vrijdag 11 mei 2012

Noam Chomsky on Occupy

In the US this collection of three interviews with Noam Chomsky and a transcript of his talk at Occupy Boston was published as a pamphlet by Zuccotti Park Press and that makes perfect sense. My version is a Penguin Special for the international market and it feels as if Penguin is trying to make a few bucks by selling you a bounded copy of things that are already online and that partly overlap. 

Chomsky remains a cryptic figure: on the one hand he is a linguist who turned the discipline into a modern science but who refuses to allow for the idea that language can be social, on the other hand he is one of the fiercest critics of American politics, one who never kowtows to anything or anybody. On Occupy I like him. Of all the famous people endorsing it I find him the most enthusiastic. Where Noami Klein feels the need to offer advice and where the Hegelian harlequin couldn't resist urging OWS to force an allegiance with the tea party, Chomsky doesn't profess to know what 'we' should do and he stays away from condescending advice and smart-ass contrarianism. Instead he gives a clear and concise of picture of the way financial institutions came to own the political institutions and how they purposely marginalized everybody else. Insecurity (about jobs, about debts) keeps people too afraid to protest. He says the importance of Occupy is twofold: 1) it has changed the agenda by making class war a theme, 2) Occupy camps created collective spaces and social networks that enable people to overcome their isolation. In the same way the most important aspect of 1968 was the fact that everybody for the first time started to talk with everybody else

Another thing I like about Chomsky is that he stays away from using the 99%, he refers to it, but he doesn't embrace it. It has become a co-opted term and I think Chomsky believes it to be a useful image but not a truly important as a statistic.

If you are already into Occupy this book will not be earth shattering but if you want to recommend something on it to your teachers, your parents, your children, your students this might be a good introduction.

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