Freedom Next Time by John Pilger
|Freedom Next Time by John Pilger
|Category: Politics and Society
|Reviewer: Conor Murphy
|Summary: Unrelenting as ever, Pilger presents you with the kind of mirror into which you are afraid to look. The usual mix of careful, meticulous research, eye witness reports and face-to-face interviews, this book should be required reading for anyone who thinks, even for an instant, that might equals right.
|Date: June 2007
|Publisher: Black Swan
The island of Diego Garcia is home to a huge US naval base. It boasts golf courses, cinemas, beautiful beaches. It was leased to the Americans by the British in the 1960s - but the Americans required an unpopulated island. So the indigenous population - descendants of the slave trade - were secretly stripped of their British citizenship and forcibly removed to the slums of Mauritius, where they still languish today - those that haven't died of sadness, that is. They still fight for the right to return to their homeland. They even won a high court ruling, but the Blair government simply overturned the decision.
So goes the shameful story in the first chapter of Freedom Next Time. It's difficult to believe that a country prepared to fight an entire war in defence of a few thousand [white] islanders living in the Falklands could treat an equal number of [black] islanders with such contempt, but it's true. Pilger's painstaking research and meticulous notes reveal the shameful and ugly truth. Successive chapters of the book deal with the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the poverty India's "economic boom" conceals, the failure of South Africa's ANC government to address economic apartheid, and the devastation that is the "liberated" Afghanistan. All are described with an equally steely attention to facts and a propaganda busting zeal. Despite the belt-and-braces quoting and noting, the narrative is clear, straightforward and compelling.
I find Pilger's books painful to read. He has an unparalleled ability to link the background of ideologies and policies to the individual stories of personal injustice and suffering they create. And nothing prepares even the most politically sympathetic reader - me - for the devastating impact of replacing policies with faces. I couldn't read Freedom Next Time in one sitting - continually having to put the book down because I was either too angry to read on or so shocked I felt literally nauseous. Sometimes I was in tears and unable to dismiss the person I'd just read about by simply turning the page.
One such person in Freedom Next Time is the Afghan school principal who, when interviewed by Pilger, tried to put into words the devastating impact American bombing has had on both his teachers and pupils:
Take myself: a few years ago, I was able to speak fluent English, but now I have forgotten everything. Wars make one forget one's language, one's education, one's teachings. A student today needs a subject repeated and repeated to him, or he will not understand, because the young have been emotionally invaded and left with only anguish. They constantly worry about shell or bomb attacks, or stepping on a mine; they are terrified of aircraft. These wars have taken away our minds, and the spirit of our lives, and left us with only the shells of our bodies.
But he continues, struggling to educate his pupils, in his school of rubble and plastic sheeting, with his salary of thirty-eight dollars a month which, depending on food shortages, isn't always enough to buy food for himself as well as his children. In this one book, I dog-eared a dozen other stories, each as agonising, and plainly each only the tiniest tip of an iceberg containing the stories of tens and hundreds of thousands of human beings.
No one puts a face to these people like Pilger. He tells it like it is. And that you won't like it how it is is rather the point. In Freedom Next Time, you will read about countless people who have been given a glimpse of justice - the Chagossians at the High Court, the black majority in post-apartheid South Africa, the poverty in India that lies beneath its economic growth - only to see it snatched away again by a rapacious world order interested only in its elite.
If nothing else, you owe it to yourself, let alone them, to acknowledge the truth of their stories.
My thanks to the good people at Transworld for sending this important book.
You can read more book reviews or buy Freedom Next Time by John Pilger at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Freedom Next Time by John Pilger at Amazon.com.
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