Under the current circumstances, the philosopher suggested there is an urgent need to resuscitate democracy in the US to maintain hope for the future.
- Last Updated: September 20, 2020, 5:15 PM IST
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During the keynote speech at the inaugural summit of Progressive International — an international organization that unites and mobilizes progressive and liberal forces — linguist, philosopher, and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky highlighted the systemic methods in which the democracy in the United States is being undermined by President Donald J Trump’s administration. Chomsky connected the dots to demonstrate the devastating effects this speedy erosion of democratic ideals is likely to have on humankind and explained how it increases the threat of nuclear wars and environmental catastrophe in the future. In his speech, Chomsky said:
Trump has also carried forward his campaign to undermine democracy. By law, presidential appointments are subject to Senate confirmation. Trump avoids this inconvenience by leaving the positions open and filling the offices with “temporary appointments” who answer to his will – and if they do not do so with sufficient fealty to the lord, are fired. He has purged the executive of any independent voice. Only sycophants remain. Congress had long ago established Inspectors General to monitor the performance of the executive branch. They began to look into the swamp of corruption that Trump has created in Washington. He took care of that quickly by firing them. There was scarcely a peep from the Republican Senate, firmly in Trump’s pocket, with hardly a flicker of integrity remaining, terrified by the popular base Trump has mobilized.
This onslaught against democracy is only the bare beginning. Trump’s latest step is to warn that he may not leave office if he is not satisfied with the outcome of the November election. The threat is taken very seriously in high places. To mention just a few examples, two highly respected retired senior military commanders released an open letter to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, reviewing his constitutional responsibility to send the army to remove by force a “lawless president” who refuses to leave office after electoral defeat, summoning in his defense the kinds of paramilitary units he dispatched to Portland Oregon to terrorize the population over the strong objection of elected officials.
Chomsky also pointed out that the manner in which Trump’s administration has only served the interests of the rich is alarming. He spoke about how French economists Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez in 2018, followed the tax scam and depicted how “for the first time in the last hundred years, billionaires have paid less [in taxes] than steelworkers, school teachers, and retirees,” erasing “a century of fiscal history.” In their book, The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, Zucman and Saez state that, “The wealthy have seen their tax rolled back to levels last seen in the 1910s when the government was only the quarter of the size as it is today.”
In his speech, Chomsky also weighed in on the ongoing pandemic, and the way governments of various countries, including that of the United States mismanaged it. The philosopher said:
Despite the malfeasance or indifference of some political leaders, there will ultimately be some kind of recovery from the pandemic. We will not, however, recover from the melting of the polar icecaps, or the exploding rate of arctic fires that are releasing enormous amounts of greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere, or other steps on our march to catastrophe.
When the most prominent climate scientists warn us to “Panic Now,” they are not being alarmist. There is no time to waste. Few are doing enough, and even worse, the world is cursed by leaders who are not only refusing to take sufficient action but are deliberately accelerating the race to disaster. The malignancy in the White House is far in the lead in this monstrous criminality.
The philosopher also added that Trump has demolished the arms control regime that has so far checked the threat of nuclear war, and has been actively pursuing the ‘development of new and even more dangerous weapons, much to the delight of military industry’. Chomsky explained:
“In his dedicated commitment to destroy the environment that sustains life, Trump has opened up vast new areas for drilling, including the last great nature reserve. Meanwhile, his minions are systematically dismantling the regulatory system that somewhat mitigates the destructive impact of fossil fuel use, and that protects the population from toxic chemicals and from pollution, a curse that is now doubly murderous in the course of a severe respiratory epidemic.”
Under such circumstances, the philosopher suggested there is an urgent need to resuscitate democracy to maintain hope for the future.
He said that the only way humankind can withstand the threat of nuclear wars and environmental disasters is to maintain a ‘vibrant democracy’ where ‘informed citizens are fully engaged in deliberation, policy formation, and direct action.’
You can read the full text of Noam Chomsky’s keynote speech at Progressive International’s website.