Noam Chomsky came to Concordia on Sat, Oct. 26 as part of the Concordia Student Union’s ongoing speaker series, delivering an oration to an enthralled audience on the topic of his choosing; the neo-liberal assault on the population.
Concordia students were so eager to hear Noam Chomsky speak that the event sold out in under an hour.
On Facebook alone there were 1,190 people confirmed as going, and considering the D.B. Clarke Theater seats a maximum of 387, it’s no surprise the seminar was a quick sell. There was so much disappointment about the limited seating that the CSU set up a live video feed to accommodate both an overflow room on campus and live streaming at home.
Those in attendance, in person or as part of a digital audience, listened as Noam Chomsky advanced his theory that the canons of contemporary politics are in dangerous disharmony with the general population and pose an existential threat to the entire world. He proposed that the high-minded rhetoric of our western democratic institutions is merely a veil that shrouds the plutocratic manipulations of our system.
He terms the factual state of our political system as “Really Existing Capitalist Democracy,” or RECD —pronounced “wrecked”— for short. The audience was enthralled. Several times during the speech bursts of laughter rolled through the auditorium. One instance came at the off-hand comment that western democracy is more aptly defined as a kleptocracy.
The crowd was absorbed by Chomsky. After its end, and after a standing ovation, students filed through the auditorium foyer, buzzing and star-struck.
Kristifer Szabo, a geography major at Concordia, has been reading Chomsky since he was fifteen. It was his first time seeing Chomsky in person and he felt the seminar was a worthwhile endeavor, calling it, “Probably the single best use of Concordia’s resources in recent memory.”
“I know you shouldn’t be so concerned with the personality of the person, it’s the ideas that matter, but I’m just struck by his breadth of knowledge and the way he can relate contemporary problems to things that were happening hundreds of years ago, because its all the same themes,” said Szabo.
His description of the status-quo is antithetical to the conventional narrative and his often adversarial tone has been known to deflate passions more often than it inspires. Often, Chomsky’s detractors describe him along the lines of a delusional academic who offers only criticisms without hope or solutions. This was not the case on Saturday.
“He was more optimistic than I thought he would be when he was answering the questions, and very down to earth as well,” UdeM student, Emilie Rochon-Gruselle said, “Some people think that his theories are kind of out there, that you can’t really implement them in real life and I thought that he really had that kind of optimism and that fundamental belief in human nature; that we’re capable of change all while being realistic.”
Another UdeM student, Olivier Jacques, shared the same sentiment, saying, “I prefer when he speaks about incremental change than revolutionary change. I think it’s more realistic, and I was surprised and happy that that was what he said.”
An online video of the seminar will be made available soon on CSU’s youtube at youtube.com/CSUmtl.