By: V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.
November 10, 2006
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"There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal,
nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily
either true or false; it can be both true and false. I believe that these
assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of
reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I
cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?" Harold
The way in which monolithic socialist structures have been demolished
during the last 20 years in USSR and Eastern Europe, clearly shows how
Karl Marx stands invalidated by Madame Time. What of the future? No one
can predict the ultimate impact of the immense, fascinating, yet
mysterious and unmeasured growths which have been bursting forth amidst
the ruins of the familiar socio-economic political structures we have
known in Eastern Europe and Russia during the last 60 years. One thing is
clear. America under Bush today is behaving like Kaiser in Germany in 1914
or Hitler in Nazi Germany in 1934. All these great revolutions have
clearly shown that the great and sacred underlying principles which often
evoke mass enthusiasm, contain within them the germs of tyranny; for
animated conviction leads to fanaticism and fanaticism to intolerance and
oppression. And so, new ideals, however specious their object, unless
guarded and defined, may involve new tyrannies. It therefore becomes the
task of independent men and women round the world who love freedom to
resist doctrines which encroach on human liberty. This transcendental
point has been magnificently and eloquently brought out by Harold Pinter,
the famous British playwright, poet, actor, director and political
activist who was awarded Nobel Prize for literature in 2005. In its
citation, the Academy stated that ?Harold Pinter is generally regarded as
the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the
20th century.? As his doctors would not permit him to go to Stockholm to
receive the coveted prize, his Nobel Prize acceptance speech was relayed
by video under the title Art, Truth and Politics on 7 December 005.
Harold Pinter is best known for his plays The Birthday Party (1957), The
caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964) and Betrayal (1978) and for his
screenplay adaptations of novels by others, such as The Servant (1963) and
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1980).
Pinter was born in Hackney in London in 1930 to working class, native
English-Jewish parents of Eastern-European ancestry. Three of Pinter's
grandparents were from Poland and one from Odessa, making them Ashkenazic
rather than Sephardic Jews. Pinter was educated at Hackney Downs Grammar
School. When he was 10 years old, he was exposed to the horrors of war.
His family had to evacuate from London to Cornwall and Reading in 1940-41
after The Nazi Blitz which had a profound influence on him. He has
recorded how he was facing "the life-and-death intensity of daily
experience." He frequently wrote and published poetry as a teenager (and
has continued to do so throughout his career). He played Romeo and Macbeth
in 1947 and 1948, while still a student at Hackney Downs Grammar School in
productions directed by his English tutor, mentor, and friend Joseph
Pinter is the author of twenty-nine plays, fifteen dramatic sketches, and
over twenty screenplays and film scripts for cinema and television and
co-author of two works for stage and radio. Along with the 1967 Tony Award
for Best Play for The Home Coming and several other American awards and
award nominations, he and his plays have received many awards in the UK
and elsewhere throughout the world. In a review published in 1958,
borrowing from the subtitle of A Lunatic View, a play by David Campton,
theater critic Irving Wardle called Pinter's early plays "Comedy of
menace" a label that people have applied repeatedly to his work, at times
pigeonholing and attempting to tame it through a "Comedy of manners".
Pinter was greatly influenced by Samuel Beckett (1906 - 1989), the great
Irish dramatist, novelist and poet.
Pinter began to direct more frequently during the 1970s, becoming an
associate director of the National Theatre in 1973, and he has directed
almost fifty productions of his own and others" plays for stage, film, and
television. After 1985, his plays became shorter and overtly political,
serving as critiques of oppression, torture and other abuses of human
rights. In an interview in 1985, called "A Play and Its Politics," with
Nicholas Hern, published in the Grove Press edition of One for the Road,
Pinter declared that whereas his earlier plays had presented only
"metaphors" about power and powerlessness, the later ones presented the
"realities" of power and its abuse. Merging the personal and the political
once again, Pinter wrote the poems "Death" (1997) (which he read in his
2005 Nobel Lecture) and "The Disappeared" (1998).
In July and August of 2001, a Harold Pinter Festival celebrating his work
was held at Lincoln Centre in New York, in which he participated in as
both a director and an actor. After 2001, Pinter became increasingly
politically "engaged" as "citizen Pinter," Pinter has continued to write
and present politically-charged poetry, dramatic works, essays and
speeches. In 2005, in a public interview broadcast over the BBC radio, he
said that he would dedicate himself to his political activism and writing
of poetry. He said, "I'm using a lot of energy more specifically about
political states of affairs, which I think are very, very worrying as
As a bold and fearless political activist, Pinter has made a name for
himself in the world of non-conformist politics. He was an early member of
the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the United Kingdom. He has been
active in International PEN, serving as a vice-President along with
American playwright Arthur Miller.
He strongly opposed the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in
Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War, the 2001 United States war in
Afghanistan, and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. He has been very active in the
current anti-war movement in the United Kingdom, speaking at rallies held
by the Stop the War Coalition. He has called the President of the United
States, George W. Bush, a "mass murderer" and the Prime Minister of the
United Kingdom, Tony Blair, both "mass-murdering" and a "deluded idiot";
he alleges that they, along with past US officials, are "war criminals."
Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize acceptance Speech in December 2005 will rank
among the greatest orations in World History. He spoke like Socrates; he
spoke like Plato; he spoke like Aristotle; he spoke like William Tell; he
spoke like Thomas More; he spoke like Winston Churchill. Even as Churchill
exposed the horrors of Nazi Germany, Harold Pinter has exposed the
brutalities of Bush and the bestialities of Blair. Let me quote his
electric words: "Political language, as used by politicians, does not
venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on
the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and
in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential
that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth,
even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast
tapestry of lies, upon which we feed".
"As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of
Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons
of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing
about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not
true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared
responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We
were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq
threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was
not true. The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do
with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it
chooses to embody it."
"Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern
Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the
widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought.
All this has been fully documented and verified".
"But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only
been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged,
let alone recognized as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed
and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands
"The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing
military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War.
I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey,
the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror
the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can
never be forgiven."
"Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries.
Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign
policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to
American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it. The crimes of the
United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but
very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to
America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide
while masquerading as a force for universal good. It"s a brilliant, even
witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."
V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.
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V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.