iMahal Interview Series:
July 22, 2001
From an early age you had an international view about life, which is not all that common for young people in the US. And it seems you were given an early awareness about commerce and governments.
Yes, that's true. But I viewed government as having dishonest policies. My earliest television memory is seeing the Watergate trials and then seeing Richard Nixon resign. I have a vivid memory of watching the resignation speech with my brother, who was an infant at the time, and my mother. There was this palpable sense of quietness in my house. In fact, during the whole Watergate period there was an odd feeling in my home. There was something going on that was distracting everybody. I wasn't very old and I don't think I was old enough to understand exactly what was happening, but I realized that there was an important historical event that was occurring. I think experiences such as this made me wary of autocratic and authoritarian structures. In a way it led to the type of person that I am today, because I've always tried to question things and tried to find models that explain how systems operate.
I think events like Watergate are an example of an important influence in my upbringing: historical events that I either witnessed or came into contact with or which I experienced vicariously through my grandfather. My grandfather was persecuted in the 1950s. He was one of the victims of McCarthyism.
When Joe McCarthy was on his witch hunt, my grandfather was brought to trial as a communist, which he wasn't. In fact almost anybody who was a "Spanish Republican," meaning an anti-fascist loyal to the democratically elected Spanish government, had some taint of communism or socialism about them. This was particularly true since the president of the Spanish Republic, Juan Negrin, effectively led a communist government. People who spoke out for the Spanish Republicans went around and lectured to any group in the United States who would listen to them, and a lot of those groups were socialist, communist, or anarchist. So I am also very aware of the fact that, although we live in a country where we feel we experience a great degree of personal freedom, even in the US political sentiment can quickly turn and move into a reactionary mode, in a way where freedom becomes limited.
..My grandfather was persecuted in the 1950s..
All photographs copyright and courtesy of David Gimbel or Archaeos