I love books that change the way you think. Books that force you to change your perspective on something. I’ve recently finished a book that did just that. Entitled “The Reluctant Fundementalist”, the novel focuses on a conversation that Changez -a Pakistani man- has with an unnamed American in which he buttonholes him with his life in America. We hear of Changez’ climb to success on the corporate ladder, where, after educating himself in Princeton, gets himself a very prestigious job in an assessment firm known has Underwood Samson. Underwood Samson prides it self on it’s cut-throat assessment of ailing firms, and at the beginning of the novel, Changez finds himself rather proud as well. But then things change. In the book, he was packing away his things after finally finishing his assessment of a business when he turns on the television. At first he watches what he thinks to be a movie, but then as the first, and the second plane hits the Twin Towers, he realizes that this is fact, not fiction. Changez has a strange reaction. He smiles.
Immediately you think that Changez has no heart, being completely cold towards to people that had died, as did I. But now I believe Changez, the main character of the book, is almost a chapion defending peoples right to individuality. My reasoning behind this is that I feel Changez is standing up against the almost triumphalist militarism that is american media. America is instigating a war for people’s minds, money their ammunition and media their weapon. They are bombarding us with brands and labels, and conducting subtle invasions into people’s minds, making them almost subconsciously conform to American ideals. Changez has the courage to stand up in defiance against this capitalistic regime, regardless of the ridicule he knows he will endure due to the prejudiced nature of american society. His life is turned on his head when he meets one Juan-Batista, who explains to him the story of the janissaries; young islamic boys captured by the christians to fight against their own kind, where Changez has an epiphany and realizes that HE is a modern-day janissary, working as a soldier for the visceral, apathetic business, Underwood Samson (US) which is representative of the capitalistic regime that is the American economy. One could say he’s a villain, but the reason he smiled was not because of the people who died, in fact further on in the novel he goes on to say that he had genuine sympathy for the families of the people who died, but smiled because he appreciated the symbolism of it; the Towers representing the castle that is the headquarters of commercialism, and the planes representing an attack at the very heart of capitalistic greed. Viewing the situation from this kind of perspective, I can’t help but ask myself: “Is Islamic fundamentalism as antagonistic as it is made out to be?”
This is why I question the capabilities of media. It’s daunting to think how easily our opinions and thoughts can be influenced by something that people in high-backed chairs pretty much order us to do.