“Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew.
Which in sleep has fallen on you.
Ye are many — they are few.” Percy Bysshe Shelly in The Mask of Anarchy.
With that quote Pilger begins another of his impassioned and important books about “empire, its facades and the enduring struggle of people for their freedom.”
Pilger reinforces and documents all our doubts the mainstream, official government or corporate media and how they have historically served and continue to serve their imperial masters. He tells us that every day, including September 11, 2001, 36,615 children die from the effects of extreme poverty. But that is not news, it is normal, and therefore never front page or prime time news.
Chapter by chapter, Pilger tells us how and why the truth is buried, obscured or omitted from ´the news´. He explains this in terms of empire; what happens to ´us´, the imperial world is important. Our victims are honoured and personalized; our misdeeds are glossed over. What happens to “them”, those who once tasted freedom or thought they had achieved it, be they desperate Indian farmers, children dying from depleted uranium induced cancers in Iraq, millions of Palestinians driven from their homeland or innocent villagers bombed in our war to bring ´democracy´ to Afghanistan, is not important enough to be major news for ´us.´ In fact, the suppression of coverage of these events and the fillers of trivia and ´human interest´ and ´lifestyle´ news about ´us´ is a deliberate and essential part of war and empire. These humans — our sisters and brothers — Pilger´s heroes on the road to ´freedom, next time´ are never personalized as victims are in our society. But for him they are the news, the story and the hope.
Pilger has been a relentlessly brave and tireless award winning journalist and filmmaker for forty years; his beat is the world, but he is rarely published by media more mainstream than the UK Guardian, yet his articles, books and films do get seen and read by millions.
Â In the introduction he provides a historic background with information on lesser known evils such as massacres by the British Raj in India and the ignoring of Harold Pinter´s brilliant Nobel Prize acceptance speech by the august BBC, to secret powers of George Bush and the refusal of ´us´ to accept the results of elections that displease, as in Palestine recently.
´Stealing a Nation´, the first chapter, was also the title and subject of his stunning film about the treatment of the people of the Chagos Islands, site of the major USA military base, Diego Garcia. This story of the continuing collaboration of UK and USA to wipe out a culture and nation and evict its citizens from their home is still developing thanks to a few Chagosians with great persistence and some supporters. The right of these people, deemed not to exist, to return to their homeland, has been up held in the highest court in the UK, but now being appealed by the UK government who gave it away. When you have read the book, find the film and view it and check out his films on Iraq & Palestine. And his many other books that have stood the test of time.
Other chapters cover in depth the suppressed and distorted ´news´ we are snowed by — from Palestine — but the news comes mainly from Israel — globalized India, post—apartheid South Africa and the wonderful war for democracy in Afghanistan that Canada is so proudly part of. Everything Pilger writes is documented and true. The blizzard is over, we can, if we choose, see clearly and act with a conscience as great as Pilger´s.
His righteous rage stirs me to continue to ignore our ´media´. I don´t have TV nor do I subscribe to any mainstream media, even ´liberal´ publications I am often told about by well meaning friends. It takes more work but the truth can be found in the independent media, wise use of the internet and most important, being part of a local and global community that distributes knowledge like the publication of this book. Knowledge is one of civil society´s most valuable resources, Pilger holds up the truth like a banner, it is up to us to carry it forward.
As are most progressive thinkers, Pilger is hopeful about the rise of social forces around the world that challenge empire, show new directions and strategies for change and rock our comfortable assumptions. He writes, “The continuation of a struggle may appear frozen, but it is a seed beneath the snow. Look at Latin America…” Don´t let the corporate media snow us about what is really important and what is really happening. We have work to do; Pilger makes out task easier, not only with vital knowledge, but also with his integrity and commitment as an example.