Three interviews that I read today.
Noam Chomsky on the future of Iraq and post 9/11 US:
9/11 made a lot of people think: 'We'd better figure out what is going on in the world. We'd better figure out what our role is and why things like that are happening. And the result was a huge increase in interest and concern. Huge audiences. I spend probably an hour a night just turning down requests for interviews from all over the place. They're not necessarily agreeing but they're thinking about what is going on. This is a very polled society and right before the November elections two of the major polling institutions, Program on International Policy Attitudes in Maryland and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, both published major studies of popular attitudes and they were extremely interesting. What they showed is that the two political parties are far to the right of the population on issue after issue. What's happened is that the public is far removed from the bipartisan political system and intellectual culture and that is a reflection of changes that have taken place for many years.
The discipline of history itself has undergone immense changes. We talk today not of the truth. People practising the humanities and the social sciences, we talk about understanding...and there are different ways of attaining that. This is not an arbitrary thing. It's not that X has a certain understanding, I have another and you as the public have to decide. There are mechanisms, procedures by which history is written today. These did not exist a hundred years ago. It was practised almost by instinct by certain very good historians. Today, we train our history students in techniques by which you analyse data. One has of late been battling with people who are not trained historians. If you say, 'To hell with all your historical rules and methods, I will pick up a text and interpret it the way I want and that's history', face up to it, the historian will turn around and question your method. It's really like the debate between astronomy and astrology where there is no conversation.
Indeed, I did not say, nor do I believe, that the Gita is a dishonest book. What I HAVE said about the Gita is quite clearly stated in the first chapter of my book, The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), particularly pages 14-18. There I speak of the Gita as a prime example of what a great mythic text can do to lead the person who reads or hears it to a very important spiritual insight, namely, to a way of transcending everyday, selfish concerns by connecting them with the greater vision that a religious text inspires us to see.