Meet author Jerry Brown: The “philosopher prince” as CA governor again?

"As you observe modernizing projects in the world today that are operated by multinational corporations without much interference from national governments, do you see fascistic elements there? There are certainly enormous changes imposed without the consent of the governed." - Jerry Brown

Posted By: Carla Marinucci
SF Chronicle Politics Blog
Oct 22, 2009

State Attorney General Jerry Brown's past life as the liberal host of the 90s' We the People radio show came in for a good look this week -- so now's a good time to re-introduce you to author Jerry Brown, whose '90s book "Dialogues" also contains a few memorable quotes that may end up in some 2010 gubernatorial campaign ads.

The "philosopher prince" expounds?

With 40 years in state politics, there's a lot of colorful history, quotes and possibly controversial material out there in the public domaine regarding Brown, the politico whom author Robert Pack called "the philospher prince."

Brown's 1998 book, Dialogues (Berkeley Hills Books, $14.95), is an example: it's his hand-picked collection of deep conversations with some leading academics, activists and intellectuals of the day.

Brown's prologue promises that "you will find that each dialogue illuminates the paradoxes of progress, and opens up cracks in the certitudes of our modern world view."

That's a tall order, but with a used copy going for $8 on Amazon, we went for it. The jacket blurb gushes that Brown "has reevaluated and attacked entrenched ideas, forging a political philosophy that transcends conventional boundaries."

But Dialogues -- along with the recent story on We the People by the Sacramento Bee's reporter Jack Chang -- both dramatize how the 2010 campaign may be a blast from the past. It will work both ways -- for Brown fans, the material illustrates the intellectual curiousity and independence that they say set him apart in the current pack of pols. For conservatives, it's more proof he's still that ultra-liberal, wacky "Moonbeam'' character.

So here's some snippets of vintage Brown's "Dialogue" comments and questions to the big thinkers -- long before he had to worry about mundane stuff like crime and punishment as the state AG, or talking to Average Joe Voter in his next campaign for governor:

*To author and philosopher Noam Chomsky:

*"How would you compare the propaganda system in the so-called free world to an authoritarian system? What are the differences?''

*To Alice Walker, prize-winning author of "Color Purple":

*"Many people are proposing education is the answer. They say it's the answer to poverty; it's the answer to other problems. And yet, in many respects, education is a deeper embedding of alienation."

*"Is whatever left of civil rights, liberalism, activism, whatever, is it now so domesticated that violence and repression aren't needed?"

*To Judi Bari, late "Earth First!" enviromental activist:

*"None of us is an isolated monad with this bundle of private property rights outside the fabric of these larger obligations. So I very much believe that it's time to take another step in the evolution of capitalism. Right now, I don't think the federal government can make that happen...it can't even operate what it owns, so that's not the answer. But we're on a track of real destruction socially and ecologically and we have to understand that as clearly as we can in order to come up with a better set of rules."

*To Wolfgang Sachs, author and enviromental researcher:

*"As you observe modernizing projects in the world today that are operated by multinational corporations without much interference from national governments, do you see fascistic elements there? There are certainly enormous changes imposed without the consent of the governed."

*To Suzanne Arms, natural childbirth crusader, photojournalist and author:

*"There is a massive propaganda system that is invading our unconscience, and its message is what you're talking about ... romanticism."

*To Lt. Col Dave Grossman, author:

*"During the Gulf War, we saw green missile flashes broadcast on CNN. We didn't see Iraqi people, human beings, young boys, many of them Christians, buried alive by vehicles driven by America GIs. If we'd gotten that picture, we might have had a very different reaction to this very popular war."

*"We are exposed to death and violence in so many forms, movies, television, video games. Even our president takes out television commercials to show how committed he is to killing criminals. You might say we have a stronger fascination with death than ever before."

*To Sister Helen Prejean, anti-death penalty activist and author of Dead Man Walking:

*"Over the centuries, there has persisted the sense of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, a belief in rightous vengeance, a primordial feeling that the killings of criminals will balance the scales of justice...we are faced with the question of the death penalty nearly every time we vote, either in specific crime-related measures, or by candidates promoting their stand for or against capital punishment. This question is nothing less than a test of our humanity, of how we see ourselves and others and how we define the role of the state.''

*To Paolo Soleri, author and architect:

*Paolo, I want to talk a little bit about your idea of the omega seed."

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/nov05election/detail?entry_id=50095