Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

‘...But Jardown is awake’

Within Rabih Alameddine’s sprawling novel, The Hakawati (The Storyteller), is a fairytale: the story of Jardown (“the rat”), a little boy smaller but cleverer than his comrades who rescues them by outwitting a monster into whose power they have fallen.

An alert young rat

Small but alert: Such is Jardown.
[ Image Source: Unknown ]

Finding itself unequal to eating all the boys at once, the monster resolves to wait for them all to go to sleep and then eat them one by one. But Jardown is suspicious and remains awake. When the monster feels enough time has passed, it goes to the boys’ door and asks, “Who is asleep and who is awake?”

From the room comes a voice: “Everyone is asleep but Jardown is awake.”

The monster asks what Jardown needs to go to sleep, whereupon the latter sends it first to bake him a loaf of bread, and then, when it finishes this task near dawn, he tells it to fetch him a glass of water from a nearby river with a sieve. While the monster busies itself in this chore, the boys make a run for it and swim across the river. When the monster sees them, it asks how to cross the river, whereupon Jardown advises it to strap a millstone around its neck and walk across. The monster drowns, and Jardown and friends escape unharmed.


This article is not current; it was written in 2007 and refers repeatedly to the Bush and Clinton administrations, although surprisingly it already mentions Barack Obama in a minor role. However, the content is (unfortunately) imperishable: It could as well have been written yesterday or two decades ago. Like many another article, it discusses the US mass media in terms of Noam Chomsky’s “propaganda model”; however, it does this from the perspective of an insider: John Pilger has been a reporter for many years and knows the field only too well.

I do not propose to rehash either that model or what Pilger says about it here; if you want that information, you need merely read the article, which I advise anyone who cares about the future of journalism to do, and have a look at Chomsky’s books on the subject. As a long-time journalist (both military and civilian) in my own right, I have also addressed this matter many times.

My purpose here, however, is to offer a rare tribute to (some of) my fellow Americans.

When one rightly considers the scale and pervasive ubiquity of the indoctrination that passes for news and culture, it is hardly surprising that the benumbed majority remains content to shuffle somnambulistically from cradle to tomb. Raised in a media environment of national exceptionalism (the myth that one’s country is, more or less by definition, a special place differing from and superior to all others), lulled by consumer culture (the notion that the shortcomings of life can be remedied by buying things), distracted by trivia (sports and celebrolatry) and essentially mesmerized by the kaleidoscopic images and thundering aural effects that make television so lethally spellbinding, many people never have a chance: They never really awake, never really understand the sinister purpose of all this pageantry.

And yet, somehow, a tiny flame of consciousness still flickers. Despite the canards depicting them as a nation of mental slugs who neither know nor care to know, despite the incessant winds of propaganda that would extinguish their awareness, some Americans struggle against the Lethean tide, stay awake, and strive to deliver their countrymen from the monster that is their pathocratic corporate state.

Our deadliest enemy is also our most seductive addiction. I know this, for I once slept under the narcosis of television. But one day in November of 2001, television pushed me too hard, and I pushed back: Our television was gone that day, nevermore to return. And then, gradually, I awoke and began to see, all too clearly, what my country really represents.

Today, therefore, I sleep no more. Nor am I alone. And when the pathocrat looks upon us and asks, we can bid it defiance and proudly say, “Everyone is asleep but Jardown is awake.”

Originally published as a review of an article on the media as seen by reporter John Pilger.

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