Review: Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt

Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt
Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt by Chris Hedges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #42 for 2016
Read Harder Challenge Task: Read a book about politics, in your country or another
OFB Summer Bingo Square: A book you heard about on the radio

I had been planning to review this after the election, but the more I think about it, the more important I feel it is to state my opinions before it’s too late. Not that anybody really cares about my opinions on economics and politics, but still, there are big changes on the horizon, and I don’t want to be one of those who stand silently by while the world goes completely to shit.

Because that’s what is happening, I’m pretty sure of it. Hedges gets called “alarmist” and “hyperbolic” a lot, and I have tried to read this book through that lens, but I have to say that I think he is spot-on in his assessments as well as his clear disappointment in this nation’s populace, with its ability to distract itself so easily from issues that really matter in a very real sense. He is absolutely right that revolution is not part of our intellectual history. It’s something I have been struggling with in my research of the 18th and 19th centuries, so I was glad for him to articulate that so clearly for me, that we went straight from a monarchy to an oligarchy and have been kidding ourselves ever since.

This book deals with the wage-slavery we are seeing as a result of the current corporatocracy, but it goes so much broader and deeper than that. We have now reached the point of no return on so many levels, and at the risk of sounding like an anarchist (which I am SO not), I contend that the United States of America is an idea that had its chance. It had its day in the sun, and now it is going to fall — very noisily, very messily, and very painfully. And not just for us. We’re taking a lot of innocent bystanders with us. Hedges wrote this before Trump’s POTUS candidacy, but he predicted the demagogue’s ascendancy perfectly. He anticipated the racial and environmental battles with eerie prescience. And he pointed out (not by name, of course) that it would take a Bernie Sanders to inspire us to revolution.

And then, everything started going to shit. We had our Bernie Sanders. And then, suddenly, we didn’t. I try to convince myself that Bernie’s popularity and his willingness to bring socialism to the table, that he’s taking the fight back to Congress, that this all means that we aren’t doomed as a nation. But I just don’t know.

This book forced me to ask myself how much of a rebel I am. And I’m sad to report that the answer is “not very.” Part of me would like to see this country dismantled so we can start from scratch. It’s this mode of thinking, in fact, that got me Fs in Administrative Law in grad school two semesters in a row. But part of me is too complacent, too firmly ensconced in my white-privileged, middle-class existence to take those risks. That I worry about what would happen to the disenfranchised if we were to have a full-on revolution — does that make me a thoughtful ally? Or does it make me a privileged asshole who’s really good at justifying my cowardice?

I need to remind myself that Thomas Paine is evidently my historical soulmate. And I need to study him and his world. I need to dig deeper than the PC soundbites we got in school. I think that’s one thing that this book got me good and pissed-off about: public school propaganda. (And any private school I could have attended would have been so much worse!) So much of the history recounted in this book was never even mentioned, and what was mentioned was presented as a) anomalous, and b) ancient history. There was no sense that we were still on the continuum that has stolen so much from so many.

But what can I do? I am not Thomas Paine. I am not running for political office (and wouldn’t stand a chance of winning if I were). I don’t even have money to put towards causes. But I am a writer. Genre stuff, to be sure, but who says it cannot be of literary and social merit? So I am signing on as one of the dreaded Social Justice Warriors.

View all my reviews

High Summer Read-a-thon Wrap-up

I was and am still behind on my reading for July, but I did get some quality reading in for the High Summer Read-a-Thon (#HSreadathon) last week. This is a read-a-thon coordinated over at Seasons of Reading, and they also have a Facebook group for discussion.

The first books I finished were ones that I had already started. 2016 Fourth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest is a collection of finalist and honorable mention poems from the local library’s contest. (My entry is on page 14.) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is something like what you might get if you were to ask John le Carré to reboot Groundhog Day. Big Magic is a refreshing take on the “just do it” genre of self-help books for creatives and makes me want to read something else by Gilbert.

Later in the week I started Promises, Promises by L-J Baker and Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges. I have yet to finish either one. I’m not really in the right frame of mind for Baker’s screwball sense of humor right now, and reading Hedges during this election season, while a smart thing to do, is a scary and depressing thing to do. I really should find some middle literary ground right now. Maybe a nice cozy mystery or a fun steampunk adventure.

Review: The Seven Dials Mystery

The Seven Dials Mystery
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #34 for 2016
Habitica’s Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that you’ve already read at least once
Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A book that’s been on your shelf for more than five years

Ah, Bundle and Battle, together again! This made me want to go read The Secret of Chimneys again. It’s a pity Christie didn’t do more with these characters. But given how this novel ended, I guess I’m not surprised.

I was expecting this to be a quick re-read, but I was amazed at how much time I spent chasing down odd vocabulary words and trying to figure out what kind of “automatic” pistol Stevens had managed to procure for Jimmy. I’m pretty sure it was an ACP .455, which appears to me to be a semi-automatic, despite its name. I’m also pretty sure that Christie was poking fun at pulp thriller writers of the day when Jimmy made it clear that he wanted a “blue-nosed,” fully automatic pistol. And I think it’s more than a little sad that a century or so after the ACP was introduced, so many people are still using “automatic” and “semi-automatic” interchangeably.

But I digress. I was also amazed at how little of the plot I remembered. The plot twist really got me, even though I avoided some of the red herrings and, really, I ought to have known better. Some of the explanations regarding the origins of the Seven Dials Club weren’t completely satisfying, but if not examined too closely, they make for some cleverly constructed clues.

I really enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout this book. There was a distinct P.G. Wodehouse influence, and Christie’s snarky asides and gift for snappy dialogue were delightfully evident. There’s even a fun little subplot of romance, complete with a proposal scene that puts Jane Austen to shame. I’d recommend this to anybody looking for a light-hearted mystery romp set in the late 1920s.

View all my reviews

High Summer Read-a-Thon

Because I don’t have enough things to keep track of, I’m signing up for a Seasons of Reading read-a-thon later this month. The #HSreadathon takes place during the week of July 18th, and this is actually pretty good timing for me. I’ve signed on for summer reading challenges through my library and a local indie bookstore, so I’m trying to read something like 18 books between now and the middle of August. Totally do-able, but it wants a bit of planning.

My goal for the month of July is to finish at least 14 books, which works out to about 3 books per week. I’m a little bit behind at the moment, but I have some relatively short selections to zip through before the 18th. So likely candidates for the read-a-thon are Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges; I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai; and Wildcat Under Glass by Alki Zei.