Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chomsky - A Graphic Guide

Chomsky - A Graphic Guide
by John Maher
Illustrated by Judy Groves
Icon Books, 2011

Review by Ramona Wadi

Chomsky - A Graphic Guide gives an excellent portrayal of the linguist who enlightened the academic world with his theory of 'universal grammar' and continues to influence the realm of activism with his constant criticism of absolute power.

Language acquisition transcends the parameters of a single language - all children around the world learn different languages in similar ways to each other. Chomsky's argument is that language and grammar are intrinsically linked to the human brain. Refuting Skinner's behaviourist theory, which argues that children acquire language through imitation of sounds, Chomsky insists that babies have a genetic predisposition towards language - thus excluding the theory of tabula rasa and reinforcing the concept of freedom of consciousness.

Less space is devoted to Chomsky's relentless pursuit of justice. Renowned for his stance against US foreign policy, imperialism and aggressive intervention, Chomsky's disposition towards social justice was kindled at an early age. As a child growing up in the era of the Great Depression, he witnessed the suffering of the working class. Years after the wave of Fascism, World War II and the Vietnam War, Chomsky remained adamant as ever about the betrayal of the people by the intellectuals, who allowed themselves to be manipulated within a system which oppressed freedom of thought but managed to distort this reality under the banner of democracy.

Chomsky's analysis of US politics, foreign policy and freedom bares the system for what is actually is - a culture which prides itself on freedom only after assurance that intellect has been conditioned to conform. The indoctrination of the people under the reassurance of freedom is perceived as actual liberty, since the people have consented to relinquish their own thought.

Maher illustrates Chomsky's perception on the process of indoctrination with media manipulation of historical events, which is always ready to categorise, condemn or apologise for violence, depending on who the perpetrator is. Despite the brevity with which Chomsky's contribution to social justice is discussed, the book nevertheless concludes with an essential reflection about the discussed topics, and one which Chomsky writes about incessantly - the abhorrent relationship between the semblance of justice which the world's super power upholds and the reality it manupulates - a flagrant disregard for humanity's freedom.

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