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Chomsky: Nuclear Exchange Inevitable


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freshest1 said:
I'd criticize Chomsky for stating the blatantly obvious, and as usual, not offering any tangible solutions.

Well actually he does! The problem is it means work, it means getting out there and doing something! How do we stop American imperialism? By motivating people here at home, the only place that has a chance of changing things.

A LOT of his articles and interviews end with these kind of statements, highlightling the fact that the people that live under the American government (or whichever state is being discussed) are best able to engineer the changes desired in that given state. That to me is a tangible solution.

But I guess others might dismiss it because it means getting off their asses...
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


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Ok, some how I missed this one.

deafplayer said:
Having spent a year in a linguistics program at university, the idea that his expertise in the scientific field of linguistics he’s involved in contributes anything to powers of persuasion over people seems vacuous.. or specious, I suppose
Its kind of like saying the occupation of a theoretical physicist brings special abilities as a cook, or anthropology special political or economic keys to success
Then again, Ive never heard anyone actually pursue the idea any farther than: 'He studies language, so… *gasp*-of course!' - either in terms of what exactly in 'linguistics' might be relevant, or identifying anything particularly special or unusual about his use of language that might suggest a connection either
No offence....I've just heard lots of hollow charges, and never any explanation.. which Id be interested to hear, if it exists

I am a big fan of concessions when they are needed, even though I know they are a bad thing to do if one is trying to build a point.
I don't know much about linguistics (but the book of Chompsky's "Logical Structures in Linguistic theory" mentioned in the link by atp sounds interesting). I may have put in some assumptions but I think they are valid. One who studies language, no matter to what capacity, should pick up something about it's application. And yes, a theoretical physicist should have some advantages in the job of a cook. What is cooking but an application of thermodynamics? And anthropologists, especially cultural anthropologists better be able to have some valuable insight into politics and economics. Even freshest1 feels that Chomsky uses knowledge of the past to be applied to current politics, much as an anthropologist could do:

"I believe that the reason Chomsky is so well regarded is because of his extensive knowledge of modern/ current history."

I believe, correctly or not, that linguistics would offer an even better understanding then any of the other examples, but going back to my concession, I will have to learn more about linguistics.

btw atbell are you familiar with the basic anarchist principles Chomsky espouses? They make much of your criticism, for example of him "doing NOTHING" re: S. America, nonsensical

No I don't know much beyond what was taught in school about anarchism ;)

After reading the first article suggested by atp that was something that shed light into why I likely have such contention of Chomsky, I didn't realize he was an anarchist of stripes. Right now I am not an anarchist by any definition. Although I did find a great used book store in Vancouver that has a whole section of literature on anarchism. These discussions have further inspired me to go and pick up some books to throw on my pile of reading material.

My admittedly uninformed gut feeling against anarchism is that it reminders me of city states which are ideally suited for fiefdoms. This seems like a step back to me, but in most of my reading and my take on North America, it also seems like the direction things are going.

Another thing I don't like about city states is that I feel that the more people pulling in the same direction the more that everyone is able to accomplish. Kick that statements ass if you want, it's a new thought of mine and it needs some bruises.

Anyway, he seems pretty 'plainspoken' to me... IMO it seems his unusual 'impactfulness' comes from simply applying the rigor of scientific thought to politics, which, I agree with him, turns out to be rare among intellectuals... and, I agree with him that the natural sciences are the place you learn critical and rational inquiry skills...

Not so sure about that. I kinda feel that sciences tell you how things are and then expect you to just accept it. Only once one gets to the much higher levels are you "allowed" to ask critical questions. I have found that training in arts and humanities gives a bit better understanding of partial truths and the fact that just because someone wrote it down doesn't make it true. Just a feeling, open to debate.

I agree that politics should be subjected to more critical and rational inquiry though, no matter where you learn the skill. Assuming it is learned in science, then the action that should be taken is to encourage political participation among the scientific community. (a plan of action, next step, how does one do that)

From this point of view, 'Political Science' and 'Social Science' are gross misnomers for the vast majority of what is classified under those terms

LOL - coming from an engineering faculty I have heard that one many times.

...... its just that, combined with strong anarchist-like principles that produces the apparent severity of his work, imo
Like someone mentioned in this thread (I think), most of his positions are shared by the majority of the population..... and imo he tends toward quite conservative and simple reasoning in his political work, which only seems INSANE or treachorously manipulative if you reject his premises (eg anarchist moral principles)

My gut doesn't like that bit about his views being shared by the majority of the population, no time to debate it now though. In the mean time I would be interested in why you think the majority of people share his views?

If I was a bigger supporter of the status quo I would say that his opinions are treacherous assuming anarchism is the abolishment of the state. Isn't that the text book definition of treacherous? No, sorry, treasonous maybe, I guess it would become treacherous if you took the stand point that he was turning on the system that created him. I personally do not hold this view, to many of his criticisms are pointed, accurate, and timely.

Bertrand Russell for example, major philisophy and mathematics figure who also talked about political topics, if you check out his writing it might put Chomsky's apparently strange 'powers' into perspective as not so anomolous (and certainly plainspoken compared to Russell, imo, or most other esteemed intellectuals for that matter)... same maybe with Petr Kropotkin, the Russian prince/natural scientist/anarchist (who is also pretty straightforward in his language)

I have heard Russell cited on these threads before and from some of my friends who took philosophy. I would read more of him but I know I am not going to read it for ages. It is also interesting that I have recently heard a few people point out that so many "modern" ideas are restatements of past philosophers. My next philosopher read is going to be John Stewart Mill though.

Thanks for another link to read. I will get to that link in time, as I will respond to atp... eventually.

you guys are really slowing down my other reading, I have been able to get through most of the Foreign Affairs magazine though and I would suggest it to anyone who has time. This issue is much better then the last one. Here are some of the article topics:

Comparison of British Iraqi occupation/exit vs. US occupation/exit
Differences between Iraq and Vietnam
Difficulties with the politicization of the CIA
US Nuclear Primacy
Energy Security
Off-shoring of jobs and how to train the youth for 10 years from now.


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I hope I get political science credits for this when I am done

Finally, my response to the first link of suggested reading from atp:

Right, over all impression first.

As I mentioned earlier this explains so much about why I didn't jive with what I have read / seen / heard of Chomsky. I am an uniformed skeptic of anarchism and he is an informed believer of at least some variation of the school of thought.

I also noticed a consistent trend in his life story, here are some of the quotes / stated facts that go along with it:

"I've always been resistant consciously to allowing literature to influence my beliefs and attitudes with regard to society and history."

Chomsky was streamed in academic / non-traditional schools at both a primary and secondary level.

In University he had a non-traditional education.

"I'm not much of a joiner"

"But do you wonder why so many share such assumptions - and you do not?" interviewer

"Oh yes, I always felt completely out of tune with almost everything around me."

"I used to go to Philadelphia public library when I was about fifteen or sixteen -- to read sectarian leftist literature of a very strange nature."

These things seem to explain his tendencies and aversion to government, especially democracy. It looks like Chomsky has never been a part of society as most people understand it. His experiences in life give him almost no insight, in a practical experience type of way, into what most North Americans experience.

Where does he talk of his first love? Where does he talk about the joy of winning or the tragedy of loosing a sports event? What about nights at the bar getting drunk? Or late nights spent in University with friends trying to get an assignment done, or to get the last ounces of studying in? Or the time spent just chatting and learning about the lives of people he had met in residence that had different experiences then his own?

His life has clearly been devoid of much reliance on others. So why would his political views have any notion of working in an organized state? How would he understand the development of governance in an attempt to coordinate a community working together for a common goal, the maintenance of a decent standard of living for ALL the people in the community then would be possible without such direction. It is no wonder he favours an indivitulistic political shift.

This also explains his initial fascination with the kibbutz which operated in a co-op manner. This appears to be his first experience of people working together with a common goal. Is it possible that it is also the first time he was ever part of a team as apposed to a loosely organized group of strong minded intelectuals? No wonder he liked it so much. (despite the fact that he had eaten food from farmers, driven on roads provided by the government, and drank water from government created and maintained infrastructure). Right now, in absence of perfect information, I believe that the THEORY of a government established and working for the good of the community it represents is sound. The PRACTICE is debatable, as is the determination of what is good for the community. See the seeds of my critisism.

I will also sympathize with Chomsky in that it is no wonder his reading lead him to be cynical of systems in general because he likely saw many of the perversions of the systems he studied. I can understand that one way to avoid these perversions is to eliminate the systems in which they thrive but I am not convinced that this is the best solution... yet.

I found some things I really liked in the article.

His comments on schooling were quite good. I can agree that the goal of a good education would be best served by a much more open environment that aimed more at imparting knowledge then at creating unquestioning drones. And I also agree that this will never happen. It just seems like our system of education is based on the assumption that a more open curriculum would simply see a majority of young people walk out the open door instead of into it. I don't know if this is true or not, but I fear it is.

I liked his note on the co-op nature of the Kibbutz. This is something I want to learn more about. VanCity Credit Union is a Co-op. It has been awarded highest marks as far as places to live are concerned and it seems to put a lot of money from profits back into the community in terms of arts, education, and community development. It recently sponsored a forum on urban economic development attended by people from urban centers all over the country. The university of Bologna has an extensive research department on the subject. If you know Italian you might even be able to read all of it.

I do want to read his book on "Logical Structures in Linguistic Theory" now.

Finally, I found it interesting that he concentrates so much on Israel and Palestine. It didn't surprise me to find out that he had read so much Jewish literature when he was a kid (pre 16). Makes me wonder how he would have turned out if that had been British, French, or African literature?

I have read the second article, but it's 1:50 here and this just doesn't pay me enough to keep going tonight ;)