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 Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!

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PostSubject: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 2:21 pm

As the editors of the website MediaLens put it:

Quote :
Noam Chomsky is not just an exemplar of what an intellectual should be; but of what it is to be human!

As he never tires of saying – and ‘tireless’ seems to be one of his defining characteristics – those of us who have the privileges of comfort, education and relative freedom, have a duty to speak out on behalf on those who are suffering. Most especially, when the suffering is the ‘cost of doing business’ by powerful Western politicians, corporations and financial speculators.

For when ‘our’ so-called democratically elected leaders organise or support mass violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, the former Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Nicaragua, East Timor and elsewhere, we share responsibility for those terrible crimes.

Chomsky’s output is phenomenal – huge mountains of books, articles and talks. But often somewhat overlooked is the patient help and advice he gives to individuals. Many people, myself included, have been astounded by the patient care and attention paid to emails that land in his inbox; surely enough messages to overwhelm most mortals. Wide-ranging knowledge, sharply focused insights and the occasional wry remark are his hallmarks. He puts into practice a fundamental truth that clearly motivates him: that we are all equally important, equally precious.

‘We need not quietly accept the suffering and injustice that are all around us,' counsels Chomsky, 'and the prospects which are not slight, of severe consequences if human society continues on its present course.'

Fortunately, armed with Chomsky's rational and compassionate analysis of world events and political realities, we are in a stronger position to challenge, oppose and hopefully one day supplant the elite forces that threaten people and planet. His contribution to humanity is immense.

And so - happy birthday, Noam. Lang may yer lum reek!*


David Cromwell


*[Scots expression. Literally: ‘Long may your chimney smoke!’]


Chomsky dislikes the idea that he should be held up as special. Doing so, he says, panders to the myth that change is the product of stand-out leaders, rather than of the less well-known millions who really build more compassionate societies. It is a myth that intimidates and pacifies: ‘He can do it because he’s special; he‘s a famous linguist. We’re just us!’

It’s easy to argue for this kind of self-effacing position, but Chomsky really means it. We know he means it because it fits with his worldview, which is consistent and coherent. The ultimate basis of this view, I would suggest, is that we are all equal. Not in terms of our skills and talents, but in terms of the importance of our happiness and suffering. Chomsky rejects the idea that his happiness is more important than your happiness, or mine. If we are decent and reasonable, then the truth of this equality will be reflected in how we actually live our lives.

It follows, then, that ‘our' country is not more important than ‘their’country. If we apply one rule of conduct to others, then we must apply it to ourselves. If it’s wrong for terrorists to kill American civilians, then it’s wrong for Americans to terrorise and kill Iraqi civilians. If suffering is equal, then it’s wrong to benefit from exploitative systems that harm others, and so on...

What inspires me so much about Chomsky is that he has based his life on this compassionate, humble belief with such integrity. In doing so, he has provided an example of the power and dignity of a mind freed from self-centred bias.

Best wishes

David Edwards

http://www.chomskytribute.org/
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 2:32 pm

PS the tribute site is well worth a read.
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 2:41 pm

Cheers Noam cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 2:54 pm

Noam is a great guy. I went to hear him speak at UCD several years ago.

Let's not go all sycophantic on it though Razz.
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:06 pm

Well, from personal experience of the man I'm unashamedly and justifiably immensely fond of him - he is unbelievably generous with his time and encouragement and very true to his principles - especially lending a hand to the initiatives of ordinary people who contact him from all over the world.
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:32 pm

Well of course I find him terribly predictable, the rare time I pay him any notice. All the same, he's done more for the people of the world than I could ever aspire to. Interesting to hear that he hates being set apart, why are we going against his wishes here?

A happy birthday is a happy birthday (and I wish him all the best), but a tribute site?

I think I remember he was mentioned as one of the most famous intellectuals on the go, alogh with Richard Dawkins and someone I never heard of. Does anyone really know him for his linguistic work or is it all the political campaigning and the like? Same with Richard Dawkins I suspect, though at least most people have heard of the Selfish Gene.
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:36 pm

My girlfriend studied linguistics at college and I studied politics so we both know him from entirely different spheres.
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:39 pm

I bet she hates him. I don't know why, but I link him in with Derrida for whom there is no curse bad enough. And I didn't even do linguistics.
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:43 pm

She has a photograph of a chimpanzee that she did a case study on named "Nim Chimpsky".
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:44 pm

905 wrote:
I bet she hates him. I don't know why, but I link him in with Derrida for whom there is no curse bad enough. And I didn't even do linguistics.

Any time you wan't too start an I hate Derrida thread 905 I'll be right there with you.
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PostSubject: Re: Happy 80th Birthday to Noam Chomsky!   Tue Dec 09, 2008 9:02 pm

Chomsky writing about GM creating the motor car hegemony in the States. Bailout ? They should be made to replace all those trains they put out of business.

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The role of the federal government was to provide funds for "complete motorization and the crippling of surface mass transit"; this was the major thrust of the Federal Highway Acts of 1944, 1956, and 1968, implementing a strategy designed by GM chairman Alfred Sloan. Huge sums were spent on interstate highways without interference, as Congress surrendered control to the Bureau of Public Roads; about 1 percent of the sum was devoted to rail transit. The Federal Highway Administration estimated total expenditures at $80 billion by 1981, with another $40 billion planned for the next decade. State and local governments managed the process on the scene.

The private sector operated in parallel: "Between 1936 and 1950, National City Lines, a holding company sponsored and funded by GM, Firestone, and Standard Oil of California, bought out more than 100 electric surface-traction systems in 45 cities (including New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa, and Los Angeles) to be dismantled and replaced with GM buses... In 1949 GM and its partners were convicted in U.S.district court in Chicago of criminal conspiracy in this matter and fined $5,000."
http://www.bilderberg.org/nclchoms.htm

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