Chomsky: Humanity's survival 'by no means a sure thing'
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Friday February 27, 2009

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Catholics: What are you giving up for Lent?

Here's a unique suggestion: instead of dropping chocolate, red meat, alcohol or any other frivolous comfort, why not think about how to eliminate global hegemony?

Yes, that "hegemony," defined by Merriam-Webster as "the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group."

"How should Americans, as a whole, consider the season of Lent?" asked blogger Dandelion Salad. "Using Noam Chomsky as a lens, it would be good to start with our misuse of the planet, our militarization of space, and ultimately our irrational commitment to global hegemony ... All of which threaten our own survival and the future lives of our grandchildren."

To the uninitiated, Lent is a 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday during which adherents to Catholicism give up something important to themselves. The action of sacrifice is symbolic of a Biblical tale in which Jesus -- revered as the savior of mankind by Christians -- wanders the desert, fending off the devil's temptations.

Speaking from his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author, scholar and philosopher Noam Chomsky offers a glimpse at what the greatest threats to human survival are today, in the context of his 2003 book, 'Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance.'

Chomsky's full comments are carried in the video below.

"What I mean by that is pretty straightforward," said Chomsky. "Survival is a word we all understand. I'd like to know whether there's going to be a world -- a decent world -- where, say, my grandchildren can live. That's the question of survival.

"The survival of the human species is by no means an obvious thing. There are very severe threats to survival. We learn about them all the time. The threat of environmental destruction is much too real to put to the side. The threat of destruction by weapons of mass destruction -- that has come very close many times. We just learned at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, a terminal nuclear war was averted by one word by one submarine commander who countermanded the order to send off nuclear missiles.

"... So, survival of the species is by no means a sure thing. Decent survival. Well, what's hegemony? Hegemony has to do with the domination of the International system by small sectors of power. At the moment there happens to be one superpower, but it does not dominate the rest of the world in all dimensions, but overwhelmingly dominates it in one dimension: Namely, the military dimension."

"Unfortunately, if you look at the factors that surround hegemony, the short term goals to maximize profit, to increase control of the world and so on, and ask how those goals will play out, turns out they do threaten survival," said Chomsky.

"And, it's a deep problem because the decisions are not irrational within the framework of the institutions in which they're being taken," he continued. "But, they may be utterly irrational as compared to the likelihood that my grandchildren will have a world to live in."

"Across the board, the choice of hegemony or survival is one that we must face if we care about our grandchildren," he concludes.

This video was posted to YouTube Feb. 26.

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