Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Land of the . . .
Date: November 13, 1994 23:12

19:30 Santa Monica, California :: 13 NOV 94

. . . hmmmm-I've been reading Noam Chomsky again so perhaps I shouldn't get into it. Oh, what the hell.

The book jacket of pretty much every work Chomsky's had published quotes the New York Times assessment of him as "arguably the most important intellectual alive." If that's so, why do so few people know of him? I wonder about this as some 10 or 20 fellow hostelers sit insensate and unlaughing while the 7PM slot of NBC sitcoms fails to amuse them much. What's missing is the IV dripping and an EKG bleeping while the comatose patient lies unmoving, eyes unseeing. For an hour or so they become clinically dead.

They don't read Chomsky because they don't want to know. So long as the system that created for them Santa Monica, one of LA's little oases, continues to support these havens for those living inside the margins, then method matters not at all. It's too easy to believe what they want to believe.

Here in the land of the gun and the home of the far-Right, the so-called "Liberal Left" mourn the Republican triumphs of last week's election. But if Chomsky is correct, then it matters little whether donkeys or elephants sit behind the desks of government; within the spectrum of possible political alignments the Republicans and Democrats are so close as to be left only with the fine points to bicker over.

21:43 Santa Monica, California :: 13 NOV 94

It's none too easy to argue with him if you think about it. For example, the "fledgling democracies" of Central and South America -- Guatemala, El Salvadore, Nicaragua, Venezuela . . . -- how has the beneficence of US aid differed between the administrations of Carter, Reagan, Bush and now Clinton? Some were quicker to the gun when propping up the dictators and guerrillas, but all participated in the "democratization" of these countries, "democracy" here meaning unobstructed access for American business to resources and cheap human labour.

I won't back up this charge here. The eMail medium won't support the sheer volume of ammunition I'd have to expend to convincingly support the argument. Chomsky himself is fond of pointing out that he doesn't play well in the mainstream media, for similar reasons: when one contradicts the common assumptions by a margin this large it takes longer than the next commercial break to explain oneself. Since the media is not forthcoming with that time, the charges can be quickly dismissed as insupportable, as ludicrous, as coming from a crackpot.

Reading Chomsky, though, is hard. Hard not just because he laboriously and voluminously supports his arguments (he must in order to escape the label of "crackpot" that is all too readily applied in any event) but hard because it drives one to unsavoury conclusions. Afterall, if the activities of our governments exemplify international piracy then we, the benefactors, are receiving stolen property. Our wealth, our privilege, our peace comes at the cost of poverty, marginalisation and murder in the third world. That thought takes a bit of the sheen off a Santa Monica Pier sunset. It's easier to cast out the thought. It's easier to watch a rerun of "Who's the Boss?" then walk out to the Pier and watch the children giggle on the ferris wheel.

I get no pleasure from the observation that our cozy, privileged life is busting the seams of a barely maintainable collective fantasy. The merchants along the 3rd St. Promenade advertise in neon designs and cardboard signs, the latter being the placards of the homeless. The window shoppers look away.

Reading Chomsky makes it hard to look away.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --


Compared with the promise of biotechnology
. . . electronics is sort of a frill.
  graphical element Noam Chomsky,
The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many