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Posts Tagged ‘role model

Why Noam Chomsky remarried at age 86?

At the age of 86, Noam Chomsky remains as active as ever in his work as a world-renowned political dissident and pioneering linguist.

He has also opened a new chapter in his life, recently celebrating a one-year anniversary with his new wife, Valeria Wasserman Chomsky, his second marriage.

Chomsky discusses the joys of newfound love and why it is a “privilege” for him to help people make sense of a very difficult world.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, you’re headed off on a Latin America trip right now for a month. You’ll be in Brazil. You’ll be giving talks in Argentina. When you go to Brazil, you’re going to be meeting your new family.

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: And I was wondering if you could talk a little about that?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we’ve been talking about a variety of things that range from unpleasant to horrific, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the world has some wonderful things in it, too. And I got an unexpected, wondrous gift from Brazil that fell into my arms not long ago. We’re now—Valeria—we’re now about to celebrate our first anniversary and off to Brazil to meet Valeria’s family.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is that like for you? You are seen around the world, by many, as—not only as a person who shares incredible political insight in the world, but really as a role model. And so, can you talk personally about your own life?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I’m a very private person. I’ve never talked about my own life much. But, you know, I’ve—personally, I’ve been very fortunate in my life, with—there have been tragedies. There have been wonderful things. And Valeria’s sudden appearance is one of those wonderful things.

AARON MATÉ: You said, after your first wife, Carol, died, that life without love is empty—something along those lines. Can you talk about that?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I could produce some clichés, which have the merit of being true. Life without love is a pretty empty affair.

AARON MATÉ: And your own tireless schedule, keeping up with your lectures, writing extensive articles, and still tirelessly answering the emails, from correspondence from people around the world—when I was in college, I remember I wrote you several times and got back these long, detailed answers on complex questions. And there’s people across the globe who could attest to a similar experience. Do you feel a certain obligation to respond to people? Because nobody would fault you, at the age of 86 now, if you took more time for yourself.

NOAM CHOMSKY: I don’t know if it’s an obligation exactly. It’s a privilege, really. These are the important people in the world. I remember a wonderful comment by Howard Zinn about the countless number of unknown people who are the driving force in history and in progress. And that’s people like—I didn’t know you, but people like you writing from college. These are people that deserve respect, encouragement. They’re the hope for the future. They’re an inspiration for me personally.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned your daughter Avi being an expert on Cuba, among others. You have three children that you and Carol raised, now broadening your family to Valeria, as well. Can you talk about your philosophy of child rearing in a very politically active family? You have said in the past that you thought, because of your opposition to the war in Vietnam, for example, you might spend years in jail.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Came very close, came close enough so that by 1967, ’68, when resistance activities were at their height—and I was an unindicted co-conspirator in one trial, and the prosecutor announced I’d be the leading person in the next trial, but—

AMY GOODMAN: In which trial?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Pardon me?

AMY GOODMAN: In which trial?

NOAM CHOMSKY: These were the so-called trials of the resistance. The first was called the Spock-Coffin trial, although—a lot to say about that. The next ones were called off, mainly because of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which convinced the American business community that the war is going to drag on, and they—in a rather significant power play, they compelled Johnson to start backing off. And one of the things they did was end the trials.

But it was serious enough so that my wife Carol went back to school after 16 years to get a—finish up with her doctoral degree, since we had three kids to take care of. But during those years, although I was extremely active—I mean, there were times when I was giving seven talks a day and going to demonstrations and so on, but I always managed—took care to spend as much time as I could, quality time, with the kids when they were growing up.

AMY GOODMAN: So what gives you hope?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Things like what you described, also the wonderful things in the world of the kind that I mentioned, like my wife.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor, world-renowned linguist, dissident, author, Noam Chomsky. To hear part one of our interview yesterday, when he talked about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today, you can go to our website. This is just a clip.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Basically, a joint effort by Netanyahu and mostly Republicans hawks from the United States to undermine any possibility of a negotiated settlement with Iran. Neither Israel nor U.S. hawks want to tolerate a deterrent in the region to their violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky. To hear both of our hours of interview with him, go to democracynow.org.

Smoking is not cool; smokers are! (Written on December 4, 2007)

In the post “The Broken Window theory of crime epidemic” I developed on the large chasm separating a state of having a predisposition to criminal behavior and actually committing a crime.

For example, if you are to predict which groups of adolescents will eventually commit a higher rate of criminal activities:

1. the group living in a clean and stable neighborhood, with an active and sensible community but whose family environment is violent and crude, and

2. the group of adolescents living in a violent neighborhood but whose family have strong moral support,

then which group would actually exhibit a higher rate of criminal acts? 

It is of no use following the conventional argument that family is the cornerstone of real behavioral actions: A family provides a strong defensive nature against criminal behavior in the first few years of upbringing, but it is the daily environment and peer pressures that offer the catalytic situations for committing an actual criminal act.

Countless experiments with adoptive children versus regular families have shown that, besides genetic inheritance, it is the peer influence in the immediate surroundings that form the adolescent characters for actions, as is the case for smoking behavior.

We process information in a global manner by reaching for a “dispositional” explanation for event (which means interpreting other people’s behavior by overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits) as opposed to a contextual explanation.

If we are told that the gym is dimly lighted and the basketball player is not expected to shoot well, we still favor the player in the well lighted gym who did slightly better, even if he is actually far less talented than the other player.  This general tendency is called the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE).

The human brain has to rely on a “reducing valve” to create and maintain the perception of continuity, because if we have to evaluate every event according to its specific situation, we are overwhelmed and become too confused to attend to our myriad of activities and train of thoughts.

For example, a person is in many instances hostile, fiercely independent, passive, dependent, aggressive, warm or gentle depending on who he is with, when, and how, but we tend to reduce his character by stating that the person is either hostile with a façade of passivity or he is warm and passive with a surface defense of aggressiveness.

Thus, we tend to underestimate the minor criminal acts in the specific situations within the environment we are surrounded with, such as overcrowding graffiti views, fare-breaking, window cleaning harassment on intersections or panhandling in our tendency to believing that lawlessness is the rule.

In the cases of smoking and suicide, it is the specific context that turns to be the dominant factor.

Almost always, smokers had a role model who was really cool, who didn’t care about people’s opinions of his behavior, a risk taker, sexual precocity, a trend setter and generally categorized as extrovert.

Smoking is not cool, but it is the cool people who smoked; the general smokers somehow emulate sophistication, they imitate their role models.

Cigarette companies were actually characterizing the cool individuals in their advertisements who were performing cool dangerous activities, which added more exposure to non-smokers and who were not directly exposed to cool people in their daily life.

Thus, the first stage is the contagion of general smokers from the few cool smokers and next the stickiness of nicotine to perpetuating the habit.  Some smokers have tolerance for the poisonous nicotine and can handle up to 3 times the amount that average people could tolerate, very mush like alcohol tolerant drinkers, and it is these addicts that becomes regular or heavy smokers.

The “Chippers” or occasional smokers do not feel any withdrawal when they quit for a while because they cannot tolerate nicotine in the first place.

Research has demonstrated that a third of the smoking adolescents quit right away, a third becomes chippers and just a third has the potential to ending up heavy smokers.

Additionally, nicotine does not have a linear addiction trends because it takes at least 3 years for the occasional smokers to tip to the heavy status.  The amount of daily intake of nicotine that tips a tolerant adolescent nicotine smoker from occasional to heavy smoker is about 6 milligrams of nicotine or the content in 5 cigarettes.

Consequently, if the nicotine amount in a pack of cigarette is reduced to less than 6 milligrams then, many adolescents would not end up heavy smokers.

This is so far the best strategy for conquering the stickiness factor in addiction to cigarettes.  The other alternative is the use of drugs that combat depression: There is a strong correlation between heavy smokers and depressive nature.

For example, the drugs Zyban and Bupropion that are used for depressive individuals to increase the dopamine inhibit the desire for nicotine and they also replace some of the norepinephrine, so that smokers don’t have the agitation of the withdrawal symptoms.

The dopamine and norepinephrine and serotonin are chemicals produced by the brain to enhance neurotransmission.

Personally, I don’t vividly recall that I emulated a cool individual smoking, at least not consciously, but I started imitating smokers in a nude club that exhibited totally naked cool girls!

No, I cannot recall that I felt a buzz when I inhaled my first cigarette; what I felt was utter disgust, aversion and dislike.

There are rare occasions when I feel dizzy after the first few puffs in the morning; I don’t think feeling dizzy can be considered a pleasurable sensation. However I felt addicted to watching the cool naked girls.

Since I am not a cool guy with precocious sexual activities or an extrovert by any measure then, I may safely consider that my addiction was genetically preponderant for nicotine tolerance. Instead of chipping cigarettes, I bought boxes and would not throw away the box as long as Walter Mitty’s nude bar remained around the corner from my dormitory.

I tried nicotine patches but insisted on smoking the same number of cigarettes.  I guess my tolerance for nicotine was pretty high and my brain was obviously dysfunctional in secreting the appropriate chemicals for depressive individuals.

Somehow, I have the feeling that the more I smoke the more I revert to adolescence; I may not be much of an extrovert and a defiant person most of the times, but my diary is turning very daring!

The other case is on suicide trends and sometimes verging on epidemic in specific locations, like in Micronesia Islands in the Pacific where suicide was never committed.

For two decades in the 70’s and 80’s, male adolescents hanged themselves by leaning forward and letting the noose strangulate the blood from reaching the brain; male adolescents committed hanging for lame excuses because it became a fashion to experiment with how it feels:  Suicide became a popular theme in songs and graffiti.

Suicide by hanging was becoming a message to emulate the “permission” given by a role model and charismatic adolescent who took his life because he was in love with two girls and could not choose between one of the two who both gave birth simultaneously.

Researchers have demonstrated that whenever a front page account of a suicide by a renowned person is shown then, the rate of suicide increases for ten days before the rate returning to normal.  Furthermore, the kind of suicides is very similar to the detailed account of the suicide in the dailies, as if people are imitating the clear message of their role models.

In general, the few kinds of communicators described as connectors, mavens and salesmen are the messengers who re-package a message to communicate it appropriately and who can tip the point toward an epidemic.

In addition to locating the few individuals who are fundamental in spreading the epidemic it would be good to remember that human communication has a set of counter-intuitive rules and your intuitions need to be tested and validated.


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