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Chomsky Review Chapter 2 – Religion and Politics

So, the second chapter of Dr Noam Chomsky’s tome, “Understanding Power, The Indispensable Chomsky” is somewhat a mixed bag. One of my concerns when undertaking the commission to discuss and summarize this work, was made real in this chapter. To wit, trying to cover far too much in far too little space.

One of the more difficult things about book reviews—even if you’re only reviewing some section of the writing in question—is the fact that the person penning the tome, may well choose to write or speak about a good many things in a given portion of the work being reviewed.

The second chapter of Dr Noam Chomsky’s, “Understanding Power, The Indispensable Chomsky” is an excellent example of this.

The chapter in question is chock full of a wide variety of subjects.

It starts out discussing the idea that language (Dr Chomsky’s professed specialty) is essentially broken up into two component parts. The first of these, is the normal meaning or words. The second, is the definitions that apply to political usage.

Dr Chomsky uses the idea of “containment” where applied specifically to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as one idea that helps to make his case. Later, he expands its use to Communism in general

It’s his contention, the way the word is used, would justify even the more ruthless, evil nations on the planet being able to apply it in similar manners to talk about how they act and speak.

By way of example Chomsky indicates that Nazi Germany could’ve easily adopted the term in similar fashions, to talk about how it dealt with its neighbors, and the Jews.

Getting too far into detail on this, would result in me writing a pretty large section of text, and would keep me from covering even the small amount of the chapter in question in my allotted space.

From there, he moves on to other examples of containment in the use in which he discusses it. An example would be the French attempting to maintain control of Indochina.

Next we jump to the idea behind the term “peace process.” Dr Chomsky comes to the conclusion the expression means something along the lines of “doing what the U. S. wants you to do,” and that, if America opposes such a process (examples cited are, what happened in Central America and the Middle East around the time the discussion was occurring), it’s not considered a “peace process” by the mainstream media here.

From here, he jumps to the intended concepts behind the words, “moderate” and “radical.” He makes the statement that the same sort of thing applies to moderate as a term, as peace process. The idea being that if you do as you’re expected to do (by the United States), you’ll be termed a moderate, no matter how horrible your human rights record.

For radical, one may apply an opposing definition. Radicals are those who don’t do what America expects, per Dr Chomsky.

Chomsky uses Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and even Iraq as examples of entities counted moderate or moving toward moderation in the United States Press.

At this point, the discussion moves to poverty in the United States. The beginning of that discussion is more or less a qualitative comparison of the period of the Great Depression, to more recent times (the eighties seem to be the main focus). Dr Chomsky states that in his view, the period around the Depression was more hopeful than in the more modern time frame.

Though he seems somewhat uncertain what causes this to be true, he contends that there seem to have been a number factors.

As an example, he talks about the idea that the American economy has largely moved from manufacturing, to technology.

It’s his belief (if I understand correctly), that because the former situation allowed immigrants to find jobs with relative ease, they were more able to assimilate into American society.

The move towards technology, with an outsourcing of factory related jobs to third-world countries has, in his perspective, made it so folks moving from the agricultural sector in the country, and those coming from Latin America, have had a much harder time finding work.

Thus, there is, in his way of looking things, less hope for such folks.

He also entertains the idea that the rapid distribution of drugs into slums and other impoverished communities, may have been an intentional act. The reason for this, he assumes, could be that it made it less probable that activists would be able to bring others together, since they were likely badly affected by the substances in question.

From here, he and is “audience” move through a whirlwind of other ideas. They discuss religious fanaticism. Including the idea that American presidents, must embrace religion (and I think we can safely assume he generally means Christianity) in order to project an image that will make them electable.

The final thing I want to touch on in this article—though there are more I could consider and document—is the idea that world affairs are shifting, partly because of changes in the economies of various countries around the world, and to some degree because of perceived need to mitigate issues surrounding what he would term “environmental soundness.”

The point of the second, being arguments made towards the belief that we’re due to suffer some sort of environmental catastrophe if we don’t take rapid action.

From there, Dr Chomsky talks about the idea that America and other countries, are attempting to continue to build up existing empires. He asserts that the reason this is the case, is that the United States and other empire constructors, benefit in terms of business relationships, if they keep other nations from becoming independent of their control.

Yet again, where I’ve done more than scratch the surface in this little essay, I haven’t done the entirety of that discussed in the chapter justice in my work here, either.

This is at least partially because up to this point, the “chapters” of this text, have actually been essentially the recording of events at which Dr Chomsky has spoken (I assume as the main speaker). The subject at such events—at least where his are concerned—appears to be more than a little fluid.

So, the second chapter of Dr Noam Chomsky’s tome, “Understanding Power, The Indispensable Chomsky” is somewhat a mixed bag. One of my concerns when undertaking the commission to discuss and summarize this work, was made real in this chapter. To wit, trying to cover far too much in far too little space.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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