ZNet Commentary: 09.30.01 Chomsky Interview – Part 6

What do you believe should be the role and
priority of social activists concerned about
justice at this time? Should we curb our
criticisms, as some have claimed, or is this,
instead, a time for renewed and enlarged efforts,
not only because it is a crisis regarding which we
can attempt to have a very important positive
impact, but also because large sectors of the
public are actually far more receptive than usual
to discussion and exploration, even if other
sectors are intransigently hostile?

Michael Albert: What do you believe should be the role and priority of social activists
concerned about justice at this time? Should we
curb our criticisms, as some have claimed, or is
this, instead, a time for renewed and enlarged
efforts, not only because it is a crisis regarding
which we can attempt to have a very important
positive impact, but also because large sectors of
the public are actually far more receptive than
usual to discussion and exploration, even if other
sectors are intransigently hostile?


Noam Chomsky: It depends on what these social activists are trying to achieve.


If their goal is to escalate the cycle of violence
and to increase the likelihood of further
atrocities like that of Sept. 11 — and,
regrettably, even worse ones with which much of
the world is all too familiar — then they should
certainly curb their analysis and criticisms,
refuse to think, and cut back their involvement in
the very serious issues in which they have been
engaged.


The same advice is warranted if they want to help
the most reactionary and regressive elements of
the political-economic power system to implement
plans that will be of great harm to the general
population here and in much of the world, and may even threaten human survival.


If, on the contrary, the goal of social activists is to
reduce the likelihood of further atrocities, and
to advance hopes for freedom, human rights, and
democracy, then they should follow the opposite
course.


They should intensify their efforts to inquire
into the background factors that lie behind these
and other crimes and devote themselves with even
more energy to the just causes to which they have
already been committed.


The opportunities are surely there.


The shock of the horrendous crimes has already
opened even elite sectors to reflection of a kind
that would have been hard to imagine not long ago, and among the general public that is even more true.


Of course, there will be those who demand silent
obedience.


We expect that from the ultra-right, and anyone
with a little familiarity with history will expect
it from some left intellectuals as well, perhaps
in an even more virulent form.


But it is important not to be intimidated by
hysterical ranting and lies and to keep as closely
as one can to the course of truth and honesty and
concern for the human consequences of what one
does, or fails to do.


All truisms, but worth bearing in mind.


Beyond the truisms, we turn to specific questions, for inquiry and for action.

[ also see related items:

Osama bin Laden 101: Understanding bin Laden –
http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_
id=1500

First hand Reportage
from Afghanistan: 5.5 Million Starving –
http://theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1
483

Noam Chomsky On the Bombings –
http://theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1
474
]

Author: Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert

News Service: ZNet

URL: http://www.zmag.org/albintchom.htm