Written amid rising opposition to the Vietnam War – Chomsky’s greatest essay has added resonance in the age of Trump.
There are determining events – especially when we’re young and formulating our sense of the world: Times when we learn how to take ourselves – where to stand – how to move forward in a fresh way.
For me a key moment was stepping into the periodicals room of my college library in late February of 1967 — I was a sophomore — and reading an article in the New York Review of Books that caught my eye. It was “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” written by Noam Chomsky.Nothing was quite the same for me after reading that piece – which I’ve reread periodically throughout my life – finding things to challenge me each time.I always finish the essay feeling reawakened – aware that I’ve not done enough to make the world a better place by using whatever gifts I may have.Chomsky spurs me to more intense reading and thinking – driving me into action – which might take the form of writing an op-ed piece – joining a march or protest – sending money to a special cause – or just committing myself to further study a political issue.
The main point of Chomsky’s essay is beautifully framed after a personal introduction in which he alludes to his early admiration for Dwight Macdonald – an influential writer and editor from the generation before him: