[Marxism] Noam Chomsky on crisis and hope

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Sep 3 07:34:34 MDT 2009

Boston Review
Crisis and Hope
Theirs and ours
by Noam Chomsky

Perhaps I may begin with a few words about the title. There is too much 
nuance and variety to make such sharp distinctions as theirs-and-ours, 
them-and-us. And neither I nor anyone can presume to speak for “us.” But 
I will pretend it is possible.

There is also a problem with the term “crisis.” Which one? There are 
numerous very severe crises, interwoven in ways that preclude any clear 
separation. But again I will pretend otherwise, for simplicity.

One way to enter this morass is offered by the June 11 issue of the New 
York Review of Books. The front-cover headline reads “How to Deal With 
the Crisis”; the issue features a symposium of specialists on how to do 
so. It is very much worth reading, but with attention to the definite 
article. For the West the phrase “the crisis” has a clear enough 
meaning: the financial crisis that hit the rich countries with great 
impact, and is therefore of supreme importance. But even for the rich 
and privileged that is by no means the only crisis, nor even the most 
severe. And others see the world quite differently. For example, in the 
October 26, 2008 edition of the Bangladeshi newspaper The New Nation, we 

     It’s very telling that trillions have already been spent to patch 
up leading world financial institutions, while out of the comparatively 
small sum of $12.3 billion pledged in Rome earlier this year, to offset 
the food crisis, only $1 billion has been delivered. The hope that at 
least extreme poverty can be eradicated by the end of 2015, as 
stipulated in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, seems as 
unrealistic as ever, not due to lack of resources but a lack of true 
concern for the world’s poor.

The article goes on to predict that World Food Day in October 2009 “will 
bring . . . devastating news about the plight of the world’s poor . . . 
which is likely to remain that: mere ‘news’ that requires little action, 
if any at all.” Western leaders seem determined to fulfill these grim 
predictions. On June 11 the Financial Times reported, “the United 
Nations’ World Food Programme is cutting food aid rations and shutting 
down some operations as donor countries that face a fiscal crunch at 
home slash contributions to its funding.” Victims include Ethiopia, 
Rwanda, Uganda, and others. The sharp budget cut comes as the toll of 
hunger passes a billion—with over one hundred million added in the past 
six months—while food prices rise, and remittances decline as a result 
of the economic crisis in the West.

As The New Nation anticipated, the “devastating news” released by the 
World Food Programme barely even reached the level of “mere ‘news.’” In 
The New York Times, the WFP report of the reduction in the meager 
Western efforts to deal with this growing “human catastrophe” merited 
150 words on page ten under “World Briefing.” That is not in the least 
unusual. The United Nations also released an estimate that 
desertification is endangering the lives of up to a billion people, 
while announcing World Desertification Day. Its goal, according to the 
Nigerian newspaper THISDAY, is “to combat desertification and drought 
worldwide by promoting public awareness and the implementation of 
conventions dealing with desertification in member countries.” The 
effort to raise public awareness passed without mention in the national 
U.S. press. Such neglect is all too common.

It may be instructive to recall that when they landed in what today is 
Bangladesh, the British invaders were stunned by its wealth and 
splendor. It was soon on its way to becoming the very symbol of misery, 
and not by an act of God.

full: http://bostonreview.net/BR34.5/chomsky.php

More information about the Marxism mailing list