Movies with the Xbox factor
By Peter Griffin
Freedom Next Time by John Pilger
Bantam Press, 2006, 356pp ISBN 0593055535
In Freedom Next Time, the renowned investigative journalist and documentary maker John Pilger writes of “empire, facades and the enduring struggle of people for their freedom”.
These are themes common to his entire body of work, for Pilger has over the last 30 years made a name for himself as a journalist on a mission to unveil the injustices of the world. In doing so, he has become so caught up in his subjects and the unfair politics of the world that it’s hard to imagine him being able to write about anything objectively.
But in the countries examined in Freedom Next Time, the under-reported facts speak for themselves with an irony Pilger no longer needs to underline.
Pilger writes of the “official” freedoms in place in the likes of South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan, devoting five long chapters to the stories of people that have struggled for years to win freedom and by and large, been denied it.
The fascinating opening chapter “Stealing a Nation” deals with the depopulation by the British of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It was a forced evacuation that passed the world by, barely reported in the media, the Chagossians kicked out of their island home in the 1960s to make way for the US and its military base.
As Pilger points out it was only thirty years after they lost their nation, when some of these “men Friday” returned from exile to their homes, that the media stumbled upon the story.
Pilger’s analysis of progress in South Africa since the fall of apartheid suggests that despite majority black rule, economic power remains in the hands of the wealthy white elite while black South Africans sink further into poverty. His evaluation of Nelson Mandela cast’s at least some of the leader’s glowing legacy in a whole new light.
The chapters on Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are similarly filled with fascinating reading that’s nevertheless pervaded with a flat sense of pessimism.
Still, reality seldom makes comfortable material, and with its enduring focus on the dispossessed people of these countries, Pilger’s work actually does become the “beacon of light in dark times” Noam Chomsky has labeled it.- Peter Griffin