I finally finished this after slogging through it for two weeks, and it was definitely worth it. Besides being a good refresher in U.S. history, partiI finally finished this after slogging through it for two weeks, and it was definitely worth it. Besides being a good refresher in U.S. history, particularly from a non-nationalist perspective, I learned a lot about people's movements, and the ways that people (as opposed to 'the great men of history') have created change in our country.
It's good to know that some of what Zinn covers in A People's History, even though unorthodox at the time he wrote it, has already filtered into public education. For instance, it was very clearly taught in my high school U.S. history course that Columbus was not the genteel 'discoverer' of the Americas but rather the wealth-obsessed leader of a genocide against indigenous people in the Caribbean. However, we didn't cover the fact that even as late as the 1960s and '70s the U.S. government was supporting violence against American Indians. Or that 'equal protection' under the 14th amendment was granted to corporations many decades before it was granted to women. (Literally, judges declared that corporations were considered 'persons' - just as they had finally said black men were persons and not just property - and then they later ruled that the term didn't apply to women.) And we certainly didn't cover the continuous use of military forces by both corporations and government against worker protests, events like the Ludlow Massacre (a strike by miners against the Rockefeller family's Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation), where first the Rockefeller's own hired thugs, and then the government's attempts to bring in strikebreakers, did not break the determination of the workers, and eventually the National Guard launched machine gun fire on a tent colony of workers and their families. And while we maybe mentioned the death of civilians at Hiroshima, we didn't talk about the millions of civilians killed by U.S. troops in the Philippines, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and both directly/indirectly in numerous Central and South American countries.
The gist of Zinn's book (and this is a long gist, but it's a long book): the U.S. was founded to protect the interests of the wealthy, and continuous class conflict has been suppressed regularly through the creation of nationalist sentiment, as well as through the pitting of oppressed social groups one against the other (for instance, poor blacks against poor whites, or the lower class against the middle class). Furthermore, as we have accepted 'history' as it has been given to us in school textbooks, we've allowed ourselves both to believe the myth that 'the people' are actually represented by the government, and that we have democracy, while allowing a rich elite to maintain power and help create the continuous war economy we now live in, in which we continuously say we cannot afford to provide people with jobs, food, or education, but yet somehow shell out trillions to military contractors to create weapons we should never even be thinking about using.
Some of this I had already picked up here and there, but Zinn's book is a sort of a thick concentration of it all, a thorough look at who "we" as the United States really are. While certainly not a pretty self-portrait, it does end on a hopeful note: 'the people' have created change, and we can do it again. The catch: change has always been achieved by direct action (violent and non-violent). It has never been achieved by voting....more
Some thinkers have the ability to use common sense almost like a knife, cutting apart commonly held ideas to expose the false presuppositions on whichSome thinkers have the ability to use common sense almost like a knife, cutting apart commonly held ideas to expose the false presuppositions on which they are based. Lummis is such a thinker, and his examination of modern political and economic culture reveals the anti-democratic core of our society, from the structure of our political institutions to our organization of work (including the anti-democratic nature of many machines and managerial culture). Lummis' analysis in itself may not be very surprising. What is perhaps more unique about his work is its hopeful outlook. It is not a critique intended merely to create dissatisfaction with the status quo (though certainly it achieves that); ultimately, it aims to persuade us in the potential for public hope in the possibility of a different type of world, in "democratic faith," and in the desirability and feasibility of trusting in others - not in systems, institutions, or governments, but in actual people. I think that Lummis manages to accomplish this and does so in a realistic, non-naive fashion. The book is also highly readable (I would say enjoyably so), which is also something of a rarity for the depth of the ideas it contains....more
A challenging collection of essays, poems, and writings from third world women/women of color in the U.S. The writers address the racism present in theA challenging collection of essays, poems, and writings from third world women/women of color in the U.S. The writers address the racism present in the women's movement at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s, as well as discuss the challenges they face as women of color in the U.S. and as feminists (and/or lesbians) in their communities of color.
Many of the pieces are moving; some are anger-inspiring (sometimes in solidarity with the authors, sometimes against the authors); and almost all led me to deeper reflection on my own experiences as a woman, and how my specific background shapes my conception of what it is to be a feminist, or how I understand and interact with other women.
And undoubtedly the book as a whole problematizes the idea of one woman or group of women speaking for 'all women,' and begins to articulate an understanding of how racism, sexism, and homophobia are knit together (along with capitalism), and the various ways in which each of these impact individual women and their communities throughout the U.S.
[Also, it's worth noting that the book contains Audre Lorde's essay "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," which should definitely be read.]...more
Whether or not you agree with Singer on many of his key points (the ethical status of animals, cells, or infants, for example), you have to admit: heWhether or not you agree with Singer on many of his key points (the ethical status of animals, cells, or infants, for example), you have to admit: he knows how to make one hell of an argument. This book contains some of his more classic essays on animal liberation with newer pieces handling topics including in vitro fertilization, abortion, and global poverty....more
I picked this book up after I (sadly) missed the showing of What Would Jesus Buy? when it was in Chicago for just a week.
If you've seen the trailer foI picked this book up after I (sadly) missed the showing of What Would Jesus Buy? when it was in Chicago for just a week.
If you've seen the trailer for the film (at http://www.wwjbmovie.com/) you might be a little unsure, as I was, of what to expect from a book by the Rev. Billy himself. A sermon against consumerism? Directions on how to join the Church of Stop Shopping, and how to engage in actions against Starbucks? Pure entertainment and jokes about Starbucks and Disney?
There's a little bit of all of this in Bill Talen's book, but there is also an amazing depth that I wasn't necessarily expecting. The reader comes face-to-face with much of the soul-searching that induced Talen to create the persona of Rev. Billy, and the difficulties in managing that persona (for instance, a sudden inability to get in-character immediately before a Starbucks action), as well as his compassion and vision for what our culture has and could be. Talen's take on consumerism is not merely that it is causing the exploitation of people around the world, environmental destruction, and the disappearance of our own neighborhoods and their cultural institutions (though all these factor into why he does what he does). But in addition to these key issues, Talen sees the very reason many of us shop - to satisfy our own needs and desires - as undermining our very ability to do that; undermining our ability to have self, interpersonal, and communal fulfillment. The development of the reflex to buy a thing whenever we need something, when we have nothing to do, when we want something; and especially our unwillingness to think about where the object we are buying comes from, what its effect on our community will be, and what place it will have in our own lives, ultimately destroys an aspect of each person's own creativity: our ability to live with the unknown - that unknown of our possibilities, that come from ourselves, and not from some company manufacturing previously unneeded goods. We should not merely stop shopping to save others or save the planet; we should stop shopping to save the depth of ourselves that is possible, both emotional, social, and spiritual.
There is a way in which Talen is not saying anything new. Many have known for sometime that the mere accumulation of goods is no measure of improved quality of life, and that at a certain point it may in fact harm life itself. But such messages need to be said in new ways for every generation, and I think this book represents Talen's ability to do precisely that with warmth, honesty, and comic ingenuity....more
The summary: the academic 'job market' is a myth; most PhD students are not preparing for an academic teaching job, but currently holding the only one they'll ever have. The university, following the corporate model of the rest of America's service industry, is involved in a massive casualization of its labor force, in which tenure-track positions are the rarity, and part-time, low wage jobs for current graduate students and recent PhD's is the norm.
I read through quite a bit of environmental philosophy this past term, and have also read my fair share of nature literature in the past. And, at thisI read through quite a bit of environmental philosophy this past term, and have also read my fair share of nature literature in the past. And, at this point in time, this book ranks at the top of my list for both those genres.
Blending criticism of nature writers like Muir and Abbey with personal introspection and insightful analysis into current environmentalism and environmental politics, Oates simultaneously pulls apart many of the long-standing images and myths underpinning our current understandings of 'nature,' and begins to formulate in their stead a conception of both wilderness and wildness much more in tune with an anthropology that views humans as simultaneously natural and cultural, as truly of and with the earth, not as the unnatural outsiders who can only destroy it. (And he does this all in such beautiful writing that some might doubt his standing as an academic.)
The book is an important addition to the environmental literature critiquing the perspective contained in something like Bill McKibben's The End of Nature. I think any environmentalist whose outlook is shaped by McKibben's analysis would be well-served to read Oates as a way of deepening their understanding of how to approach solving environmental problems....more
Think I'll put this aside for now. Read Part I ("The Courses"), and I've read pieces of Part 2 before but would like to take a slower pace in reconsidThink I'll put this aside for now. Read Part I ("The Courses"), and I've read pieces of Part 2 before but would like to take a slower pace in reconsidering essays like "Technology of the Self" and "What is Enlightenment?"...more
Nice collection. The tone of all the essays was perhaps a little too similar - I sometimes felt they could have all been written by the same author, dNice collection. The tone of all the essays was perhaps a little too similar - I sometimes felt they could have all been written by the same author, despite portraying such different experiences and circumstances. But a great set of reflections for anyone interested in thinking about intentionally shaping their own relationships and family, especially in ways that are not strictly conventional....more
Picked this randomly off a shelf at the library and thus far it's amazing. Most down-to-earth description of what genuine 'freedom' is that I've readPicked this randomly off a shelf at the library and thus far it's amazing. Most down-to-earth description of what genuine 'freedom' is that I've read in awhile....more