Book Club for the New Administration – May 2017
Last month we read Orleans by me! I wrote this book as a response to Hurricane Katrina, inspired by the week it took for us to evacuate her from New Orleans after the storm, and all of the events that transpired leading up to and after the storm. There was a severe system failure for an event we knew was inevitable. For all the heartbreak a natural disaster can cause, there was so much that could have been, if not avoided, then addressed immediately. But it was not.
I had the good fortune to be an invited guest at the University of Wisconsin: Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Earth Day Conference. This year, the theme was:
Not only did I get to discuss “Harnessing the Apocalypse” on a panel with fellow authors Paolo Bacigalupi (The Water Knife, Shipbreaker) and Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven), I also had a chance to listen to environmental scientists and activists discuss the future of our nation and our planet. Stewart Brand blew me away with his insight that the planet is fine, it’s survived worse– it’s the Earth’s liveability for us humans that’s in question. Everything we’ve done to the planet is reversible, he told an audience of 800 attendees. We just have to be practical about it. Julian Agyeman also said we have the practical science to improve the planet; what’s missing is the social science. The problem is psychological: as long was we always want bigger, better and more, we will never live sustainably.
He’s not wrong. It makes sense. But the leap from “making sense” do “doing sense” can sometimes seem insurmountable.
So, given the projections for our future, what can we do to make it better? To ensure there is hope and renewal? Well, all of the above have written books to make you think. The Nelson Institute is a great place to put your thinking cap on. Another guest at the conference, the impressive Victoria Barrett, shared her experience as part of Earth Guardians— a group of young people going toe to toe with the US Government to protect their future. Why not join them, or at least learn more?
Now we come to the month of May, and I’d like to recommend a book I recently started reading.
The Book Club for the New Administration Selection for May is
Synopsis: From intimate relationships to global politics, Sarah Schulman observes a continuum: that inflated accusations of harm are used to avoid accountability. Illuminating the difference between Conflict and Abuse, Schulman directly addresses our contemporary culture of scapegoating. This deep, brave, and bold work reveals how punishment replaces personal and collective self-criticism, and shows why difference is so often used to justify cruelty and shunning. Rooting the problem of escalation in negative group relationships, Schulman illuminates the ways in which cliques, communities, families, and religious, racial, and national groups bond through the refusal to change their self-concept. She illustrates how Supremacy behaviour and Traumatized behaviour resemble each other, through a shared inability to tolerate difference.
This important and sure to be controversial book brings insight into contemporary and historical issues of personal, racial and geo-political difference, as tools of escalation towards injustice, exclusion and punishment, whether the objects of dehumanization are other individuals in our families or communities, African Americans at the hands of police, people with HIV, and Palestinians. Conflict Is Not Abuse is a searing rejection of the cultural phenomenon of blame, cruelty, and scapegoating, revealing how those in positions of power exacerbate and manipulate fear of the “other” to avoid facing themselves.
At a time when so many people are angry, feel sidelined and ignored, when the “other” is becoming more and more pronounced, this seems like a good book to help gain perspective so we can move forward constructively.
This month, why not support A Room of One’s Own, the lovely independent bookstore in Madison, WI that provided books for the Earth Day Conference. I’m sure they’d be delighted to hear from you.
Don’t forget to post your comments on Twitter, #BookClub4NewAdmin.
And remember, next Saturday is: