I hardly know where to begin or how to begin but want to say that I’m writing this tribute while Noam is still alive because I intend to send it to him and want to express my admiration & respect for his life-long pursuit of truth. One of the phrases I’d use to describe this humble, intellectual giant is moral courage because he has stood his ground unflinchingly against the best & the worst his detractors could throw at him. I remember chuckling at an old video clip of the much touted conservative voice of the Republicans, William F. Buckley, who was noted for his erudition and intellectual reasoning. Obviously Buckley couldn’t handle Chomsky’s counter arguments and resorted to threatening to punch Chomsky in the nose.
In addition to moral courage, Chomsky possesses an intellectual integrity rarely seen outside a small circle of men like Bertrand Russell, I. F. Stone, George Seldes, etc. By intellectual integrity I mean that Chomsky has consistently throughout his whole life refused to compromise his principles of speaking truth about power no matter how unpopular, no matter what vile epithets were hurled at him, no matter what lies, distortions, perversions were told about him, no matter what absurd labels were placed on him by the corporate media. Like I.F. Stone, from what I have read, Chomsky follows a simple but steady daily discipline of reading several of the world’s major newspapers, numerous magazine articles, scholarly journals, government documents, etc. to cull the facts often buried in masses of misinformation and he then forms a coherent picture of the events shaping our world. This is obviously a task very few are willing or intellectually able to handle. And this discipline clearly reveals a dedication that can only come from an abiding love for humanity that reminds me of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, etc.
Unquestionably, the common thread that connects Noam Chomsky with the above mentioned great souls is a compassion for humanity that runs so deep it is their very essence. I truly believe that compassion is the key to our survival as a species. And what I mean by this is that if we don’t somehow collectively realize our common humanity i.e. we all put our pants on one leg at a time, when we are cut, we all bleed red, we all want a safe world for our children, etc., we may very well either blow the world up in a nuclear conflagration or reach a point of having polluted the world so greatly that we will be forced to live in completely artificial habitats afraid to venture outside?
Fortunately, we have individuals like Noam Chomsky working themselves to death trying to enlighten us and therefore wake us up before we destroy ourselves. Paradoxically, Noam Chomsky has never been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace but President Obama has? Please don’t misunderstand me; this isn’t yet another Obama bashing. I voted for him but I won’t vote for him again because he has betrayed the principles & values he proclaimed when he was running for office. But how in the Hell could Obama win the Nobel when he continued the war in Iraq—and the façade of the war in Iraq being over is a farce because we have the world’s largest embassy there and something like 14 military bases and tens of thousands of mercenaries to control the oil fields—and escalated the war in Afghanistan which is costing us $2 billion a week to perpetuate and we can never “win” such a war. I hope that this doesn’t come across or sound like I’m boasting but I have been to Europe several times, sometimes on a one-way ticket with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket and when I wanted to find some books in English to read, and whether I was in Rome, Madrid, Paris, etc. when I did manage to find a bookshop with a small section of books written in English, the majority of those books were written by Noam Chomsky. Could it be that the rest of the world knows something that most Americans don’t?
This professor of linguistics & philosophy from M.I.T., one of America’s top ten universities, has done far more for world peace than any dozen of people alive today combined. Unlike President Obama, Chomsky doesn’t compromise with corrupt & morally bankrupt people no matter how “important” they are. This man doesn’t “bend” with the shifting political winds. And many so-called progressives and liberals are afraid to mention Chomsky’s name because he reminds them of their cowardice & hypocrisy!
To change the topic somewhat, I want to share with you, a personal experience. Several years ago I learned that Chomsky grew up in an Irish neighborhood in Philadelphia and was regularly beaten-up by Irish bullies. Well, I’m Irish and my family dates back to 12th century Ireland and I decided to send Professor Chomsky an e-mail. And in this particular e-mail, I apologized for my Irish relatives who bullied him when he was a young boy. To my surprise, Mr. Chomsky wrote back that if he were forced to leave America for some reason, Ireland is where he’d go. Chomsky’s mind & wit never ceases to amaze me but what amazes me even more is that this world-renown & revered figure has taken the time to respond to my e-mails over the years? This isn’t false modesty or merely self-deprecating B.S. but I’m 59 years old, I work as an instructional assistant in a special education dept. at a middle school, and I’ve never been published because I haven’t had the discipline/courage to send my writing to publishers, and the fact that Noam Chomsky recognizes my name when I write him and often reassures me when my spirits or confidence is low, quite simply blows me away.
Noam & his better half, Carol Chomsky
(In honor of Carol Chomsky)
Moreover, the world has laid wreaths of adulation at his feet and he makes self-deprecating remarks about himself. This is a truly simple and humble guy who just feels that he’s doing his job. I have expressed my worries as a father to him and he has comforted & reassured me. After his lovely wife, Carol, passed away a few years ago, I wanted to comfort him and I sent him a copy of a parchment facsimile I bought when my son and I were on a trip to Europe. The subject was death and it gave me more comfort than anything I have come across since my mom’s passing. Chomsky wrote back that it brought tears to his eyes and this in turn brought tears to my eyes. I know to the marrow of my bones that this is a venerable man because he never veers from his true course as he navigates this world of greed, corruption, & human suffering with celestial guidance. He shows no fear because he knows his aim and his heart is pure in its love for humanity. He cares nothing for the outward trappings of “success.” He has given me confidence in myself by reassuring me that what I am trying to express in my writing is worthwhile and helping in the fight against the powers that be.
By the way, I want to add the fact that as I discovered in watching some documentary on Chomsky, that his companion for life, Carol, started accompanying him on some of his lectures around the world because she wanted to shelter him from his perhaps overly generous nature by hustling him away from persistent interviewers, fans, etc. after speaking engagements because even though he was often exhausted, he’d kindly give even more of himself. A great soul or great spirit like Chomsky’s only comes around once in a very great while. Humanity owes him a great debt for all his courage and hard work in the service of mankind and the planet.
In conclusion, I want you, my friend, Noam Chomsky, to know how profoundly you have affected my life and if I had one wish, I wish that you and I could sit down and drink a beer or two and have a chat.
From the bottom of my heart!
—Rob DeLoss, March 3, 2012
P.S. I feel that a couple of quotes from Marcus Aurelius would be appropriate here & for those of you who may not be familiar with him, he was a Roman emperor and perhaps the closest thing to Plato’s ideal of a “philosopher/king.” And if you saw the movie Gladiator with Russell Crowe, Marcus Aurelius was the character played by Richard Harris.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”
(And Chomsky has showered the world with his wealth of knowledge & wisdom.)
Sorry, must be a sign of old age but I meant to end this with a quote from Bertrand Russell whom I learned was/is a hero of Chomsky’s and in fact, Professor Chomsky has a poster of Bertrand Russell in his office at M.I.T. I believe that these words written by Russell, who did earn a Nobel Prize, could very well be right out of Chomsky’s mouth as well?
The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography
What I Have Lived For
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved. (this song by Nicolette Larsen is dedicated to Carol Chomsky) Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) won the Nobel prize for literature for his History of Western Philosophy and was the co-author of Principia Mathematica.
I included this song because I have loved it all my life for its feeling of optimism and I feel that it conveys the spirit of Noam Chomsky nicely!