Scott Reintgen

Sep. 20th, 2017 06:05 am
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Scott Reintgen has spent his career as a teacher of English and creative writing in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. The hardest lesson he learned was that inspiration isn’t equally accessible for everyone. So he set out to write a novel for the front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms.

Reintgen's latest novel is Nyxia.

Recently I asked the author about what he

Lisa Berne

Sep. 19th, 2017 12:05 am
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Lisa Berne read her first Georgette Heyer book at fourteen, and was instantly captivated. Later, she was a graduate student, a teacher, and a grant writer — and is now an author of historical romance.

Berne's latest novel is The Laird Takes a Bride.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:I’m slowly making my way through Jane Austen’s Letters, a great thick
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Posted by The Reader


Official Author Website
Buy the book HERE

OFFICIAL BLURB: Humans, orcs, mages, elves, and dwarves all jostle for success and survival in the cramped quarters of Yenara, while understaffed Watch Wardens struggle to keep its citizens in line.

Enter Rem: new to Yenara and hungover in the city dungeons with no money for bail. When offered a position with the Watch to compensate for his crimes, Rem jumps at the chance.

His new partner is less eager. Torval, a dwarf who's handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later, is highly unimpressed with the untrained and weaponless Rem.

But when Torval's former partner goes missing, the two must consort with the usual suspects -- drug dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans -- to uncover the truth and catch a murderer loose in their fair city.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:The Fifth Ward: First Watch’ is the action-packed debut to Dale LucasFifth Ward Series. One of Orbit’s many, and varied, debut novels to be released in 2017, the ‘First Watch’ is a genre crossover of fantasy and crime, lauded as ‘Lethal Weapon meets Lord of the Rings’. Playing on elements of ‘buddy cop’ tv shows, including the friendship between the two leads, a human newbie and a veteran-watchwarden dwarf, the story explores what the ‘boys in blue’ do when there isn’t a dark lord/lady threatening to destroy the world, in this welcomingly familiar and fun story.

THE GOOD: A nice step-change from recent releases (grimdark and epic-tomes, specifically), ‘The First Watch’ is an easy read, both in terms of structure and style. Familiar for its obvious links to police/cop tv shows (even in the way it’s episodic in its storytelling), and even more so for its familiar faces of fantasy (humans, dwarves, elves and orcs), yet different for its willingness to explore something that not a lot of other books do: what do the good guys do day-to-day?

THE BAD: On the note of ‘easy read’ and ‘episodic’, the story does suffer slightly from tension issues, in that it doesn’t really peak at any one point. Instead, chapters read like episodes of said police/tv cop shop, with their own self-contained level of tension, issues, climaxes, and where appropriate, cliffhangers. Also, maybe because all of this (the fantasy and crime elements) feels striking familiar throughout, it doesn’t do anything ‘new’.

THE UGLY TRUTH: ‘The First Watch’ is the perfect summer read, if you’re looking for something light and easy to dive into ‘by the pool’ (or in my case, between kids asking ‘come play, dad, come play!’). It’s easy to pick-up and start again from where you left off, thanks to its structure, lending itself a page-turning pace, even though it suffers from some tension-issues. I’ve never read a ‘boys (and girls) in blue’ story in fantasy before (and I’m fully aware of the many urban fantasy books out there) but I was struck by how familiar this felt to me. Between the elements of high(er) fantasy and the down-in-the-gutter lows of crime, whilst the ‘middle’ of the two was original, I didn’t feel that there was anything ‘new’ or ‘genre breaking’. Plenty of genre ‘definers’ here, but I felt that there was a missed opportunity to really take this somewhere new. That being said, this is a case of ‘do cross the streams’, as it was ‘new and exciting’ (in buzzword terms), and I highly recommend it to readers looking for something between bigger, badder readers, because you’ll still have plenty of ‘badass’ in ‘The First Watch’.

Full review: This is probably one of the trickiest reviews I’ve had to write to date. I really enjoyed this book, but I did have a few issues with it. (The original was well over 2,000 words, so I’ve had to cut it down!)

The First Watch’ does exactly what it says on the tin. ‘Lethal Weapon meets Lord of the Rings’. Police/cop tv show meets fantasy.

Lethal Weapon and Police/cop tv show? Buddy cop duo, check. Crime (petty and serious), check. Henchmen and goons, check. Fisticuffs and barroom brawls, check. ‘Clues’, check. Behind-the-scenes ‘bad guy’ plot, check.

Lord of the rings/fantasy? Elves, check. Orcs, check. Dwarves, check. Swords and sorcery, check.

We’re introduced to Rem, who through circumstance (or consequence, depending on how you look at it), joins ‘the Fifth Watch’, one-of five policing forces that watch over the wards of the city of Yenara. Partnering up with Torval, a dwarven veteran of the wardwatch, the reader finds themselves sucked into a criminal-mastermind operation, alongside Rem and Torval, as they seek out clues, suspects, and a way to bring it altogether. As you’d expect from the police/cop tv show side of it, the seemingly unrelated crimes and events are in fact part of something bigger, and it’s down to Rem and Torval to figure out what, before the criminals figure out that they’re onto them…

This is a remarkably easy and fun book to read, for a lot of reasons. The prose, although a little purple at times, is styled simple and straightforward; and the structure is set out so that the chapters are episodic. It would make for a perfect Netflix series, in which every episode focuses on a specific crime or development in the case, all the while building the bigger plot in the background, seemingly tying all the smaller crimes into the big one.

This episodic approach is great, especially if like me you're looking for something easy to get your teeth into (I'd come off the back grimdark epics and I needed something light, both in tone and tempo), but – and there's always going to be a but – the story also suffers because of this. Because each chapter is an episode, the overall tension of the novel doesn't really peak, as you’d expect. Instead, each chapter blips like a heart rate monitor.

Keeping with the comparison to the police/cop elements, the story is also somewhat let down by things that hold back police/cop shows. For example, the supporting cast for the most part fall by the wayside, especially those ‘in the Watch’.

And, don’t expect to go into this with the ‘hollywood’ version of police officers in mind. There’s no huge car chase (or in fantasy terms, horse and cart chases), no ticking-time bombs (literally or figuratively), no big shoot-outs. What there is, however, is plenty of heart and hope.

CONCLUSION: So, in closing, I have rambled on…a lot. And a lot more in the original 2,000 words+ version. But, in amongst the many, many, many tangents, I hope I have made one thing clear. I really, really enjoyed this book. It was the breath of fresh air that I needed after some heavier reading. I loved the blossoming bromance between Rem and Torval I was caught-up in the action. And above all else, I was happy to lock myself up and throw away the key to my cell just to finish this book in the early hours of the morning, because the kids kept distracting me in the days.

Oh, I hope another thing clear, too.

Buy. This. Book.

Robin Merrow MacCready

Sep. 17th, 2017 02:05 pm
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Robin Merrow MacCready is the author of Buried, recipient of the Edgar Award for Best YA novel. She teaches reading and writing to middle school students, and lives in Maine with her family.

MacCready's latest YA novel is A Lie for a Lie.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:My reading list is a combination of books for kids and whatever my current writing

Jamie Ford

Sep. 16th, 2017 02:05 pm
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp.

His books include Hotel on the

Temple Mathews

Sep. 15th, 2017 02:05 pm
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Temple Mathews, a graduate of the University of Washington and a producer at the American Film Institute, has written dozens of half-hour animation TV episodes and several animated and live action features and direct-to-DVD and video films. His credits include the Walt Disney animated feature films Return to Neverland and The Little Mermaid 2 and the MGM feature film Picture This!

Mathews's

Urge, Splurge, Purge

Sep. 15th, 2017 09:32 am
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Posted by monbiot

The demand for perpetual economic growth, and the collective madness it provokes, leads inexorably to environmental collapse

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 13th September 2017

 

There was “a flaw” in the theory: this is the famous admission by Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve, to a congressional inquiry into the 2008 financial crisis. His belief that the self-interest of the lending institutions would lead automatically to the correction of financial markets had proved wrong.

Now, in the midst of the environmental crisis, we await a similar admission. We may be waiting some time.

For, as in Greenspan’s theory of the financial system, there cannot be a problem. The market is meant to be self-correcting: that’s what the theory says. As Milton Friedman, one of the architects of neoliberal ideology, put it, “Ecological values can find their natural space in the market, like any other consumer demand”. As long as environmental goods are correctly priced, neither planning nor regulation are required. Any attempt by governments or citizens to change the likely course of events is unwarranted and misguided.

But there’s a flaw. Hurricanes do not respond to market signals. The plastic fibres in our oceans, food and drinking water do not respond to market signals. Nor does the collapse of insect populations, or coral reefs, or the extirpation of orangutans from Borneo. The unregulated market is as powerless in the face of these forces as the people in Florida who resolved to fight Hurricane Irma by shooting it. It is the wrong tool, the wrong approach, the wrong system.

There are two inherent problems with the pricing of the living world and its destruction. The first is that it depends on attaching a financial value to items – such as human life, species and ecosystems – that cannot be redeemed for money. The second is that it seeks to quantify events and processes that cannot be reliably predicted.

Environmental collapse does not progress by neat increments. You can estimate the money you might make from building an airport: this is likely to be linear and fairly predictable. But you cannot reasonably estimate the environmental cost the airport might incur. Climate breakdown will behave like a tectonic plate in an earthquake zone: periods of comparative stasis followed by sudden jolts. Any attempt to compare economic benefit with economic cost in such cases is an exercise in false precision.

Even to discuss such flaws is a kind of blasphemy, because the theory allows no role for political thought and action. The system is supposed to operate not through deliberate human agency, but through the automatic writing of the invisible hand. Our choice is confined to deciding which goods and services to buy. But even this is illusory. A system that depends on growth can survive only if we progressively lose our ability to make reasoned decisions. After our needs, then strong desires, then faint desires have been met, we must keep buying goods and services we neither need nor want, induced by marketing to abandon our discriminating faculties and succumb instead to impulse.

You can now buy a selfie toaster, that burns an image of your own face onto your bread – the Turin Shroud of toast. You can buy beer for dogs and wine for cats; a toilet roll holder that sends a message to your phone when the paper is running out; a $30 branded brick; a hairbrush that informs you whether or not you are brushing your hair correctly. Panasonic intends to produce a mobile fridge that, in response to a voice command, will deliver beers to your chair.

Urge, splurge, purge: we are sucked into a cycle of compulsion followed by consumption, followed by the periodic detoxing of ourselves or our homes, like Romans making themselves sick after eating, so that we can cram more in. Continued economic growth depends on continued disposal: unless we rapidly junk the goods we buy, it fails. The growth economy and the throwaway society cannot be separated. Environmental destruction is not a by-product of this system. It is a necessary element.

The environmental crisis is an inevitable result not just of neoliberalism – the most extreme variety of capitalism – but of capitalism itself. Even the social democratic (Keynesian) kind depends on perpetual growth on a finite planet: a formula for eventual collapse. But the peculiar contribution of neoliberalism is to deny that action is necessary; to insist that the system, like Greenspan’s financial markets, is inherently self-regulating. The myth of the self-regulating market accelerates the destruction of the self-regulating Earth.

What cannot be admitted must be denied. Ten years ago this week, Matt Ridley, as chair of Northern Rock, helped to cause the first run on a British bank since 1878. This triggered the financial crisis in the UK. Now, in his new incarnation as a Times columnist, he continues to demonstrate his unerring ability to assess risk, by insisting that we needn’t worry about hurricanes: as long as there’s enough money to keep bailing us out, we’ll be fine.

Ridley, who helped to destroy the hopes of millions, is one of the faces of the “New Optimism”, which claims that life is becoming inexorably better. This vision relies on downplaying or dismissing the predictions of environmental scientists. We cannot buy our way out of a process that could, through a combination of heat stress, aridity, sea level rise and crop failure, render large parts of the habited world hostile to human life, and that, through sudden jolts, could translate environmental crisis into financial crisis.

In April, Bloomberg News, drawing on a report by the US federal mortgage corporation, Freddie Mac, investigated the possibility that climate breakdown could cause a collapse in real estate prices in Florida. It looked only at the impact of sea level rise – hurricanes were not considered. It warned that a bursting of the coastal property bubble “could spread through banks, insurers and other industries. And, unlike the recession, there’s no hope of a bounce back in property values.” The sigh of relief from insurers and financiers when Hurricane Irma, whose intensity is likely to have been enhanced by global heating, changed course at the last minute could be heard around the world.

This year, for the first time, three of the five global risks with the greatest potential impact listed by the World Economic Forum were environmental. A fourth (water crises) has a strong environmental component. If an economic crisis is caused by the environmental crisis, it will be the second crash in which Matt Ridley will have played a part.

They bailed out the banks. But as the storms keep rolling in, you’ll have to bail out your own flooded home. There is no environmental rescue plan: to admit the need for one would be to admit that the economic system is based on a series of delusions. The environmental crisis demands a new ethics, politics and economics. A few of us are groping towards it, but it cannot be left to the scattered efforts of independent thinkers: this should now be humanity’s central project. At least the first step is clear: to recognise that the current system is flawed.

www.monbiot.com

David Handler

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:05 am
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

David Handler’s first book in the Berger and Mitry series, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and BookSense Top Ten pick. Handler is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including Edgar and American Mystery Award winner The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.

His

Kelly Simmons

Sep. 13th, 2017 08:05 am
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Kelly Simmons is the author of Standing Still, The Bird House, One More Day, and The Fifth of July.

Recently I asked Simmons about what she was reading. Her reply:I am a scaredy-cat, a bad sleeper, a person who thinks the sound of cats jumping off sofas and the sound of armed men climbing in windows is precisely the same. So I read thrillers by day and try to read lighter things by night --

Eric Brown

Sep. 12th, 2017 12:05 am
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Eric Brown began writing when he was fifteen and sold his first short story to Interzone in 1986. He has won the British Science Fiction Award twice for his short stories, and his novel Helix Wars was shortlisted for the 2012 Philip K. Dick award. He has published sixty books, and his latest include the crime novel Murder Take Three, and the short story collection Microcosms, with Tony Ballantyne

How Do We Get Out of This Mess?

Sep. 11th, 2017 01:28 pm
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Posted by monbiot

Here are my proposals for a new politics, designed for the 21st Century

By George Monbiot, adapted from Out of the Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis, and published in the Guardian, 9th September 2017

 

Is it reasonable to hope for a better world? Study the cruelty and indifference of governments, the disarray of opposition parties, the apparently inexorable slide towards climate breakdown, the renewed threat of nuclear war, and the answer appears to be no. Our problems look intractable, our leaders dangerous, while voters are cowed and baffled. Despair looks like the only rational response.

But over the past two years, I have been struck by four observations. What they reveal is that political failure is, in essence, a failure of imagination. They suggest to me that it is despair, not hope, that is irrational. I believe they light a path towards a better world.

The first observation is the least original. It is the realisation that it is not strong leaders or parties that dominate politics as much as powerful political narratives. The political history of the second half of the 20th Century could be summarised as the conflict between its two great narratives: the stories told by Keynesian social democracy and neoliberalism. First one and then the other captured the minds of people across the political spectrum. When the social democracy story dominated, even the Conservatives and Republicans adopted key elements of the programme. When neoliberalism took its place, political parties everywhere, regardless of their colour, fell under its spell. These stories overrode everything: personality, identity and party history.

This should not surprise us. Stories are the means by which we navigate the world. They allow us to interpret its complex and contradictory signals. We all possess a narrative instinct: an innate disposition to listen for an account of who we are and where we stand.

When we encounter a complex issue and try to understand it, what we look for is not consistent and reliable facts but a consistent and comprehensible story. When we ask ourselves whether something “makes sense”, the “sense” we seek is not rationality, as scientists and philosophers perceive it, but narrative fidelity. Does what we are hearing reflect the way we expect humans and the world to behave? Does it hang together? Does it progress as stories should progress?

A string of facts, however well-attested, will not correct or dislodge a powerful story. The only response it is likely to provoke is indignation: people often angrily deny facts that clash with the narrative “truth” established in their minds. The only thing that can displace a story is a story. Those who tell the stories run the world.

I came to the second, more interesting, observation with the help of the writer and organiser George Marshall. It is this. Although the stories told by social democracy and neoliberalism are starkly opposed to each other, they have the same narrative structure. We could call it the Restoration Story. It goes like this:

Disorder afflicts the land, caused by powerful and nefarious forces working against the interests of humanity. The hero – who might be one person or a group of people – revolts against this disorder, fights the nefarious forces, overcomes them despite great odds and restores order.

Stories that follow this pattern can be so powerful that they sweep all before them: even our fundamental values. For example, two of the world’s best-loved and most abiding narratives – Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series – invoke values that were familiar in the Middle Ages but are generally considered repulsive today. Disorder in these stories is characterised by the usurpation of rightful kings or their rightful heirs; justice and order rely on their restoration. We find ourselves cheering the resumption of autocracy, the destruction of industry and even, in the case of Narnia, the triumph of divine right over secular power.

If these stories reflected the values most people profess – democracy, independence, industrial “progress” – the rebels would be the heroes and the hereditary rulers the villains. We overlook the conflict with our own priorities because the stories resonate so powerfully with the narrative structure for which our minds are prepared. Facts, evidence, values, beliefs: stories conquer all.

The social democratic story explains that the world fell into disorder – characterised by the Great Depression – because of the self-seeking behaviour of an unrestrained elite. The elite’s capture of both the world’s wealth and the political system resulted in the impoverishment and insecurity of working people. By uniting to defend their common interests, the world’s people could throw down the power of this elite, strip it of its ill-gotten gains and pool the resulting wealth for the good of all. Order and security would be restored in the form of a protective, paternalistic state, investing in public projects for the public good, generating the wealth that would guarantee a prosperous future for everyone. The ordinary people of the land – the heroes of the story – would triumph over those who had oppressed them.

The neoliberal story explains that the world fell into disorder as a result of the collectivising tendencies of the over-mighty state, exemplified by the monstrosities of Stalinism and Nazism, but evident in all forms of state planning and all attempts to engineer social outcomes. Collectivism crushes freedom, individualism and opportunity. Heroic entrepreneurs, mobilising the redeeming power of the market, would fight this enforced conformity, freeing society from the enslavement of the state. Order would be restored in the form of free markets, delivering wealth and opportunity, guaranteeing a prosperous future for everyone. The ordinary people of the land, released by the heroes of the story (the freedom-seeking entrepreneurs) would triumph over those who had oppressed them.

Then – again with Marshall’s help – I stumbled into the third observation: the narrative structure of the Restoration Story is a common element in most successful political transformations, including many religious revolutions. This led inexorably to the fourth insight: the reason why, despite its multiple and manifest failures, we appear to be stuck with neoliberalism is that we have failed to produce a new narrative with which to replace it.

You cannot take away someone’s story without giving them a new one. It is not enough to challenge an old narrative, however outdated and discredited it may be. Change happens only when you replace it with another. When we develop the right story, and learn how to tell it, it will infect the minds of people across the political spectrum.

***

But the best on offer from major political parties is a microwaved version of the remnants of Keynesian social democracy. There are several problems with this approach. The first is that this old story has lost most of its content and narrative force. What we now call Keynesianism has been reduced to two thin chapters: lowering interest rates when economies are sluggish and using counter-cyclical public spending (injecting public money into the economy when unemployment is high or recession threatens). Other measures, such as raising taxes when an economy grows quickly, to dampen the boom-bust cycle; the fixed exchange rate system; capital controls and a self-balancing global banking system (an International Clearing Union) – all of which John Maynard Keynes saw as essential complements to these policies – have been discarded and forgotten.

This is partly because the troubles that beset the Keynesian model in the 1970s have not disappeared. While the oil embargo in 1973 was the immediate trigger for the lethal combination of high inflation and high unemployment (‘stagflation’) that Keynesian policies were almost powerless to counteract, problems with the system had been mounting for years. Falling productivity and rising cost-push inflation (wages and prices pursuing each other upwards) were already beginning to erode support for Keynesian economics. Most importantly, perhaps, the programme had buckled in response to the political demands of capital.

Strong financial regulations and controls on the movement of money began to weaken in the 1950s, as governments started to liberalise financial markets. Richard Nixon’s decision in 1971 to suspend the convertibility of dollars into gold destroyed the system of fixed exchange rates on which much of the success of Keynes’s policies depended. The capital controls used to prevent financiers and speculators from sucking money out of balanced, Keynesian economies collapsed. We cannot hope that the strategies deployed by global finance in the 20th Century will be unlearnt.

But perhaps the biggest problem residual Keynesianism confronts is that, when it does work, it collides headfirst with the environmental crisis. A programme that seeks to sustain employment through constant economic growth, driven by consumer demand, seems destined to exacerbate our greatest predicament.

Without a new, guiding story of their own, allowing them to look towards a better future rather than a better past, it was inevitable that parties which once sought to resist the power of the wealthy elite would lose their sense of direction. Political renewal depends on a new political story. Without a new story, that is positive and propositional, rather than reactive and oppositional, nothing changes. With such a story, everything changes.

The narrative we build has to be simple and intelligible. If it is to transform our politics, it should appeal to as many people as possible, crossing traditional political lines. It should resonate with deep needs and desires. It should explain the mess we are in and means by which we might escape it. And, because there is nothing to be gained from spreading falsehoods, it must be firmly grounded in reality.

This might sound like a tall order. But there is, I believe, a clear and compelling Restoration Story to be told that fits this description.

***

Over the past few years, there has been a convergence of findings in different sciences: psychology, anthropology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Research in all these fields points to the same conclusion: that human beings are, in the words of an article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, “spectacularly unusual when compared to other animals”. This refers to our astonishing degree of altruism. We possess an unparalleled sensitivity to the needs of others, a unique level of concern about their welfare, and a peerless ability to create moral norms that generalise and enforce these tendencies.

We are also, among mammals, the supreme cooperators. We survived the rigours of the African savannahs, despite being weaker and slower than our predators and most of our prey, through developing a remarkable capacity for mutual aid. This urge to cooperate has been hard-wired into our brains through natural selection. Our tendencies towards altruism and cooperation are the central, crucial facts about humankind. But something has gone horribly wrong.

Our good nature has been thwarted by several forces, but perhaps the most powerful is the dominant political narrative of our times. We have been induced by politicians, economists and journalists to accept a vicious ideology of extreme competition and individualism, that pits us against each other, encourages us to fear and mistrust each other, and weakens the social bonds that make our lives worth living. The story of our competitive, self-maximising nature has been told so often and with such persuasive power that we have accepted it as an account of who we really are. It has changed our perception of ourselves. Our perceptions, in turn, change the way we behave.

With the help of this ideology, and the neoliberal narrative used to project it, we have lost our common purpose. This leads in turn to a loss of belief in ourselves as a force for change, frustrating our potential to do what humans do best: to find common ground in confronting our predicaments, and to unite to overcome them. Our atomisation has allowed intolerant and violent forces to fill the political vacuum. We are trapped in a vicious circle of alienation and reaction. The hypersocial mammal is falling apart.

But by coming together to revive community life we, the heroes of this story, can break the vicious circle. Through invoking our capacity for togetherness and belonging, we can rediscover the central facts of our humanity: our altruism and mutual aid. By reviving community, built around the places in which we live, and by anchoring ourselves, our politics and parts of our economy in the life of this community, we can restore the best aspects of our nature.

Where there is atomisation, we will create a thriving civic life. Where there is alienation, we will forge a new sense of belonging: to neighbours, neighbourhood and society. Community projects will proliferate into a vibrant participatory culture. New social enterprises will strengthen our sense of attachment and ownership.

Where we find ourselves crushed between market and state, we will develop a new economics, that treats both people and planet with respect. We will build it around a great, neglected economic sphere: the commons. Local resources will be owned and managed by communities, ensuring that wealth is widely shared. Using common riches to fund universal benefits will supplement state provision, granting everyone security and resilience.

Where we are ignored and exploited, we will revive democracy and retrieve politics from those who have captured it. New methods and rules for elections will ensure that every vote counts and financial power can never vanquish political power. Representative democracy will be reinforced by participatory democracy, that allows us to refine our political choices. Decision-making will be returned to the smallest political units that can discharge it.

The strong, embedded cultures we develop will be robust enough to accommodate social diversity of all kinds: a diversity of people, of origins, of life experiences, of ideas and ways of living. We will no longer need to fear people who differ from ourselves; we will have the strength and confidence to reject attempts to channel hatred towards them.

Through restoring community, renewing civic life and claiming our place in the world, we build a society in which our extraordinary nature – our altruism, empathy and deep connection – is released. A kinder world stimulates and normalises our kinder values. I propose a name for this story: the Politics of Belonging.

***

Some of this can begin without waiting for a change of government: one of the virtues of a politics rooted in community is that you do not need a national movement in order to begin. But other aspects of this programme depend on wider political change. This too might sound like an improbable hope – until you begin to explore some of the remarkable things that have been happening in the United States.

The Big Organising model developed by the campaign to elect Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee is potentially transformative. Rather than relying on big spending, big data and a big staff, it uses proliferating networks of volunteers, who train and supervise more volunteers, to carry out the tasks usually reserved for staff. While Hillary Clinton’s campaign was organising money, the Sanders campaign was organising people. By the end of the nomination process, more than 100,000 people had been recruited. Between them, they ran 100,000 events and spoke to 75 million voters.

His bid for the nomination was a giant live experiment, most of whose methods were developed on the job. Those who ran it report that by the time they stumbled across the strategy that almost won, it was too late. Had it been activated a few months earlier, the volunteer network could have abandoned all forms of targeting and contacted almost every adult in the USA. If the techniques they developed were used from the outset, they could radically alter the prospects of any campaign for a better world.

When, after reading a book by two of Sanders’s organisers, I argued in a video for the Guardian that this method could be used to transform the prospects of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, I was widely mocked. But it turned out to be true. By adopting elements of the Sanders strategy, Labour, supported by Momentum, almost won an election that was widely predicted to be a Conservative landslide. And the method that propelled this shift is still in its infancy.

I believe it could become still more powerful when combined with some of the techniques identified by former Congressional staffers in the Indivisible guide to influencing Members of Congress. These people studied the methods developed by the Tea Party movement and extracted the crucial lessons. They discovered that the key is to use local meetings with representatives to press home a single demand, film and share their responses on social media, then steadily escalate the pressure.

The Tea Party honed this technique until its requests became almost impossible to resist. The same thing can be done, though without the harassment to which that movement sometimes resorted. Supported by the Big Organising model, using its proliferating phone-bank teams and doorstep canvassing, the Indivisible methods could, I believe, be used to flip political outcomes in any nation that claims to be a democracy.

But none of this will generate meaningful and lasting change unless it is used to support a new, coherent political narrative.

 Those who want a kinder politics know we have, in theory at least, the numbers on our side. Most people are socially-minded, empathetic and altruistic. Most people would prefer to live in a world in which everyone is treated with respect and decency, and in which we do not squander either our own lives or the natural gifts on which we and the rest of the living world depend. But a small handful, using lies and distractions and confusion, stifle this latent desire for change.

We know that, if we can mobilise such silent majorities, there is nothing this small minority can do to stop us. But because we have failed to understand what is possible, and above all failed to replace our tired political stories with a new, compelling narrative of transformation and restoration, we have failed to realise this potential. As we rekindle our imagination, we discover our power to act. And that is the point at which we become unstoppable.

George Monbiot’s book Out Of The Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis, is published by Verso.

 

 

Josh Dean

Sep. 10th, 2017 03:05 pm
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Josh Dean is a magazine journalist and author based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

His new book is The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History.

Recently I asked Dean about what he was reading. His reply:Because of the nature of my book — it’s a historical narrative — I’ve tended to read only books that serve to inspire or

Roger Johns

Sep. 9th, 2017 12:05 am
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor with law degrees from Louisiana State University and Boston University. During his nearly two decades as a professor, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and he won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and his scholarly writing. Johns was born and raised in Louisiana. He and

The Lady Has Turned

Sep. 8th, 2017 12:13 pm
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Posted by monbiot

Aung San Suu Kyi should lose her Nobel Prize, as a result of her disgraceful complicity in genocide

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 6th September 2017

Those of us who have spent our adulthood demanding higher standards in government are used to disappointment. We no longer expect much from political leaders: to do otherwise is to invite despair. But in Aung San Suu Kyi we entrusted our hopes. To mention her name was to invoke patience and resilience in the face of suffering, courage and determination in the unyielding struggle for freedom. She was an inspiration to us all.

Friends of mine devoted their working lives to the campaign for her release from the many years of detention imposed by the military dictatorship of Myanmar, and for the restoration of democracy. We celebrated when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, when she was finally released from house arrest in 2010 and when she won the general election in 2015.

None of this is forgotten. Nor are the many cruelties she suffered, including isolation, physical attacks and the junta’s curtailment of her family life. But it is hard to think of any recent political leader by whom such high hopes have been so cruelly betrayed.

By any standards, the treatment of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, is repugnant. By the standards Aung San came to symbolise, it is grotesque. They have been described by the United Nations as “the world’s most persecuted minority”, and this status has not changed since she took office. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide describes five acts, any one of which, when “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, amount to genocide. Four of them have been practised more or less continuously by Myanmar’s armed forces since Aung San Suu Kyi became de facto political leader, with the obvious and often explicit purpose of destroying this group.

I recognise that the armed forces retain great power in Myanmar and that Aung San does not exercise effective control over them. I recognise that the scope of her actions is limited. But, as well as a number of practical and legal measures that she could use directly to restrain these atrocities, she possesses one power in abundance: the power to speak out. Rather than deploying it, her response amounts to a mixture of silence, the denial of well-documented evidence and the obstruction of humanitarian aid.

To judge by her public statements, I doubt she has read the United Nations human rights report on the treatment of the Rohingyas, released in February. It took me a long time to get through it, so horrific were the crimes it revealed. It documents the mass rape of women and girls, some of whom died as a result of the sexual injuries they suffered. It shows how children and adults had their throats slit in front of their families. It reports the summary executions of teachers, elders and community leaders; helicopter gunships randomly spraying villages with gunfire; people shut in their homes and burnt alive; a woman in labour who was beaten by soldiers, and whose baby was stamped to death as it was born.

It details the deliberate destruction of crops and the burning of villages to drive entire populations out of their homes. People trying to flee are gunned down in their boats. And this is just one report. Amnesty International published a similar dossier last year. There is a mountain of evidence suggesting that these actions are an attempt to eliminate this ethnic group from Myanmar.

Now, hard as it is to imagine, this campaign of terror has escalated in recent days. Refugees arriving in Bangladesh report widespread massacres. Malnutrition ravages the Rohingya, afflicting 80,000 children.

In response to complaints about these atrocities, Aung San Suu Kyi has blamed them, in a chillingly remote interview, on insurgents, and expressed astonishment that anyone would wish to fight the army when the government has done so much for them. Perhaps this astonishment comes easily to someone who has never visited the area (northern Rakhine state) where most of this is happening.

It is true that some Rohingya people have taken up arms, and that the latest massacres were triggered by the killing of 12 members of the security forces last month, attributed to a group that calls itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. But the military response has been to attack entire populations, regardless of any possible involvement in the insurgency, and to spread such terror that 120,000 people have been forced to flee in the past fortnight.

As Aung San remarked in her Nobel lecture, “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages”. The rage of those Rohingya people who have taken up arms has been used as an excuse to accelerate an existing programme of ethnic cleansing.

She has not only denied the atrocities, attempting to shield the armed forces from criticism; she has also denied the very identity of the people being attacked, asking the US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya. This is in line with the government’s policy of disavowing their existence as an ethnic group, and classifying them, though they have lived in Myanmar for centuries, as interlopers. She has upheld the 1982 Citizenship Law, that denies these people their rights.

When a Rohingya woman provided detailed allegations about her gang rape and associated injuries by Myanmar soldiers, Aung San’s office posted a banner on its Facebook page reading “Fake Rape”. Given her reputation for micromanagement, it seems unlikely that it would have taken such action without her approval.

Not only has she snubbed and obstructed officials from the United Nations who have sought to investigate the treatment of the Rohingya, but her government has prevented aid agencies from distributing food, water and medicines to people displaced or isolated by the violence. Without substantive evidence, her office has accused aid workers of helping “terrorists”, putting them at risk of attack, further impeding their attempts to help people who face starvation.

So far, Aung San has been insulated by the apologetics of those who refuse to believe that she could so radically abandon the principles to which she once appealed. A list of excuses is proffered: that she didn’t want to jeopardise her prospects of election; that she doesn’t want to offer the armed forces a pretext to tighten their grip on power; that she has to keep China happy.

None of them stand up. As a great democracy campaigner once remarked, “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it.” Who was this person? Aung San Suu Kyi. But now, whether out of prejudice or fear, she denies to others the freedoms she rightly claimed for herself. She excludes – and in some cases seeks to silence – the very activists who helped to ensure her own rights were recognised.

This week, to my own astonishment, I found myself signing a petition for the revocation of her Nobel Peace Prize. I believe the Nobel committee should retain responsibility for the prizes it awards, and withdraw them if its laureates later violate the principles for which they were recognised. There are two cases in which this appears to be appropriate. One is Barack Obama, who, bafflingly, was given the prize before he was tested in office. His programme of drone strikes, that slaughtered large numbers of civilians, should disqualify him from this honour. The other is Aung San.

Please sign this petition. Why? Because we now contemplate an extraordinary situation. A Nobel Peace laureate is complicit in crimes against humanity.

www.monbiot.com

Gerald Elias

Sep. 7th, 2017 03:05 pm
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, Playing With

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