A seminar with Dr. Noam Chomsky, “Father of Modern Linguistics”

On Friday, March 14th at UCLA’s Neuroscience Research Building a large audience warmly received Dr. Noam Chomsky. IMED Seminars hosts a series of seminars, bringing prominent people from academic, science, and political spheres. On March 14th, they brought the MIT professor known as the “Father of Modern Linguistics,” a political dissident commentator, and a social activist.

He begun to talk about his early life and how he acquired his independent thinking, saying, “I was born during the Great Depression, in the 1930’s…seeing strikes and seeing cops beating up women striking from their factories.” The labor movement, part of his family, and anarchist book stores were important components to his radicalization and process of independent thinking, Chomsky added.

Chomsky also shared his college experience with UCLA students. At the age of 16 he attended Pennsylvania University, but after a year into college he was disillusioned with the strict curriculum of the university and almost quit until a professor introduced him to graduate courses in linguistics.

He talked about his perspective in linguistics and the means trough which knowledge was acquired during the scientific revolution up until today. He specially emphasized how humans acquire language.

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Seminar facilitator: “Which people in the political world do you respect?” [/box]

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Dr. Chomsky: “Most people who are in jail…most of the people in power have sociopathic behaviors”[/box]

Chomsky’s comment made the crowd explode into laughs and applauses, as they recognized his critical stands on power. What made him more critical on structures of power than average college professor was his sympathizing political views on anarchism. According to Chomsky, anarchism is the “dismantling of illegitimate systems of power,” like patriarchy or the state.

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Seminar facilitator: “Well let’s give him an opportunity, if you and Barack Obama switched places what will be the first thing you will do?”[/box]

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Dr. Chomsky: “First thing I will do is set up a panel to trail me for war crimes I have committed.”[/box]

The response is reflective of his critical views of U.S. foreign policy. He has written dozens of books and articles highlighting how the American government protects the interest of the socio-economic elite around the world through military and political manipulation, disregarding democracy, international laws, and human rights. He has also highlighted American’s involvement in supporting brutal dictators since the end of World War II.

To recent attempts of some students to have the UC divest from Israel, he commented: “Well, I think not just students but everyone has the responsibility to refrain from engaging in criminal activities and there is no doubt that the Israel occupation, the extreme repression, are all illegal activities, so is entirely proper to refrain from any participation [with Israel], with boycotting, posing sanctions and so on, as the European Union is doing right now.”

Regarding the appointment of Janet Napolitano as president of the UC, he disapproved her position and connected this problem to the immigration issue in the United States. “Undocumented immigrants, what are called ‘illegal immigrants’ aren’t coming because they love the United States. Most of them prefer to stay home. In Boston there is a big Maya population; their fleeing from Guatemala because that place was wiped out by a near genocidal assault backed by the United States.” A lot of them [undocumented immigrants] are victims of NAFTA… So first we make life impossible for people, and then when they flee to the rich countries they are treated as criminals.”

Noam Chomsky closed the seminar by warning that global warming and nuclear warfare ought to be stopped if we want a world in which decent human survival is possible for our children.

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