Chomsky in the Desert
Many years ago I heard Noam Chomsky lecture. He compared U.S. foreign policy to the way the mafia operates. That caught the audience’s attention. Everyone had seen The Godfather movie. Chomsky went on to explain that obedience to the Godfather was non-negotiable. Do what you're told and you’ll not only be protected but richly rewarded. And if you step out of line, the Godfather will come down on you. So it is with U.S. foreign policy. Dissent is not tolerated. Countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Chile, Indonesia and others, with politics and systems that defied Washington, have felt the wrath of U.S. power. The U.S. rules the world.
The consequences of capitalism during the pandemic have revealed glaring failures and monstrous brutalities. It’s a highly unstable economic system, careening from crisis to crisis. For a handful, it produces unparalleled levels of wealth. But for the many, if they even have a job, it’s a paycheck to paycheck existence. What are the priorities? The U.S. spends close to a trillion on the military. That’s more than the next ten countries combined. Compare that with the less than $50 billion allotted to the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. With robust funding it’s very likely we would have been better prepared for the pandemic and would not be the world leader in deaths. The future? We will move toward a more humane and decent society or continue on our present destructive path.
The ruling class, and there is such a thing, assiduously attends to its needs. That is to say, to maintain and expand its power and wealth. How does it do that? By manipulation, propaganda and political influence. It deploys divide and rule tactics to not only distract most people but goads them to turn on one another. The idea is to get people to look down and not up at those who are in control. So your class enemy is not gazillionaires such as Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg but it’s the poor guy down the street, out of work, who is behind in his rent, and his family doesn’t have enough food to eat. The boot is on his neck. How to get it off? Organize and resist.
We are in “unchartered territory,” as the media incessantly remind us. We are on the eve of an election amidst a pandemic. The president has declared in advance that the election is a “hoax,” it is “rigged.” He would not even commit to saying he would honor the outcome. “We’ll see what happens,” he says. He knew early on how deadly the coronavirus was, telling Bob Woodward it’s a “killer“ and a “plague.” And yet in public continued with happy talk: “It’ll just go away…It’s fading…And we have it totally under control.” In addition to a colossal Covid-19 failure he has whipped some of his supporters into a frenzy. Vigilante groups, men with guns threaten to kidnap governors. Things are not just getting “curiouser and curiouser” as Alice would say but more and more dangerous.
It should be abundantly clear that part of the president’s m.o., almost an article of faith, is never accept responsibility when things go wrong. It’s always someone else’s fault: Pelosi, the media, the WHO, Obama, China, immigrants. And if you criticize the leader expect retaliation. Just ask Rick Bright, a top government scientist who was removed from his job he says because he opposed the president’s touting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, as a coronavirus treatment. He has filed a whistleblower complaint. The president has called him “a disgruntled employee.” These are Rick Bright’s words of warning, "Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a nationally coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. Without clear planning 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history."
Why are so many people all over the world out in the streets demanding change? What are the root causes of revolt? What about U.S. Syria policy and the betrayal of the Kurds? And BDS and Palestine? How do we overcome sectarian differences? Why are Americans so afraid? Eco-disaster and nuclear war threaten human existence. The former garners some attention because of the surge in youth-led activism but the latter is out of sight even though the dangers are escalating. The U.S. pulling out of the INF ballistic missile treaty and new Pentagon hypersonic weapons increase the possibility of catastrophe. What about impeachment and the 2020 election? These are just some of the topics Noam Chomsky talks about in this exclusive two-part program. 2CDs. Interviewed by David Barsamian. Recorded at Pima Community College.
Noam Chomsky warns, “There has to be some kind of Green New Deal if we’re going to survive. The human species is facing questions which have never arisen before. Is organized human life going to survive in any recognizable form? We’re approaching the level of global warming of roughly 125,000 years ago, when sea levels were about 25 feet higher than they are now. You don’t have to have much of an imagination to know what that means. Well, shall we race towards it the way the Trump administration and the Republican Party wants us to do? Shall we do something about it, the way Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion and Ocasio-Cortez want to do? That’s the decision that has to be made.”
Noam Chomsky, by any measure, has led a most extraordinary life. In one index he is ranked as the eighth most cited person in history, right up there with Aristotle, Shakespeare, Marx, Plato and Freud. His contributions to modern linguistics are legendary. In addition to his pioneering work in that field, he has been a leading voice for peace and social justice for many decades. Chris Hedges says he is “America’s greatest intellectual” who “makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.” The New Statesman calls him “the conscience of the American people.” He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and Laureate Professor of Linguistics and Haury Chair in the Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona. At 93, he is still active; writing and giving interviews to the media all over the world. He is the author of scores of books, his latest are Consequences of Capitalism, Chronicles of Dissent and Notes on Resistance.