Jakara Post review - Hopes and Prospects HAITI
In tireless pursuit of hope and truth
Simon Marcus Gower, CONTRIBUTOR, JAKARTA | Sun, 08/08/2010 1:07 PM
Noam Chomsky has been described as many things: a renowned linguist, an undaunted political activist, a challenging philosopher and an author of note.
Not everyone is so complimentary. An acquaintance described Chomsky as "that complaining guy" - a shallow phrase that does not do justice to a great thinker who continues to pursue justice.
Now over 80 years old, Chomsky continues to be a compelling and important voice for our times and indeed, for the future. Hopes and Prospects, the latest collection of Chomsky's essays and lectures, is an informative and demanding read that challenges us to think deeply.
The book's main point is simple. In a media-saturated age in which non-stop news channels report on international affairs as and live entertainment in equal measure, it is all too easy to be led astray and to hear the story that *corporate news' wants us to hear.
Rather like George Orwell's character of Big Brother, which originated in his powerful novel 1984, it is not too difficult to think of malicious intent in the way that news coverage is presented and controlled. Chomsky digs deeper to uncover the real stories behind the stories and the buried truths (intentionally or otherwise) that we really should be seeing and, perhaps, getting angry about.
Chomsky does not get angry. Instead he presents his information in a calm and obviously deeply considered way that informs and reveals. Nowhere is this more telling than where he addresses the sad case of Haiti.
The country suffered terribly when it was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January of 2010. It is possible that the suffering could have been far less. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of a million people died in the quake. Had it struck in the US it is doubtful if even a tenth of that number would have died. Haiti's history left it prone and vulnerable.
Haiti was among the first nations to throw off the shackles of slavery, and for that it suffered persecution by imperial France. American imperialism also undermined Haiti's democracy, as itselected leaders were summarily removed. Consequently, the country's development was significantly inhibited and so overcrowding and wretched housing and construction led to a huge death toll in the earthquake.
Chomsky's style is plain and aims to lay bare the facts. it is this style that infuriates his critics and detractors. There are many such opponents of Chomsky, as he examines and criticizes those in power with a consistency and determination that is unwavering.
Despite all the hype and brouhaha that surrounded the election of Barack Obama, the realities facing America's continuing political and military imperialism are powerfully addressed here. Indeed Obama's presidential campaign, which was so significantly predicated on thoughts of *hope and change', could be seen as being addressed in the book's title.
Obama's policies are scrutinized with severity and almost surgical precision. The continuing debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with practically incomprehensible expenditure on the military indicating that Obama's administration is really struggling to deliver telling change and meaningful hope. Hope, that is, that is more than electioneering slogans.
America's continuing involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq are seen as counterproductive. Chomsky notes that even official data from the US government concluded that the invasion of Iraq precipitated a "seven-fold increase in what her terms "jihadism" and damage to America's standing and world peace that will be lasting.
The author is, of course, a severe critic and opponent of war and the level of detail in reviewing recent American foreign policy provides ample evidence of the mess US military interventions have made around the world. This makes for really quite grim reading but the book is not all gloom and doom.
The essays and talks in this book have been revised and updated for this 2010 publication and amongst their number are some signs of hope and better prospects for a troubled world. The elucidation on Bolivian democratization and development in recent decades provides a hopeful example.
With the election of the first indigenous leader of Bolivia, Evo Morales, since European control and influence in 2005 that country has benefited from the most rapid growth and clearance of poverty of South American nations. This, then, is one example of how real change and consequent hope can happen.
Hopes and Prospects is a rigorous and often damning collection of works from a persistent thinker and author about the difficulties that face the world of the twenty-first century. It is another important book from this author and, though it may be a particularly uncomfortable read for many, it is a book that needs to be read, discussed and responded to.
Hopes and Prospects
Author Noam Chomsky
Publisher: Haymarket Books, 2010