Last night I had dinner and a long talk with Mr Hak a US resident of Chiang Mai and covered issues such as the ignorance of the US electorate and what Hak described as the Military-Industrial-Banking-Media Complex or Consipracy. Hak is no ordinary American and is familiar with the leading critic of his country’s foreign policy. But sad to say Hak, like many environmentalists, is pessimistic about our chances of avoiding climate catastrophe, so after dinner when I found this interview, I thought I should post it to give some hope – Ricky :
German Magazine DIE ZEIT chomsky interview (English AND GERMAN)
“Students Should Become Anarchists”: Noam Chomsky
Monday Jun 27th, 2011 7:05 AM
Anarchists try to identify power structures. Then anarchists work at unmasking and mastering the structures, whether they involve patriarchal families or a Mafia international system in the private tyrannies of the economy, the corporation. Links to videos of Robin Hahnel, Cindy Milstein and Michael Albert
“STUDENTS SHOULD BECOME ANARCHISTS”
ZEIT Campus interviews a luminary, Noam Chomsky, linguist, political activist and one of the most quoted scholars of the world
[The American linguist-professor Noam Chomsky (82) is known worldwide as a political activist and capitalism-critic, not only for his “universal grammar.” This interview published in: ZEIT Online, 6/14/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.zeit.de/campus/2011/04/sprechstunde-chomsky.]
ZEIT Campus: Professor Chomsky, you are not only one of the most quoted scholars of the world. For 45 years, you have been a political activist. When one looks at politics today, one must ask: Can “public intellectuals” like y8ourself accomplish anything?
Noam Chomsky: How can you ask that question?
ZEIT Campus: There is war in Afghanistan. The world suffers in the consequences of the economic crisis. The social gap grows more and more.
Chomsky: The problem is simple. Most intellectuals are servants of power and counsel governments. They call themselves experts; they have sought prestige for centuries, not only today. However every society has critical intellectuals at its edges. Both types have influence: the servants of power and the dissidents.
ZEIT Campus: We are still skeptical. What have you changed in the past 45 years?
Chomsky: I personally did not change anything. I was part of a movement and this movement accomplished many things. The world today is fundamentally different from the world 45 years ago. The actions for civil rights, human rights, women’s rights and environmental protection, resistance against oppression and violence have substantially influenced the world. I cannot understand how you can argue I have not changed anything.
ZEIT Campus: Do you believe the world is better today than 40 or 50 years ago?
Chomsky: Obviously! Walk along the open fields here at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Half of the students are women; a third belongs to an ethnic minority. People are dressed more casually and are engaged for all possible things. This place was very different when I came here 50 years ago. Then you saw white men, formally dressed and only interested in their own work. You could see the same development in Germany and all over the world.
Der amerikanische Linguistik-Professor Noam Chomsky (82) ist nicht nur für seine “Universalgrammatik” weltweit bekannt, sondern auch als politischer Aktivist und Kapitalismuskritier
ZEIT Campus: But are students more political? Today’s generation is often reproached for being disinterested in the world.
Chomsky: I think that reproach is false. The period of high politization at the universities was very short – from 1968 to 1970. Before that, students were apolitical. Consider the Vietnam War, one of the greatest crimes since the Second World War. Four or five years went by until some form of visible protest stirred in the US. That quickly ebbed away in the 1970s. The mood was very different before the Iraq war. To my knowledge, the Iraq war was the first war in history where there were demonstrations before it began. My students missed the lectures to demonstrate. That would never have happened 50 years ago. The protests did not prevent the war but limited it. The US was never able to do in Iraq a fraction of what it had done in Vietnam.
ZEIT Campus: Were those protests only a straw fire?
Chomsky: No. The politization today is much greater than in the 1950s. Forms of lasting activism developed that enabled many of our battles to be won. For example, there was a continuous progress in women’s rights. If I had asked my grandmother whether she was oppressed, she wouldn’t have known what I was talking about. My mother said: “I am oppressed but I don’t know what to do!” My daughter would shout to me after such a question: Our world is more human!
ZEIT Campus: Do you believe in historical progress?
Chomsky: Progress is slow but dramatic over long time horizons. Think of the abolition of slavery or the development of freedom of expression. Rights are not simply bestowed. People who joined forces and banded together realized them. Still progress is not a linear development. There are also times of backward steps.
ZEIT Campus: If there are times of progress and times of backward steps, will the world be better in 50 years than today?
Chomsky: What will be in 50 years depends strongly on what the young generation does today. Two great dangers threaten the existence of the world: our relation to the environment and the danger that starts from nuclear weapons. If we do not champion environmental protection more vigorously today, we could be mired in a grave environmental crisis in 50 years, let alone the risks of nuclear weapons. The terrible catastrophe of Fukushima reminds us that the non-military use of nuclear power is fraught with extreme risks. We cannot ignore this under any circumstances!
ZEIT Campus: In 60 years students of today will be as old as you. What must they do to look back on their life with satisfaction?
Chomsky: Naturally they could say they lived contentedly with friends, children and fun. But to really lead a fulfilled and satisfying life, they should recognize problems and contribute to solving them. If they cannot look back at 80 and say “I have accomplished something!,” then their life will not have succeeded.