Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Demand the Impossible!: A Radical Manifesto - Guest Review

You keep walking the road, people will follow you. Today we got another guest with us, who would like to publish his book review on our blog.

Book blurb
In an era defined by mass incarceration, endless war, economic crisis, catastrophic environmental destruction, and a political system offering more of the same, radical social transformation has never been more urgent—or seemed more remote.
A manifesto for movement-makers in extraordinary times, Demand the Impossible! urges us to imagine a world beyond what this rotten system would have us believe is possible.
In critiquing the world around us, insurgent educator and activist Bill Ayers uncovers cracks in that system, raising the horizons for radical change, and envisioning strategies for building the movement we need to make a world worth living in.
This book by the author can be seen as a mixture of facts, fantasies, ideology and solutions to the problems faced by society at large. Facts and fantasies are the strongest part of the book and evoke a lot of base emotions. Another strong point of the book is the themes the author picks and argues about. These are quite relevant to any society across any age. The weakest part in this advocacy though are the solutions. Solutions in the book are largely substituted by fantasies. But, that is acceptable as fantasies are the starting point for any possible solution. The main problem with the book is that the author’s idea of anarchy seems to be imprisoned by the prison of ideology and this prevents his fantasy from truly taking flight.

For example when the author reminds that we are unable to self-govern only because we lack in confidence and this leads to hero worship, he may be partly right, but he neglects another majority in public whose interest lies somewhere else and like to delegate certain responsibilities to more interested people. For example a scientist, a technology enthusiast, an adventure freak etc. would just like some of their necessities to be taken care by someone else (ideally in a mutually beneficial way).

His opinion that socialism without freedom can become slavery and brutality is a widely proven fact. But, I do not quite understand another of his assertions that freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice. It is a bit contrary to the idea of anarchy that he considers socialism to be the only viable bedfellow to freedom without giving chance to other forms of governance which may come into being in future.

But in-spite of the drawbacks it would be plain unfair to dismiss the book altogether, as the topic broached is highly complex and elusive to an easy solution since ages. I particularly enjoyed reading when the author resorts to fantasy. For example, I was thrilled on reading the following section: “What if we unleashed our wildest imaginations? The “what if” question might then blow open the spectrum of acceptable possibilities and take us down a rabbit hole or up into orbit-onto one of life’s restless and relentless journeys, exploring and experimenting, orbiting and spinning, inventing and adapting, struggling toward knowledge and enlightenment, freedom and liberation, fighting to know more in order to do more.”

The flow of the book and the sectional treatment also is interesting. Observation of the author in these sections regarding the state of the world is precise, though the reasons for the current state do not seems consistently true.

When the author eludes to the permanent state of war and deliberately created fear of nationalism, it feels appropriate particularly in current context. Though it is also true that this state of affair was largely localized to certain pockets of the world few years before Arab Spring and Iraq war. I believe when the author quotes an anonymous American soldier “We came to help, but a lot of people don’t seem to like us” he might be quoting a veteran of Iraq war, there is a distinct possibility that a veteran from Afghan war feels differently. Ritual search and pat downs could be as much part of a socialist, capitalist, communist or democratic setup. So blaming it on a form of governance rather than on inherent human inefficiencies seems to be wrong. Again war may be a racket in certain or most of the cases, but it becomes a racket only because of human inefficiencies. Although the author is right in fearing private defense corporations but India didn’t allow private defense companies to operate and this did not have any positive impact. On the contrary stifling of enterprise and reliance on lethargic state companies left the Indian military vastly dependent on expensive foreign imports, wasting money which could have been used for health and education.

When the author tells us that former slaves, blacks or other disadvantaged communities continue to be at disadvantage even today and our governance structure is the one to be blamed, he is right and steps are needed to remove these shortcomings in our system. Free education and affordable healthcare are enablers to any economy and hence should be non-negotiable. Still, there are many problems regarding states ability in financing. Concrete solutions to these problems by the author would have been welcome. Another utopian idea that the author discusses is world without prisons. Again the idea is great but a blueprint to carry out the idea is what would have been helpful. Similarly there are many topics which are raised but no effective solution is discussed.

To sum up, the book is good material for propaganda, but should be read with caution in order to step aside the trap of ideology created by the evocative facts. A more mature reader can find better alternatives for their intellectual cravings regarding governance in books like “The Republic.”

Book can be found at Amazon
Reviews from other readers can be found at Goodreads

This review was published by Aditya Piratla. He is a researcher in automotive systems in Bengaluru. He is an avid traveler, trekker, wanderer. He loves to read autobiographies, history, foreign policy, mythology and politics. You can reach him on Facebook or Twitter.


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