In times like these, when the personal is more political than ever, we must read books which remind us of our power as citizens in a democracy, gives us a better understanding on revolutionary violence, and helps us look back into history when fascist regimes prevailed, persecuted, and crumbled against the power of the people.
Here is a list of books, which has changed the way I look at the world and, I hope, it informs your perspective too.
“As soon as a man, through lack of character, takes refuge in doctrine, as soon as crime reasons about itself, it multiplies like reason itself and assumes all the aspects of the syllogism.” The purpose of this essay is, once again, to face the reality of the present, which is a logical crime and examine meticulously the arguments by which it is justified.
“Man’s solidarity is founded upon rebellion, and rebellion, in its turn, can only find its justification in this solidarity. We have, then, the right to say that any rebellion which claims the right to deny or destroy this solidarity loses simultaneously its right to be called a rebellion and becomes, in reality, an acquiescence in murder.”
“A freedom that is interested only in denying freedom must be denied. And it is not true that the recognition of the freedom of others limits my own freedom: to be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is to be able to surpass the given toward an open future; the existence of others as a freedom defines my situation and is even the condition of my own freedom. I am oppressed if I am thrown into prison, but not if I am kept from throwing my neighbor into prison,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir.
“The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history,” Hannah Arendt opined.
“On the receiving end you get not only one lie – a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days – but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”
Fanon, in his study of the psychological effects of colonialism, asserted that the act of colonisation is one of pure violence and the native (in the process of decolonisation) finds that violence is the only suitable response (violence often breaking out internally amongst colonised nations- Columbia’s continued civil strife between the Colombian government and left-wing forces such as the National Liberation Army).
Fanon suggested that ultimately, the colonised people will turn inward and commit destructive acts amongst themselves due to an internal, unresolved conflict. Fanon thought violence must play a necessary role in decolonisation struggles, the false paths decolonising nations take when they entrust their eventual freedom to negotiations between a native elite class and former colonizers instead of mobilizing the masses as a popular fighting force, the need to recreate a national culture through a revolutionary arts and literature movement, and an inventory of psychiatric disorders that colonial repression unleashes.
“Look, part of the whole technique of disempowering people is to make sure that the real agents of change fall out of history, and are never recognized in the culture for what they are. So it’s necessary to distort history and make it look as if Great Men did everything – that’s part of how you teach people they can’t do anything, they’re helpless, they just have to wait for some Great Man to come along and do it for them,” Chomsky wrote.
“Are the terrorist fundamentalists, be they Christian or Muslim, really fundamentalists in the authentic sense of the term? Do they really believe? What they lack is a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the US: the absence of resentment and envy, deep indifference towards the non-believer’s way of life.”
Eric Hoffer wrote, “It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence. We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression.”
“Everyone is familiar with the slogan “The personal is political”, not only that what we experience on a personal level has profound political implications, but that our interior lives, our emotional lives are very much informed by ideology. We often do the work of the state in and through our interior lives. What we often assume belongs most intimately to ourselves and to our emotional life has been produced elsewhere and has been recruited to do the work of racism and repression,” wrote Angela Davis.
“As we pass one step, and as we recognize it as being behind us, the next one already rises up before us. By the time we learn everything, we slowly come to understand it. And while you come to understand everything gradually, you don’t remain idle at any moment: you are already attending to your new business; you live, you act, you move, you fulfill the new requirements of every new step of development. If, on the other hand, there were no schedule, no gradual enlightenment, if all the knowledge descended on you at once right there in one spot, then it’s possible neither your brains nor your heart could bear it.”
It is needless to ask of a saint the caste to which he belongs;
For the priest, the warrior. the tradesman, and all the thirty-six castes, alike are seeking for God.
It is but folly to ask what the caste of a saint may be;
The barber has sought God, the washerwoman, and the carpenter.
Even Raidas was a seeker after God.
The Rishi Swapacha was a tanner by caste.
Hindus and Moslems alike have achieved that End, where remains no mark of distinction.