Saturday, April 04, 2009

You Don't Have to be a Chomsky to Know Something is Wrong...

The following text was prepared as a leaflet and was distributed at a talk given by Noam Chomsky in Madison, WI., April 7th, 2009 about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. A review of the talk is given in the comments.

The squalor and apartheid in Gaza is truly horrible but, to mix a metaphor, focusing too much on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is like hacking at the branches on the ship of fools. The involvement of the U.S. government is clear with this problem (as it is with so many others -- wars, famine, sweatshop slavery, and environmental disasters all over the world). Nuclear weapons continue to be produced, proliferated and perfected with broad taxpayer support. Environmental scientists are the equivalent of modern day Cassandras to whom the masses give only token credence while humanity is on the brink of an unprecedented historical disaster which will pale the black death. On the heavily surveilled State Street, in Madison, WI., we have sweatshop storefronts and the worst forms of consumerism. These are the ways in which the masses are made complicit and these are the things which we must actively resist and overtly oppose. We need something beyond dispassionate lectures, hollow petitions, and milquetoast reforms. We need a comprehensive and radical dismantling of this system of war, famine, slavery and environmental devastation. We need subtle and pointed organization, locally, in various forms, of street-level revolt.


______________________ said...

I distributed this article in leaflet form to the audience, got a copy to Chomsky, and actually had him sign one for me after the event (yippee!). It was an informative talk he gave -- albeit a somber one to a large somber audience. A few points I found particularly interesting...

The first was his belief that this conflict between Israel and Palestine is one that is relatively easy to handle relative to some of the other problems facing humanity. He seemed to feel that enough political pressure could be put on American politicians to eventually get them to withdraw their support for Israel's aggression. Without U.S. support, he believes that Israel would have little choice but to accept a fair settlement/compromise with the Palestinians and withdraw from the occupied territories. Nice and tidy. I don't know whether he thinks this is likely or inevitable (a question probably worth asking), but that's how he envisioned it possibly going (as an ideal) and he did actually say it was a relatively easy problem to solve -- because he feels that America's direct interests are not served there and larger problems might include creating peace with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran (for example).

The second thing I found interesting (and sadly accurate) was in response to a question from the audience after his presentation... he affirmed the questioners understanding of his belief that humanity is not guaranteed to survive the 21st century. In fact, he said it was "almost a miracle" that we haven't destroyed ourselves already with nuclear war. He then gave various examples of how we have already come close to nuclear war and suggested that we are not moving further from that threat but to the contrary. He mentioned Israel's nuclear "Samson option" -- named after the biblical character who sacrificed himself to destroy so many Philistines.

He also mentioned that the ever-growing threat of environmental degradation might lead to the extinction of humankind within the next hundred years.

When he signed this leaflet I gave him my "too cool for school" critique of Noam Chomsky... Basically, I asked him why he wasn't able to get together with people like Zinn and Naomi Wolf and other prominent leftists to vigourously inspire a general strike type event in the U.S.? He was kind enough to answer my question, but I felt a little rushed (not wanting to hog his time) and I don't think we were exactly on the same page at the moment. He said something about Naomi Wolf being of a different generation and something about a catch-22, damned if you do -- damned if you don't scenerio in regard to writing and speaking and getting momentum for something like a general strike. I'm not sure if either of us really understood each other at the moment, but I plan to follow up.

All in all... it was an interesting night for me and, undoubtedly, for others in attendance. I just hope we all can be inspired to take some real and positive action in regard to righting some wrongs and defending ourselves, our freedoms, and our planet.

utopia or bust said...

That is an awesome Banksy tag