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A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit
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“This is a paradise of rising to the occasion that points out by contrast how the rest of the time most of us fall down from the heights of possibility, down into diminished selves and dismal societies. Many now do not even hope for a better society, but they recognize it when they encounter it, and that discovery shines out even through the namelessness of their experience. Others recognize it, grasp it, and make something of it, and long-term social and political transformations, both good and bad, arise from the wreckage. The door to this ear's potential paradises is in hell.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“The possibility of paradise hovers on the cusp of coming into being, so much so that it takes powerful forces to keep such a paradise at bay. If paradise now arises in hell, it's because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell
“It's tempting to ask why if you fed your neighbors during the time of the earthquake and fire, you didn't do so before or after.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding. It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities. These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do. The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“...mutual aid and pleasure are linked, that the ties that bind are grounds for celebration as well as obligation.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“If paradise now arises in hell, it's because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“A comprehensive utopia may be out of reach, but the effort to realise it shapes the world for the better all the same. The belief may not be true, but it is useful. Belief makes the world.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
tags: utopia
“What you imagine as overwhelming or terrifying while at leisure becomes something you can cope with when you must-there is no time for fear.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“."Katrina was an extreme version of what goes on in many disasters,wherein how you behave depends on whether you think your neighbors or fellow citizens are a greater threat than the havoc wrought by a disaster or a greater good than the property in houses and stores around you.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Disaster doesn't sort us out by preferences; it drags us into emergencies that require we act, and act altruistically, bravely, and with initiative in order to survive or save the neighbors, no matter how we vote or what we do for a living.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Many events plant seeds, imperceptible at the time, that bear fruit long afterward.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“There is no money in what is aptly called free association: we are instead encouraged by media and advertising to fear each other and regard public life as a danger and a nuisance, to live in secured spaces, communicate by electronic means, and acquire our information from media rather than each other.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“We speak of self-fulfilling prophecies, but any belief that is acted on makes the world in its image. Beliefs matter. And so do the facts behind them. The astonishing gap between common beliefs and actualities about disaster behavior limits the possibilities, and changing beliefs could fundamentally change much more. Horrible in itself, disaster is sometimes a door back into paradise, that paradise at least in which we are who we hope to be, do the work we desire, and are each our sister's and brother's keeper.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“The Appetite Killery” may be the most ironic name, but the most famous inscription read, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may have to go to Oakland.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Opportunistic theft and burglary are, historically, rare in American disasters, rare enough that many disaster scholars consider it one of the “myths” of disaster. Some such opportunism happened in Katrina. The first thing worth saying about such theft is who cares if electronics are moving around without benefit of purchase when children’s corpses are floating in filthy water and stranded grandmothers are dying of heat and dehydration?”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“The personal and the private are most often emphasized to the exclusion of almost everything else. Even the scope of psychotherapy generally leaves out the soul, the creator, and the citizen, those aspects of being human that extend into realms beyond private life. Conventional therapy, necessary and valuable at times to resolve personal crises and suffering, presents a very incomplete sense of self. As a guide to the range of human possibility it is grimly reductive. It will help you deal with your private shames and pains, but it won't generally have much to say about your society and your purpose on earth. [...] Such a confinement of desire and possibility to the private serves the status quo as well: it describes no role for citizenship and no need for social change or engagement.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“We have, most of us, a deep desire for this democratic public life, for a voice, for membership, for purpose and meaning that cannot be only personal. We want larger selves and a larger world.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“What is the moral equivalent of war—not the equivalent of its carnage, its xenophobias, its savagery—but its urgency, its meaning, its solidarity? What else generates what he called the “civic temperament”?”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Too, the elite often believe that if they themselves are not in control, the situation is out of control, and in their fear take repressive measures that become secondary disasters.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Rumor is the first rat to infest a disaster.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Ruef attempted to reduce wages by arguing that in the crisis “there is pressing need for mutual concession,” so unskilled workmen should accept $2.50 for a nine-hour day rather than $8.00, as it had been before. What made the concession mutual was not specified.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“The first was the rapidity of the improvisation of order out of chaos.” He described how people took initiative, without leadership or coordination,”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“breaking through the barriers which life’s routine had concreted around the deeper strata of the will, and gradually bringing its unused energies into action.” And he spoke of the “stores of bottled up energy and endurance” that people in the earthquake had discovered within themselves.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“The U.S. Post Office at San Francisco forwarded unstamped mail, often written on scraps and oddments, from the survivors to destinations around the country. There were thieves, opportunists, and people who refused to help the needy, but the citizens for the most part seem to have entered a phase of solidarity that crossed many social divides and to have felt for each other deeply. There were callous and fearful authorities who lashed out, but also institutions such as the post office that just quietly broke the rules to make life a little less disastrous.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“James’s investigation concluded that human beings respond with initiative, orderliness, and helpfulness; they remain calm; and suffering and loss are transformed when they are shared experiences.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“if enjoyment is the right word for that sense of immersion in the moment and solidarity with others caused by the rupture in everyday life, an emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive. We don’t even have a language for this emotion, in which the wonderful comes wrapped in the terrible, joy in sorrow, courage in fear. We cannot welcome disaster, but we can value the responses, both practical and psychological.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Elite panic in disaster, as identified by the contemporary disaster scholars, is shaped by belief, belief that since human beings at large are bestial and dangerous, the believer must himself or herself act with savagery to ensure individual safety or the safety of his or her interests. The elites that panic are, in times of crisis, the minority, and understanding that could marginalize or even disarm them, literally and psychologically, as well as the media that magnify their message. This would help open the way to create a world more like the brief utopias that flash up in disaster.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“the phrase “elite panic” was coined by her peers, Rutgers University professors Caron Chess and Lee Clarke. Clarke told me, “Caron said: to heck with this idea about regular people panicking; it’s the elites that we see panicking. The distinguishing thing about elite panic as compared to regular-people panic, is that what elites will panic about is the possibility that we will panic. It is simply, more prosaically more important when they panic because they’re in positions of influence, positions of power. They’re in positions where they can move resources around so they can keep information close to the vest. It’s a very paternalistic orientation to governance. It’s how you might treat a child. If you’re the mayor of a city and you get bad news about something that might be coming your way and you’re worried that people might behave like little children, you don’t tell them. You presume instead that the police are going to maintain order, if the thing actually comes: a dirty bomb, a tornado, a hurricane into lower Manhattan. As we define it, elite panic, as does general panic, involves the breaking of social bonds. In the case of elite panic it involves the breaking of social bonds between people in positions that are higher than we are. . . . So there is some breaking of the social bond, and the person in the elite position does something that creates greater danger.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“Disaster myths are not politically neutral, but rather work systematically to the advantage of elites. Elites cling to the panic myth because to acknowledge the truth of the situation would lead to very different policy prescriptions than the ones currently in vogue.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
“At large in disaster are two populations: a great majority that tends toward altruism and mutual aid and a minority whose callousness and self-interest often become a second disaster.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

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