Last part – I told people I could try and read 50 books read this year, and then proceeded to not finish a single one. the one downside to reading four at a time I suppose. That’s fine though, there is one book on this list I have some THOUGHTS on. Maybe I can read 50 this coming year…
Sub-Imperial Power: Australia in the International Arena – Clinton Fernandes
Tiny book I had been anticipating for a while. It doesn’t really cover a whole lot not already discussed in other works of Fernandes, such as Island Off the Coast of Asia, but if you want a primer on Australian foreign policy (and don’t want to read a full book) this is for you.
README.txt: A Memoir – Chelsea Manning
This was fantastic and one I definitely recommend reading. Manning’s memoir, she describes her family life leading up to joining the military, coming to terms with her gender and sexuality, exploring the early internet chat rooms and the freedom promised by anonymity online, and her reasons and convictions for carrying out one of the largest leaks of US government documents in history.
She then describes the hellish period of imprisonment and solitary confinement, during which she attempted suicide, navigated brutal prison treatment that she took direct action with other inmates against, and fought for her right to access reading material and to undergo transition. I thought I was fairly informed on Manning’s story, but her extremely open and (to use a term the critics love) raw telling of events was actually quite shocking.
I’m not one for idolising people, but of all the whistleblowers putting their freedom and even lives on the line because they believe the public deserves to know what their governments are doing, Manning is probably the one I admire most. It doesn’t seem like things will ever be “normal” for her, but I hope she can get close because she deserves it.
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement – Angela Y. Davis
After reading Women, Race & Class, I found this at a bookstore and bought it. It is a series of speeches and essays Davis has done over the past 10 or so years with a focus on building a genuinely international movement. While circumstances and approaches can be different, there is no doubting the strength in unity across borders bolsters movements. Black Lives Matter went global after the murder of George Floyd (this book was published well before that). In Australia, First Nations’ peoples led protest movements across the country. Palestinian activists brought forward the call for BDS to aid them against vicious Israeli occupation.
Freedom isn’t something we are just given – it is something that must be struggled for. And to do that, we need to work together across borders, across intersectional lines of oppression.
Humankind: A Hopeful History – Rutger Bregman
On one hand, I absolutely recommend it. It is perhaps one of the most important books I have ever read for a few reasons, and covers a fair bit of fascinating ground. From dispelling the myths perpetrated by The Lord of the Flies, the Stanford Prison Experiment, the clearing of Easter Island, and various other well renowned tales of human selfishness and cruelty, Bregman shows humanity is not as bad as we think. He also describes workers cooperatives, schools where children are free to learn and play as children rather than dragged through a 12 year prison-like system, and the story of Christmas on the frontlines of World War 1 in 1914 (which the distant generals forbade from ever occurring again), showing humanity is better than we think.
However, on the other hand, I can’t see it. I am an anarchist, and all of this was really heartening to read – while not perfect or explicitly anarchist, there was much in this book that sounded brilliant, and which would be nice to see flourishing everywhere. But I can’t see it. I don’t have that hopeful outlook because no one seems to care.
You can want a better world, have suggestions for better ways of doing things, whatever, but when no one you know cares, agrees, or even actively opposes you, the more realist approach of “fuck it, we’re doomed” seems the only logical one. I don’t doubt there are some amazing things happening out there to help alleviate how things are, but I have been shown no reason to believe it can ever lead to anything worthwhile on wider scales. This is just how it is, back to work.
Jihad Academy: The Misperceptions of Islamic State and Their Consequences – Nicolas Henin
And the final book of the year I finished, a short one by a French journalist who was captured and held by ISIS. Before being released, he got a lot of first-hand understanding of what the self-proclaimed state was and what they wanted. It was an interesting look into the group and how it is perceived both in the Middle East and in the West, particularly the US and Europe. Similar, but more specific than, Media Framing of the Muslim World in part 4, if those topics of media interest you it may be worth looking into.
Here’s to another spin around the eldritch horror we call Sol.