Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ill Fares the Land

I know I have yet to chronicle my experience with Knitting Sprawl in Vancouver but that will take some photo editing and actual thinking, and after nearly a week of driving, at minimum, seven hours/day, I am feeling a little too fried. We are just east of South Bend, IN today. Tomorrow, Pennsylvania. Things begin to look more familiar.

We all have had a fair amount of time to read on this trip. Finn and Lucy have gobbled up books and then re-read them as needed. I have read a somewhat strange, diverse range of books: a biography of the Buddha by Karen Armstrong, Anthony Bourdain's latest book, some of Finn and Lucy's books including a really gripping story by the wonderful Philip Pullman. And i have been reading a book that feels very important, Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt.

Ill Fares the Land started as a talk Mr. Judt gave at NYU. It become an article for The New York Review of Books and, subsequently, this short book. In all three forms, it is his call for people who lean leftward politically to re-think how they talk about what their aspirations are for the future. He acknowledges the current state of affairs where anyone who shows compassion for their neighbor is branded as, and thus dismissed, a socialist. He makes a compelling case for reworking the language of our arguments to neutralize this kind of immediate polarization and he does an excellent job laying out a history of how this came to be - especially how we in North America and in the UK, have replaced the goal of creating a society that promotes doing good for people with a society that judges and makes a priority of only things that make "economic sense." And he points out that the generally accepted myths about capitalism and privatization are actually mostly false.

It is an eye-opening book and one that I think has great value for anyone who wishes to see a change in the political dialogue and general atmosphere in the US, particularly. (Canada mostly comes off looking pretty good in comparison, which is not surprising.)

I think it might also be worth noting that Mr. Judt is suffering from the late stages of Lou Gehring's Disease or ALS and is completely paralyzed. The book has a kind of urgency that one might imagine comes from looking death square in the face.

Here is a link to an article about him in the New York Times. It has relevant links to his other works.

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