Despite its sub-title, this book's message is not particularly confrontational. The author simply lays out the arguments as to why liberalism has a grDespite its sub-title, this book's message is not particularly confrontational. The author simply lays out the arguments as to why liberalism has a great tradition of enacting the kinds of social changes that have made America great. He also points out that most Americans, when polled, actually side with the liberal philosophy on most major issues; but, due to the misrepresentation of the liberal position that has been occurring over the past many years by the right-wing talk show hosts, etc., many Americans don't even know what the true liberal positions on many issues are. He laments the fact that the current radical conservatives have managed to transform the meaning of the word `liberal' in the minds of so many Americans into something akin to the words `terrorist' or 'traitor'. This coup has been accomplished through the brilliant, aggressive, and organized utilization of the media by radcons who spread their message of contempt for all who disagree with them.
Much of this book is devoted to analyzing the disparity that has been growing between the have-mores and the have-lesses. This disparity also evidences itself at the polls and in political activism -- the have-lesses are less likely to vote and to participate in the political process in general. The author rightly seeks to reverse this trend. It is in the best interest of the have-lesses to become more involved. It is also in the best interest of all of us to become more educated and to have the courage to make our voices heard and to counter the misinformation that is so prevalent in our society.
Most everyone would benefit from reading this. No one will agree with everything the author talks about, I certainly disagreed with him on several points, but the overall message is that those who disagree with us may actually have some valid points and that a less-divisive America, where all sides of an issue can be heard and discussed rationally, is a much better America....more
I was a little hesitant to read something else by Edward Abbey. I had read his masterpiece, Desert Solitaire, and I consider it perhaps my all-time faI was a little hesitant to read something else by Edward Abbey. I had read his masterpiece, Desert Solitaire, and I consider it perhaps my all-time favorite non-fiction book. Wouldn't anything else by the same author prove to be only a let down? Fortunately, this one was great -- not as good as Desert Solitaire, but certainly not a disappointment.
A collection of essays on travel, adventure, and nature -- with copious spatterings of his personal musings on civilization, politics, and life -- Down the River is classic Edward Abbey. I'll just let him speak for himself in these few passages that I found especially inspiring. The first is actually re-quoted directly from Henry David Thoreau's Walden:
By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, [the mass of men] are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before. . . . I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous. . . . As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
We hear the demand by conventional economists for increased "productivity." Productivity of what? for whose benefit? to what end? by what means and at what cost? Those questions are not considered. We are belabored by the insistence on the part of our politicians, businessmen and military leaders, and the claque of scriveners who serve them, that "growth" and "power" are intrinsic goods, of which we can never have enough, or even too much. As if gigantism were an end in itself. As if a commendable rat were a rat twelve hands high at the shoulders -- and still growing. As if we could never have peace on this planet until one state dominates all others.
How much wilderness is enough? And what is it good for anyway? Who needs it? We might answer these questions with counter questions. How many cities are enough? How large a human population do we really need? How much industrial development must we have to be content?
Consider our politics, for example: the right to choose once every two or four years between Party A and Party B, Candidate C and Candidate D is a pitiful gesture in the exercise of freedom, hardly deserving of the name of citizenship.
I would have loved to meet Edward Abbey even though I am sure I would not have liked him in person. I am even more sure that he would not have liked me. The word cantankerous seems to aptly fit him, perhaps arrogant also. But despite that, I find him interesting. I truly admire his wit and intellect, and I envy his ability to put into clever and beautiful words so many of the same thoughts and descriptions that float around so disorganized in my own head....more