Wednesday, February 3, 2010

1984, The Power of Nightmares, and Howard Zinn

I recently started reading the novel, 1984, by George Orwell. I realize its the kind of book you're supposed to read in high school or college, but for some reason it was never part of our curriculum (it probably has something to do with the schools I went to). I've been wanting to read it for years now, but there are just SO many books I want to read, some get put on the waiting list.

Well, I am loving this book so far and I just thought I'd write down some thoughts. In 1984, I was five years old. Fortunately, the 1984 I grew up in did not turn out as in the novel. We were in the thick of the cold war, however; although I was much more concerned with playing dress-up than what was happening in the USSR or in Nicaragua with the Sandinistas. As I grew though, I was taught history from a particular perspective and I saw the news from a similar perspective. I remember however, when I first started to discover that our history was far from an exact science and that it all depended on who was telling that story. And as I continued to grow and explore the world, I talked with former Sandinistas in Nicaragua and listed to the perspective of those who lived through those same years on the other side, in the former USSR. I finally had to admit that some of what I knew as history was not just a particular perspective of the truth, but it had been a lie from the beginning.

And in light of these things, it makes you wonder what we are being told today about the 'war on terror'.

In some ways, the rhetoric today doesn't often sound very different from Big Brother in 1984:


This week I was also re-watching a documentary series called The Power of Nightmares. It is extremely thought-provoking and touches on these same issues. This is the summary on youtube:

"Interesting BBC film concerning the parallel development of modern Islamic radicalism and Neo-conservatism. Details the rise of the latter movement and its masquerade as traditional conservatism to garner support and acquire power. This film also discusses the development of the current Arab political ideology and shows how both movements originated from the same basic philosophy: masses are more malleable when they are living in a constant state of fear."

You may or may not agree with it, but I encourage anyone to watch it and I welcome the discussion.

It's an 18 part series (about 10 min. each), so here is the link to my playlist with them all in order. There are also some other great documentaries on there:

My last thought on this topic, is to mourn the death of Howard Zinn, who passed away last week. He was one who showed us that history could be written in a more complete or different perspective. As a child, history always just seemed to be memorizing dates and places, but as I grew I learned how important history was in discovering who we are and for helping us to (hopefully) learn from our mistakes. I am thankful to people like Zinn for helping me to see this, and I feel blessed to have met him.

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