January 26, 2010
As Aristotle once said, “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” As we have been discussing in previous blogs ideas about “illusion,” “percpetion,” “memetics,” “psychology of the masses” and read Edward R. Murrow’s infamous speech about the downfall of television… I think it’s high time we began looking at some of the uncomfortable truths behind our own “grass root” socio-political stances and world views.
Thus, I would like to introduce to you a novel idea concerning the never ending violence that seems to be ever escalating between Israeli forces and Gaza. After all we’ve heard through the media, and bearing in mind how soft our minds can be to external influences i.e. television and general consensus, it might well prove for many to be a hard pill to initially swallow. However, we would be well advised to look at the world through as many perspectives as humanily possible, so that we might see all the aspects and angles on this multi-faceted dispute. For if we cannot put ourselves in “the other’s shoes,” then what hope do we ever have of truly understanding the world and developing a compassionate stance towards other fellow human beings?
Thus I would like to intorduce Avram Noam Chomsky, who is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, political activist, author, and lecturer. He is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is well known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics. Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissident, an anarchist, and a libertarian socialist intellectual. Chomsky is often viewed as a notable figure in contemporary philosophy who, in the 1950s, began developing his theory of generative grammar, which has undergone numerous revisions and has had a profound influence on linguistics. His approach to the study of language emphasizes “an innate set of linguistic principles shared by all humans” known as universal grammar, “the initial state of the language learner,” and discovering an “account for linguistic variation via the most general possible mechanisms.” He also established the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power. In 1959, Chomsky published a widely influential review of B. F. Skinner’s theoretical book Verbal Behavior, which was the first attempt by a behaviorist to provide a functional, operant analysis of language. Chomsky used this review to broadly and aggressively challenge the behaviorist approaches to studies of behavior dominant at the time, and contributed to the cognitive revolution in psychology. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has influenced the philosophy of language and mind.
Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of US foreign and domestic policy. He is a self-declared adherent of libertarian socialism which he regards as “the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society.”
According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar during the 1980–92 period, and was the eighth most-cited source. He is also considered a prominent cultural figure. At the same time, his status as a leading critic of US foreign policy has made him controversial. And it is within a lecture of his, entitle “Chomsky on Gaza” that we will see his well researched critical flare come to light.
But before we embark on Chomsky’s two hour lecture and question time, perhaps we should prime ourselves with some knowledge of the Israeli vs. Palestinian conflict.
The Gaza Strip (Arabic: قطاع غزة Qiṭāʿ Ġazza/Qita’ Ghazzah, Arabic pronunciation: /qitˤaːʕ ɣazza/) lies on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and between 6 and 12 kilometers (4–7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 360 square kilometers (139 sq mi). This small piece of land is home to about 1.5 million Palestinians. Many of these people lived in other parts of Palestine prior to the 1947 – 49 Israeli War of Independence, when they had to flee. These Palestinians have not been allowed to return to their former villages. The area is recognized internationally as part of the Palestinian territories. Actual control of the area is in the hands of Hamas, an organization that won civil parliamentary Palestinian Authority elections in 2006 and took over de facto government in the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority by way of its own armed militia in July 2007, while violently removing the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and civil servants from the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip, having previously been a part of the Ottoman Empire and then the British Mandate of Palestine, was occupied by Egypt from 1948–67, and then by Israel following the 1967 war. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in 1993, the Palestinian Authority was set up as an interim administrative body to govern populated Palestinian centers – with Israel maintaining military control of the Gaza Strip’s airspace, some of its land borders and its territorial waters – until a final agreement could be reached. As agreement remained elusive, Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, saying it was no longer the Occupying Power there. The international community, citing Israel’s continued effective control over the area, continues to regard it as an Occupying Power.
With that out of the way… I present to you an alternative, but equally as valid, view point on the Israeli Palestinian conflict… One that many of us here in the West might never have seen/heard before. I hope, rather than arousing fear and disbelief, it will simply show one how their own world view about other country’s conflicts might not be as “final” as many of us would like to think. Once this is grasped, perhaps we can then begin to see past the egocentric bias of our own country’s medial spin… And in doing that, we might then become aware of the slant that our own government and corporate “powerhouses” place on reported conflicts that have their “monetary” interests at heart, thus justifying to “us” (the dumbed down masses) their continued economic exploitation of other countries via modes of war and civil unrest.
M.I.T. Lecture – International Affairs – Chomsky On Gaza
Bearing in mind Chomsky’s lecture above, I would now like to urge anyone who’s got this far to read and consider the following article, which was written by George Monbiot for The Guardian newspaper, published today, on the 26th January, 2010…
I provide this blog so that you can make up your own mind as to whether or not the war in Iraq was a just war… No doubt, to the many German nationals during the Second World War, the Nazi invasion of Europe would have seemed a just cause. Heavy thought, eh? If you can now begin to see an alternative perspective, then perhaps you might like to visit Monbiot’s Arrest Blair website and remind others that justice still hasn’t been done!
To find out where I sourced this lecture from, please click here.
OR to find out more about Noam Chomsky himself, and all the good work he’s doing here on Earth currently, please click here.