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82 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Name of Freedom, 2 Feb. 2003
This review is from: The New Rulers of the World (Hardcover)
I first heard about John Pilger in 1993, the book I was recommended was entitled Heroes, a trans global account of the struggles of ordinary working people in the face of economic and political oppression. Since then the size of the subject matter Pilger tackles has grown commensurate with his profile. Times have changed considerably since I first heard of Pilger; these days a globalised (many argue an Americanised) culture preaches individualism and consumption from every advertising hoarding, TV screen and computer monitor. The net result is that today's youth increasingly find their individuality in conformity, whether it is in apparel or opinion. In such times writers such as John Pilger play an increasingly important role. In his most recent book The New Rulers Of The World (NRW) Pilger lifts the lid on the illusion of globalisation.
NRW is a collection of four essays researched and written by Pilger; the first two The Model Pupil [of globalisation] and Paying The Price are based on Pilger's documentaries in Indonesia and Iraq respectively. The Model Pupil traces the dubious involvement of western business and government in post-Sukarno Indonesia to the present day. Paying The Price deals with the effects of post gulf war sanctions on the people of Iraq. The Great Game is the main essay and approaches the rocky territory of America's quest for geo-political and economic control of the globe, in particular southern Asia and Eurasia. The final essay The Chosen Ones sees Pilger return to his native Australia to deal with the thorny issue of the rights of the aboriginal peoples.
The essays encapsulate the experiences of individuals whose sufferings have been caused by the (not so) invisible hand of economics and global power play, if the two are separable from each other. In The Model Pupil we are taken on a tour of the export processing zones that surround Jakarta; here we encounter what Pilger refers to as the Hobbesian working and living conditions of globalisation's un-people who make the products of Nike and Gap; they don't earn enough in a month to buy the laces of the trainers that they make. Pilger juxtaposes this with a visit to the Shangri la hotel in Jakarta (construction paid for by a $86 million World Bank loan) where he attends a wedding reception costing $120,000. In attendance are the 'cronies' of the deposed president Suharto and World Bank officials. Pilger points out that the World Bank's raison d'etre in Indonesia is that of 'poverty reduction' and 'reaching out to the poor'. Shortly after the wedding most of the hotel workers were fired for striking for a living wage. If it wasn't so tragic it would be laughable, and this is what Pilger does so well in highlighting the grotesque anomalies of neo-liberal economics gone mad in the hands of a powerful few.
These anomalies are perhaps best highlighted in Paying The Price. In Iraq it is children who have borne the brunt of sanctions instituted by the UN in an attempt to destabilize the Iraqi regime. Pilger quotes Madeleine Albright in a TV interview in 1996; when asked if the reported figure of half a million Iraqi infant deaths was a price worth paying for sanctions, she replied 'I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it.' This statement repeatedly rings in the readers head like a funeral bell as Pilger personally charts the travails of doctors struggling to cope with a wave of infant cancers that Pilger is perhaps a little too quick too blame on the use of depleted uranium munitions during the Gulf war. One thing that is for sure is that the wrong people are suffering through sanctions. Denis Halliday, former UN coordinator for humanitarian relief in Iraq, accompanies Pilger on his journey through Iraq. Halliday makes the observation that the UN charter and declaration of human rights are flouted as war is effectively waged on the children of Iraq, with 'results that you do not expect to see in a war under the Geneva convention.' The credibility of Pilger's work is often enhanced by the strength of such contacts and eyewitness accounts, though at times Pilger should be more careful in his use of these. Later in Paying The Price Pilger uses third hand eyewitness evidence to back up a claims made by an unnamed former Iraqi rebel leader. In 1991 as the Gulf war ended he makes a claim that forces loyal to Saddam Hussein poured kerosene from helicopters onto him and his troops. He goes onto claim that it was then set alight by tracer fire as US planes circled overhead taking photographs. These are startling observations from a man on the ground that is about to be burnt alive. Certainly the plausibility of such an act is not beyond doubt, especially after one has read the third essay The Great Game.
The Great Game is essentially a documentation of how the United States has used its government, military and the institutions of the Bretton Woods agreement to perpetuate living space for the US dollar. From the days when Vietnam was still Indochina to the bombing of Afghanistan in October 2001, Pilger demonstrates how the US has systematically avoided peace and opted for war, to keep it's own economy ticking over. This is cleverly done as Pilger contrasts his own first hand experiences of US bombing campaigns in Vietnam with those in 'modern' day Afghanistan. The irony that it is carried out by the very same B-52's is not lost on the reader, as the suffering of innocents is lost in a world of Orwellian newspeak and doublethink. The Great Game is littered with eye opening facts and figures: 20% of humanity controls 80% of the world's wealth. The US foreign aid bill (2000) for the poorest countries totalled less then the cost of a B-52 bomber. UK overseas aid minister Clare Short's promise of providing clean water to third world countries was conditional on the privatisation of their water supplies; or that during the 1989 US incursion into Panama to 'arrest' General Noriega (former friend of George Bush Snr in his CIA days) upwards of 8000 civilians were killed by us troops. It is a string of stomach churning evidence such as this that continually confronts the reader. The natural conclusion is that the oilmen and women incumbent in the Whitehouse are acting on behalf of US oil giants in order to secure the world's energy supplies. Most notably in Afghanistan, which now looks set to have, an oil pipeline built across it from the Caspian to the deep-water ports of Pakistan. No stone is left unturned in The Great Game, whatever your political viewpoint, one cannot but admire the startling array of evidence amassed and worked into a wonderfully synthesised polemic on the post 9/11 new imperialism and neo-McCarthyism that appears to be on the ascendancy.
The Chosen Ones sees Pilger return to his homeland, to deal with the injustices suffered by Australia's aboriginal population. This essay doesn't really fit in with the subject matter of the previous three, though it's content is no less important, it is slightly out of kilter with the rest of the book. It seems its inclusion may well be Pilger's way of presenting an issue that is close to his heart to as wide an audience as possible. The chosen ones demonstrates the paradoxes of Australian identity, a fusion of white and aboriginal black promoted at the 2000 Olympics; and the reality of politically endorsed racial oppression leading to world record levels of illness and disease. The Chosen Ones is a well-deserved self-indulgence for Pilger, bearing in mind the enormity of the previous works.
Pilger is a true proponent journalism, compiling evidence and getting behind the rhetoric of government and supra national organisations. NRW is a natural successor to Naomi Klein's no logo in a post 9/11 world. Pilger's writing is engaging as it moves through the corridors of power and transcends time and place, to vividly illustrate how the abuse of power and information can lead to suffering. As such, NRW forces us to re-evaluate our own identities whether it be national or individual, our consumer choices directly affect the lives of others. This is the beauty of NRW that it offers no prescriptive advice, but simply prompts one to cogitate on the evidence presented and then make informed choices. Pilger does well to keep his work from becoming a diatribe although he is prone to occasional Marxist outbursts. In calling governments 'crypto-fascist regimes' or referring to leaders as 'murderers' or inferring that the International Olympic Committee is inherently fascist Pilger lowers his own tone, but this is also evidence of his retention of youthful idealism. John Pilger will never be Noam Chomsky, but with a dearth of current tangible work from Chomsky NRW plays a vital role and does it well. NRW is a must read for anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of what is being done in the far (and not so far) flung corners of the world, in the name of 'freedom' and 'civilisation'.
Simon W Farnham
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Jun 2009 09:38:13 BDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2009 16:21:54 GMT
Zenorac says:
What's your opinion of the book, Mr.Tupper? Have you read it? If not, what are you doing passing comment on other people's reviews?

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Feb 2010 21:57:41 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Mar 2010 22:30:47 GMT
In an ideal world we would all be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise, and before I even begin this comment; I wish to make clear that I would dearly love to live in that ideal world; which I assume would have to be fed/fuelled by some sort of 'transmutation of the elements' IE:- turning rock into food/energy etc....

In reality however, the first problem is that we humans live in exactly the same world as do insects, plants, animals and fish; a finite world in which all the resources needed to sustain life:- food, water, fuel, raw materials etc.... are in limited supply. The second problem is that all living creatures multiply; and in reproducing themselves, inevitably outgrow the carrying capacity of the region in which they dwell.

As Charles Darwin clearly explained in his 'theory of evolution'; this potentially limitless natural increase of all species within a naturally limited world has been, and still is, the driving force behind evolution. Inevitably this never-ending struggle for survival has far more losers than winners, more than 94% of all species known to human biologists having failed to survive until the modern day. Darwin called this process of competition/conflict 'Natural Selection'; explaining that the losers are overwhelmingly weaker, slower, less intelligent etc.... than the victors in some way; and their removal from life's gene pool benefits their species equally as much as do the reproductive efforts of the victors.

From Mother Nature's point of view, human societies are no different to wolf packs, ant nests or pine forests; she has given all living things the opportunity to take what we need, and use it to reproduce our kind. If we fail, our kind will steadily dwindle in numbers/importance until swept from this earthly arena by more vigorous and determined breeds. From this natural point of view the fact that 20% of humanity has 80% of the wealth is the inevitable result of the success previously enjoyed by that 20%. Similarly, the competition/conflict for strategic resources such as oil between human societies is identical to the savage combats between animals over control of hunting grounds, and with identical results; the victors eat, drink and prosper, whilst the losers go hungry/starve.

Although the more idealistic amongst us may yearn for a 'better' way, Mother Nature's eternal fight for life has created the world around us in all it's savage beauty; and only when humanity is freed from the confines of this small planet will her iron grip be broken.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2010 21:20:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jun 2010 21:24:28 BDT
Wilf says:
Er.....Fergus Fingall, I suppose Ramsey Tupper might have been reading the reviews with a mind to buying the book! No?

And anyway, how very...er...'authoritarian' you sound. Positively 'Khmer Rouge'.

(Oh, and by the way, R Tupper was being s-a-r-c-a-s-t-i-c. You're a bit slow, you lot.)
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