Noam Chomsky on love (and jingoism)

“I just know it’s…it has an unbreakable grip. But I can’t tell you what it is. It just…life’s…empty without it.”

The personal story that he states in this video is wondrous and lovely. And he’s right: love is all and everywhere.

The quotes below are produced from an interview by Noam Chomsky, delivered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, on 2014-02-03; the excerpt is taken from the brand-new book named “Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy” where David Barsamian has interviewed Chomsky.

David Barsamian: There’s a scene in the documentary Manufacturing Consent in which you recall going to a sporting event and watching the reaction of your classmates and people in the crowd.

Noam Chomsky: It’s an interesting phenomenon, cheering for the home team. It’s easy to get caught up in it, and it can be quite innocent. What’s a little frightening, though, is the level to which people become dedicated to the victory of their own gladiators, people they have nothing to do with. When I was a kid, for example, the same players played with the New York Yankees every year, so there was a kind of a fraudulent but not totally ridiculous sense of identification with Joe DiMaggio or Lou Gehrig or such. But now a player can be on this team one year, a rival team the next year. You still have to cheer for your home team with enormous enthusiasm. If they lose, you descend into misery; if they win, you’re exultant. Though it can be innocent pleasure—that’s not impossible—it can also be pretty dangerous, fostering blind allegiance.

David Barsamian: You had an interesting experience you told me about, when you were in the fourth grade. You went with a certain teacher to see the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics.

Noam Chomsky: Miss Clark. Every boy in the fourth grade was in love with Miss Clark. She took me and my best friend to a baseball game, which was an unheard-of pleasure. If you want to be bored, I’ll give you an inning-by-inning account of it. We sat in the cheapest seats, in the bleachers right behind Joe DiMaggio. Of course, we wanted the Yankees to lose, because we were from Philadelphia, but nevertheless there were all these heroes out there—Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing. The A’s weren’t up to that level, but they had a couple of quasi-heroes. So we were just ecstatic. Except a couple of months later, she betrayed us. She married the art teacher, Mr. Fink. I never got over that. There was a notable outcome to the game, as well. We were ahead 7 to 3 until the seventh inning, when the Yankees scored seven runs and won, 10 to 7. Boys of my age who lived in Philadelphia had a kind of an inferiority complex because the Philadelphia teams lost in every sport. But to make it worse, our cousins were all in New York, and they were at the top in every sport. So we had to survive this interaction with these cousins who were lording it over us that they won everything and we lost everything.

David Barsamian: In the third grade you had an incident where you copied something from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Do you remember the details of that?

Noam Chomsky: How do you know all these terrible things about me? Yes, that was one of my real crimes. We had an assignment to write something about astronomy. And I don’t know why, but I copied a section out of the Britannica and handed it in. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but later I felt very bad. I was never censured. The teacher must have known I couldn’t have written it, but I never heard anything about it. And I’ve been trying to live that down all my life. It’s almost as bad as the A’s being defeated by the Yankees or Miss Clark betraying us.

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