International philosopher, cognitive scientist, political activist, and sometimes called “the father of modern linguistics,” Noam Chomsky gave a striking lecture at the Habib University Karachi yesterday on December 7, 2020.
Chomsky’s stature and significance can be summed up from The New York Times’ words, “Judged in terms of power, range, novelty, and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive today” as dated back on Feb. 25, 1979.
The conversation point was “Bullet dodged or merely delayed: Reflections on the future of democracy, nuclear threat and the looming environmental catastrophe in a post-Trumpian world.”
In the lecture, professor Chomsky expressed his concern, warning, and guidance for the postmodern and post-Trumpian world’s problems.
Chomsky started with how “We should recognize what a unique moment in human history; this is. Humans have been on earth for a few hundred thousand years; the present generation is facing questions that have never arisen in human history, and that will never arise again in human history unless given appropriate answers. So, that’s a tremendous burden and remarkable challenge, I think we are at a moment of confluence crises.”
He concluded how the senior analysts had presented three major issues the world faces around the ticking clock of doomsday for humankind. “First: the Nuclear War Threat, Second: The Environmental Catastrophe and the third: The Deterioration of Democracy Worldwide.” and “Pandemic: the fourth major crisis.”
ON DETERIORATION OF DEMOCRACY AND THREAT OF REACTIONARY FORCES
According to Chomsky, “As far as the deterioration of democracy is concerned, it’s proceeded very far. The Trump administration has purged the executive branch of the government of any independent voices. Nothing left, except sycophants.” He said that “The congress years ago installed inspector generals to monitor the executive offices’ performance for corruption, maleficence. They began to look into the enormous swamp of corruption that Trump had created in Washington, and he took care of that by firing them. They are gone.”
Then coming to elections, he concluded how “The election was a total disaster, how the republicans drifted off the political spectrum years ago, and if you look at the international comparisons, they are alongside the parties in Europe with Neo-fascists Origins: Alternative to Deutschland, Le Pen’s National Front and so on and the republicans have stopped being a parliamentary party. They are now a party of environmental denialists, ultranationalists, evangelical Christians, militarists, xenophobics, racists, white supremacists, and a hazardous organization.”
“In the past couple of years has been the growth of a “Reactionary international.” It’s not formalized, but it’s taking shape with Trump in the White House and led by the white house. It includes the most reactionary states in the world, the ones most bitterly attacking and destroying democracy. In the western hemisphere, the leading members are Bolsonaro of Brazil, who is dismantling the democracy of brazil into shreds.
The Middle East includes the most reactionary states, in the world: The Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt with the most brutal dictatorship it ever had, includes Israel which has gone very far right, it’s one country in the world where maybe the very only where Trump’s popularity was overwhelming, maybe it is the only country in the world, where the younger population is more reactionary than the older one. Moving to the east, Modi’s India: Destroying the remnants of Indian secular democracy, crushing Muslim rights, placing Kashmir under the vicious, brutal rule. Pakistan is not too far behind. These are the shapes of things that are happening.”
ON THE PANDEMIC
“It is least of the four crises, severe though it is and dominant though it is at this moment. We will emerge from the pandemic at a terrible cost and needless cost; we can see a needless cost because some countries have dealt with it. By January 10th, Chinese Scientists had identified the virus, only after the few weeks of symptoms they had sequenced the genome provided it to the entire world. The virologists knew what they are facing and knew what kind of measure there had to be taken. In some places, the measures were taken, others not. Now, we can see the difference.”
He argued by referring, “China, the center of the crisis. Life is pretty back to normal. South Korea had severe outbreaks, dealt with it expeditiously and effectively; the situation is reasonably under control. Europe waited too long, but finally, Europe began to take significant measures. Others didn’t. – India didn’t. Brazil didn’t. The United States didn’t. France didn’t. These are the countries in the lead in facing the pandemic catastrophe.”
“In the United States, the government has given up. It has informed the public that there is nothing we can do. Unfortunately, the public has been inundated with massive propaganda from the right-wing, which tells people there’s no crisis. It’s a hoax; the liberals made it up, a large portion of the population sees no problem. People literally dying in the hospital, claiming to the nurses that there is no disease, it’s a hoax.”
He emphasized how the “Media barely mentions the fact, seldom that China has a vaccine, which might come into availability first. But Americans have to be deprived of it. Why? because we have to undermine Chinese development, this is madness.”
He further touches on the issues of Nuclear Weapon Threats and Environmental Issues:
He reminisced while referring to 1945 in Japan, he said that “It’s worth remembering that any nuclear war among powers of any significance, certain Pakistan and India will be terminal and will be lethal for the rest of the world”
Further, he pointed out, how the “Trump administration has continued is continuing at this very moment, to open the new areas of this country for fossil fuel exploration, it’s dismantling the regulations that impose some constraints on fossil fuels and incidentally also protects the population from emissions that are extremely harmful to health particularly at this period when people are facing respiratory diseases.”
Summarizing his conversation he said:
“Take any of the crises we face; nuclear weapons, environmental catastrophe, destruction of democracy, pandemic, racism, xenophobia, many others. They have solutions and we know the solutions. The solutions are feasible and in hands.”
“But it’s not enough to just have academic knowledge of what to do. Somebody has to take that knowledge and work with it. That’s the burden this generation is facing. It’s a severe responsibility and exciting challenge, if it’s not met we are literally facing the end of organized human society.”
By the end of the discussion. President Rizvi of the Habib University asked Professor Chomsky for advice to University Students:
Chomsky: Advice to say, to university students?
Interestingly and adequately, he advised Pakistani Students while lifting them up:
“Well, Pakistan used to have an advanced scientific establishment, Nobel Prize Laureate, and so on. Now, science has virtually disappeared from the educational system.”
“Several scientists have been trying to preserve a rational educational system, which deals with the reality of the world.”
“Pakistan has no future if it’s going to live in a world of religious superstition.”
Fouz Siddiqui is an Aviation Auditor, Academic & Science Writer. He studies Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Karachi. His interests involve Science Communication & Outreach practices while avidly reading and writing about Physics, Astronomy, Aviation, Philosophy of Science, Environment, Social Issues, and similar substantial life questions.