Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Our Little Sandbox of Freedom

I read an interview with Noam Chomsky [link] about personal freedom and how power is distributed in society. The most striking thing I took from it was the idea that our concept of freedom, our range of options, is limited by imaginary constraints. He gives the example of a New York Times writer who is criticized for pandering to the powers-that-be. The writer angrily responds that he writes precisely as he pleases, about what he pleases. Chomsky points out,"he writes anything he wants -- which is absolutely true. But if he wasn't writing the things he did he wouldn't have a column in the New York Times."
Is it wrong that one writer's predilections map precisely with the message needs of a newspaper? Probably not. But it's a good example of how our own concept of our range of freedom to choose is revealed to be narrow.
The implication, of course, is that anyone in the employ of the American military-industrial/media-corporate complex is limited in their view and pursuing an agenda at odds with 'true' freedom. A major theme of public intellectuals like Chomsky is to remove the veil and demonstrate that a far wider range of thoughts and moral codes are possible and entirely valid.

If there's one thing about Chomsky that irks me, it's the blithely self-assured way that he states his position, as if it were beyond all dispute. Given that the position that he takes on most issues is to the left of Che Guevara, the overall impression is that of Woody Allen crossed with a drill sergeant.

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