Optimism of the Will
How to be positive in these perilous times? Humankind and the planet are facing enormous dangers. We can indulge in magical thinking and hope for miracles or we can ground ourselves in reality, understand the depth of the crises we face and then act to change things. It won’t be easy. There are huge obstacles and difficulties. Our task going forward is to find kindred spirits, organize and work to create a decent future. We may be inspired by the adage, Pessimism of the intellect, Optimism of the will. It was made famous by the great 20th century Italian Marxist thinker and writer Antonio Gramsci. A dedicated anti-fascist Gramsci languished for 11 years in Mussolini’s jails where his health deteriorated. He died in 1937. Today, there is a revival of interest in Gramsci and his work.
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 94, 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.
Paul in NY –
Great interview with Noam!
Robert McChesney in Madison, WI –
Smashingly good! Unbelievable.
Thanks so much for sending me this transcript, which I read in full this morning as I drank my coffee. Noam certainly, as usual, lays it out in stark, understandable language. I love your title, from Gramsci. During almost every semester that I teach the class you regularly visit, I have them write a reaction response to Gramsci’s quote of pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will.