What kind of a society do we want to live in? There are numerous questions about how our society works that we should be asking ourselves. Do we want to be a part of efforts that have killed tens of thousands of people — at the very least — in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do we want to allow our government to continue providing aid to some of the world’s most violent, bloody regimes, as it has in the past and largely continues to do?
How the system works at home should be under examination. Is it right that somebody who works 12 hours a day should have no health insurance? There are millions of people in this country who don’t. Should a small group of elite — less than 1 percent of the population — continue to make the major economic decisions for society, while the rest of the population mainly takes orders?
If we want to help make the present situation better, the first step we have to take is to inform ourselves about the realities. Most people in our society, unfortunately, are not aware of some very important facts regarding what is going on right now, and what has happened in the past, concerning the political situation in the United States.
To give an example, how many people have heard of a place called East Timor? It’s a small country, but one that we should all remember, because until a few years ago our government had been providing crucial support to an invading army that slaughtered about 200,000 people (about one-third of the population) there. This fact has been one aspect of our concealed foreign policy in the past 50 years.
To appreciate the importance of having an informed population, let’s ask ourselves: What would happen if everybody in the country knew about just this one case? If you think for a moment, it seems pretty likely that there would be a big social upheaval.
Our society responds somewhat to the opinions of its population; it’s not a dictatorship. That’s why it is so important to keep people ignorant. If they knew the facts, there could be real trouble for the privileged “successful” people who are currently making the big decisions.
The media plays a very important role in doing that. Our media is not democratic; in fact, it’s run quite tyrannically, as corporations are. To a large degree it says whatever the rich want it to say, since they’re the people who own it, and they’re the people behind the ads, that finance it. That helps keep people ignorant.
Where to find good information, then? There is a certain amount of interesting material that slips through the corporate media. It’s not totally uniform, but the amount of material declines sharply with increasing conflict with established truths. I suggest that anyone wanting a concise introduction to some basic (and unknown) facts about the past 50 years read a book or two by Noam Chomsky.
If you want to devote the time, there’s a huge amount of information on the Internet. The Business Press says the Financial Times is often intriguing, as it tends to talk about important issues. I’ll also mention Triangle Free Press, a little paper that floats around from time to time. Look around — this is not an exhaustive list of sources!
Knowing the facts is a start but certainly not the only thing American citizens can do to educate themselves on politics and economics. People have to act on their knowledge. If you have examined the facts and you feel like there’s something wrong here — I would hope people would find something wrong with aiding genocide, for instance — then it’s very important to do something. The critical component in that is organization. Without organization, no one can do anything.
Alexander Sheppard, Technician, North Carolina State University.