Noam Chomsky regrets Pakistan’s drifting away from science

US academic says any nuclear war between Pakistan and India will be terminal


Farrukh Kamrani December 07, 2020
KARACHI:

Professor Noam Chomsky, world-renowned philosopher, linguist and cognitive scientist, has lamented Pakistan's drifting away from science and said it has now "virtually disappeared" from the country's educational system.

"Pakistan used an advanced scientific establishment, Nobel Prize laureates and so on. Now science has virtually disappeared from the education system."

Chomsky warned that the country will have no future if it lives in a world of religious superstition.

"Serious scientists who have been trying to preserve a rational educational system, which deals with the reality of the world. Pakistan has no future if it's going to live in a world of religious superstition," said the philosopher.

In reference to India, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is destroying the remnants of a secular democracy, crushing Muslim rights and placing Kashmir under a vicious brutal rule, Prof Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest intellectuals of our times, said on Monday.

India, according to the world’s leading academic, is a natural member of the “reactionary international” a phenomenon which has grown during US President Donald Trump’s rule and is led by the White House.

“It is not formalised but it is taking shape with Trump in the White House and is led by the White House. It includes the most reactionary states in the world, the ones most bitterly attacking and destroying democracy,” Chomsky said, speaking at the 6th Yohsin Lecture at the Habib University.

Chomsky warned that the world at the moment is at confluence of four severe crises. “The first, of course, is the threat of nuclear war which in fact is growing according to some senior analysts, like William Perry. It is greater than it has ever been in the past 75 years,” he said.

He implied that a nuclear war between Pakistan and India is also possible and warned that any nuclear war among powers of any significance like the two neighbours will be essentially terminal.

“The effects on the country that strikes first will be lethal. The effects on the rest of the world will also be lethal, if only from a nuclear winter which is likely to result from a major nuclear strike.”

The second crisis, he said, is the threat of environmental catastrophe, which, he described as severe and increasing and will likely to reach an irreversible tipping point if not dealt with soon. “It is just a matter of waiting not very long till organised human society becomes impossible.”

He said one of the first regions to suffer severely from the ongoing catastrophe is South Asia. “It is already in a severe environmental crisis with drought, shortage of water, glaciers melting, sources of main rivers declining and if matter continues on its present course, it will literally not be habitable by humans within not very long.”

Chomsky said the third major crisis is the deterioration of democracy worldwide.

“At first it doesn’t sound that it belongs to the level of other two but it actually does. And the reason is that unless there is an engaged informed public committed to dealing with the crises that we face there is no chance of dealing with them.

“Autocrats and demagogues will not do it. It has to be engaged, informed public in a vibrant democracy [to address these crises],” he added.

Enumerating the reasons for the decline of democracy, he said there has been a sharp shift to the right as a result of “the neo-liberal plague” which placed the business world in power to an unusual extent.

“This happens all over. It has become a plague. We have learned a little about it from leaks like the Panama Papers which show it is just colossal in scale and there have been other similar means,” he said.

“So, there has been an enormous robbery of the general public. It is not going to the 10%. Most of it is going to top 0.1% – a tiny fraction of the population, which has doubled their share of wealth in the last 40 years.”

He said this had had a very harmful effect on the functioning of democracy. “That is why the centralist political parties have collapsed. That is why they are getting demagogues like [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban, [French National Rally party chief Marine] Le Pen, [former Italian deputy prime minister Matteo] Salvini, [former UK Independence Party leader Nigel] Farage and others.

“These are the results of 40 years of assault on the public. Now it is reaching an extreme form with the growth of reactionary international run by harsh and brutal autocrats,” he added.

According to Chomsky, the fourth major crisis is coronavirus pandemic.

“The world is suffering from it severely but in fact, it is least of the four crises. Severe though it is, and dominant though at the moment, we [US] will emerge from the pandemic at a terrible cost and needless cost. We can see that it is needless cost by the fact that some countries have dealt with it.”

US elections

Chomsky said that the Democrats’ victory in last month’s US election was a hollow victory as the Republicans will make the affairs ungovernable for president-elect Joe Biden.

“The Republican won the election at every level from state legislatures up to Congress; the only office they didn’t win was the presidency. That was just the hatred of Trump, not love of Biden.”

He said the signs suggest that President Trump will never concede that he lost the election. He will presumably leave office on January 20, the day of inauguration without conceding.

“The legal manoeuvrings that are taking place now are ridiculed by the liberals and the world because they are so ludicrous but they are missing the point. They are very successful. The point of all these legal manoeuvring is to energise the popular base to try to show them that the election was stolen and we are not going to accept it,” Chomsky said.

“So, it doesn’t matter if they are thrown out by judges who make fun of them. All of that strengthens the feeling that our hero [Trump] is being cheated by an elite – so-called deep state – which is trying to take our country away from us. This is the purpose, [and] it is succeeding,” he added.

The American intellectual feared that Trump might even set up an alternate government, “the valid true government, not the fake government” in Washington and his supporters would rally around it.

He said the US Senate is finished as a deliberative body. Its sole function is to prevent the Democrats from doing anything—just to make the country ungovernable.

“With Trump out of office, it will go back to the phase where it was under Obama administration. Just prevent anything from happening, make the country ungovernable,” he said.

He said “Mitch McConnell’s Senate” has had two goals: One to pass legislations that enriches the very rich and empowers the corporate sector and passes the burden over to the general public.

“The other is to stack the judiciary, top to bottom. Every post [to be filled] with young ultra-right lawyers who will be able to block any mildly progressive legislation from the generation, no matter what the public want.”

However, despite painting a bleak picture, Chomsky insisted that all these crises can be addressed. “None of this is inevitable. Take any of the crises that we face, they have solutions and we know the solutions. The solutions are feasible. They are in hand,” he said.

But, he added, it is not enough to just have academic knowledge of what to do. “Somebody has to take the knowledge and work with it. That is the burden that the generation is facing. It is a severe responsibility and an exciting challenge,” he said.

Iran attack

He said Trump before leaving the office might take various steps, including attacking Iran. However, he added, Iran in retaliation might target oil fields in Saudi Arabia, which would have a global impact.

 


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