Last night, I went to see “An Unreasonable Man,” a new documentary about Ralph Nader. What, you might ask, does he have to do with Fast Company magazine? Quite a bit, actually. Nader’s detractors pelt him with insults, some of his friends have distanced themselves, Democrats are still bitter, and even his admirers worry what will happen to his substantial consumer advocacy legacy. Midway through the movie, Fast Company’s cofounder Bill Taylor pops up, discussing Nader’s heyday. Long before the 2000 election, Taylor wrote a book with Nader, “The Big Boys,” where they interviewed the heads of major US corporations. That curiosity, that questioning is still important to the magazine.
At the end of the movie, I turned to the very tall and lanky Ralph Nader, who had somehow been seated next to me, and asked him what he thought about the movie after this particular viewing. He replied that he was struck by how much we’d lost in the past 20 years. The New York Times criticized the documentary for being so focused on the past, while Al Gore’s Academy Award nominated “An Inconvenient Truth” looks to the future. Perhaps. But it’s tough to effect change in the future if you don’t know the truth about the past. Love him or hate him, at the very least Nader forces us to ask some questions–of our government, of big business, of ourselves.