Books of #Resistance I’ve Read in 2017
In light of the present political situation, I decided to create a #resistance reading list for myself this year. Here are some books I can recommend.
The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Mohandas Gandhi
This is worth reading to learn more about the personality of one of the greatest exemplars of non-violent resistance. To me it was interesting to observe, through Gandhi’s candidness, that he was not a perfect person; nevertheless, he worked continually to improve himself. He strove for consistency of principles, from the minutiae of his daily life outward to the greater good. (Also — fun fact — contrary to popular Western portrayal, he did not practice yoga.)
1984, George Orwell
The things that stood out most to me in this book were 1) the re-writing of the news, past and present, to suit the narrative of a totalitarian regime, and 2) a world where only several consolidated governmental conglomerates existed and were perpetually at war with one another. The governments recognized that war was profitable and that constant war made it possible to keep citizens under the thumb of their rulers.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
In this futuristic world, the government artificially engineers a class system through tiers of genetic homogeny. People are encouraged to drug themselves with “soma” to take hallucinogenic vacations from daily life. Promiscuity is required, and monogamy is not allowed. The introduction of a Native American society into the story raises questions about what is “natural” for humans and what is not.
It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis
This American novel is a must-read for its uncanny parallels to the most recent presidential campaign. A populist candidate, aided by a religious influencer, rises to power in America and sets up a dictatorship. A local journalist in Vermont attempts to resist, with dire consequences to him and his family. Written in 1935 by Lewis with an eye to the machinations of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe, it seems eerily prescient today.
The Kingdom of God Is Within You, Leo Tolstoy
I’m still working my way through this one. I began reading it because Gandhi cites it as an influence on his own ideas about non-violence. Indeed, Gandhi and Tolstoy became correspondents and friends during their lives. Tolstoy’s ideas take much inspiration from those of the Quakers, who were/are, historically, pacifist Christians. As an American raised with respect for the military and the impression that, practically speaking, war is sometimes a necessary evil, I find it a stimulating challenge to understand the mindset of those who make the case that non-violence could or should be a matter of policy, not just on an interpersonal level but also at the highest level of government. For me, this becomes a question of idealism vs. pragmatism and whether or not it’s possible for the ideal to become universally real. (More on this perhaps in a subsequent post.)
What Happened, Hillary Clinton
Every American, regardless of political persuasion, should read (or listen to) Hillary’s chapter on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. If you don’t read anything else from this book, just read that chapter. She does an excellent job of providing an evidence-based summary of what happened with Russia and why it matters. This isn’t a question of politics. It’s a question of democracy. As an American, you need to be concerned about information wars waged against our country by foreign adversaries. This is about our right to make accurately-informed choices as voters. Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, or totally apathetic, your reality is under siege. Understanding the problem will help you protect your most precious right as a citizen of the United States: your vote.
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder
This quick read is absolutely essential. If you only read one thing from this list, read this book. It’s written by a Yale history professor (who also happens to be a Quaker), and it presents a concise list of ways to be vigilant against tyranny, in the context of what we’ve learned from history.
What other #ResistanceLit should I be reading? Feel free to post suggestions in the comments.