by Joe Taylor
I was brought up Catholic and went to a catholic grammar school. I could have easily have become a priest. In later life I often considered it, thinking ‘Father Joseph’ has a certain phonetic ring to it, free drinks at the catholic club is a certainty, being able to pontificate without interruption from the pulpit has to be uplifting and creaming off a few quid from the collection plate before the bishop gets his claws on it should be easy. Life is certainly pregnant with endless possibilities.
So where does Noam Chomsky fit in? I’ve just read his latest book, ‘Because We Say So’, a collection of articles and essays written between 2011- 2014. A phrase jumped out from the pages, when he described politics as “the shadow cast on society by big business”. I’d read those words, by him, many moons ago.
It must have been some time in the late 1980’s when I started reading Chomsky. I had a laptop before Microsoft Windows and the World Wide Web came along and it was certainly before then. Of course, I was seriously impressed by him. Anyone who has read Chomsky has to be impressed. No political writer has had such an influence on the way people think, even if they don’t know about him. I finished that first book wondering, ‘how come they haven’t bumped him off?’ I still wonder about that.
Now isn’t the time to review Noam Chomsky’s career – far better commentators than I can do that. It will be interesting to see how Chomsky’s death is treated by the mainstream media when it occurs, which can’t be long off. He’ll be 87 in December.
There’s been a pope around for a lot longer than Noam Chomsky. There’s been 266 of them up to now. How do you measure the influence that the office of pope as made over the centuries? The present one seems to be a bit of a radical in papal terms. Could it be a case of cometh the time cometh the man? Just now seems to be the time for radicals to have their day in the sun. Jeremy Corbyn springs to mind.
The day came along, in Sydney, January 1995, when I had to chose between seeing Noam Chomsky or seeing Pope John Paul II. They were both speaking at the same time on the same day. I went to see Chomsky. There goes my seat in heaven.
In 1986, Pope John Paul II received the Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in a private audience at the Vatican. It remains to be seen whether or not Jeremy Corbyn gets extended the same invitation from Pope Francis. They might have something in common. I’d guess they’ve both been influenced by Noam Chomsky.