We chose Professor Noam Chomsky for the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize for inspiring the convictions of millions about ways to achieve those universal human rights, which bolster peace with justice.
For more than 50 years he has been a world champion of freedom of speech, of the value of transparency in government and the need to challenge secrecy and censorship.
In his study of the political economy of human rights, he exposed state crimes, induced by US foreign policy, across South America, the Middle East and South East Asia.
With unfailing moral courage he has challenged abusive uses of power and the false claims made about democracy.
He has offended almost every establishment figure and institution: Chomsky is anathema to the Israeli government, was the only scientist or philosopher on the Nixon White House enemies list and the Soviet Union imposed a total ban on his works.
In his analyses of democracy and power he identifies the “manufacture of consent” by governments, corporations and the media.
Professor Chomsky has always argued that forces for change should be non violent.
He once wrote that “as a tactic violence is absurd … we have to save the country (USA) from yet another generation of men who think it clever to discuss the bombing of North Vietnam as a question of tactics and cost effectiveness”.
We also chose Noam Chomsky because he not only identifies abuses of power but also generates hope by describing the alternatives in domestic and foreign policy.
Chomsky is enthusiastic about British mathematician philosopher Bertrand Russell’s claim that a primary goal of education is to elicit and fortify whatever creative impulse a man may possess, “through literature, laughter and creative discourse”.
Chomsky allied himself with his great friend the Palestinian musician and social scientist Edward Said, who wrote that “the intellectual must be unwilling to accept easy formulas or ready made cliches or the smooth ever accommodating confirmations of what the powerful or conventional have to say, and what they do”.
Chomsky is an activist as well as intellectual and would not separate those responsibilities.
He wants the academic to find the courage to move far beyond the ivory tower, to play a fuller role as citizen educator — about human rights, about violent militaristic ways of thinking and acting, about those peace with justice issues, such as poverty and hunger, which give rationale and purpose to the award of the Sydney Peace Prize.
[Professor Stuart Rees is the director of the Sydney Peace Foundation. Dr Hannah Middleton is the Sydney Peace Foundation executive officer. Visit http://www.sydneypeacefoundation.org.au ]