Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was speaking at the eponymous event “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the New Left” last weekend at SXSW when she took her final question from an unexpected attendee, Bill Nye the Science Guy. His appearance sparked raucous applause from the audience.
“As you may know, I’m a white guy,” Nye began, framing his question to reflect one of the existential divisions facing the nation. “I think the problem on both sides is fear. People of my ancestry are afraid to pay for everything as immigrants come into this country. People who work at the diner in Alabama are afraid to try to ask for what is reasonable. So, do you have a plan to work with people in Congress that are afraid? I think that’s what’s going on with many of the conservatives, especially when it comes to climate change. People are just afraid of what will happen if we try to make these big changes.” He referred to a passage in the Constitution to drive home his point that science is actually written into framework of the United States.
“One of the keys to dismantling fear is dismantling a zero-sum mentality,” Ocasio-Cortez answered. “It means the rejection outright of the logic that says someone else’s gain necessitates my loss and that my gain must necessitate someone else’s loss.” She spoke of how we now have the technology that allows us to “give without a take,” and made a point to characterize her goals not as the cost of change but rather as investments that will produce wealth for all.
“It’s not just about this idea of who are our decision makers,” AOC went on to emphasize. “This is about voting. This is about the conversations we’re having with our elected officials.” She explained that when she confronts her peers about why, for example, they might have voted against an environmental measure, they always blame their constituents. “[They] say, ‘My community doesn’t want that,’ … And no one else knows what anyone’s else’s community is like, so they’re like, ‘Oh wow that’s weird, okay.’” To work against this veil of complacency and our instinct to conform to our surroundings, AOC encouraged people to take a stand in what they believe in. “Courage begets courage. The first person who stands up has to encounter the most amount of fear and discomfort, but once that one person stands up, it becomes immensely easier for the second person and the third.”
After the event, Bill Nye posted a selfie he took with AOC on his Twitter, writing “AOC gets it. She sees that fear is dividing us. We can address income inequality. We can address climate change, if we get together and get to work.”
Nye announced this week that he has a forthcoming podcast, Science Rules!, named after a pronouncement that gives me flashbacks to watching the intro of his show as a kid.