Thursday, March 17, 2011

Notes from "Letters to a Young Contrarian", Letter XIII and XIV

Letter XIII

From Noam Chomsky: "speaking truth to power" is overrated.

Power [...] quite probably knows the truth already, and is mainly interested in suppressing or limiting or distorting it. We would therefore do better to try to instruct the powerless. I am not sure that there is a real difference in this distinction. Ruthless and arrogant though power can appear, it is only ever held by mere mammals who excrete and yearn, and who suffer from insomnia and insecurity. These mammals are also necessarily vain in the extreme, and often wish to be liked almost as much as they desire to be feared.

Letter XIV

Those who need or want to think for themselves will always be a minority; the human race may be inherently individualistic and even narcissistic but in the mass it is quite easy to control. People have a need for reassurance and belonging.

Distrust any speaker who talks confidently about "we," or speaks in the name of "us". Distrust yourself if you hear these tones creeping into your own style.

Thus in order to be a "radical" one must be open to the possibility that one's own core assumptions are misconceived.
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