A Brief Chat with Noam Chomsky.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT in Boston since 1955. In 1993, there was a list of top 10 authorities cited in US academic journals in arts and humanities of previous 7 years. The list included: Karl Marx,  Shakespeare, The Bible, Plato, Chomsky, Hegel. He is described as the father of modern linguistics for his theories, collectively called “Chomskian linguistics”.
Noam Chomsky at Home
He has written… well a lot of books (here is a list, if you ‘ve got some spare time – count and leave the number in comments section. Thank you). Putting linguistics aside his work has also contributed to fields like cognitive and computer sciences.

That’s just a brief summery for half of his work life. The second half is Chomsky, the political dissident, public intellectual, activist and organizer. He describes himself as an Anarcho-Syndicalist. He started getting heavily involved in activism with Anti-war movement at the time of US invasion of Vietnam. He was one of the first person to point out the inhumanity of the invasion, way before it became common knowledge. He was arrested number of times. He was on the “Enemy List” of Richard Nixon.

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Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s study of Mass Media and Propaganda model, “Manufacturing Consent”, paved the way for understanding the way our mass media system interrelates with our economy, political system, and society in general.

I can go on and on about Chomskys work and it’s importance, but due to limited time i will end this summary with a quote about Chomsky by Amorey Gethin, one of his bitter critics:

“Chomsky strikes me as a person of great intellectual and social boldness and courage, the most important and perhaps rarest sort of courage. He could have sat back and basked in the admiration of academics and intellectuals. Instead he has faced abuse and contempt for his attack on the immorality of political and economic power throughout the world and his demand for decency. He is constantly misreported and misinterpreted. He is even accused of denying the Holocaust, although he has written of the killing of the Jews as “the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history”.
What Chomsky does do, though, in the face of malicious vilification, is defend the right of people to express views he himself despises. He is a worthy successor to Voltaire. An incident I find particularly moving can be seen in the Canadian-made film on Chomsky called “Manufacturing Consent” (1992). Robert Faurisson was convicted by a French court of the crime of arguing that the slaughter of the Jews never took place. Chomsky wrote in defence of Faurisson’s right to free speech, and went to Paris to protest. He was abused and heckled both by the French press and in person. But, as Chomsky pointed out, there are only two positions you can take on free speech. You are either for it or you are against it.”

[The following chat was held via email and has been edited for purposes of continuity and adding resources]

ST: I had about 200 questions in my head of all sorts that i wanted to ask you. Lets start with this one, ever since i read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, i had this almost primitivist doubt: Is scientific development at all important for a society? If  hunter gatherers were as happy with there way of living as we are now with ours, why does it matter? And how will an anarchist society deal the development of,lets say, research on quantum loop theory? As technological R&D need major financial support and resources, this relationship is working well with government support and corporate support but without them, how a scientific research and development sector might look?

NC: Scientific research is important because we want to understand the world in which we live, including other humans. Scientific development is important for any number of reasons, including survival.  In our society it is funded mostly by citizens, but without their participation in the decisions (that holds for corporate funding too, by price increases). In a free society, they would make the decisions – as for the arts, and everything else.

We cannot conceivably go back to hunter-gatherer days, even if that were desirable, without mass genocide on an indescribable scale.

ST: What about Crime? Do you, like Kropotkin and many others,also believe that “prevention of crime is the only proper way to combat it?”

NC: An important way, not the only way.  Lots of discussion of the factors in the criminology literature.

ST: Capitalism can be described and identified by few characteristics like wage system, work for profit, and private ownership over means of production. What then can said to be some of the few key characteristics of a state?

NC: “state” is not a very clear notion.

ST: Final question. Your thoughts on Narendra Modi?

NC: From what I’ve read, he was fairly directly implicated in the Gujarat slaughter of Muslims and has a Hindu nationalist background, including RSS. I’ve heard reports from Gujarati friends who are very critical of his alleged economic successes in Gujarat, but haven’t investigated the matter closely enough to write anything.

Our Musings on Us

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You know it well, when I sigh.
And drop hints of my attention.
The disguised doubts of the why.

Maybe you prefer me as the hot one.
Sliding up your skin.
So we can believe it’s for the long run.

But how you block the noise
Inside my head, those looks.
Your slight shivers at the surface of my voice.

I would lie beside
While you search your screen.
My curves getting cold in imposed ignorance.

But I wonder sometimes, could I burn.
My intestines – if that’s what it took?
Desperate purge, of this sordid hunger.

I would give up the chase.
And let the smoke waft away at my face
My dark pungent stench, for you.
To dream sometimes, maybe remember too.

Should We Ban The Intent Or The Content?

Indias-Daughter

India is one of the very few surviving democracies with such a huge and diverse population where Freedom of Speech/Expression is embedded in the culture. Obviously, this has been translated into reality in its constitution that was framed after independence in 1947. This freedom hardly served the artists/filmmakers within India filled with controversies right from the extent of protest against their work to a complete ban (needless to mention the vandalism of property of the artists). The uproar surrounding the documentary India’s Daughter comes as no surprise as India is known for its aversion towards anything that its polity/government is not comfortable with.

India’s Daughter stands apart for its intent rather than content with many questioning the prerogative of an outsider (British) to comment on India’s problem. It is further fuelled by its perceived stereotype of Indian males on the issue of patriarchy. When Mukesh Singh (rape accused of Nirbhaya’s case 2012) in the documentary says Girls are meant to stay at home and not to party or go out at night, without any slightest sign of remorse for the crime committed, even the conservative faction of the society is outraged. What is more worrying is the impression of India that ruins the reputation of NRIs affecting their normal life. For example, the recent case of a German professor refusing admission to an Indian student on the grounds of rape problems in India is atrocious.

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Of course, this was followed by a fitting reply by a German ambassador upholding the values of his country at the same time demolishing the prejudice of a professor.

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Staunch liberals of India who generally take a firm stand against the ban also went on to criticize the documentary for its providing undeserving attention to the rape accused and his lawyers—whose comments were even worse. Perhaps, it is due to the fact that BBC is known for publishing condescending news articles projecting an image about India that are far from reality. The following are some of the useless story headlines about India that have made it to BBC news for no reason but sensation:

“Snake charmer sparks office panic”

“Indian snake charmers ‘held photographer captive’”

“The cash machine with a free cobra”

“The bull whose semen is worth $3,000 a shot”

“Cow dung burning ban near Taj Mahal”

“India cow row settled by DNA tests’”

After reading these, I was wondering that the intention behind such headlines maybe is the key to unlock the world’s peace and prosperity. :-)

There is no denial by Indians about the content of the documentary and its veracity, but the questions asked are, “Why is a rape accused the main focus of the documentary? Why does BBC malign India and its prospects through such works? Despite having one of the lowest rape per capita in the world (taking into account the unreported cases), why is India projected as the rape capital of the world?”

The Indian Government was also unintentionally baited into this issue creating a sensation through the ban. Indians would have probably just overlooked the documentary as yet another one from BBC if not for the undue publicity by its own government. Proponents of free speech including me are baffled about this on how to handle such works that are true but give rise to unpleasant consequences leading to the question, “Should we ban the intent or the content?” —maybe neither. Whatever it may be, it is disheartening to hear the stories of direct victims of the documentary.

A Heady Commotion

uncertainty-of-life

No reason for anguish no reason for pain,

Trying to find some lucidity but it all seems in vain.

Looking at the faces with every emotion feigned,

Rather than unveiling the masks, I prefer to take the blame.

 

Feelings running short of being expressed,

Decipher life so much that you end up possessed.

Fears remain unanswered and concerns remain unaddressed,

But no stone is left unturned to ensure that everyone is impressed.

 

No place to go, no acquaintances to find.

If only I could have caged the mind.

Tired of being nice, tired of being kind,

Disgusted of always being put on the grind.

 

Neither that hurt to turn rebellious,

Nor that calm to ignore it as frivolous.

Comprehending people shall always remain tedious,

Two-faced sycophants with souls so hideous.

 

People say that each of us is here to serve a purpose.

What I see is the ringmaster running a circus.

Even if you are caged you are supposed to entertain,

Without the assurance of anything to gain.

Dancing to the tunes of a future so uncertain,

Makes you wonder why you treat your emotions with such disdain.

On Budget 2015-16

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The general attitude towards this year’s budget has been quite similar to that of over the past few years: corporate enthusiasts are excited, middle classes are uncertain and puzzled and rest of the population is apathetic to varying degrees.

The underlying conclusion of this year’s budget is that of maintaining and extending the austerity measures, but to the magnitude that makes UPA look almost anti-capitalist. It proposes to abolish wealth tax and targets to reduce corporate tax from 30 to 25 percentage and also reduce direct tax by Rs 8,315 cr and increase the burden on “general public” through indirect tax hike of Rs. 23,383 cr.

I agree with Mr. Sitaram Yechury when he claims, commenting on the exceptions of budget’s gross tax revenues: “Expectations of ‘tax buoyancy’ by the financial minster is, hence, pure imagination”. But we are talking about corporate capitalism, Mr Yechury, “pure imagination” and fictitious capital is its live-blood.

There will be reduction in grants and loans to the states. Food subsidies will be sluggish. Health and family welfare will come down from Rs. 35,163cr (last year) to 29,653cr. Housing and urban poverty alleviation figures have dropped from Rs 6,008cr to Rs 5,634cr.

All this while the subsidies, “tax incentive” to the rich are more than the actual fiscal deficit. It should be quite clear that the deficit burden, for the most part, is due to subsidies to the rich, not the poor. In short, socialism for corporations and free market and its risks for the rest of the population.

It is also important to note that, “Taxing corporations and the rich would have consequences too, but they would generate far fewer social costs and fall mostly on those best able to cope with them.” (). Isn’t it quite obvious and why are all the measures that are being taken are exactly the opposite? And why can’t we do better than capitalism? Demand discussion, debate and democratic (in actual sense of the word) decisions – instead of being trapped by the invisible handcuff of capitalism?

Holes and Analogies

Would you like me as a sea?

Terrific on the outside
But deadly inside deep.
So when you come in, seeking treasures
Death would find you first.
Sweet poison, seeping out of me.

Or should I be like a tree instead?

Bearing lovely fruits of your desire.
So when you climb up ahead
Unburdening me of my juices
I would be the overdose, the high
The lucid whispers in your head.

Perhaps a film, of your taste.

Of sunken minds and heartbreaking lines.
Would your eyes be raised
to the screen of my skin then?
Carrying projections of your dreams
Disappearing words in sickening haste.

I need to tie my ends, flying loose.

Floating men with hearts hanging out.
Empty chests, lost lovers, placid hues.
Half eaten. Rotten. Of stories
Promises, lies and pending dues.

But you’re not the end of things.
And I am not a tree.
I’d drift off with my drooping limbs
As you pass out in your Bombay lanes
With younger women and heavier drinks.

So, I have read and written of you some
Of seas and films and empty drums.
Some nights were spared and left to bleed
Some stars too, and moons and few splendid suns.

For all the love and harm undone
I ask, to be my book, this once.
For you’re the book I’d like to read
In bed tonight,
And for the rest of my lonely nights to come.

Holes and Analogies

Till Death Do Us Apart

EMPTY-CRIB

I put the umbrella behind the door; it hadn’t really helped me with the rain. How could it? The rain, like so many other things I had been experiencing, was unreal. I locked the door and double checked it, hoping she’d stay out tonight.

“I’m real” she whispered in my ear.

I turned around, not a sign of her. But she was there, I knew it. Talking to an overpaid lady as she pretends to hear me out hasn’t helped. All the medicines I was being forced to chug down, haven’t either. If anything, they were making her stay. All this scribbling over a notepad, and that feeling of being strangled and chocked by an inter-mixing of chemicals. All it does, is remind me of her even more.

As soon as I sat on the couch, the armchair opposite it sank under her weight. I tried to look away, and my eyes were greeted by our picture on the side desk. She sure was a looker. And then I looked across the table, how decayed and rotten she had become. 
I loved her, anyway.

I turned on the television; it might help me stay sane. The man in the idiot box smiled. It was a smile of misfortune, even he pitied me. 
“She won’t go away till you do it. You know that right?”
I changed the channel.

“He killed me, butchered me. All while you observed in silence”. Her voice was getting colder by the day.

“Look at me. Look at me”, she demanded my attention. 
“Were you always lying…” her voice broke “…when you used to say that I’m the one?”

I was reminded of all the promises I had made, and she was quick to read my mind.

“Don’t you remember? We were supposed to be together. And it, it took me away. It separated us”

I hated it when she would call him an ‘it’. There was a cry from the master bedroom.

“Even now it wouldn’t let us have a moment of peace.” She snarled.

I looked at her. The skin below her eyes had dried and stretched to her lips. But her eyes, well they had remained as truthful as ever. She was right, as always. We were always meant to be. I had made her believe that I’d protect her, even in the most severe of times. And yet here I was, as helpless as I was then. I had failed myself. I had failed our marriage. But I could take all that, it was all the hate that she projected towards me that made me miserable.
A man can’t live a miserable life, can he? Not if he can do something about it.

I moved to the kitchen and opened the central drawer. I took out a knife; her smile visible at its sharp end.

She came closer to me, pulled me by the neck, and said.

“Do it. Avenge me. Avenge our love.”

I casually walked in to the master bedroom, where I had kept him, tied and bound to his bed. I leaned over and looked at him, the murderer of my wife. He looked back at me with his childlike innocence.

“Don’t let it get to you this time. Do it. And soon, we will be together again”. She whispered.

He cried. He cried for his innocence, for that is all he could do.

“Slice it. Slice it into pieces. Do it”. She shouted over my shoulder.

He looked at me with no remorse. He had no feeling of guilt, no sense of wrongdoing. How could he, that little devil.

I positioned the knife. He did not retaliate. In the background, I could hear her laughing.

I waited for it to say something, to convince me to stop. But how could he speak, he had been born barely days go. And so, I raised the knife and stabbed him thrice.

Her laughter faded away, and all that was left was a deafening silence. She had left me, finally. I wiped the grin of my face and proceeded to clean the blood that had dripped down the cradle.