I am on Facebook; What’s on my mind? it asks. Well, I am reading three books at the moment: Naomi Klein’s stunning This Changes Everything, Michael Harris’ brilliant Party of One and Thomas Picketty’s Aha! moment, Capital in the Twenty-first Century. I like this kind of stuff so much that I bought both the hard-covers AND the talking-book versions of each of these doorstops. I am wondering what this says about me (for example: my taste in bedtime reading and the possibility that any claim to poverty is dubious). Hmmm… I am not sure.
I do know that when I was driving my fossil fuel-fuelled vehicle home from the post office where I deposited my Christmas-and-other-sorts-of-greetings cards and appeals, I had to pull over when Naomi Klein’s talking-book Yankee doppelganger told me that Louisiana shrimp fisherfolk put out of business by BP were offered, by BP, the opportunity to renovate their boats into cleaners, you know, to boom and collect and dispose of BP’s crap. They accepted the offer, well, because, nobody else was offering anything else.
I’m thinkin’ I am a reasonably well-informed environmentalist with appropriate arrests on my CV but this piece of news knee-capped me, foggy-eyed me over to the side of the road. Most of what the book covers is not unfamiliar to me but it is this kind of detail, the up-close human parts of it that make my head hurt and heart break. I am so glad that she includes the stories of unimaginable resilience on the part of our indigenous neighbours, her conviction I echo, that they, their resilience, their vision and their treaty rights hold the keys to our joint capacity to stand up to the insane, suicidal logic of orthodox capitalism, to our survival as a species. Idle no more; were they ever?
Picketty pulls back the dark veil on what our de-regulating mania has effected: returns on capital are exceeding the rate of economic growth (even if you think that unlimited economic growth within a limited biosphere seems like a fine idea), threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir up discontent and undermine democratic values.
I first encountered the jolly work of Michael Harris (too bad about his name) within the pages of Lament for an Ocean, his ‘true crime story’ on the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery. Eight years after I read that book, I started a file of clippings that I labelled, modestly, ‘100 Reasons Why NOT to Vote for Stephen Harper. I have continued to feed that file (do people actually cut, clip and file stuff these days? or is it just me?) to bursting. No more. I can toss out all of those yellowing clippings and replace it with this nice, neat 520-page list that exceeds 100 reasons by a long shot. Since its publication earlier this year, our PM has added several more, putting pressure on Mr Harris to produce the sequel.
So my minimal challenge to you is this: Depending on your relatives’ ideology (i.e., those pieces of that ideology that need challenging), choose one and give it to them for Christmas or Hanukkah or New Year’s or Epiphany or their birthday.