Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential people in my life. It started in college and grad school when I was studying generative grammars and Chomsky’s theories were central to my understanding of the way language is created and controlled. For me, Chomsky is now the most honest voice I hear in a world of fantasy and mendacity. Sometimes his message is difficult to resolve with my understanding of the world but more often it is a quick cleansing of my cluttered and misguided mind, allowing me to see the real world and not someone else’s fiction. I often read or listen to Chomsky and can’t believe that anything so obvious can be rejected by so many people.
I suspect that Chomsky’s tacit refusal to define everything in the guise of the myth of American Exceptionalism is probably what makes his arguments suspect: unAmerican, even. Yet this is really just an artifact of Chomsky’s greatest characteristic: He is honest and he thinks for himself. Honesty is no longer a prominent American value: it is too often dishonesty which allows people to triumph, especially financially, and in America, the richer you are, the more important you are. Add to this the Supreme Court decision that money is speech and corporations are people and the future of our freedom seems dim. We need more men and women like Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky has an interesting editorial on the Nation of Change titled, Losing the World. It starts
Significant anniversaries are solemnly commemorated — Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, for example. Others are ignored, and we can often learn valuable lessons from them about what is likely to lie ahead. Right now, in fact.
At the moment, we are failing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, leaving millions dead and four countries devastated, with casualties still mounting from the long-term effects of drenching South Vietnam with some of the most lethal carcinogens known, undertaken to destroy ground cover and food crops.
Chomsky makes this key observation :
American decline is real, though the apocalyptic vision reflects the familiar ruling class perception that anything short of total control amounts to total disaster. Despite the piteous laments, the U.S. remains the world dominant power by a large margin, and no competitor is in sight, not only in the military dimension, in which of course the U.S. reigns supreme.
The article is certainly worth the read as are the many books Chomsky has written (over 150 I believe). Sometimes we can’t just live in a world of novels and fiction but have to branch out and get a more current-events view of the world and society. Noam Chomsky is a good, progressive way to start, and it you’re also interested in modern linguistics, there’s no one better.
Remember, if you have always understood that Chomsky was a liar and an anarchist and definitely un-American, then you had better start reading him as soon as possible and make up your own mind. There is a very nice biography of Chomsky over at the Weblog titled Measured Out with Coffee Spoons (lots of references too for further involvement).