you talk about community all the time, when you're gone, you know?"

BILL MOYERS: You're an itinerant.

BARRY LOPEZ: And, like a stupid man, I thought, "What lesson have I learned here in Oregon, in this chosen place, that helps me find an answer for this question that makes me feel guilty?"

And the answer is right in front of me. For 40 years, about 200 yards from the front of the house look- where I looked down on the river, Chinook salmon have spawned. Every year they come back. They have to run a gauntlet, but they're there every year. And no one in their right mind would say that those salmon, who haven't been here for four or five or sometimes six years, aren't members of the community. The community couldn't survive without them.

And that was the day I thought, "Well, I'm just like them. I'm rooted deeply here. This is my home. But I go like they do out into the ocean. And they bring back a story." It-- the story that they bring back is the story of renewal of their travels. So, that's how I began to, if you will, if you'll let me get away with this, this is how I defended myself. I said, "Whatever work was given to me, it means go out there and look and come back and tell us, as well as you can, which means you must pay attention. Come back and say what it is that you saw."

BILL MOYERS: But this is the intriguing paradox about your most interesting personal, interior architecture. I mean, when you come back from the far corners of the world, from the cradle of humanity, from out there. Way out there. You see humanity clearer than many of us who are right here.

BARRY LOPEZ: Here's the deal. I had really good teachers

BILL MOYERS: Jesuits.

BARRY LOPEZ: Jesuits, who woke up in me a capacity for metaphor. A capacity to understand that there were ways of knowing: science is a way of knowing, dance is a way of knowing, writing is a way of knowing. Any good writer will tell you that you're not in complete control here. The story is something that is emerging from parts given to you by other people. And it's feeding back into you. And your job is about syntax and language and punctuation and creating a drama and an arc and the rest.

But when I say I had really good teachers, some of them can be identified in a conventional way as a person standing in a classroom. But I'll tell you this, I know in my tissues that I have had other teachers- one of them is the living earth itself. I can remember walking on different-- what a scientist would call a substrate. This stuff, walking in sand or on rock or across water, not on the water, in the-

BILL MOYERS: That's coming.

BARRY LOPEZ: Yeah, okay. But my body will talk to me and say-- my body will say, "I was listening when you were not paying attention. And here's what your body learned through its senses about the world that you were moving in." So, a teacher-- the earth has been a teacher. And Inuit people or Yupik Eskimo or Inupiaq Eskimo or Pitjantjatjara people in Australia. All-- they're very different epistemologies. They're very different ways of understanding or trying to understand the great mystery.

And if you don't talk, you listen. What you're-- what's happening is you're being taught that you are not the center. I mean, this is what Copernicus was trying to say. Are you going to be able to manage this idea? That the sun doesn't revolve around us, but we revolve around the sun? That we're still feeling the reverberations of that. Let alone somebody like Darwin who comes along and says everything up until now has been physics and chemistry. But we're in a new world. We're in the fuzzy world of biology.

This that you call ursus maritimus, this polar bear. This is a being who came from somewhere and is going somewhere. It's not locked in time. And that- the great resistance to Darwin is, I think, he told us that it's all moving. And it's headed in no particular place. And then particular physics comes long. And quantum mechanics come along. And these physicists tell us the same thing. "It's really fuzzy out there."

So, if you want to know, you've got to be in a classroom with a person like those Jesuit priests, who taught me- who do know about one part of the world. And then you've got to be on your own, walking the earth, opening yourself up to it, becoming vulnerable. And it's talking to you. And you take it in. And then you sit down with somebody whose- background is completely different from yours. And you say, "When you look out there, what do you see?" And then just listen.

BILL MOYERS: Would you believe that I still have a small yellowed account of remarks you made 25, 26 years ago, when you received- the National Book Award for "Arctic Dreams." You talked there, briefly, about a word you had come across when you were visiting in Japan.

BARRY LOPEZ: I was in Japan. I was with a novelist, a man named Kazumasa Hirai. And everywhere I've gone in the world, I've said-- he was a storyteller, you know? We call him a novelist. But he was just a storyteller. He's like me.

And I would ask him or anybody I was with, "What do you mean when you say you're a storyteller? What do you do?" Because I want to know what I'm listening for is, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, we can talk about the structure. I'm not interested in structure of sentences. What I want to know is who how do you know how to behave? How do you know what to do as a person for other people? How do you know? What do you do?"

BILL MOYERS: As a storyteller?

BARRY LOPEZ: As a storyteller.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

BARRY LOPEZ: And Kazumasa San said to me, "Your work is to take care of the spiritual interior of the language." And he said in Japanese this word we use, kotodama, means that each word has within it a spiritual interior. The word is like a vessel that carries something ineffable. And you must be the caretaker for that. You must be careful when you use language to look at every part of the word and make sure that you're showing respect for it in the place that you've given it to live in the sentence.

But I see all of us engaged in the same thing. And that is the invention of the story. And the story to me is the brilliance of storytelling is that it's the only and the best protection we have against forgetting.

I think, what is at the core of every story. I mean, how many novels have you put down and said to yourself, "Oh, I never knew that." Mostly you know it all, but you forget it. And you close a book and you say, "I knew that, but I'd forgotten it. And I am so glad to be reminded of what I intend to do and who I am. And what-- and how I want to conduct myself in the world."

Where I start from is ethical responsibility to an audience. The creation of something that is as beautiful as you can make it. And that in some way ensures that what we dream, what we really desire, not for ourselves, because that's what you do when you're a kid, but for children- how will you ensure some possibility here by making sure we don't forget where we're going or what we're up to.

BILL MOYERS: I was talking to a mutual friend of ours one night. And he has always been an affirmative and optimistic fellow. And he was saying, "You know, Moyers, for the first time in my life," and he's in his 50s, he said, "I'm beginning to think this America I believed in won't work. That the forces arrayed against justice and fairness are so great that we're going to go down."

And that very night, I came across something you had written. You wrote, "There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light." So, I wanted to ask you where are you today on the path between confusion and conviction?

BARRY LOPEZ: If I'm not-- and I'm telling you this straight up. People think that if you've written a book and somebody's given you a pat on the back then, you know, it's all-- you're all settled, you know? You're going to be fine. I know that if I'm not confused, and really afraid, my work isn't going to be any good.

When I sit at that typewriter, I have to be frightened of what I'm trying to do. I'm frightened by my own, belief that I can actually get a story down on paper. I still have that thing in my mind from childhood, "Who cares what you have to say?" So, my path is the same path. It's still a path through confusion and lack of self confidence, and struggle and embarrassment over all of my imperfection. But I would tell you at the same time, I have seen things that have dropped me to my knees in a state of awe, and when I know that that too is there, if I can find a way to build with language a bridge between a failure to believe and a witness to what is incomprehensible. If I can build that bridge and then do it again and then do it again. I would hope that at the end of my life, somebody would say, "Well, his life was useful. He helped." A key for me, in recent years, has been coming to a better understanding of the virtue of reverence than- I have ever had before, and here I'm borrowing from an American philosopher named Paul Woodruff--

BILL MOYERS: Friend of mine. University of Texas.

BARRY LOPEZ: Yes, that's right. I read this book. I think it's called "Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue." And he says in there that the virtue of reverence is rooted in the understanding that there is a world beyond human control, human invention, and human understanding.

And that that world will always be there, no matter how sophisticated our technologies of- probing reality become. The great mystery will be there forever. And it's the sense that it's not yours to solve. And the issue of a solution to a mystery is perhaps not a sign of wisdom. I am perfectly comfortable being in a state of ignorance before something incomprehensible. And it's in that moment that you're driven to your knees and you believe. I wouldn't call it religious. It's just what happens when you open up again to the extraordinary circumstances of being alive.

And when you can open up to it and come out of your own little small tiny place in the world and say-- if you try, you know, with typewriter rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting, rewriting. And you get something on paper. And you give it to somebody. And you say, "Well, what do you think?" And if it really works, they read it and they say, "I think I'm going to be okay."

BILL MOYERS: Leaning toward the light. But I'll tell you something about Paul Woodruff. Wonderful philosopher, was in Vietnam. And I don't know that he would have ever understood this sense of reverence, if he hadn't seen the savagery.

BARRY LOPEZ: Absolutely. And I think, you know, all that we've been talking about here. We're driving at something that both of us know and are struggling to find language for.

Or at least I am. And that is how do you introduce yourself to the darkness in the world? And how do you walk away from it and have something other than despair and grief to speak of? And he did that when he wrote that book. And I hope that- you know, I have seen, and I'm sure you have. I've seen truly horrible things. Truly horrible things in the world.

And- in the moment I was broken down and given to despair. And I saw despair as the great temptation. And I thought, "If my mother as a parent and my wife and children and people around me. If I have any kind of self respect, I cannot allow myself to fall apart. I must find a way to put myself back together. And if I can to discover a language that can be given to somebody who is broken in half, who never came home."

You know many of our friends never came-- they came home in their bodies, but they never came home from Vietnam or Iraq or these other places. And if you can tell them a story they believe, if you can tell them a story that they will buy about healing.

BILL MOYERS: One of the characters in my favorite book of yours, "Resistance," a woman, dying of Parkinson's disease, hands her daughter Viktor Frankl's book.

BARRY LOPEZ: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: A "Man's Search for Meaning." And says to her, "Now's the time for you to read this book."

BARRY LOPEZ: You're grown up enough to understand.

BILL MOYERS: What was that scene about?

BARRY LOPEZ: It's the same thing that you just described with Paul Woodruff. Don't you think? That we're-- the parent sees in the child the moment in which the child can appreciate that there is another response the horror besides self-destruction. That there is a way to enter into the bleakness that human beings are capable of, and not allow it to define what it is to be human.

Every-- I think every person-- you know, you can go out here on the streets of New York, and walk down the street, pick anybody out of the crowd, and they'll tell you a story that'll break your heart. Anybody. It- this happens to all of us. Every single person, somewhere in their life, is driven to a point of despair, where they just want to quit. And they don't quit.

And why don't they quit? I think they don't quit because there is a capacity for, a desire for reciprocated love that brings you back to life. It-- you know, there is no complete love when you love somebody. It has to be reciprocated. What you're after is this antiphony. This calling back and forth. "I love you." "I love you." "I love you." That's what-- the possibility of that brings you back to life.

"I love my children, therefore, I will get up off my knees when the whole thing looks like it's going to cave in here." And, you know, I think that the capacity that people have to recover the sense of what they mean and to say what they mean by the way they live is-- that's why I have faith in humanity.

BILL MOYERS: I don't know anyone who has more effectively reconciled the paradox of life. Because you talk about love. And yet, I also know you wrote once, "We don't make room in our lives anymore for love." For love of self, for love of others, for love of God, you said. I mean, why don't we make room in our lives?

BARRY LOPEZ: We're so afraid. There's so much to be afraid of. I mean, look at the government we have at the moment, I mean, there's so many places you can go, that make you think, "What in the world are we doing? And how can it be brought to heal?" But we-- I believe that there is a way for people to communicate with each other that they have never known before. It's never, I mean, part of this electronic world we live in, you know? It's got its darkness as well as its light.

But for people all over the world, in small groups, to be in touch with each other about what is welling up in every country, among every group of people, which is a desire for justice. You know, there-- I'm trying to remember the story. I don't remember the philosopher, the Greek philosopher who told the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Which really stuck when I first heard it, is that Zeus said to Prometheus, "Okay, you stole fire. Great for you. Now your people have technology. Wonderful. But here's something you don't know. You lack two things. And if you don't take these two things that I will give you, this will be a failure. Technology, you know, fire, all your magic, it will fail completely. It will be your undoing. And the two things that you need to make it work are justice and reverence. And if you have these two things, you won't get in trouble with this third thing that you thought was the be all and the end all."

BILL MOYERS: The technology.

BARRY LOPEZ: The technology. And when- you know, people have- we talked about this earlier. But if you- you know, my- what brought me fully to life as a child was the natural world. So, when I came to New York and immersed myself in, you know, the- in high culture, I didn't lose what I was given as a child. But the way I understood what I wanted to write about was using these metaphors of landscapes that I traveled in. And, you know, that's what I do.

But I'm not writing about nature. I'm writing about humanity. And if I have a subject, it is justice. And the rediscovery of the manifold way in which our lives can be shaped by the recovery of a sense of reverence for life.

BILL MOYERS: Barry Lopez, thank you very much for being with me on the Journal.

BARRY LOPEZ: Bill, thank you

BILL MOYERS: Next week, I'll be on the other side of the screen, a viewer like you, and I'll be watching the new public affairs program coming to PBS as the Journal leaves.

This new effort, through its innovative website and this public television station, aims to get to the heart of what we "Need to Know." And that's the title.

Hosting "Need to Know" are two journalists with the fresh perspective of their generation and solid accomplishments in print, broadcasting and web reporting. Jon Meacham is the editor of "Newsweek" magazine, and a fine historian — he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House."

Alison Stewart is a Peabody Award winning reporter and producer. She has worked at ABC, CBS, NBC and National Public Radio.

Among the stories we'll be seeing on "Need to Know," a report on the resurgence of the American gun rights movement. Since 2008, 26 states have eased restrictions on gun laws, with more and more allowing handguns to be concealed or carried openly into stores, churches and other public places.

Correspondent John Larson met "Open Carry" activists in a Virginia restaurant.

JOHN LARSON: I understand the right to bear arms but I don't understand the need to carry one into a restaurant.

MALE 1: It's like a fire extinguisher. Until you have a fire, you don't need it.

MALE 2: You may never need it. But if you need it, there's nothing else that's a substitute.

BILL MOYERS: You don't have to wait a week for "Need To Know." You can find it as soon as this Monday, May 3rd, at PBS.org/needtoknow. Check it out online and then on air every Friday on this PBS station, beginning May 7th. Alison and Jon, welcome to PBS. And good luck to you and all your colleagues on "Need to Know."

Finally — and that's for real this time, the Journal comes to an end with this broadcast. Thanks to those of you who have been with us all the way. I am grateful for your loyalty, and for all your letters and postings. I've tried to read every one of them.

To our critics, I'm glad you paid attention; the second most important thing to journalists is to know we're not being ignored. The most important thing is the independence that enables us to do our job without fear or favor. In this I have been unbelievably blessed. When, for the last time, you read the credits at the conclusion of this broadcast, consider that every funder, or underwriter as we say, came to our support asking only that we enrich the public conversation by adding more and different voices to it.

I could not have had more generous or brave partners. Not one of them has ever tried to influence the content; none has asked for a favor; or made a single demand.

Likewise, Mutual of America Life Insurance Company, my sole corporate sponsor for 23 years. Bill Flynn, the CEO when our relationship began, and his successor, Tom Moran are among the best; they've never once mentioned the complaints I know came their way over the controversies ignited here. In my experience, no corporation has been a better friend of democracy.

Time now to let you in on the big secret of broadcast journalism. There's more to it than meets the eye, and in a just world, the credit would not accrue to those of us on camera but to the team you never see.

Pull back the camera and you see the shoulders upon which I stand. Producers and associate producers. Production coordinators and production assistants. Video editors, sound engineers, make up artist, and control room team. Camera operators and floor crew. Directors, art directors, our world class communications and web team. This is an amazingly complex and creative process. And our senior writer, Michael Winship, a longtime colleague who came to PBS about the time I did, almost 40 years ago. Karen Kimball, my personal majordomo.

Our Executive Producer, Sally Roy, master of myriad details who leads us through each week with a sure hand from beginning to end. And three kindred spirits who have been my companions and compatriots ever since we launched our independent production company in 1986:

Diana Warner, our Comptroller, the still, calm center of the storm.

Judy Doctoroff, who began on the bottom rung soon out of college, became our President and COO, our Executive Producer, the conductor of this journalistic symphony and our friend.

And Judith Davidson Moyers, our CEO and Executive Editor, my long-time Executive Producer and creative partner, our maximum leader and my wife of 56 years.

It's been a productive partnership professionally and personally. To quote, once again, what Charlotte Bronte wrote of her Alfred, "We intended to be married in this way almost from the first. We never meant to be spliced in the humdrum way of other people." And that's the Journal.

Thank you for watching. I'm Bill Moyers. See you around.
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