We are Endowed by our Biology with Certain Unalienable Illusions and Appetites (updated 9.08.07)
But you knew Chomsky was going to say that. He doesn’t “think” so much as apply a template over reality so that it always comes out looking the same: U.S. bad, enemies of U.S. good. Chomsky, of course, is one of the intellectual luminaries of the far left, and the far left is increasingly becoming indistinguishible from the left (which long ago abandoned liberalism).
On the adolescent playground of college campuses, Chomsky's books are always among the biggest sellers. In the course of his career, like the left itself, he has only been wrong about everything (most egregiously, our last generations-long battle against evil), but that doesn’t matter, since the purpose of socialism is not to be effective or to describe reality, but to transform the consciousness of the person who believes it. Therefore, it would be a waste of time to analyze the substance of Chomsky’s ideas, which are frankly bizarre. He is much more of a religious cult figure and should be regarded as such. He cannot be discredited.
Religion is the realm of ultimate values. I was intrigued by a passing comment at the top of Chomsky’s editorial that reveals his: “The urgency of halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and moving toward their elimination, could hardly be greater. Failure to do so is almost certain to lead to grim consequences, even the end of biology's only experiment with higher intelligence” (emphasis mine).
So here we have a literal inversion of reality on every level: political, historical, ethical, epistemological, theological and ontological. The classical liberalism of American idealism is explicitly religious, even if it doesn’t explicitly favor one particular Judeo-Christian denomination over another. But clearly, there was a consensus among our founders that human beings, and only human beings, were endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that are rooted in our very humanness. Liberty is meaningless without both free will and a proper divine end for our free will. In the absence of a free will that transcends biology, liberty is obviously impossible. And in the absence of the Good and True, both our behavior and our thinking can have no meaning that isn’t ultimately arbitrary. (In other words, thinking must converge on truth, just as behavior must converge on virtue.)
This is the “American experiment”: it was an experiment in the adventure of consciousness to see if would be possible to facilitate psycho-spiritual evolution by setting up the appropriate framework--to unleash human potential, in part by starting out with a more accurate anthropology and ontology. For if you get either of these wrong at the outset, then your political philosophy will be hopelessly dysfunctional.
Adam Smith’s ideas are infinitely more effective than Marx’s ideas because they begin with a very accurate and concrete assessment of human psychology, whereas Marx (and every leftist since him) begins with abstract and general ideas that are superimposed on reality. What doesn’t fit into the framework must be attacked, denied, belittled, and eliminated in order to preserve the framework. Thus, the ontological origins of the perpetually “angry left.” How could they not be? It’s inherently painful when reality doesn’t conform to your fantasies.
The mullahs and Islamonazis have their own dysfunctional version of reality, while Chomsky and the left have another. In the end, one is no worse than the other, which is probably why they find such common ground in their opposition to liberal America. In Chomsky’s religion, matter is God. A nuclear holocaust would be tragic because it would end “biology's only experiment with higher intelligence.” Turning the cosmos upside down, human intelligence is subordinate to biology. The human mind is simply an “experiment” of biology. Could this possibly be true? I don't know. You would have to ask biology. It’s her experiment, not ours.
The religious creed of the secular leftist would go something like this:
“I believe in a single substance, the mother of all forces, which engenders the life and consciousness of everything, visible and invisible. I believe in a single lord, biology, the unique son of the substance of the world, born from the substance of the world after centuries of random experimentation: the encapsulated reflection of the great material sea, the epiphenomenal light of primordial darkness, the false reflection of the real world, consubstantial with the mother-substance. It is he who has descended from the shadows of the mother-substance, he who has taken on flesh from matter, he who plays at the illusion of thought from flesh, he who has become the Human Brain. As a Human Brain, I acknowledge a single method for the elimination of error, thus ultimately eliminating myself and returning to the mother substance. Amen.” (Adapted from a passage by Valentin Tomberg.)
Stripped of their illusions of divinity, humans are then free to be what they are, with their biology unbound:
Power into will, will into appetite,
And appetite, a universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce a universal prey
And last eat himself up. --Shakespeare
Chomsky gives a pass to the ravenous wolves of Islam, just as he gave a pass to the monsters of depravity who enslaved the communist world. He has to. It's his theology. Or biology. Same thing.