RSN August 14 Fundraising
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Excerpt: "Chomsky also criticises neoliberal programmes which, he says, have played a large part in the ongoing global financial crisis and are 'pretty harmful' almost everywhere they have been implemented."

Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)
Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)


Noam Chomsky: The Responsibility of Privilege

By Al Jazeera English

14 January 13

 

The famed linguist and political activist says intellectuals have a moral duty to hold centres of power to account.

inguist and political activist Noam Chomsky remains as vigorous as ever at the age of 84.

His popularity - or notoriety as some would say - endures because he is still criticising politicians, business leaders and other powerful figures for not acting in the public's best interest. At the heart of Chomsky's work is examining the ways elites use their power to control millions of people, and pushing the public to resist.

In this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, Noam Chomsky sits down with Rosiland Jordan to talk about the two main tracks of his life: research and political activism.

And it is his activism that keeps this US scholar engaged in the public discourse well into his ninth decade.

"The activism for me long antedates the professional work," Chomsky says. "I grew up that way. So I was a political activist as a teenager in the 1940s before I ever heard of linguistics."

Discussing US politics, he attributes the growing popularity of the Tea Party movement, and the fanatical opposition to President Barack Obama in some quarters, to what he calls "pathological paranoia".

"It's something that exists in the country. It's a very frightened country, always has been," he says.

At the same time, Chomsky sees Obama himself as a man without a "moral centre".

"If you look at his policies I think that's what they reveal. I mean there's some nice rhetoric here and there but when you look at the actual policies ... the drone assassination campaign is a perfectly good example, I mean it's just a global assassination campaign."

On Israel's continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank, Chomsky says "there was no effort" by Obama to even try and curb it.

"[Obama's] telling Netanyahu and the other Israeli leaders: I'll tap you on the wrist but go ahead and do what you like .... So in fact, Obama is actually the first president who hasn't really imposed restrictions on Israel."

Chomsky also criticises neoliberal programmes which, he says, have played a large part in the ongoing global financial crisis and are "pretty harmful" almost everywhere they have been implemented.

"[In] the 1950s and the 1960s, which was the biggest growth period in American history, financial institutions were regulated. The New Deal regulations were in place and there were no financial crisis, none .... Starting in the 1970s it changed pretty radically. There were decisions made - not laws of nature - to reconstruct the economy."

And decades later, these decisions have resulted in a situation which "really is a catastrophe," he says.

But Chomsky also feels that "nothing's ever gone too far. Anything can be reversed; these are human decisions."

He emphasises: "The more privilege you have, the more opportunity you have. The more opportunity you have, the more responsibility you have."


 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
+70 # reiverpacific 2013-01-14 14:13
Only problem with this "famed" author and activist, is that you have to look for his articles and talks in the alternative media, including RSN. So he's not as famed as he deserves.
Go ahead, ask a selection of your neighbors and bar friends if they've ever heard of Prof' Chomsky; I'd be interested in finding out how many "Average" owner-media fed Americans know his name.
He's better known and appreciated outside the country in nations that still have a free, quality press, as were many of the great jazz and blues performers in the music's formative and developmental years.
Wanna bet?
 
 
+25 # DakotaKid 2013-01-14 14:54
Spot on. Even the ostensibly liberal John Stewart doesn't have left-wing critics like Chomsky on The Daily Show, but Stewart is at pains to show how "fair and balanced" he is by having right-wing extremists on frequently (think Bill O'Reilly, Mike Huckabee, Peggy Noonan, David Barton, Andrew Napolitano, Newt Gingrich, and the list goes on).
 
 
+16 # Ken Halt 2013-01-14 17:20
Yeah, it really is revealing that NC is one of the most famous, knowledgeable, and sought-after US dissidents on the world stage and is hardly known within the US. Never see him in the major media, little wonder why?
 
 
+6 # Ken Halt 2013-01-14 17:21
Well, you know, it is so much easier to make them look silly and get a laugh out of their antics.
 
 
+8 # Lennie 2013-01-14 23:44
The right wingers make for better tv for Stewart's audience. Simple as that. The Daily Show audience, of which I am a part, likes the way that he jumps all over Fox "News," et al, by showing how unfair and unbalanced they really are. In his short twenty minutes or so, he doesn't have time for a lot of people who make sense. He tries, and mostly succeeds, in showing how so many pols and talking heads, make no sense. For laughs. Then, all he has time for is to have folks on to plug movies and books. It is a political comedy show, after all.
 
 
+10 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-01-14 17:16
Yes indeed, reiverpacific, under famed (and not greatly respected) is Prof. Chomsky. He deserves many kudos from all we the sheeple, even as dumbed down and naive as we are.

But then, no duh, here in the U.S. of (greed and power) A.(ddiction), where great truth telling, investigative and op. ed.journalism has gone bye bye, along with rule of law and so much more, truth tellers such as Chomsky are given very little if any attention in the 'mess' media. Kinda like Hedges, et. al. v. Obama, et. al. making it onto the front page of the Guardian in London, and here in the States getting almost zero attention and info. outage.

What the hey, both 'W'(low I.Q., fully scripted Bush) and now, either bought off and/or scared off Oh Bomb Ah, have gutted fundamental Constitutional rights - i.e. Bush signing off on the anything but patriotic Patriot Act, and now, the past two January's, Obama's slamdunking and gutting of freedom of civilians' from arrest by military without charges brought, rights of due process (i.e. trial), right to no indefinite detention, etc.. Hedges v. Obama, with a load of the world's greatest journalists, whistle blowers, and peace and justice activists as plaintiffs, is, like Chomsky, getting little or no attention. Tragic, ain't it? Lots and lots we gotta do to...UNDO THE COUP !
 
 
+9 # dick 2013-01-14 14:22
Robber Baron Tax Rates: Graduated from 20-90% on estates over $10M.
Graduated from 40-85% on ALL income over $1M.
BREAK-UP anti-democratic & anti-competitiv e Concentrations of (not really earned) wealth & power.
 
 
+20 # beachboy 2013-01-14 14:51
Noam Chomsky - a steady critic of US insanity, aka 'US Foreign Policy', who simply gets ignored by the elites. But not just by the politicians, no, the reason he is so marginal as far as the mainstream is concerned, is the disdain of the academics, the media, the pundits, all those who asslick the mighty in one way or another...he wont be with us forever, and it would be important to book him for interviews on major media players now! We need to let as many people as possible hear this voice of reason - because it is becoming more and more difficult to imagine even one version of 'the voice of reason', or the humane, alternative version of current events... like him, we all can pick up the ball...and run like hell, and have fun!
 
 
-6 # Lady Marion 2013-01-14 15:08
It is offensive, arrogant, and just plain ignorant to call Obama a man "without a moral centre". Chomsky then blames Obama for actions congress is responsible for. Obama has actually taken many brave moral stands in support of the citizens in spite of a congress who refuses to do likewise because it allows the rich to control it. I'm proud of this President and thankful that he works tirelessly for us, his fellow Americans, and not the corporations or the 1% who often hide their money overseas.
 
 
+25 # Stranger 2013-01-14 16:09
I am entirely intrigued by this observation. What brave moral stands has he taken and what shows that he works for his fellow Americans and not the 1%?
 
 
+23 # dkonstruction 2013-01-15 08:19
Do you include the following (all supported by Obama) as examples of "brave moral stands" that demonstrate that "he works tirelessly for us, his fellow Americans, and not the corporations or the 1%?" There are many other examples but i will start with the following:

1) Appointing Larry Summers as his chief economic advisor (the guy who brought us financial deregulation and did away with Glass-Steagal) -- not to mention Tim Geithner (former head of the New York Fed prior to and during the financial crisis) and now Jack Lew (Citibank Exec. during the financial crisis).

2) Sanctioning the overthrow of the democratically elected President of Hondorus

3) Preventing former Haitian President Aristide's party from taking part in the Haitian Elections

4) Believing that a presidential assassination list is constitutional.

5) Saying that Social Security should be "on the table" during the budget talks though SS contributes nothing to the deficit.

6) Continuing the Bush policy/practice of "extroadinary renditions"

7) Promoting "clean coal" (though no such thing exists) and calling for a "renaissance" in nuclear power in the US.

8) Making the privatization of public schools (i.e., charter schools) a central piece of his education program.
 
 
+10 # visca Catalunya 2013-01-14 15:25
Reiverpacific, you are absolutely right, he's not a mainstream name. I happen to have known about him and his work since the 1980's as a graDUATE student IN sociology at SUNY Stony Brook and he was well known in the circles I hang around with those days. We were not mainstream then, and much less now when our politics would be demonized by the greed driven corporations, banks and Wall Street who own the mainstream media and the government, their tools for keeping the population docile and devoid of any analytical abilities.
 
 
+18 # maddave 2013-01-14 15:30
Of course Chomsky is being marginalized and ignored: he counters our national hypocrisy and propaganda openly with logic, facts and talk of responsibility and ethics --- of which neither our government, nor our "one-percent" nor Corporate America want to hear --- and they control the media which, in turn, they use as tools to dumb us down and control our minds . . . an area in which they have achieved remarkable success since Viet Nam.

If it weren't for the likes of Noam Chomsky; (the late) Howard Zinn; and precious few others - including Oliver Stone & his series on Showtime - there would be NO serious dissent to be found anywhere in the USA.
 
 
+5 # Military Family Voices 2013-01-14 15:38
The hope that something is “reversible” because it is a human decision is a useful driving optimism for change. However, for mankind, we have to do more than just talk. Talk is the simplistic, critical and yet only incubatory step. Few, “famous” or not, actually do anything about it.

"The more privilege you have, the more opportunity you have. The more opportunity you have, the more responsibility you have."

Yes, if one in that position chooses to subscribe to the somewhat broadly accepted notion that there is a threshold of human behavior below which the general consciousness of a global humanity will not tolerate. Of course “subscribing” to, or aspiring to, does not itself guarantee it in practice, when that privilege was gained universally through the blatant disregard for those very limits on so many levels.

Old, recalcitrant connections to the generation of privilege and opportunity may perhaps be impossible to turn for greater responsibility to others, to society and to mankind in general because they have always mostly done what it takes to build, retain and augment privilege and done little if anything about the good of others on a conscience scale. This has been their skill set. Change is unlikely, unless legacy in conscience means something.

The hope my rest in those who have such privilege and opportunity and who did not build it. To their world, they may look like they did not “earn it”. For greater good, that may be the ultimate change salvation.
 
 
-12 # Smokey 2013-01-14 16:46
Unlike Obama, Chomsky has never accepted a position with real responsibility or authority. As far as I know, he's not active in any community or political association. And he's not trying to organize or develop anything, aside from his own career and his book sales.

He's an interesting fellow and I probably agree with him on lots of points. However, he often seems to be rather hazy on key points.

Israel provides one example. Ask, "What, exactly, does Chomsky want Israeli leaders to do?" Given today's political reality, what's possible?

Building new Israeli settlements on the West Bank isn't a good idea. Okay, so what's the best Israeli strategy? Some new suggestions are needed.


Obama lacks a "moral center"? I'm starting to wonder about Chomsky.
 
 
+6 # reiverpacific 2013-01-15 15:04
Quoting Smokey:
Unlike Obama, Chomsky has never accepted a position with real responsibility or authority. As far as I know, he's not active in any community or political association. And he's not trying to organize or develop anything, aside from his own career and his book sales.

He's an interesting fellow and I probably agree with him on lots of points. However, he often seems to be rather hazy on key points.

Israel provides one example. Ask, "What, exactly, does Chomsky want Israeli leaders to do?" Given today's political reality, what's possible?

Building new Israeli settlements on the West Bank isn't a good idea. Okay, so what's the best Israeli strategy? Some new suggestions are needed.


Obama lacks a "moral center"? I'm starting to wonder about Chomsky.

You are soo-wrong there. He led a tax revolt in the 60's and was jailed for it, and has faced-down many right and center pundits who now won't debate him. He has never turned away from his original unvarnished and unwelcome (in the halls of power) sense of reality and hypocrisy in which they specialized and was just last year denied entry to Israel on his arrival, where he was to have given a speech at Tel-Aviv university.
Want more???
 
 
+17 # DurangoKid 2013-01-14 16:47
The idea that Obama has no moral center should surprise no one. He's a place holder in the institution of the presidency. Not unlike the digit zero he carries no value of his own. He simply serves a function and the function of the presidency is to manage the empire on behalf of those who paid for his ascent. In a perverse way it's government by the consent of the governed. The people who paid got what they paid for. Is it so unusual that Obama lied up a storm to convince a crucial fraction of the electorate to vote for him? Arguably it would have been worse under Romney, but has Obama really made the Romney agenda impossible to realize? Given enough time and economic turmoil, the Romney vision will likely come to pass with the help of the presidency regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. The only way the 99% can hang onto what little benefit we receive from inside the beltway is to make behavior against our interests too politically expensive. We have to put the fear in the place holders in the institutions of government. Perhaps as things worsen, enough of the 99% will take to the streets and demand governance that benefits more than just the 1%. Hopefully before it's too late.
 
 
+10 # Roger Kotila 2013-01-14 17:08
I agree with Noam Chomsky except I put "privilege" somewhat in terms that Confucius might like: "When the people are in distress it is the duty of the prince and the princess to hurry to their aid."
Born with extra brain power,special talents, money, courage, conscience, empathy or compassion? Your spiritual, ethical, and moral duty is to use your strength on behalf of "we, the people." Thank you, Noam, for setting such a powerful example for the rest of us!
 
 
+7 # pushingforpeace 2013-01-15 01:37
Obama reminds me of the kid who agrees with everyone so everyone will like him. He needs to take a stand and stick to it. You can't please both sides.
 
 
+4 # lorenbliss 2013-01-15 10:34
Alas, Mr, Chomsky fails to recognize the concept of noblesse oblige has -- at least in the United States -- been ousted from human consciousness by the Ayn Rand doctrine of infinite greed as ultimate virtue.

What's worse is the resultant moral imbecility is as characteristic of the 99 Percent as it is of the One Percent.

Contrary to Mr. Chomsky's nonsensical optimism, history proves that a people so deliberately self-degraded -- the ultimate example is of course Nazi Germany -- are incapable of self-restoratio n.

Indeed the only cure is of the sort imposed on Germany in 1945 -- and given the renaissance of Nazism in Germany today, that (apparent) healing may have been nothing more than a too-brief period of remission.
 
 
+4 # lark3650 2013-01-16 14:01
The following is and editorial by Alfred Lawson March 1909 issue of "FLY" magazine:
"No man can be classed as great who considers only the needs of himself or his own family and permits his neighbor to rot either physically or mentally for want of his assistance. A nation is nothing more than an enlarged family. So allow your mind to expand sufficiently to enable you to understand that every human being is constructed by the same creative force that brought you into existence and try and treat them as you would like to be treated yourself if nature had not been so kind to you.

Having reached this stage of mental development you will then be anxious to live for others as well as yourself and will look about to see what you can do for the common good.

In order to aid humanity in a substantial and lasting way you must use your foresight and look into the future. Looking into the past will do no good. Nature set your eyes in front of the head for the purpose looking forward and if you want to accomplish anything worth recording during your short stay upon earth you must keep them fixed in that direction.
 
 
+2 # lark3650 2013-01-20 10:42
More words from Alfred Lawson:
“The battle of existence is constantly carried on between selfishness which is bred from the very lowest form of intelligence and unselfishness which represents the very high state of intelligence.”

“A well-balanced mind wants all men/women to enjoy equal opportunites which will afford each a chance to rise as high as his abilities will permit. If you want to eradicate disease, you must stamp out the conditions that breed it. Before one can reach the highest form of intelligence, one must exterminate the causes that create selfishness.”

“He who labors to improve others produces better conditions for himself.”

“The surest way to make the world better is to begin with yourself.”

“Always consult your Soul for advice; do no act your conscience will not sanction.”
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN