Monday, April 07, 2008


I have to admit that I've been underestimating the power of knowledge for a longtime. Even when the RTI act was passed, I wondered how knowing would empower us. Its not until I visited Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin that I'd realized.

This memorial has some of the most haunting memoirs written by many Jews from the times when the noose was just starting to tighten, to when they were in ghettos or just before they were hauled away to the concentration camps. The most disturbing theme throughout these is the most effective way in which Nazi's obfuscated their knowledge of what was happening. Very little was known about the fate that lies ahead. All knowledge they had was from stories of others and in times of crises their credibility is low, a fact highlighted quite brilliantly in The Schindler's list as a nighttime dialogue in a ghetto

"No, I can't believe it's true. We are their work force. What sense does it make to kill your own work force ? To go to all this trouble of assembling a work force only to--
No, it can't be true."

This theme of propaganda and censorship recurs in most authoritarian regimes but is most conspicuous in Soviet during Stalin's times, in East Germany during Ulbricht and Honecker and most recently in our good old friend China. In India, we needn't look farther than the emergency and ofcourse the mouthpiece

I couldn't fathom the far reaching consequences of propaganda until I met a colleague from China. When asked about the communist regime he said that he'd thought it was the best system until he'd seen the other side and that probably people outside China knew better history about China including important events like Tiannamen Square incidents. The worst though was his dismissal of Tibetan uprisings as "stupid, because no one will let them go anyway". Perhaps patriotism. But it will be hard to explain the apathy to human rights violation with that alone.

1 comment:

sidkc said...

I agree completely. RTI has really empowered us all...

You need to hear the misconceptions people have to believe them!