Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming – A Book Review
Having escaped high school by my junior year, passing the California High School Equivalency exam, continuing on to the community college system and gaining enough technical education to get a decent job, I never got much of an education in history or government.
I worked for a company that was owned by a fairly progressive thinking family, manufacturing goods used mainly by environmental agencies and educational institutions. It was gratifying work and allowed me to care for my family in a simple fashion, we didn’t want for much, but we didn’t want much either. I went about my daily life pretty isolated from the issues that affect so many, I had a job, we had health insurance and until that company closed I didn’t really understand how good we had it.
Although I always held a liberal point of view I was never very political, and the election of George W. Bush (not once, but twice!) further disenchanted me from participating the political process. Then I met Frank. A few months later I was at my first demonstration, supporting the people of Potrero who were trying to stop Blackwater from moving in.
The more I learned the more depressed I got. There just seemed to be so much that was screwed up… I asked Frank, “how do you not go crazy?” “Sometimes you do,” was his answer, “and sometimes you burn out.”
At a recent OB Rag staff meeting a few folks were talking about books they had read recently and Ernie McCray recommended Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawkin as an “amazing book that gets at the good work that so many millions of people like those of us in the OB Rag, are doing to make the world a better place.”
This book is a wonderful history lesson for people like me. He covers a lot of ground in a few pages and put the deeds to so many of the names I was familiar with, Darwin, Gandhi, Rachel Carson, Thoreau. He asserts that environmental issues and social justice are inexorably entwined, that you cannot respect people without respecting the land that they live on. In the chapter named “Indigene” he chronicles the fates of indigenous peoples throughout the world at the hands of those seeking treasure, whether gold or oil.
“I am large, I contain multitudes.” ~Walt Whitman
I read this book with equal amounts of anger, sadness, hopefulness and joy. In one chapter the author details the events surrounding the huge demonstration in November of 1999 at the World Trade Organization’s Third Ministerial in Seattle and describes the policies of the World Bank. That the rights of businesses have overshadowed the rights of individuals, but how small groups of people have risen up to fight them, to demand accountability and responsibility, and how they’ve won.
What can those small groups accomplish, as they join forces, link arms and present a front? An incredible multitude of things. More than a third of the book is an alphabetical list of NGOs (non governmental organizations) the span the globe, dealing with everything from agriculture to worker’s rights. You can be part of the ever expanding network of people that work on behalf of the earth and her people at WiserEarth.org.
In a nutshell, read this book for history, the past. Read it for inspiration, the future. I’m glad I did. Thanks, Ernie.