tv Tavis Smiley PBS February 18, 2011 2:00pm-2:30pm PST
tavis: dr. benjamin barber is a senior fellow at demos and best-selling author and founder of the interdependence day on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. he joins us from new york. dr. barber, good to have you on the program. >> good evening. tavis: the only thing predictable about revolution is that they are unpredictable. so how unpredictable is this revolution in egypt? >> tolstoy said every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way and every revolution is revolutionary in its own way. we have a peculiar group of circumstances. it starts as a virtual revolution, the first net-izen revolution. i'm on virtually this evening
because it was a virtual revolution made first by the internet. i think it's the first time the web has played that role. and that means, second, that an awful lot of young people relatively -- i wouldn't say secular, but relatively educated, technically adept, were in the streets, a very different group than the stereotype about the arab street that we have, which is a foolish stereotype, a very different kind of street, a street full of young people who care and understand technology and who are concerned about their rights and liberties, about their jobs, and who went into the street -- this was perhaps the most striking thing about it, on their lips was the word "peaceful," and they made really for the first time a revolution in the middle east that had no violence. we think about the stereotype is that in the middle east young people are violent. we think about suicide bombers and radical islam but here we had first a people and then
reciprocating, an army that refused to engage in violence, an extraordinary first step. tavis: it is an extraordinary first step and yet you well know that revolution is one thing and democracy is another and democracy, if revolution is hard, democracy is really hard. >> well, that's right and of course while it takes a gifted and courageous protestors to make anlution, it takes citizens to make a democracy and from being a protestor to being a responsible engaged citizen is a long journey and the egyptians are about to engage in that journey and already they think they have won something by removing a figure head, mubarak, but the supreme military council that replaces him is a group of people hardly younger than he is with people like field marshal tantawi and general enone who
are continuing to oversee the transition so the transition, which is a series of conversations between the military and intelligence forces on the one hand and the street forces of the revolution on the other is going to determine whether or not they can shape the next six months into political parties, a civic infrastructure, that allows them to have meaningful elections. we've seen again and again elections in the middle east that have no meaning because they're rigged and the people who participate in them are not really citizens so the next six to nine months will be absolutely telling and as you say, that's the hard part. as hard as the first part was, the next part is much harder because it will take time, patience and there will not be cameras on the protagonists at every moment. tavis: given the back story of all of egypt's previous leaders, tell me why it is you believe that we can or should trust the military. >> i don't think anybody can trust the military but we can
trust the military to do what's in its own interests and it's in its interests to see to a peaceful transition because the egyptian people in the streets have proven that they are stubborn, they are persistent and they are not going to yield if simply we have a figure head change and not genuine regime change so they know they have to play ball and it will be up to the young people of egypt, up to the youth alliance, up to the muslim brotherhood that has a 30-year transition of nonviolence, to keep the pressure on the military, to constantly let them know that if they slow down, there will be people in the streets again. so it's a delicate dance between a military trying to hold on to vestiges of power while yielding gradually without giving up stability and the people who made the revolution who are going to be working hard to shift power but to do so in a way that actually allows them to be organized. interestingly, one of the organizers of youth alliance
said yesterday that he was fearful that the military would rush elections, and if that happened, the muslim brotherhood, which is the best organized entity outside of the military and bureaucracy in egypt, would probably win by 50% to 60%, giving the military an excuse to come back in so the youth alliance and liberal party and other parties are asking for more time so they can organize a fair election. they recognize the muslim brotherhood but they know it's going to take time so part of this is can they buy enough time to develop civic infrastructure and political parties capable of competing in fair elections. tavis: much has been made of the ongoing protestors that are happening all around that region of the world now. you tell me, but as i see it, it's not as easy, as simple as it appears to the naked eye, that is to say, just because others in other countries are
protesting, these countries aren't going to start -- they're not going to start falling like dominoes, number one, and number two, they're not all going to embrace democracy in the way we envision it. so tell me whether or not, to borrow a phrase, there is an irrational exuberance about what we see happening in that region of the world. >> there is a naive and irrational exuberance and without that there would never be revolution and never be change. if we were all cynics of my age, nothing would change. we need that exuberance but we also obviously need prudence, we need hard work, and that is going to take a long time. as we speak, there are demonstrations in libya, in bahrain, in syria and iran where the government is trying to suppress the revolution in the streets that is celebrating the very revolution in egypt that the regime in iran itself wanted to celebrate.
lots of contradictions. it's going to look different everywhere. in bahrain, the king is a sunni and 70% of the people are shiites. in syria, and in libya, you have much less discontent in the streets because there's both been a lot of repression but also in libya they have gas and oil and people are relatively content. on the other side from tripoli, people don't like qaddafi but that's because there are members of tribes that have never liked the qaddafi tribe so in each case, we have to look at the local circumstances. it's going to look very different place to place and in many places the government will not be reluctant to use violence, in the way the conscript army in egypt were unwilling to use violence. so it is going to be long and slow.
and to your other question, tavis, watch out what you wish for because we wish for democracy in the west but when in gaza we got democracy, hamas was elected by a large majority. in algeria when they got democracy back 25 years ago, it led to an islamic fundamentalist regime that ultimately allowed the algerian military to reassert itself. there is a good model out there, though, tavis, and i want to mention it. in turkey, in 1922, there was a military revolution, a nationalist revolution followed by many, many years of military rule, political rule with the military in the background. just five or six years ago, the a.k., a moderate islamic party, came to power and they made a deal with the military. they said, you leave us alone, don't come in and have another coup, and we'll be careful not to move too fast and respect secular institutions and other parties. so far, though it's a delicate
dance that, has worked well and that might be a model for the egyptian military which is going to hang around long after the elections are there but which may be willing to step back and be a kind of guarantor and conservator of fair politics but not engaged in those politics. that's not a solution we like in the west where we have civilian hodgeeminy over the military but it may be a solution that has worked in turkey and may work in egypt. tavis: i have two very important questions. number one, what you do say about the perceived if not real hypocrisy of our government? you mentioned libya and egypt. a number of countries where we have had cozy relationships with the leaders of these countries when it was convenient for us and, you know, now that it's a little -- you see where i'm going with this. i don't need to go further. >> the great paradox of the american "phantom of the opera"
opera" -- foreign policy is that one of the first great democracies has consistently followed a foreign policy based not on liberty and democracy but on selfish interests, securing energy, and having dictators to support to keep stability that allows american corporations and businesses to do business around the world. we need to understand that we are seen as a beacon of revolution and liberty but to do that means to unlink ourselves from the regimes of corruption and tyranny and begin to support popular revolutions of a kind that are imitating our own revolution. >> tavis: i was asked this morning by an interviewer myself what i thought there was for us, that is to say, the american public, to learn. what can we learn from what's happening in egypt and that part of the world and it struck me as a funny question because in many ways given that i come out of the black transition in this country, we taught the world how to protest, we taught the world
how to do it nonviolently. there was a man named king who was regarded around the world for leading that kind of movement here. how would you respond to the question of what there is for us at this moment to learn from them? >> the great irony of the egyptian revolution is that in a part of the middle east that we associate with violence, fundamentalism and military dictatorship, you have had regime change, you have had an uprising in revolution rooted in nonviolence. alongside of mohammad, we've seen the spirit of mandela, the spirit of martin luther king and of the muhatma. and the lesson we can learn today when we have sent troops into iraq and afghanistan and we're making war on behalf of democracy -- we did it in vietnam and we're doing it today in the regions around pakistan and afghanistan, is that, in fact, you don't make democracy by invasion, you don't make democracy through war. and the people on the ground are
reminding us that our own best tradition with martin king, india's best tradition with muhatma gandhi, is a better way to achieve change and democracy than by sending soldiers and troops. if the egyptians can make regime change peacefully, we shouldn't be making war in afghanistan and elsewhere in the world on behalf of democracy. tavis: benjamin barber, thank you for sharing your insights. good to have you back on the program. up next, chef and author jeff henderson. tavis: jeff henderson is a talented chef, former host of the "chef jeff project." his latest project is inspired by the traveling cultural exhibit called "america, i am, the african-american imprint" which is currently in
washington, d.c. at the national geographic museum and this cookbook is called, "america i am: pass it down cookbook." this thing is working. you saw you on theed" it show" and a nice piece on "u.s.a. today." you're making the rounds. >> this is an amazing document of history filled with amazing recipes from folks all across america. it wasn't celebrity driven. we have grandmothers, we have young people, we have historians, it's filled with amazing stories. tavis: when you say it's a history book, you mean what? >> we wanted to document our story of food, how, you know, we played a role in culinary in america, how when africans brought seeds over here 400 years ago in their bosom, in their hair and what-not, and we wanted to show the world that we had amazing contributions to food in this country.
>> i'm an african-american, jeff is an african-american, if you couldn't tell. and while we love the food that our culture has given the country and indeed the world, not all of it is the healthiest. how do you put together a cookbook of 130 soul-filled recipes and give people what they want but also give them options to make it healthier if they want. >> we knew when we put the book out with all these recipes here that critics will say, well, this food isn't healthy. this is a book that restores food that we have cooked, that has been passed down from generation to generation, as we know it. if we don't document our own history, other people will tell the story. this is what's important about it. most of the recipes in the book can be made healthier, collard greens minus the neck bone and added smoked turkey. there's many healthy recipes, as well. tavis: i laugh at the critics
because i don't see anybody not eating it when you're cooking it on the "today show." let me ask you again, how did you guys go about getting these recipes? you put out a national search? >> we used social networking. we used book signings. i spoke across the country asking folks for recipes and the african-american community, one thing that we don't do is we don't document our recipes. tavis: a little pinch of this, a little pinch of that. >> absolutely. so it was a challenge at first but i think with the recipes we have in the book and how great it is, i think many people now are going to be able to start documenting those recipes so we can pass it on to the next generation. a lot of this food may not be healthy but we have to learn to eat in moderation. you can't eat fried chicken every day but every now and then, it's o.k. but there are healthier ways to prepare many of the foods we
grew up on because we know high blood pressure and diabetes is impacting our community. tavis: what's the value of families passing down recipes from generation to generation? i went to the book after you put it together and started, to your point, reading some of these stories, so on every one of these pages where there's a recipe, there's a picture of the everyday american who submitted the recipe, a little bit about how the recipe came to be and the history of the family. what's the value of generations learning to keep these things in the family and pass them on for generations? >> it's important. in our community many times the older folk don't tell the stories of the ancestors and how we came about, our existence here in this country. we felt it was important to teach young people how to cook and to preserve what we brought to this country and preserve the way how we used to eat from the beginning of time here in the country, 400 years ago, up until now. many of these soul food recipes,
as well, have been elevated, they have been tweaked by the next generations that come so we felt it was important to restore this and share this for our grandchildren and great grandchildren to come. tavis: i was thinking about the fact that you and i were raised in a world, many of our viewers were, a time where families got together every night for a meal. many of the obesity issues are not eating regularly, eating on the run. what do you think the country, beyond black folk, what are we losing as a country by not having that time of day where we sit down together for a family meal? >> so many companies now and restaurants, the quick service industry, we have two-parent working households, the mother and the father working and people don't cook like we used to but i think we have to go back to the basics. when i was growing up holidays
and on sunday after church, meals brought the family together. peace was made over meals in the family, i think we need to go back to our roots and begin to sit back at the dinner table and talk about life and engage our children and our family. tavis: i assume you must have got in the kitchen because when people send you recipes, a lot of people think they can cook and they send you their recipe. >> i'm actually dieting because of some of your staff were eating a lot of the food so now i'm testing it around the country with everyone, as well. the recipes work. they're amazing recipes. you have a little caribbean influence, a little african influence. one of the stories that touched me the most was called the black hunter, how africans used to go out and hunt and they would bring back the meat and the slave master kept all of the tender parts of the animal and we had the tough parts bike the ox tail, the stew meat, the short ribs and how the whole
braising, slow-cooking technique came from the slaves. when we went out to the fields to work from sun up to sun down, we would put the tough pieces of meat that the master didn't want braising all day long so when we came home for a meal, we had the slow-cooked tender meet. >> tavis: one of the things i loved about the book and the "u.s.a. today" article pointed this out, at the back of the book, there are blank pages. explain what these pages are for. >> the blank pages in the back of the cook are for everyday cooks, family members to document, continue the process of documenting the recipes that come from families. this is the type of book that stays in the kitchen, stays in the home library for the grandchildren and great grandchildren to come so they can duplicate what our forefathers once cooked. tavis: a section of the book is called "your side to pass it
down" with space for you to keep the tradition along. i can never talk to you and not hear a little bit of your personal story because i know on any given night, it is somebody may be seeing you for the first time and they see you as this wonderful chef they've seen on the food network and with this great book. they see your glory but don't know your story. they don't know the back story. i'm going to give you three minutes to tell the story any way you want to tell it. the story is so powerful that a guy named will smith has bought the rights to his story and look for will smith in a movie theater coming near you some time soon as he tells the big story of the life of jeff henderson. >> i'm amazed at my own success and i'm a guy that's very humble but when you look back over 20 something years ago, i was caught up in the drug business in the mid 1980's and like many black men used the selling of crack cocaine as a vehicle to escape poverty and try to live
the american dream. my purpose back then was to help my mother get out of the hood and make a better way for my family but on the flip side, it came at the expense of our own folks. gang-banging, high incarceration of black males, teenage pregnancy, children born under the influence of drugs, born out of that decade. and i served nearly 10 years in prison. i was imprisoned when i read my first book and began to see the world different and learned about cooking and found a new purpose in life where i wanted to give back through food so as a chef i've given opportunities to young people, took young kids off the street, gave them a second chance to turn their life around using food as a power. tavis: you learned how to cook in prison. >> but we didn't have the knives and saute pans, you know what i'm saying. it was institutional cooking but it gave me the foundation and vision. for the first time in my life i was praised for something good
and i convinced myself that i could take this on the outside and make something of myself because i never dreamed of becoming a chef, never desired cooking ever in my life. tavis: you were on lock-down with major personalities in our culture, people like ivan boski and others. what were these people telling you about how to perfect this brand? >> many of the high-powered white collar prisoners taught business classes. we had some of the brightest minds in the country that were locked up so these men had an opportunity to create jobs for themselves and they talked to other inmates who didn't have a degree or never went to school about branding and marketing and business so i gravitated to these guys and began to learn about myself and maybe i can create a business one day when i came out. tavis: sow -- how surreal is it that the guy who made "the pursuit of happiness" a
blockbuster success is going to give you the same treatment? >> i was blown away. i had no idea. i went on "the oprah winfrey show" and two hours later i got a call from will smith and made an offer on my life story. we talked about life, we talked about all of the social issues that came up through the 1980's, some of the issues we talked about and i'm blessed. i'm very humbled for the opportunity. tavis: it's a great story about how to take your life and turn it around and he has done that and then some. his new book is called, "america i am: pass it down cookbook," over 130 soul-filled recipes from chef jeff henderson, edite@ by him. good to have you on the program. that's our show tonight. we'll see you back here next time on pbs. good night from l.a. thanks for watching and keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley
at pbs.org. >> i'm tavis smiley, join me next time for a conversation with iconic fashion designer, kenneth cole, and performance by esperanza spalding. >> all i know is his name is james and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference. >> thank you. >> you help us all live 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.
>> union bank has put its global expertise to work for a wide range of companies. what can we do for you? >> and now, bbc world news. >> and gunfire in the gulf state of bahrain could soldiers dispersed a demonstration. dozens are wounded. in libya, the massive street protests continue. tahrir square is again filled with thousands of egyptians. welcome to bbc world news. coming up later, birds of a fed other track together.