By October 19, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Days of Destruction Days of Revolt

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Frederick Douglass, quoted on p. 160 of Days of Destruction Days of Revolt

 

I have been sitting in front of my computer screen trying to think of a politically correct way of describing the book Days of Destruction Days of Revolt

I am going to punt and let the publisher describe the book:  “Two years ago, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and award-winning cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco set out to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in America that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. They wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit.”

Pine Ridge, South Dakota

Camden, New Jersey

Welch, West Virginia

Immokalee, Florida

Liberty Square, New York City

Be prepared for an emotional experience without a happy ending.  Be prepared to be defensive.  Be prepared to be angry.  Be prepared to be ashamed. 

“As societies become more complex, they inevitably become more precarious and vulnerable.  As they begin to break down, the terrified and confused population withdraws from reality, unable to acknowledge their fragility and impending collapse.  The elites retreat into isolated compounds, whether at Versailles, the Forbidden City, or modern palatial estates.  They indulge in unchecked hedonism, the accumulation of wealth, and extravagant consumption.  The suffering masses are repressed with greater and greater ferocity.  Resources are depleted until they are exhausted.  And then the hollowed-out edifice collapses.”  (p. 149-150).

While the text quoted above is searing enough, the book is accompanied by sections that area a graphic novel approach to the individual stories of the real people interviewed in these zones of despair.  What is so overpowering, and discussable, in these biographies is that they read as much like a confessional as they do a history.

 In this election year, in our continuing divisive red vs. blue political environment, in this era of the loudest voice winning over the great compromise, it will take an especially courageous library to set up a discussion on this title. 

When I read this book, I kept thinking of Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Road and all the other dystopian novels I have read.  Why have I not read any narrative non-fiction like this book.  Is it because they are too true?

Those of us who work in urban American public libraries may already see the future.  “Camden is the poster child for postindustrial America.  It is a window into the dead end that will come to more and more Americans as corporations ‘harvest’ what is left of the nation for short-term profit and leave behind the wreckage and environmental disaster.” (p. 77)

Can there be anything more important to discuss?

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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