Posts Tagged With: Noam Chomsky

The Devaluation of Truth

“Cosmic Intelligence has given us a will, so that we can make it the instrument of our higher nature by placing it at the service of a high ideal. The first step is to understand and apply some essential truths. Once you have understood an essential truth, use your will to put it into practice, in the knowledge that this is the only way to understand it fully. It is easy to state truths; anybody can go and find them in the works of a few sages and then repeat them parrot-fashion. By doing, so they may gain the respect of a few people blind enough not to see how ignorant and weak they really are. But deceiving the blind is not a very great achievement! In any case, there are others, who see things clearly and are not so easily fooled: the beings of light in the invisible world. In fact, it is these entities whose respect we must earn, and we will earn it by applying the truths the initiates and sages reveal to us. These truths are true weapons, and we will never find better ones for winning life’s battles. But we need an arm to be able to use them – that is, the will to put them into practice.”

Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

Chomsky and David Barsamian

Years ago, I remember watching an interview with Professor Noam Chomsky with journalist David Barsamian. I can’t find the clip in question but the gist of it was that Chomsky was saying that most people in academia and research these days, professors, researchers, scientists, are in fact professional liars, they’re actually trained to be as such. At the time, I didn’t and couldn’t understand what he was saying given that the way academia works is that research papers are submitted for publication for respected journals and usually have to go through a rigorous process of peer-review and questioning, which is usually meant to flush out any inconsistencies prior to publication.

It is only recently I’ve come to understand  that truth has a relatively insignificant value in public intellectual life, in academic life, in literary life. Ideology matters much more. Personal comfort matters more. Careerism matters more.  As long as you can prove things in theory and on paper, you’re golden but never mind how those theories may play out in the real world or who it may hurt or what kind of havoc it can create it its wake once they are put into practice. Economists in particular  use a word, “externalities” in their models to account and justify some of these unforeseen damages but yet they do fuck-all about it just as long as they can get those additional letters behind their name, get a cushy job in academia or consulting and watch the numbers increase in their bank account and train other students to think and act like them, preferably using their own research and ideas to buffer up their own legacy.

This is really encapsulated in Julien Benda’s book, “The Treason of the Intellectuals”, which is based in this binary notion that there are two competing sets of values in the world: fame and fortune on the one side, truth and justice on the other side. The gist of Benda’s book is, the more committed you are to truth and justice, the less you’re going to see of fame and fortune and the more committed you are to fame and fortune, the less you will see of truth and justice.
Sometimes you will see those with fame and fortune try to pursue truth and justice to devastating effect and they end up being blacklisted like babe-alicious actor and activist Viggo Mortensen.
King Aragorn has become a silver fox. Mortensen went on the Charlie Rose Show once with a T-shirt emblazoned with "No Blood for Oil" - afterwards, his Hollywood career stalled with the exception of working with visionary director David Cronenberg.

King Aragorn has become a silver fox. All this and a conscience too (Le sigh). Mortensen went on the Charlie Rose Show once with a T-shirt emblazoned with “No Blood for Oil” – afterwards, his mainstream Hollywood career stalled with the exception of working with visionary director David Cronenberg.

Other times, it just comes off as disingenuous, fake and trite like Princess Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent effort to feed her family on $29 a week on a food stamp challenge… and threw in the towel after 4 days. It would seem to me you’re better off pursuing truth and justice and in the course of doing so, you may end up with the fame and fortune later on…but there is no guarantee of that either.
Gwynnie-poo's $29 haul which was supposed to feed her family for a week. Do you really need 7 limes?

Gwynnie-poo’s $29 haul which was supposed to feed her family for a week. Do you really need 7 limes?

I remember in the early 1990s, you could only get Chomsky books via special order from his publisher Black Rose Books at anarchist bookshops. Nowadays, there are whole shelves devoted to his titles in mainstream bookshops and people like Radiohead have his books on their tour buses. It’s been interesting to watch the pendulum shift.
Yeah, I get that "orange is the new black" but seriously, you should be wearing orange in a prison Hillary, not as a pantsuit.

Yeah, I get that “orange is the new black” but seriously, you should be wearing orange in a prison Hillary, not as a pantsuit.

I see this dichotomy now over, and over and over again in practically every sphere of modern-day life. Whether it is politicians with checkered pasts making bids for leadership like Hillary Clinton, shady but highly influential academics (and their lesser-known lackeys) with very specific agendas like White Anglo-Saxon financial and militaristic supremacy at all costs or yoga celebrities who are suddenly doing a 180 degree turn to be more “diversity-sensitive” when they themselves first perpetuated those very unattainable models of beauty and fitness and body image acceptance in the first place which now need to be dismantled completely in certain cases.
Not a lot of women will ever have a body and ability like this, with yoga or not.

Not a lot of women will ever have a body and ability like this, with yoga or not.

(I’m talking to you Kathryn Budig – you don’t go from modeling toeSox butt-naked as a white, thin, super-bendy blonde California woman to suddenly being the champion of  “loving your body” and “diversity” for people who are anything but white, thin, super-bendy blonde and from California. That’s almost as bad as when Christopher Hitchens went from Noam Chomsky to George W. Bush  in the course of one day during 9-11. You only jump ship like that if you’re already looking for an “out” or if you’re an ideological opportunist to begin with and wanting to join a certain bandwagon because it is popular or lucrative.)
The astrological climate suggests that this is going to be a relatively calm, drama-free spring and summer. Usually when things are calm and easy, people usually get a bit lax and put their guards down. With all these upcoming elections in the US, Canada and the UK, in fact I would argue it might even be advisable to strengthen them up a bit. I think most politicians are full of rot anyway but I can’t shake this feeling that many of us are going to be asked in one form or another, in our own lives, what we personally stand for and value. Is it truth and justice (which will be the hard road) or the easier route of fame and fortune?
Your call, folks.
Categories: Ascension, Ch-ch-ch-changes, Politico, Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Mess of Identity

 

In the last few weeks, I have been beginning to see some extremely encouraging signs of change, even incremental, small ones, in the way public discourse and conversations are taking place.

First of all I am extremely pleased that American comedian Bill Maher has finally been exposed as the Islamophobe that he is and that it took not only a well-respected academic like Professor Reza Aslan to do it….

but a Hollywood actor like Ben Affleck as well

Yup.

Yup.

I admit, I used to like Maher, particularly the way he lampooned the ultra right-wing nut jobs in the US but his racism and all-too-obvious dislike of all Muslims became very clear over time. (I remember watching an episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” when Nobel Peace Prize winner and the father of microcredit, Dr. Muhammad Yunus was on the show. Maher was condescending, rude and made snide remarks which Yunus did not catch, but the rest of the panel did. It was painful to watch)

antimuslim

Aslan and Affleck were trying to point out that “Islam” is not some homogenous, monolithic entity which is bloodthirsty all the way through and that a few bad apples is not representative of the whole barrel.  Maher (and that annoying pseudo-intellectual poser Sam Harris) don’t seem to understand how culture differentiates Islam from region to region.

This Turkish woman is Muslim but that doesn't mean that she dresses or acts or lives like Muslim women in Saudi Arabia....

This Turkish woman is Muslim but that doesn’t mean that she dresses or acts or lives like Muslim women in Saudi Arabia….

...like these women.

…like these women.

A Muslim in Bangladesh will be very different from a Muslim in Turkey, Pakistan or a Muslim in Saudi Arabia. It’s like comparing hard-core Opus Dei Catholics in Spain to say Catholics in Ireland, Mexico, Poland or Catholics in rural Quebec. Their expressions of faith will be very different from place to place, in large part due to culture. Maher does have a few Muslim friends, namely Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, two Muslim “spokespersons” who experienced the worst aspects of Islam themselves (via the fatwa in Rushdie’s case and female genital mutilation in Hirsi Ali’s case) but they only reinforce his opinion of what a bunch of savages most Muslims are deep down inside. The backlash against Maher and his ilk, mostly from non-Muslims has been surprising and encouraging. I didn’t expect that.

The problem isn’t just Maher and Harris. Those two are examples of the “acceptable” forms of racism rampant among Western liberals and progressives and right now, Islamophobia is quite acceptable. It’s the poster-child of “good” racism.

A few weeks ago Henrik Palmgren of Sweden’s Red Ice Radio, a show I normally listen to from time to time because of the interesting guests Henrik is usually able to score, had an interview with David Icke and it was really disappointing to say the least. Palmgren was baiting Icke over issues of race, immigration, multiculturalism, the legacy of colonialism and cultural purity. It’s painfully obvious to anyone who wants to hear it. Icke, to his credit, walked right over that pool of quick-sand and I have a strong feeling he knew what was going on and saw right through it. (Thumbs up, David!).


We just had Canadian Thanksgiving this past weekend while Americans had Columbus Day, or as many American cities and states are increasingly adopting in place, Indigenous People’s Day . That would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, it was still (good) cowboys and (bad) Indians, like in John Wayne movies. Now it’s in people’s faces right on mainstream network TV. John Oliver and RT especially killed it.

This is the kind of image of "Cowboys and Indians" I was exposed to while growing up...

This is the kind of image of “Cowboys and Indians” I was exposed to while growing up…

Identity politics can get super messy, super quickly. I understand how people can get passionate or have very strong feelings about these issues. I mean I don’t consider myself a practicing “good” Muslim Indian Bengali-Canadian by any stretch of the imagination (if that were the case I would have never discovered the joys of sipping iced-cold vodka martinis), but I can’t help but feel angry or step up and say something when I see the carnage in Gaza and the media blaming it on “Muslim extremists” or have my blood boil over when I see how Muslim men abuse vulnerable girls in England or keep dozen of wives as prisoner sex-slaves in Saudi Arabia. I also get angry when I observe the media coverage over a spoiled, white American college girl who ends up doing something stupid while on holiday versus the long-standing incarceration of an innocent, eloquent black dissident and writer like Mumia Abu Jamal.

Mr. Bad-Assery himself, Mumia Abu Jamal

Mr. Badassery himself, Mumia Abu Jamal

I don’t think it’s so much about identifying yourself as “this” or “that”. Yes, our differences are worth celebrating and understanding, it’s what makes us all different and unique and interesting to each other. It gives life spice and flavor. Sometimes it goes wrong and you get cultural appropriation. Sometimes it goes right and you get a wonderful new mix of ideas and culture creating something completely original and beautiful. From a spiritual point of view, it might mean I’m Bengali Canadian in the here and now. I might end up Swedish and male in the next round or maybe I was an Austrian Jew in the last round. Who knows? Who cares? That’s not the issue. It’s really about making the conscious decision to walk in someone else’s shoes for even a minute and base our actions on that.

I’m going to close off with something Mumia Abu Jamal wrote and which Professor Noam Chomsky recently read out loud for a documentary about Mumia (from 14:50 in the video below) . I think it perfectly sums up our commonalities over our differences.
“In truth, none of us are whole, as in “finished”, for we are all beings who are still in the process of “Becoming”. We are trying to live in the midst of struggle against forces that try, daily, to confine, constrain and restrict our being. In a sense, these forces are as powerful, relentless and invisible as gravity. There but not “there”. Dig me? So we seek to heal in a place that is profoundly unhealthy; consumerism, patriarchy, white-supremacy and inquisitiveness are things that grip us all. We are all fish, swimming in that proverbial dead sea of materialism, seeking fresh water where we can wash our gills. Our challenge, it seems to me, is to be, or become, sensitive, feeling and loving beings, who seek to better the environment into which we were born. Speaking of liberal clichés, we must “Make it Better”, and it is that very doing, that becomes a part of our being, for we join in our hearts, minds and mouths and our bodies, in the struggles of those unfree amongst us. In a real sense, we become them. I think that was the life message of folks like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and why we remember and revere them. We felt them. And Martin gave up the ghost for garbage men in Memphis. Malcolm reached out to brothers in the Arab and African worlds and became a part of them. In many ways, they redefined who *we* were and became a part of us, through their impact on our lives and our consciousness.”
Categories: Ascension, Conspirio, False prophits, Politico, Pop culture, Think like the Illuminati, This is why the planet is screwed up | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.