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A letter from Noam Chomsky

By Spiros Tzelepis, Greece

This respected personality speaks about himself and makes comments on world's problems

When I was sending the e-mail with my questions to Noam Chomsky of MIT and asked him to be interviewed, I had a feeling of awe. I had known of Noam Chomsky and his ideas from a very early age since my mother teaches literature, and I always had a passion for reading newspapers. Then some years ago, some of his words were put in as a topic in the General Exams in Greece (these are the exams someone has to pass in order to enter a university). Since then I have frequently stopped by the shelf with his books at a big bookstore in the center of Athens where I shop for my literary books. Knowing how famous he is, I had never thought that he would get into the trouble of answering my questions. So, while sending the e-mail, I was obviously feeling awkward. Three days later while downloading my mail, I was skim reading the e-mails that were flooding my Inbox when I came across an unexpected surprise, a message with "Noam Chomsky" as the sender. Being overly curious about its content, I opened it quickly. Having read the first two lines I went to celebrate, I then knew that Noam Chomsky had answered me. Below is the content of this message:

Dear Spiros,
Interested to hear about what you are doing. Don't recall whether we did get together last year -- but that's not surprising. Life is so intense I often can't remember what happened yesterday. For the same reason, I'm afraid, I can't visit the website -- never have time to do that. And for the same reason, have to be very brief in (completely inadequate) response to your queries. The flood of email alone is beyond what I can handle, and that's only a fragment. A few very brief answers, interspersed.

  1. You are considered a famous linguist. Why did you choose this profession and how did it affect your life afterwards?
  2. How did it happen to you from being a linguist at the beginning to turn to deal with the problems of the world.
  3. A linguist is a person who deals with theoretical things. Did this affect you in your attitude towards technology (since usually people whose profession is connected to language don't have a good relationship with technology) and what is this attitude? Is technology good or bad in your opinion?
  4. What do you think of the internet (since some people would say that if Noam Chomsky has a computer and an e-mail address then why does he have hesitations about technology)?
  5. Recently there was the International Trade conference in Seattle, USA, and a subject discussed was genetically developed food. Do you agree with this or you are against this kind of food?
  6. What do you think of genetics? To what extent do we have the right to change nature and most importantly have we got any right?
  7. You are a humanitarian from what I know. What is the cause of poverty around the world in your opinion?
  8. Some regard you as the only person who judges freely and is against USA foreign policy. What thing motivated you to do so?
  9. Do you believe that our planet can become better and in what way?
  10. What would you say to the mankind as a wish for the 21st century?

I would like to thank professor Noam Chomsky for the time he spent answering these questions and for his willingness to respond to a 15-year-old kid. I am grateful to him for being so cooperative and helpful.

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Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002

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