Michael Moore, Lumbago or Heartburn

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Michael Moore, a persistent pitbull

The Nest Of The Best Fest And Pest


Devouring culture. An @NYMag site. Sep 6, 2017,


The Thankless Task of Being Michael Moore

He’s been right about everything before, and he really thinks you are living in a bubble.

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That was for me not so much a revelation as a confirmation. I had followed Michael Moore a lot and always found his facts absolutely right but his style particularly irritating at times and quite obviously staged. He was telling us something true but in such a way that we had to keep him and his story at a distance if not out of reach.

I think Michael Moore has never realized his tone was often neutralizing his argumentation. And this tone was the same in his films or in his books. I felt both embarrassed and annoyed by the constructed demonstration that could have been shortened into a simple statement of facts instead of some kind of guidance through a labyrinth of circumstantial elements that had little importance as for the facts themselves and the conclusion that could easily and directly be drawn from the simple statement of the facts.

That’s exactly why I have never liked philosophy: it needs twenty pages to demonstrate that the statement “The sun rises in the morning in the east” is true whereas the simple observation of the sun rising in the morning would answer the question in five minutes, if not less actually.


MICHAEL MOORE, CAPITALISM A LOVE STORY, reviewed on January 11, 2010.

MICHAEL MOORE, MIKE’S ELECTION GUIDE, reviewed on September 23, 2008.





The article by VULTURE on Medium was a long study trying to demonstrate that Michael Moore was a prophet that could not be understood in the USA, his home. The only reason not given by this study is that a prophet is never heard in his own family, neighborhood, home, country, or whatever. Jesus, a Jew who was not a prophet, was not heard by the Jews and he had to be amplified by the apostle of the Gentiles for his prophecy to be heard. Mahomet, a real prophet this time, was not heard in his home town and had to get out of it in exile to start his conquest and being heard.

Michael Moore is not better and I consider it is because he systematically rebuffs people, insists heavily on what he thinks is the truth, on taking a stance and a tone that is humbly disquieting and even quietly disturbing. He cannot be heard because he does not want to be heard by the masses, only by the mental elite that shares his frustrated unbalance. He sounds so much like some of my old friends who were born in the working class and moved out of it and then constantly bring the working class as the norm of their thinking, which is, of course, a lie.

A very common idea: one can never forget and even erase what one was born and raised in. A certain Burrhus Frederic Skinner based his social Darwinism, his social behaviorism, his social and racial segregationism on this very principle. Human beings remain locked up in the Skinner boxes in which they are born. We all know it is wrong, false and even vain, and it becomes pathetic when someone who is so far from what his working-class father was to pretend he had remained faithful to the working class of his father, no matter what.

To deem how wrong this approach of things is we must keep in mind that the billionaire Trump is the elected President of the blue-collar dissatisfied and discontented workers which is in a way unexplainable, except that people only like the words and the music of what they hear and are totally blind at who may be playing that music and howling these words. And the interview given by Hillary Clinton to PBS Newshour on Friday, September 15 did not show any understanding of this simple fact: you are supported by those who like your words, your tone, your music, and as Marshall McLuhan would say this is an all-sensorial experience: one LIKES in one go with all senses the person concerned and that locks up the sixth sense of the Buddhist, the mind.

But let me give you a few instances of my approach of such critical thinkers like Michael Moore and how they speak a language no one who is not part of their elite can understand.

First of all, MICHAEL MOORE, CAPITALISM A LOVE STORY, that I reviewed on January 11, 2010.

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One hundred percent Michael Moore, no doubt what-so-ever. Emotional to the utmost. Founded on undeniable facts and truths, note the plural of these truths. He oscillates between the good old Christian truth, the good old socialist truth, the good old founding fathers’ truth, and even the good old Framers’ truth, without forgetting even the truth of F.D. Roosevelt. Only one is missing, Abraham Lincoln. The point is that the Founding Fathers and the Framers were building a constitution that excluded the majority of the population of the first United States, and they were to exclude that majority for quite a while (Blacks, women, Indians, non-propertied and non-taxable residents).

The Constitution is, of course, something that can be perfected but the meaning of the quotations from and by the Framers and Founding Fathers has to be taken in their context if we want to capture their truths. And that’s the main problem with Michael Moore: he builds a patchwork of quotations, references, and facts that has an emotional meaning and impact but that does not stand any serious reflection. Instead of building an argumentation that would be homogeneous in time and place, absolutely impregnable in logic, he overkills his single targeted bird with a dozen stones and a few bullets, and even here and there a rocket.

That overkilling alas neutralizes the argument and sterilizes the demonstration because of the anachronistic nature of many of the arguments and the non-articulated nature of the accumulative train of his thought, or rather thinking. Of course, capitalism is greed, and this greed is all the horror that leads to the worst crimes and wars. Capitalism reduced to greed is the most unethical system you can think of.

But the market economy is not capitalism.

The market economy is here to stay because the economy, that has existed since the beginning of humanity, because homo sapiens is an economic species, can only bring us the future and more means and more justice. On the other hand, capitalism is only one way of managing that market economy and it is the worst way possible nowadays if we reduce it to greed, which is just what I have said: reduction, perversion, treachery, and betrayal.

Alas, the film leads us to some vague democratic ideal in the workplace. What is it? A cooperative form of management? Or a more important and decisive role for the unions and the workers’ representatives? Or plain state socialism? The film is, in fact, exploding in all these directions and brings no clear perspective, not even a direction that could have several slightly different lanes or roads.

And we cannot forget that his antics on Wall Street are only possible because everyone on Wall Street accepts him to do it, including the bankers, the traders, the financiers and the police. Everyone accepts him to do it and expects him to do it because it is entertainment.

That Wall Street intervention sounds and looks very well negotiated and produced, in no way improvised, spontaneous, natural. An interesting message but too emotional and artificial to lead very far on the highway to the future.

Then I should consider MICHAEL MOORE, MIKE’S ELECTION GUIDE, that I reviewed with maybe a little bit too much enthusiasm on September 23, 2008.

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A little book that has to be read in three hours at the most and on the outside. Pungent with hot language, fragrant with nice flower names for disgusting stinking old bald politicians, packed with a few truths and many truths and a half. This book is brilliant and it is already three months old, June 2008. Of course, he could not envisage the time when George W. Bush in the White House was going to nationalize the American banking system. He could not imagine either that China was going to buy Rothschild and the Japanese another New York bankrupted bank — and this did not happen. But he could consider the Federal Government — what does McCain say about less government? — buying out the failed banking system in its nearly total globality, and yet that was unimaginable even to the most hazardous minds just two weeks ago.

But George W. Bush did it. A real George as the French used to say before they started to call those people who are slightly mentally impaired fruitcakes and then some other livelier bird names. But the Guide is still valid. Valid for the failed American electoral system that is absolutely not democratic since it can declare elected someone who has not been elected, and it can even decide that millions of ballots can be nullified by a Supreme Court decision. Right he is that the Democratic party is not very swift when it comes to winning elections. They must be forced to win, forced by fate, forced by the three weird sisters beyond there who spin, measure and cut the thread of our life. [And I must say, cynically of course, that since then the 2016 election was a marvelous demonstration of this lack of electoral swiftness, burying at the bottom of an unfathomable pit the tremendous swiftness of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.]

A whole legion of Valkyries is necessary to chase the Democratic Party into winning an election. It is so much more comfortable to lose and be an eternal opposition. Yet there is a fair chance that Obama will win, that the two houses of Congress will have a comfortable and reinforced democratic majority, and it is even possible that they get the famous three-fifth majority so much needed for all constitutional amendments and overruling the President’s veto. [Note this was written in 2008. That was rather naïve indeed, and yet quite a lot was made possible, at least temporarily.]

And yet they may lose the Presidential election if they do not react fast and fight with more pugnacity the opponent, in fact the opponents because the Republican party decided to have two horses harnessed to the single cart of the presidential ticket, two horses if we want, because it is a way of speaking since one is an old nag and the other is a zebra of a potentially convicted power abuser. But the system being what it is, Obama will only win if he is able to bring five to ten million new voters into the game, the battle, the fight, the final guerilla warfare, confrontation, and conflagration.

So you better hurry up and volunteer. The first ten reforms of the first ten days of this reformistic presidency are funny for some, evident for others and always full of sense, if not always of common sense. Michael Moore is not always well informed, for example about the French social system or healthcare system. It’s true he apparently got his information from the French embassy. He might have been better inspired to ask someone who really knows, not an ambassador who has never had any real problem with anything in his life. Hardships are a lot better as a school than the silver spoon you are born with, in your mouth in the big diplomatic families of the French republic.

But the best part is his suggestion to get all the corpses and bandits occupying the White House out of it in a perpetrator walk is excellent. That’s all they deserve and I think that perpetrator walk should be advertised so that as many discontented people could come with rotten eggs and over-ripe tomatoes to adorn their faces with red and yellow and white, the tricolor flag of yellow bellies, liars, thieves and other perambulating dead people we have forgotten to bury. Please catch up on that urgent task and make them walk an infinite line between two rows of angry citizens. Don’t kill them please, just shame them for life and make sure every day they will be reminded of their lies, thefts, crimes, murders, etc. Rush to this little book and read it before the night is out.

The third moment in this trip was MICHAEL MOORE, WILL THEY EVER TRUST US AGAIN? that I reviewed on June 20, 2012.

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The genre « Letters from the Front » has been used a lot in history. It is a complex genre that can lead to many things. Letters from GIs in the Second World War were used by linguists to analyze many linguistic points concerning the linguistic competence of young American men of average and low education, for example. Michael Herr used letters from the Vietnam war to write his book Dispatches, for another example. Here Michael Moore uses solicited letters he received via email on his website from various military personnel in Iraq, then in other countries around the world, then from relatives and friends of the aforesaid. The sole subject of these letters is the war in Iraq, even if many of them touch other subjects, and the book was published as part of Michael Moore’s campaign against the reelection of George W. Bush as President of the US in November 2004, Bush II as Chomsky calls him in his recent book Hegemony or Survival, America’s Quest for Global Dominance. Michael Moore’s book is then more of a pamphlet than just a plain collection of letters, especially with the six-page appendix and all the actions people can do to « Support Our Troops ». If it were only that the book would not deserve any coverage here. But it is a lot more than that and I am going to point out a few elements that have to be taken into account to assess the real value of the book.

A New Prophet?

The book sounds personal from the very start because nearly all the letters praise and thank Michael Moore for his good work and ask him to go on with spreading the good word. They are particularly laudative about the film Fahrenheit 9/11. They treat him as a prophet and they rely on him for the struggle and battle they see ahead. This is typically American, this Christian inspiration in the wake of Old Testament prophets. He speaks and they approve and follow. What is at stake here is democracy. It does not work properly in the US. Instead of following prophets or preachers, people should think by themselves, then unite and start working together towards their common goal. This first impression is the very caricature of democracy we can see so often in the US: the individual politicians do all the thinking, preaching their « truth/s » and then people vote. History is full of aborted democratic elections that led to catastrophes. Hitler was elected.

[And since the time I wrote this review, things have amplified tremendously on this front with the “surprise” election of Donald Trump, an election that did not have the popular vote on the side of the elected candidate but on the side of the defeated candidate: you win the popular vote but you are not elected, and this time without any intervention of the Supreme Court.]

A New Medium

Why is that? Because it is the emergence — in an emergency situation, mind you — of the new medium that the Internet is becoming. Everyone has the power to speak their words, to express their opinions and to circulate them all over the world to millions of people. It is the emergence of the medium that builds what Noam Chomsky calls the second superpower in the world, public opinion. And here the letters are crystal-clear about the traditional media that do not carry out their mission to bring the news, all the news, and nothing but the news to the people. They do not and the President has even banned some news from being published.

This emergence of the Internet transforms the problem of political consciousness and political action. « …An interactive website where soldiers are able to express themselves freely. » (p. 19) It is the Internet that showed the first pictures of the tortures in American prisons in Iraq or even in Guantanamo. The world has not been globalized only at the military level after the fall of the Wall in 1989. The world has been globalized by the invention of the Internet that enables anyone to have some weight in the world. This public opinion can be moved and the Internet is becoming the modern tool of expression for those who had been systematically rejected into silence in the old days. The « silent majority » of not too long ago has to be reexamined.

This idea makes the book all the more pathetic, symbolic and admirable because the world is changing and the Internet has become a battleground at the level of the world with the World Summit on Information Society that is being prepared in Geneva [that was written in 2012] and that has to take place in Tunis in November [2012]. In Tunis of all places, where a good dozen young people have been thrown in jail for having downloaded sites that were forbidden. You should follow these debates in Geneva to understand. Three groups of stakeholders, the Governments (the UN), the Private Sector (business) and Civil Society (NGOs from all over the world). One of the stakes is Internet Governance at the present moment in the hands of ICANN, based in California, gathering the main internet-related businesses and under the authority of the Department of Commerce in Washington DC.

It is little known that this Department of Commerce asked ICANN to obliterate the root « .iq » at the beginning of the war in Iraq, hence cutting all Internet relations between Iraq and the world and in Iraq itself. The protest was strong enough to make them back down. This book is the tip of an enormous global iceberg and an alliance seems to be in the building [on this question of the governance of the Internet] intelligently led by China that easily gets third world countries and many others behind her, represented as she is by Mrs. Hu, a University Professor, today a Counsellor on these questions in Beijing who personally knew the inventors of the Internet in California 35 years ago.

A New Outlook on American Troops

The book reveals they were carried away by the patriotic enthusiasm that followed the tragic attacks of September 11. But they are also convinced of their mission to defend the Constitution and democracy at home and everywhere in the world. Then they saw what was happening. They discovered they had been lied to by the President, their Commander in Chief, about WMDs, the infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction. They discovered that they did not have enough defensive and offensive equipment, even personal reinforcements for their protective clothes. They discovered that they were not fighting against soldiers who deserted as soon as American GIs were seen arriving, but against civilians.

« He killed a civilian woman his first week in Iraq and didn’t have the stomach to fight after the incident. » (p. 176)

« It’s hard listening to my platoon sergeant saying, ‘’If you decide you want to kill a civilian that looks threatening, shoot him. I’d rather fill out paperwork than get one of my soldiers killed by some raghead.’’ » (p. 24)

« Everyone here [South Korea] is excited about going so that they can kill someone. » (p. 44)

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They also discover that if a wounded soldier dies in the plane transferring him or her outside Iraq, or later, he or she will not be considered as a war victim, as having died in action, and no statistics are given about these wounded soldiers who die later on of their wounds. The casualties are underestimated. And they also discover that even medical equipment is short and that some medical personnel must ask their relatives in the US to make and send some scrubs to have enough sterile scrubs for their work (p. 190).

What’s more, they discover PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the fact that it destroys the life of soldiers after the battle, when they are back from the war and there is practically no military help for them.

There are many other elements about this destroyed morale of the soldiers in Iraq. We discover thus that these poor young people got into the army as a way to negotiate the financing of their college education, more than anything else, and that the American people were living with the conviction that war was no longer an option after the end of the Cold War. The result is a total lack of morale, resentment against the Commander in Chief and the « pussy » Rumsfeld. The surprising element is the very short time it took for these professional or reserve professional soldiers to become disabused, disenchanted and discontented.

These letters reveal the army is crumbling from inside. The reported cases of censorship inside and outside, the rebukes the soldiers get when they are critical inside are signs of this crumbling morale.

A New « Class » Consciousness

They do not see that they have to be slightly more sophisticated to be effective. They do not understand what political work is, that a presidential campaign cannot be fought on one issue, that you must have an alternative and Kerry does not seem to satisfy the authors of these letters. They do not even understand that they have to take part in the political process of building up issues and consensual solutions. They at most envisage private discussions with family and friends, rarely picketing or other public actions, certainly not a battle for a political awakening.

This explains the sadness you feel all the time in the book that shoots heavy guns at Bush II, but Bush was reelected, not by a landslide victory but reelected all the same. So what happened? The book is rich in retrospect: it shows all the shortcomings of this anti-war-in-Iraq movement. It prevented a landslide victory but it could not bring a defeat: it could not bring together a majority on all the political, social and economic problems facing the American people: there was no alternative. [Remember the anti-Vietnam-War movement that did not prevent Richard Nixon from being elected and even reelected. Such a movement, no matter how strong, has little impact on the result of an election, though it can bring a resignation before an impeachment, but both are/were negotiated behind the backdrop of the Washington stage by “responsible” politicians.]

This anti-war-in-Iraq movement sounds in these letters as some limbos in which discontented people were, and the opposition between the poor and the rich was not enough to explain Bush’s victory won in the mountains and plains, and in the South, whereas his opponent won New England and the Great Lakes. In other words, Bush won the poorest states whereas Kerry carried the richest ones. Why? The reference to God is probably the answer and it is ever present in the book. The rural and urban poor, particularly if they are white, have a tendency to look for a conservative religious Christian discourse or belief to compensate their very frustration and poverty and that is exactly the honey Bush used to catch the flies who elected him. [And that happened again in 2016 with Trump.]

So Abraham Lincoln was right: « If you give the people the facts, the Republic will be safe. » But there is a provision for this to be true. People have to take off their warping ideological glasses to see the facts, otherwise, the Republic is in danger. And it is exactly what happened. They all kept their ideological religious glasses on and they voted against their own interest or did not vote at all. It takes more than one prophet to change the world. Jesus — and he was no prophet — had twelve Apostles, thirteen with Paul, and yet it took three centuries for Christianity to become the Roman Empire’s official and only religion.

But Michael Moore was not the only one to be mistaken as for the diagnosis and the treatment of the American identity crisis because it is an identity crisis: the USA cannot be successful when they try to be the cops, coppers, gendarmes, constables, policemen of the world anymore. I reviewed, among many others, three books that show the extreme limitation of American political thought that hardly reaches the level of philosophical reflection.

The first one was supposed to be a historical book, NIALL FERGUSON — CIVILIZATION, THE WEST AND THE REST, I reviewed on December 10, 2012

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This book is not the Bible or the Gospels of the 21st century. To say so would be a lie, but it sure is the apocryphal Torah as it could emerge from The Book of Revelation. It proposes both debatable historical patterns that the author turns into laws and an apocalyptic prediction of the end of civilization in the global confrontation between and among all civilizations. He may hope that would, should or could, maybe might not happen.

From beginning to end he will irritate you with a propensity to generalize his west-oriented observations into predictions of the future that are nothing but negative projections of his own mental patterns. But I will not harp too long on this biased color but let me shift to the more positive.

First and foremost, it is absurd to defend a reified if not deified, definitely fetishized civilization founded on so-called universal principles that are nothing but the principles the winning powers in 1945 considered as universal and sanctified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. These were the rights the West and only the West imposed — after their victory over Germany, Italy, and Japan — to the whole world as expressed mostly in the constitutions of the western countries that had a constitution [Remember England does not have a constitution], or eventually a Bill of Rights.

We must keep in mind that this brilliant generalization of western principles was the result of two world wars, fifty million casualties in the second in five years, the development of industrial genocide, the barbaric terrorizing and killing of civilian populations in Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and a few other places like those. I do not forget nor underestimate Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Ravensbrück and all other concentration camps, plus Stalingrad, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the gulag, plus a few other systematic repressive and cleansing killing of broad categories of people discriminated in their ethnic origins, religions, languages, political ideas, or whatever may have pleased the leaders of the time and their apparatchiks.

[And yet these “universal” principles are nothing but the “diktat” of the wining powers onto the world. They might be good, humane, right, ethical or simply moral, but they were imposed onto the world at a times when the winning west controlled the whole Africa and a fair share of Asia under the yoke of colonialism which was an absolute negation of these very principles and the western powers did not volunteer in 1945 to liberate all their colonies from this colonial yoke, did they?]

Then, Niall Ferguson is trying, and only trying, to be a historian and he sees six “killing apps,” i.e. six [the number of wisdom and of Solomon, a strange constant pattern, in western thought: six is good even if 666 — or 999 — is the number of the Beast in John’s Apocalypse.] forces that produced the West. [Note the irony of the “killing” apps at a time when “Thou shalt not kill” has been decreed as a universal rule, though the USA is still killing people on death row regularly, twenty in 2016, but already eighteen by mid-September in 2017 which could produce twenty-four by the end of the year, which could mean the first year the number would go up since 2009, and we must remember the ninety-eight executions of 1999, the record number in the recent period (after 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated as some say).]

1- Competition (political, national, commercial…);

2- The scientific revolution (and he forgets the necessary loosening of the fundamentalist Christian vice that controlled minds and bodies up to Gutenberg’s invention, and even beyond);

3- The rule of law and representative government (and he forgets to insist it took five centuries to finally get to universal ballot and thus real representation in most western countries);

4- Modern Medicine (and it only really started four centuries after the beginning of that West);

5- Consumer society (and that took five centuries to emerge);

6- The work ethic (that he basically casts in the sole Protestant ethics of the Lutheran and Calvinist Reformation, and very little else).

[He could easily have reached seven — the Holy Week — with education that he does not consider, and even eight — the Second Coming — with the development of intensive agriculture starting in the 19th century. This note is to show how basic numbers in the West are connected with meanings derived from the Bible. Of course in other civilizations, the same numbers have symbolic meanings that are different. But Niall Ferguson is writing for a western audience and it is the western mostly Christian — or Jewish — symbolic values that are going to be brought up in the readers’ minds, even if they do not realize it. Three for example is hyper-positive as one of the triangles of David’s star or as the Holy Trinity in the West, though in Buddhism three is the cycle of “dukkha,” birth-death-rebirth, or the three basic concepts of all living beings “anicca, dukkha, anatta” or “absence of permanence, absence of lasting satisfaction, absence of stable self, soul or whatever mental side of any individual, whereas liberation from this ternary fate can only come through the meditating and meditative mind getting onto the eightfold path of enlightenment leading to Nirvana.]

His demonstration is a circular one. And he does not take the six killing apps in a global and common historical frame, but rather takes each one separately, which enables him to forget they appeared one at a time over a period of five to six centuries; That also enables him to forget what had occurred before, the very history of the emergence of each one of these applications. [And I find this term of “application” rather submissive to the fad of them on smartphones. They clearly are procedures, productive processes, not gadgets you press on to change the color of your smartphone’s screen.]

Each of the possible challenging civilizations, the Moslem empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Chinese empire, are shown as failing because they don’t demonstrate generally one or two of these killing apps the West used to succeed. He forgets that since for instance the ballot was really invented at the end of the 18th century in the US Constitution and on a very limited basis, the West should have failed. Since The West did not have any industrial revolution before the mid-18th century, the west should have failed. Since religion has slowly disappeared from the west, starting with the religious wars and the Enlightenment in the 18th century, and since it only survives in the US as some kind of Sunday entertainment, TV variety shows, and politically correct invocations at any time in daily life, not to speak of funeral social events, the West should be failing right now. He does not, of course, foresee that possibility of such a future, though he apocalyptically evokes the end of the West and its falling over the brink within one generation. But this is only the specter he brandishes to reinforce his own prediction of the successful West. [Like invoking the devil to reinforce the dependence of people on god.]

What he does not see is that up to the mid-20th century, or even the end of it, if empires have systematically followed the pattern of being born, prospering, decaying and dying, and we could discuss every single element in this pattern, there is no historical reason to believe it will be the same with the US and China, since the present conditions are in no way comparable to what they might have been before. If he had spoken of the market economy instead of capitalism and consumer society, he may have understood that for the first time ever in human history the vast majority of it, if not the whole world, are unified at that level. And that’s only a question of size here since the market economy has existed as soon as Homo Sapiens had something to trade, starting with procreators both male and female. Today this market economy is not making two empires built on different principles live together in some peaceful coexistence, but it is bringing the whole global market economy of the whole world up to possible general principles that would have to be seen as flexible, adaptable and progressively evolutionary. There will never be a final point in that construction of these general principles that cannot be seen as universal [and that are universal yet, but in some very fuzzy and all-variants-inclusive way, including the North Korean version of it in full development in spite of the blindness of the West obnubilated by the growing equilibrium in military deterring power of the country.].

If we accept that debatable pattern or law of birth-growth-decay-death, then we only reify, deify and fetishize an observation. There is no reason for that cycle to be anything else but an ideology, then there are myriads of reasons for the future to be different, for human global behavior not to be the same as that of a time when there was no globality in any empire. Today we have a global situation, the principles are different, dictators or autocrats are ousted and brought to trial, genocides are followed by international trials against the genocidal leaders, etc. The last imperialistic war was in Iraq after Afghanistan, and it is still going on. Even Libya was not an imperialistic intervention though it was coercive, but with forces on the ground that were Libyan. Coercion though seems to be a political governing principle that is waning out [, especially if we follow Steven Pinker].

So he could have maybe developed some alternative ideas. Let me suggest a few.

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1- The Christian religion was more a brake than an accelerator, though it was both. The work ethic does not come so much from religion than from the survival instinct boosted by the recognition of the individual. This recognition was worked within the Christian context but it is in fact already contained in feudalism that recognizes the value of the chattel of a territory, and that chattel includes the serfs who are human beings, with a soul, recognized and protected by the church and the law. The Peace of God or Peace of the King movement starting in the 10th century with important demonstrations, called pilgrimages or gatherings, summoned by the archbishops and bishops of Aurillac, Le Puy, Clermont (today Clermont-Ferrand) and Poitiers, imposed some limits on warlike activities among Christian barons or kings. The same movement imposed the respect of Sundays and holidays as non-working days (in the application of the 9th-century religious reform of the Emperor Charles the Great). If you do not work on some days, then the work you perform on the other days is magnified: it is the daily work from angelus to angelus that is dedicated to God in order to be able to serve God properly and the people He has appointed on earth. If anything, the Reformation is a movement back to these already old ideas that suffered a lot due to the Black Death and the 100 Years War, among others.

2- He should have studied Buddhism, which is extremely strong in China or Japan, and the whole of South East Asia. Buddhism is the recognition that the future of each individual is his or hers, that all men and women are equal in front of the choice to get on the path of enlightenment that can only come from him or her. What’s more each individual, including the monks, is supposed to be beneficial to their society and if successful over the average to share the fruits of that success with the others who they also have to help get on the path of enlightenment with education, religious practice, healthcare, and inspiration. After 1945, within the small vehicle of Buddhism a deep reflection has been carried out on work, market economy, the need to support and moralize this market economy with social and ethical principles that at times even lead some Buddhist thinkers to refer to Buddha as a socialist thinker, or even a revolutionary. Buddhism is not contemplative. It is a vision of personal improvement and action with and for others. Ferguson ignored all that.

3- Ferguson is a very conservative thinker perfectly comparable in his mental functioning to Ron Hubbard or some others along such lines. He is founding his whole vision on the principle of birth-life-death, hence on the only principle of survival with and beyond inescapable death. Hubbard imagined in his great metaphysical delirium the possibility of immortality. Ferguson avoids that ridiculous hypothesis, though Ray Kurzweil comes close to it, but he locks himself in a cyclical mental pattern. If the sole instinct of survival had been the Homo Sapiens principle, Homo Sapiens would never have conquered the world in the first place. He would be a small animal species in Eastern Africa and we would not be here to see it. The basic principle should be development.

a- Personal development (psychological, moral, cultural);

b- Empathetic development: the slow emergence of love and emotions in the place of the dyad libido/death-instinct that only leads to using the other or others. We have just reached the moment when that empathy can be successful.

c- Relational development that is the consequence of the previous one based on the recognition of the other(s) as being our equal(s) and as worthy of our establishing with them relations that lead to a political, social, cultural system of individuals contracted together.

d- Social development is the consequence of this, and it started with Homo Sapiens who invented some at least 250,000 years ago the division of labor, the mapping of various activities on the living space of the group, the systematic understanding that survival and development could only come from and through the organized group. And that required and still requires language.

e- Finally human development states that man is an organism that has to develop to reach their objectives: intellectual, mental, psychological, etc., development.

That should have brought Ferguson to the idea — along with Winston Churchill he quotes — that the future cannot be bipolar, nor multi-polar either; cannot be the victory of one over the other(s) into mono-polarity; but that it can only be a two-or-rather-multi-headed global organization of equal members [including in and because of balanced deterring power that can be moral and economic, but has also to be military when we see the aggressiveness of the West or some members of the West. Note here Steven Pinker is wrong: The Iraq war is a war that was started between a set of countries and states against one country and state in the same way as the war in Afghanistan, this time under the shield of the United Nations. These two wars are traditional wars between states that have evolved into liberation and civil wars.]. The end of the Cold War was the first step towards that objective and there is [still] a long way still to go.

The second of these three books is THEODORE J. KACZYNSKI, a.k.a. “THE UNABOMBER” — TECHNOLOGICAL SLAVERY — INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY AND ITS FUTURE, that I reviewed on August 4, 2015

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It is impossible to discuss this “manifesto” in depth and in detail because of two things.

The first one is the cynicism of the author.

“The only sensible alternative for the weaker man is to kill the strong one while he has a chance. In the same way, while the industrial system is sick we must destroy it.” (Paragraph 135)

This absolute rejection of any respect of life, this absolute call for killing those you consider your enemies, this absolute advocacy of killing and destroying no matter who, no matter what that or who is in your way is the utmost level of self-centered egotistic and umbilical selfishness that reveals the chap must have been the victim of a very serious trauma in his early infancy. By serious, I mean a trauma caused by a close relative and having a sexual dimension. His desire to destroy history, humanity, industrialism and everything else that was developed since the use of coal to produce steam reveals someone who is totally locked up in a Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

The second reason why there is no discussion possible is that the author is circumstantially opportunistically cultivating contradictions. Let’s just take one:

“If the breakdown [of industrialism and the industrial system] is sudden, many people will die, since the world’s population has become so overblown that it cannot even feed itself any longer without advanced technology. Even if the breakdown is gradual enough so that reduction of the population can occur more through lowering of the birth rate than through elevation of the death rate, the process of de-industrialization probably will be very chaotic and involve much suffering.” (Paragraph167)

We are talking here about reducing the population to something like 500 million people instead of seven billion. We are talking here about the drastic policy of erasing something like six or six and a half billion people in just a few years through famine, total disappearance of medical care, the pure disappearance of any source of energy. And yet at the same time, the author dares say in paragraph 204:

“Revolutionaries should have as many children as they can. There is strong scientific evidence that social attitudes are to a significant extent inherited.”

On one side 6.5 billion people have to die out of 7 and on the other side, the revolutionaries who are advocating this demographic policy should make as many children as they can. Do what I am telling you to do, not what I am doing. Die please, in silence if possible, while I procreate children who will become torturers and executioners.

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His strong scientific evidence is a plain sham inherited from the bad influence of the racist behaviorists (there luckily are also non-racist behaviorists). Social attitudes are in fact transmitted through education and not inherited through one’s genes. But one more contradiction:

“Education is no longer a simple affair of paddling a kid’s behind when he doesn’t know his lessons and patting him on the head when he does know them. It is becoming a scientific technique for controlling the child’s development. . . “(Paragraph 148)

And he goes into a vast development about The Sylvan Learning Centers that are effective by using psychological engineering in taking the control of the children and making them learn the knowledge and the behavior they want. Without entering that narrow-minded debate, let me say simply that the children of the revolutionaries will have to have special schools to be “manipulated” into becoming the undertakers of industrialism and the industrial system. Where would their autonomy be? The father I guess will decide for them.

The vision given by this author is absolutely frightening about the numerous paddling and other chastisements he got on his bottom, from the father of course, while the loving mother was patting him on the head.

In other words, if you have some time to lose buy the book and read the first 112 pages if you can read that many, and then forget about this delirious tremens pamphlet of an anarchist (paragraph 215) that is in no way either a manifesto or a gospel. That author is dangerous, mind you. All traumatized children unite! That’s his motto. And destroy this society that has traumatized you.

[This author is in no way different from the others I am considering here. He cuts up society into two groups. His revolutionary group on one hand that is all good and perfect and justified in all its revolutionary objectives? And all the others who are bad by definition and principle. On one side the poor as some other authors say, and on the other side the rich. On one hand the exploited proletariat, and on the other hand the capitalists. This dual binary way of thinking is absurd, dangerous and can be criminal when it states that one group is supposed to eliminate the other. But it is time to examine the third book that is a lot subtler.]

The last of these three books is NOAM CHOMSKY — REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM, that I reviewed on April 30, 2017

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How can someone who is so keen on language and words, a linguist mind you, use the word “Requiem” in his title ignoring — and I am sure he knows about it — that a requiem is composed and performed for something that is dead and has no future, no possible resurrection, or maybe Noam Chomsky has become a Catholic who believes in the resurrection of the dead. The title is, of course, a provocation both revealing and self-defeating. And that’s what I am going to discuss now.

Ten principles, and it has to be ten to avoid all kinds of symbolism, you know, six and Solomon or David, seven and the holy week of Genesis or the Passion, eight and the Second Coming, nine and the Beast, the hour of Jesus’ death, eleven is the number of disciples with Jesus after Judas has left and twelve are the twelve apostles or the afore-mentioned eleven apostles with Jesus. No, let’s stay mathematical, cold and non-symbolical. So ten it is going to be and the decimal system, the basis of numeration devised by physicists and mathematicians and proclaimed as the end of barbarity by the French Revolution that established the metric system as the future of the world and the real measure of reason and intelligence.

The first point has to do with American history and the US Constitution.

It opposes two founding fathers and/or framers. James Madison, the aristocrat who wants to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority of the non-opulent on one hand. And Thomas Jefferson the democrat who believes the US Constitution is there to guarantee equality and democracy for all free men. Naturally, Chomsky knows all this at the time was a real farce since, as he recalls, “free men” were only free white men and they excluded all non-free white men: indentured white men, and all men who had neither real estate property, nor commercial property, nor farmland property, since to be a free citizen you had to have some property and pay some tax for it. These free white men also excluded all women, all Indians, all Blacks, slaves or not slaves. In fact, the body of free white men who could be citizens in that society was maybe a few percent of the whole society, maybe five like in England at the same time. But history is vicious and in spite of all the crimes of this old American history, we have genericized the meaning to a very wide understanding today.

And the crimes were, as Chomsky reminds us,

1- “decimating the indigenous population” (note how he avoids genocide or even holocaust: some speak of 90 to 95% of the native American population exterminated);

2- “massive slavery of another segment of the society” (why on earth does he avoid the terms Black or African American, since anyway 90 to 95% of these slaves were Blacks, and 100% in the South, but this identification would have brought the idea that there were a lot of non-slave black men and women in the North and in the slave states that had been French or Spanish because of the rule of manumission, but that would have brought something that is clear: only the British Protestant and Puritan colonists in the British colonies and then the USA practiced — and this is still true — the theory of one-drop-of-black-blood, replacing the practice of slavery with the practice of mass racism that is still alive in the USA);

3- “bitterly exploited labor” (and he forgets to explain what May Day is, when and where it started and Sacco and Vanzetti are not quoted: that art with which Chomsky remains generic on such questions is unexplained and probably unexplainable, or at least it better remains unexplained);

4- “overseas conquests” (that’s the wrong word because overseas conquests are rare: Porto Rico and Hawaii: it could have been better to speak of American imperialistic interventionism in the world since the Monroe doctrine concerning the south, central and north American continent, expanded after the first world war and the second world war to the entire world);

5- “etc.” (true enough the list is long from Mosaddegh to Lumumba, from Korea to Vietnam and to Korea again), not to mention the Middle East.

And his reference to Aristotle is the traditional Western hypocrisy and short memory. Aristotle spoke for a slave society in which the majority of the population was in servitude and the Roman Empire will not be better and Aristotle was rightly used by Calhoun, the Southern slave theorist, to justify his project of a US society that would be a perennial slave society forever. Chomsky, of course, forgets this reference that totally disqualifies the reference to Aristotle.

It is then simple to come to this vision of society that is cut in two: the rich and the poor, the aristocrats or the plutocrats at the top (just a few percent) who have all power and the democrats at the bottom, all the others, all set under the umbrella of “the poor.” This vision is the vision that many in the world under the name of socialism and under the older probably obsolete name of communism still defend when advancing their political projects, especially their populist political projects, be it from the left like in Greece (note the lefty coalition managed to get rid of the most extreme branch of their movement through elections), in Catalonia, in Spain, in Portugal, Italy or in France; or be it from the right in Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Italy and many other countries, including the USA where that extreme right populist movement was the Tea Party and still is the Freedom Caucus and Trump himself, all of them in the Republican Party, Lincoln’s party mind you. Atrocious history!

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The worst part of this dichotomy, in this binary vision of the world, history, and the USA, is that he here and there evokes a third “party” but he never integrates it in his analysis of the society and the political system, just as if the US Constitution had not been able to shift from two parties, Democrats and Whigs to two parties, Democrats and Republicans, with a new party in place of one that died. True enough, any two-party system that is cast in reinforced shielded concrete like the one in the US constitution cannot develop a multi-party system. Let me say here that this political system with an indirect vote for the President and the frozen two party system is worse, I dare say FAR WORSE than the one-party system of the USSR or China. But Chomsky does not even consider any reform of it: get rid of the indirect vote for President and make all elections two-round elections. Only one-party systems, Germany, Great Britain and the USA, still have that archaic system of a one-round electoral system. In England where they have a three or four party system, the winner can be elected with a meager 30% of the electorate if there are four candidates. That is absurd. And it is the people who defend this system who come and give lessons to other countries, the country where it has become common to have a president elected with a minority of the popular vote if we follow Wikipedia: 1824: John Quincy Adams; 1876: Rutherford B. Hayes; 1888: Benjamin Harrison; 2000: George W. Bush; 2016: Donald Trump; plus 1960: John F. Kennedy who is debated because it is impossible to determine with absolute certainty the popular vote of the three candidates in 1960.

And yet you will find the ferment of this necessary “third” possibility that should be this necessary “multiple” perspective. The Counterforce as he calls it page 41; “those who are interested in an independent progressive party,” page 102. And as he says page 42 “the only counterforce is you.” But he is not able to really capture what he says here in full contradiction with what he says later on, towards the end of the pamphlet, page 126: “the idea is to try to control everyone, to turn the whole society into the perfect system. The perfect system would be a society based on a dyad — a pair. The pair is you and your television set, or maybe now you and your iPhone and the Internet.”

And he has trapped himself so much in his dyad, in his dual thinking, in his binary vision that he does not see that “you and your television set” (I hope with some programs, not just the set) has a “you” who is passive, even if he has 100 channels and can zap from one vision to the next; and on the other hand “you and your iPhone and the Internet” is a lot more open and can be open to first some active participation, and then some activity in search and reception of multiple points of view and opinions. He just forgets that Roosevelt was the President elected with the radio, Kennedy with television, Obama with the Internet and email networks, and Trump with social networks. He wants to reduce everything to money and the weight of the big corporations. But he forgets the impact of media and thus he does not see that Trump has captured the daily practice of the discontents today: they use Twitter to express their rage that does not need more than 140 characters to express itself, even often a lot less like “F*** the P*****!” with the use of stars and other symbols to avoid four-letter words or non-politically correct entities. But more and more people use their iPhones, their smartphones, and the Internet to actually counterweigh the forces of the financialized offshored outsourced system. Counterweigh with information and training and education, all three self-engineered, self-retrieved and self-learned if not actually self-taught.

But what he has completely wrong is his vision of the economy. He more or less accepts the division of society in, on one hand, the extreme minority of the plutocrats who advocate plutonomy and plutocracy instead of democracy, and on the other hand the vast majority of the “precariat,” the “precarious proletariat.” The allusion to Marx is so obvious that his vision of the total dictatorship, he says a ‘totalitarian” situation, echoing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie of Marx. We expect the dictatorship of the proletariat, sorry of the precariat. He does not go that far but his vision is just as dramatic as that. He considers that for the first time in history. Of course he only speaks of the history of mankind after they invented writing, which is a very short period of time because in the long run, the Homo Sapiens species met with survival as a species several times, the most recent ones being when the Ice Age locked them up into running, retreating and trying to survive on reduced territory and reduced resources, and then when agricultural division of labor was introduced in the Neolithic or a couple of millennia before, after the Ice Age anyway, that reduced life expectancy to something around 20 or maybe 19 years which brought the reproductive possibilities to at the most three children maybe four with more than a 50% death rate before puberty, some say 75%. If it were that dramatic then we would not be here to testify.

But it is false because between the two extremes there is the majority of the people that used to be called the middle class. But we have to reanalyze it to requalify it as all the people who have jobs on the basis of a partial or total college education, who are highly connected together in family, acquaintances and local networks plus other global networks like Facebook for sure, but more precisely as reviewers on Amazon and other commercial sites, on LinkedIn and other professional sites, on Academia and other independent research sites, on Reverbnation or Myspace and other musical sites for people practicing music in a way or another, or on Medium and other self-publishing sites. That’s the new middle class, the one that counts because they are really representing the future of humanity, discussing, proposing and confronting all kinds of new ideas. Trump was able to capture a section of this new middle class who did not get from Obama what they were hoping to get, but Trump essentially captured the old middle class: white, protestant mostly, working in precarious or non-evolving jobs that can look like blind alleys, who have a house and a mortgage, a couple of cars, and have a high school degree and some of them a partial college degree or a short state university degree, plus those in this group who have been made redundant and have been obliged to accept a job that does not pay as well as before and has little future or is precarious. What’s more, he does not take into account the top layer of the new middle class that has reached Ph.D. level and have all kinds of executive positions as university or college personnel including professors, or in average or large private companies. That upper middle class is particularly active and dynamic in hi-tech businesses, in startups, in the big new global companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and many others. This new middle class is not confronted to traditional unemployment like miners, particularly coal miners, or car workers. These have been confronted with robotization and automation for about ten to fifteen years, but the new middle class knows these robots are also coming after their jobs, especially since most of these new middle-class people occupy jobs that would have employed three or more people before the extension of robots and complex computer systems.

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This revolution that is taking place under our noses is going to put the plutocrats like Trump in the ditch because mines can be reopened but they will be hi-tech and robotized. No jobs for humans, or very few and highly qualified. And coal will/would not be used the way it was for heating and to produce electricity. Same thing with the car industry. Since people like Chomsky or Trump have not done one single thing to think the problem through and to imagine what is going to happen, they will be confronted with millions of people getting redundant with robots and being fired. The USA is going to face this tremendous transformation without any planning, preparation, and strategy. Whereas in China the one-child family has been producing over the last ten years and for decades to still come, a labor movement that replaces three or four low qualified jobs with one highly qualified job, in the west, the USA, and Europe, nothing has been done to face the problem except in countries like Germany that have been facing labor shortage for several decades. In the next few years, the USA is going to be confronted with a dire situation. If Ford does not open a factory in Mexico where they could have had some workers still at a rather low salary and if they open it in the USA, they will multiply by three or more the number of robots. In Flint General Motors had a factory that employer several ten thousand people. The same production today would work with at least ten times fewer workers and the difference would be half the same number of robots. Chomsky does not see that, does not talk of that at all.

So his announcement that the top plutocrats are not capitalists since they negate the free open market economy that carries capitalism is not going to improve the situation. His call to go BACK to the free open market economy of capitalism is not going to bring a solution at all to the robotization problem. In politics, as I have already said, he does not propose any reform of the electoral system, of the political architecture in the USA, an architecture that should be modified to enable more people to be part of the democratic system that has to be improved and not invoked like a catchword or a fetish.

His approach to the media is simply narrow-minded. He obviously does not know Marshall McLuhan who is the best inspiration you can find to understand the effect of the Internet and smartphones on the psyche, the behavior and the mental intellectual state of younger generations. The Internet requires an active user who uses his mind to search and to find, to extract, collect and restructure information. They are just doing that all the time at work and it becomes a way for them to BE HUMAN in front of these machines: use them creatively. The lowest common activity they practice on their smartphones is communication with others. They have never been so much social. Games and other lower activities are either for the uneducated minority or for relaxing purposes. The few who spend hours playing poker online are not representative of what the younger generations are doing with the new media.

The worst part of the present wild financial capitalism we are confronted to is the permanent debts people have that often exceeds what you should have, and are able to really pay back, forcing them to get loans to pay back due loans or debts, thus always remaining under this financial dependence if not crushing weight. That will take a lot of time to “educate” the public and to “regulate” the banking system to prevent such extreme situations. The mortgage system has to be changed too and instead of the capital being indexed on the real estate market, it should be frozen, and the capital thus could go down month after month, and at most, the interest rate could be indexed to inflation or some other fair parameter or set of parameters. But here we reach the main contradiction of this pamphlet.

At the end when he evokes the role of trade or labor unions in the past that “were a very educational force” (page 149) he apparently does not capture his contradiction since that’s the only solution he puts on the table, though since unions hardly exist nowadays we can wonder how he is going to do this education. But the contradiction is with what he said before about propaganda and education. One author he calls for help on the subject is Edward Bernays and the document is from 1928. At the time only two media were working: the radio and the cinema and the talkies were just starting to appear on the silver screen (the telephone was still marginal). So let me consider this author is not very helpful in modern times. But since Chomsky invokes him in support of his point of view on the role of education to turn the “bewildered herd” into “spectators, not participants” let me quote what this author says on the subject:

“Is this government by propaganda? Call it if you prefer government by education. But education, in the academic sense of the work, is not sufficient. It must be enlightened expert propaganda through the creation of circumstances, through the high-spotting of significant events, and the dramatization of important issues. The statesman of the future will thus be enabled to focus the public mind on crucial points of policy, and regiment a vast, heterogeneous mass of voters to clear understanding and intelligent action.” (page 133)

In the present situation, this approach is all wrong. People are bombarded with all types of data and information, some propaganda, some real knowledge or reflection, and they have to sort all that out all by themselves. In other words, the “statesman of the future” is not enabled to do anything in the line of bringing real and intelligent understanding and action to the “masses” that are regimented for sure but on the basis of what they think, what they feel, what they have experienced, what they have all-sensorially, as McLuhan would say, received and absorbed. It is no longer propaganda but direct manipulation of people’s emotions and fear and resentment and even hatred.

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And as for labor unions, Chomsky should reflect on the role they played in building what Chomsky calls “class consciousness,” a concept he borrows from Marx again, this concept coming from a political dyad: there are two basic antagonistic classes in society: the bourgeoisie and the working class. Right now we are living under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. We have to unite to bring the socialist revolution that will get rid of this dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and we will be able to impose the dictatorship of the proletariat under the guidance of the avant-garde party that will bring together in direct action the active class consciousness elite of the proletariat.

Chomsky cannot be that blind. But he is so pessimistic that for him there is no hope, except a dream. What is strange is that the American Dream he had buried in his title, is replaced by some formless, backboneless and unorganized dream:

“There’s is a lot that can be done [Note the irritating passive that is a very negative may to borrow Obama’s motto, “Yes we can,” and make it a totally blind, submissive and abstract phenomenon that does not even depend on our doing: if we demonstrate, then a miracle can be performed: how, by whom, when, where?] if people organize — struggle for their rights as they’ve done in the past — and we can win many victories.” (page 150)

And he concludes with Howard Zinn:

“What matters is the countless small deeds of unknown people, who lay the basis for the significant events that enter history.” (page 150)

Rosa Parks sure did a small little act one evening after work but if there had not been someone like Martin Luther King, Jr., and a whole network to inform him and bring him on the scene she would have died in prison or even worse she would have been lynched. We need to have people who are able to use modern media to get in touch with both the new middle class and the old disappointed and discontented middle class and get them into an alliance with all type of active minorities, ethnic, sexual, gender, cultural or whatever, to build a majority movement with clear objectives and based on permanent action. I must say the Democratic Party right now is NOT the organization that can take the leading position in this field, though they can play an important role in the grassroots movement that may block some of the suicidal reforms Trump is trying to bring through, not to mention his perilous and absurd foreign policy only founded on military force and naked violence.

P.S. As a linguist who has followed Chomsky’s whole career, I am not surprised by the dichotomic vision and thought he develops here. His linguistics, since the very first publication of his in the mid-1950s till his latest publications at the end of the previous century and the beginning of the present century, have been dominated by one formula he has never questioned or modified: S = NP + VP. Without discussing this a priori principle, let me say simply that the simplest of all sentences is composed of three elements (The door is red.); that all languages consider the verb as the center of the sentence that projects its mental structure onto the sentence that is of course at least three functional elements [the verbal relation, the nominal theme, and the nominal location; or the verbal relation, the nominal agent and the nominal theme]; and when there are only two then the only nominal element holds two functional positions [“the man walks”: the nominal agent and theme, and the verbal relation]. This Chomskyan dictum has in fact blocked many possible developments: being unable to make translating machines effective, then Google and others tried to develop such machines with practical automatic mapping of the corpus of one language onto the corpora of other languages considering correspondences established in such a way provide scientific translation. It is good enough for a hotel booking form, but certainly not for a poem by T.S. Eliot, or even the present article.

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The Man in the High Castle

Written by

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, PhD in Germanic Linguistics (University Lille III) and ESP Teaching (University Bordeaux II) has been teaching all types of ESP

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