This a source book of political hopefulness, if such a thing can actually exist in these times. Indeed, it seems one must put on a mocking voice to even whisper of hope for mankind in the era of suicide bombers.
So I feel some admiration for the courage of this collection’s editor. His introduction states the purpose: there must be some foundation for positive political activism in our discouraging times, and literature can help. To this I say, damn right. I like this book, and I recommend it as a Christmas present for anybody you know how has moral values and doesn’t know what to do with them, or anybody who doesn’t have moral values but might eventually develop them.
Loeb’s introduction tells of watching legendary South African dissident Archbishop Desmond Tutu unself-consciously dance at a Los Angeles benefit. “Tutu, I realized, knew how to have a good time,” Loeb tells us, and that points to his book’s message: political activism should be as natural as smiling, breathing, dancing. We need to engage because it is our basic nature to do so, and when it is hardest and most discouraging to engage is probably when it’s needed the most.
The book offers new and previously published writings from Jonathan Kozol, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Wendell Berry, Seamus Heaney, Sherman Alexie, Pablo Neruda, Jim Hightower, Arundhati Roy, Ariel Dorfman, Cornel West, Alice Walker and Sam Hamill. Some are good, some are routine, but it works together as an effective package of do-goodism. Yeah, this stuff can be corny. But remember what W. H. Auden tells us, reprinted here on page 58: “Hunger allows no choice / to the citizen or the police / We must love one another or die”. I think so.