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In another currently active thread I have quoted Noam Chomsky: The New War on Terror, though a different paragraph. This is the opening
Everyone knows it's the TV people who run the world [crowd laugher]. I just got orders that I'm supposed to be here, not there. Well the last talk I gave at this forum was on a light pleasant topic. It was about how humans are an endangered species and given the nature of their institutions they are likely to destroy themselves in a fairly short time. So this time there is a little relief and we have a pleasant topic instead, the new war on terror. Unfortunately, the world keeps coming up with things that make it more and more horrible as we proceed.
I found that resonates with the topic of this diary so I dug up...

Peering into the Abyss of the Future, by Noam Chomsky (talk delivered at Lakdawala Memorial Lecture)

I had intended to discuss some rather general issues that have unpleasant, possibly ominous implications for a decent future: issues of democracy, human rights, social and economic development, the role of force in world affairs, and others. The problems that arise are particularly severe because the policies pursued have a certain rationality within the framework of existing socio-economic and ideological institutions. I will do so, though only in a much more limited way than I had hoped. The reason is clear to everyone. These topics, while of utmost importance, have been displaced since Sept. 11 by another concern: the threat of international terrorism, which compels us to "peer into the abyss of the future," in the words of the New York Times headline I borrowed as a title.


The Space Command could have extended its analogy to armies and navies is earlier years. These have played a prominent role in technological and industrial development, dramatically so since World War II, but in fact throughout the modern era. There was a qualitative leap forward after World War II, primarily in the US, as the military provided a cover for creation of the core of the modern high tech economy. The same is anticipated for space militarisation projects. One primary reason why "national security exemptions" are build into the mislabelled "free trade treated" is to ensure that the leading industrial societies, primarily the US, can maintain the vast state sector on which the economy relies to socialise cost and risk while privatising profit.

Throughout history it has been recognised that such steps are dangerous. But now the danger has reached the level of a threat to human survival. But is rational to proceed nonetheless, on the assumptions of the prevailing value system, which are deeply rooted in existing institutions. The basic principle is that hegemony is more important than survival. That has been a striking feature of the arms race for half a century, with a most revealing record.

To move to another domain, the Bush administration has been widely criticised for undermining the Kyoto Treaty on grounds that to conform would harm the US economy. The criticisms are surprising, because their decision is entirely rational within the framework of existing ideology. We are instructed daily to have faith in neoclassical markets, in which isolated individuals are rational wealth-maximisers. The market responds perfectly to their "votes," expressed in currency inputs. The value of their interests is measured the same way. In particular, the interests of those with no "votes" are valued at zero: future generations, for example. It is therefore entirely rational to destroy the possibility for decent survival for our grandchildren, if by doing so we can maximise the particular form of self-interest that is hailed as the highest value, consciously constructed in considerable measure. The threats to survival are currently being enhanced by dedicated efforts to weaken the institutional structures that have been developed to mitigate the consequences of market fundamentalism, and even more important, to undermine the culture of sympathy and solidarity that sustains these institutions.

All of this is another prescription for disaster, perhaps in the not very distant future. But again, it is rational within a lunatic system of doctrines and institutions.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 10:38:01 AM EST

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