Guns, Germs, and Steel begins with a white man speaking condescendingly to an Indigenous man about why natural resources were not exploited by the tribe, but rather colonizers. I never made it through that book, but I kept it for years thinking that there was perhaps some hidden truth that I was unable to uncover. Five years ago, I donated it because I realized that the aggressive paternalism at the beginning was offensive, and I had no interest in seeing what the author had to say based on the glorification of the violence of colonialism. I have been able to think critically about whether I truly agreed with the information that I have been presented with not just because of my education, but the circles in which I have found myself. Part of the reason that propaganda has been allowed to explode is because most people have neither the time nor the resources to consider whether they are being presented with a falsehood as truth.
Most of the books in public libraries support the dominant narrative, which is one of the reasons that book burning has once again become fashionable. We are lucky to living a digital age when a “burning” can be symbolic, but unless one pursues an image other than the one presented by the dominant narrative, one will be bombarded with images about how the United States was a utopia founded on freedom. School curriculums also perpetuate the dominant narrative because they train people to look for information in such a way that people are not curious to see less than flattering images of the United States. If people are trained to be compliant instead of curious, they will not look for information that challenges their way of thought. After all, the reason that parents are attacking “critical race theory” is because a violent disposal of colonization while perpetuating genocide and chattel slavery distorts the image projected by the Founding Fathers–who are also cult leaders in that they shaped a false narrative of the things they did, and people believed them.
People may argue that many resources are available online, and that most people are tech-savvy and find whatever they want regardless of internet controls. First of all, we still have a digital divide in this country, so not everyone has access to everything. Also, quality matters, because slow internet means that people will need more time to consume, download, and process information, which almost no one has because of the rising costs of living. Audiobooks of differing opinions is also a problem, because just like it takes time to read, edit, and post podcast episodes, it takes even more time–and definitely money–to create audiobooks of differing opinions. Therefore, visually impaired or illiterate people are still constantly being bombarded with the dominant narrative, and can feel alienated if people discuss outside ideology in depth. These are only some of the reasons that people with differing ideas, regardless of income, are seen as “elite” since people are so isolated from new information.
The privilege of access is problematic because abusive societies can portray themselves however they want. In Rich Thanks to Racism, the author discusses the various policies that have been enacted that are truly racist, but have the guise of “progress.” For example, he mentions that public schools in places of color are shut down while public schools in predominantly white communities remain; people acknowledge the value of a community base while denying it to those they consider inferior. Moreover, he discusses how criminality is colorized even though drug use among the wealthy is more rampant than the service class could hope to imagine; the only difference is that lawyers can be funded and politicians can be “persuaded” to look the other way for white perpetrators. However, even in that book, there is still an insistence that the dominant narrative could work if the racism could be eliminated.
We are only now getting narratives from BIPOCQ authors because all of the grassroots writing was available online, too many people started talking to each other, and heads were finally turned towards those who were making the messes in the world instead of those who were simply trying to live. Bright Green Lies is a recent publication that finally confirms the true cost of all the supposed alternatives that people praise, and admits that the dominant narrative must fail in order for the planet survive. It is a documentary, book, and audiobook because some people are finally using their privilege to tell us what we refused to admit to ourselves: we have to stop. The hyperconsumptive, hyperindividualistic and violent society has got to stop, or everyone on the planet is going to die. This media was produced for distribution after the ocean caught on fire and the United States privatized a public vaccine, and this project was completed by white men who admit that they have been part of the problem.
Not having access to information that can change our mindsets is why everyone was itching to return to the dominant narrative after the vaccine arrived. We should all be putting more thought into our actions, and the pandemic could have taught us that, but not everyone had the opportunity to consider that because not everyone is experiencing the same pandemic. People who are truly committed to justice understand that flattering images that absolve us of all wrongdoing contribute to the decline of communities, including mental health. We have to do better than obsessively watching corporate media that tells us what we want to hear.