James's Reviews > A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit
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's review
Feb 11, 2010

it was amazing
Read from February 11 to 17, 2010

I liked it. I read it right after "The Shock Doctrine" and while that book was, well, shocking, this book's main theme is hope in the middle of hopelessness. It shatters the myth that people's natural inclination during disasters and catastrophes is to turn on each other, with looting and murdering and destructive behavior. On the contrary, the vast majority turn to help each other in acts of solidarity. Money and possessions don't matter anymore, and people share food and shelter. Its usually the elites and rules who end up creating violence and mayhem in the name of "restoring order".

Solnit uses examples like the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the Halifax explosion during WW2, the 1981 Mexico City Earthquake, and the more recent attacks on the World Trade Center, and Hurricane Katrina that nearly destroyed New Orleans (which still only has 80% of its population back 4 years later.) The media usually focuses on violence and twists things like gathering food into people "looting".

It'd be interesting to see what sort of solidarity networks are arising in Haiti that aren't being reported on.

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