#39 – Noam Chomsky
No, he did not go to my high school but I first heard about Noam Chomsky in an OAC class I took. I forget what the actual class was called and I now forget the name of the teacher, but I can tell you this much, listening to Noam Chomsky lectures in his class completely changed my perspective of the world.
For those of you not familiar with Chomsky he is a linguist by trade. One of the best, he completely revolutionized the field of linguistics and childhood language acquisition in a famous debate with B. F. Skinner. That part of his career was taught to me in my Developmental Psychology course in university. But his real bread and butter, which I was introduced to in high school, is philosophy and social activism. The lecture that we listened to in that OAC class (and yes, it was a lecture recorded on cassette tapes…if you remember those) dealt with the way that the media is used to propagate falsehoods and fear among the populace and is also used by those that control it (corporations, governments, etc) to present information in a skewed and self-serving way. I am not going to get deeper into this, but if you are at all interested this is a good place to start.
The bottom line is that I, like many people in the world, had blindly and without question accepted what I heard on the news. Yep, that was the truth. And the whole truth at that. Pretty naive, no? What Chomsky initially, and many others since him, have made me realize is that everyone has an agenda and the news, as well as other forms of media, is the perfect forum to mold information in a way that supports whatever that agenda may be.
I did not realize it until much later in my life, but that class, my friends, was a formative moment. It really changed the way I view a lot of things. Being critical and really using my judgement was further honed in university, without a doubt, but that Chomsky lecture opened my eyes.
In retrospect, I am almost embarrased by how naive I was at the time, but maybe I can chalk at least part of that to my upbringing in the former USSR where propaganda was shoved down my throat by any means possible. I had been brainwashed (?) conditioned (?) at an early age to accept what I read and saw and heard as the gospel truth. I was a kid. I did not know any better. It took until I was 17 or 18 to fully wake up to reality and I am so happy that I did. I am also happy that it came through the wise words of Noam Chomsky. While I cannot say that I completely agree with his point of views on all major issues, I can say that I have never seen him as being anything but honest and impassioned about the world and its people. And that always goes a long way with me.