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Dec 092017

On December 7, 2017 Noam Chomsky turned 90.

In April, 1997 he did an interview (https://chomsky.info/199704__/; obtained on 12-9-2017) : “Expanding the Floor of the Cage

Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Barsamian Z Magazine, April, 1997″ which ended the following way :

“…I don’t know if you recall that in a previous interview with you I made some comment about how, in the current circumstances, devolution from the federal government to the state level is disastrous. The federal government has all sorts of rotten things about it and is fundamentally illegitimate, but weakening federal power and moving things to the state level is just a disaster. At the state level even middle-sized businesses can control what happens. At the federal level only the big guys can push it around. That means, that if you take, say, aid for hungry children, to the extent that it exists, if it’s distributed through the federal system, you can resist business pressure to some extent. It can actually get to poor children. If you move it to the state level in block grants, it will end up in the hands of Raytheon and Fidelity—exactly what’s happening here in Massachusetts. They have enough coercive power to force the fiscal structure of the state to accommodate to their needs, with things as simple as the threat of moving across the border. These are realities. But people here tend to be so doctrinaire. Obviously there are exceptions, but the tendencies here, both in elite circles and on the left, are such rigidity and doctrinaire inability to focus on complex issues that the left ends up removing itself from authentic social struggle and is caught up in its doctrinaire sectarianism. That’s very much less true there. I think that’s parallel to the fact that it’s less true among elite circles. So just as you can talk openly there about the fact that Brazil and Argentina don’t really have a debt, that it’s a social construct, not an economic fact—they may not agree, but at least they understand what you’re talking about—whereas here I think it would be extremely hard to get the point across. Again, I don’t want to overdraw the lines. There are plenty of exceptions. But the differences are noticeable, and I think the differences have to do with power. The more power and privilege you have, the less it’s necessary to think, because you can do what you want anyway. When power and privilege decline, willingness to think becomes part of survival.

I know when excerpts from that interview we did were published in The Progressive, you got raked over the coals for this position.

Exactly. When I talked to the anarchist group in Buenos Aires, we discussed this. Everybody basically had the same recognition. There’s an interesting slogan that’s used. We didn’t mention this, but quite apart from the Workers Party and the urban unions, there’s also a very lively rural workers organization. Millions of workers have become organized into rural unions which are very rarely discussed. One of the slogans that they use which is relevant here, is that we should ‘expand the floor of the cage.’ We know we’re in a cage. We know we’re trapped. We’re going to expand the floor, meaning we will extend to the limits what the cage will allow. And we intend to destroy the cage. But not by attacking the cage when we’re vulnerable, so they’ll murder us. That’s completely correct. You have to protect the cage when it’s under attack from even worse predators from outside, like private power. And you have to expand the floor of the cage, recognizing that it’s a cage. These are all preliminaries to dismantling it. Unless people are willing to tolerate that level of complexity, they’re going to be of no use to people who are suffering and who need help, or, for that matter, to themselves.”

Noam Chomsky’ insights into humanity are both timely and timeless as exemplified in Noam Chomsky’s latest book “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” (https://thenewpress.com/books/responsibility-of-intellectuals; obtained on 12-9-17) which has “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies. Noam Chomsky” on the cover.

As a 19 year old in 1979 after immersing myself in reading philosophy and psychology such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung it was Erich Fromm who helped to provide a framework along with Raymond Cattell’s factor analytic personality research and theory to understand the human psyche.  Through it all Noam Chomsky spoke truths with clarity and breadth and depth. Thank you for speaking a truth to me, Noam Chomsky. Again, Happy Belated Birthday!


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Louis DeCola, Jr.  © 2017                                    The Hygiology Post ®