On my Swedish page Dagsnoteringar today I refer to a talk by Noam Chomsky, where he in the Q&A session touched upon the dictatorship in Egypt. The talk was given in 2010, i.e. long before the now ongoing uprising started, and he commented a press conference held by Barack Obama before the president’s travel to Egypt in 2009. Obama was asked whether he would raise any questions about the authoritarian regime in Egypt with his host, Mubarak. (Chomsky commented that the word “authoritarian” was more of a compliment to one of the most brutal dictatorships in the Arab world.)
According to Chomsky the president answered: “I don’t like to use labels for folks, so I will not call him authoritarian. In fact he is a force for stability and for good”. You may remember a similar comment (2011-02-26) by our foreign minister Carl Bildt, this time about Gaddafi of Libya. The guys from the smaller countries learn from the bigger chiefs!
One question Chomsky thinks that we should ask ourselves is how we might expect the Arab world to take seriously our harsh demands on (for instance) Iranian leaders to respect human rights, at the same time we treat much more horrible dictatorships with kid gloves. Of course he doesn’t find the very fact especially strange. Useful and obedient dictatorships are frequently well treated by western countries. But the blatant hypocrisy is nonetheless a disgrace for civilized and thinking people.
Surfing aimlessly on the net I happened to stumble over Google Ngram Viewer, a remarkable tool from an impressive company. Google has scanned 5.2 million books in six languages, or 20 percent of all book ever published. An outstanding performance (in accordance with the thesis that the most superb things come from USA, together with some other things…)
After doing this Hercules job Google offers the gigantic database for everyone to use. I sat fascinated for a long while studying all kinds of worlds and expressions. As an example I copied this diagram, showing three names mentioned here earlier, and the frequency of their appearance in international literature (Swedish is not among the six languages, of course). It was to my satisfaction that Palme 25 years after his death still is mentioned more often than our previous foreign minister.
Speaking of Palme, in 2004 Noam Chomsky, a well known professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, held the Olof Palme Memorial Lecture at The University of Oxford in England. He there spoke on Doctrines and Visions: Who is to Run the World and How? Chomsky is arguably one of the most brilliant minds in the world. Palme shared some of his virtues, but was of course handcuffed by the demands that practical politics posed upon him. Both intelligent men and both on the left side in their views on society. A coincidence?
Wouldn’t think so. The common denominator is the moral universality, which says that a person should submit to the same standards that he applies to others, or more stringent ones if he is serious. Every normal, logically thinking human being has to adhere to this principle of moral universality, there is no alternative. From there on is no other way than to work for an egalitarian world, seeking peace and solidarity, since that is what we normally expect from others. In such a world there is no place for revenge. (If I hit someone because he previously had hit me, I just demonstrate that I thought it wrong of him to hit me in the first place, and if it is wrong to hit someone then etc….)
Noam Chomsky is Americas gift to the world. For me he confirms the experience that USA spans the best and the worst of everything. For one Chomsky and a few of his kind there are regrettably an endless number of right wing lunatics. (This is of course a value judgment which is on me, totally.)