I’ve been chewing my way through an audiobook of brutal proportions. I should have a review for it tomorrow. This book has reinforced a lot of my pie-in-the-sky idealistic beliefs about how we could change for the better, both as a nation (for those of you living in the United States) and as a global community.
It’s also reinforced a lot of understandings as to why these things won’t change anytime soon. I don’t know that my nation can do it on its own. I don’t think our people want it badly enough, even with all of the protests, the riots, and the positive political action. There’s too much resistance from those who think like Sith lords, the types who want only to maintain and increase their power… which is precisely what the book itself covers. The book is The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by historian Edward E. Baptist. The title says it all. Every problem we have today — socially, economically, and politically — started there, and this book explains it all in graphic detail. In a lot of ways it’s a shared experience of a lot of cultures across the whole of recorded history from the age of the Pharaohs on down. The difference is, of course, this happened in “the land of the Free and the home of the Brave.” It powered us to nationhood in the first place, and it powered us on the road to becoming an economic superpower after the so-called Age of Enlightenment.
On a personal level, it’s making me rethink a great many of my choices, about how I vote with my dollar every time I make a purchase, how I’ll vote at the poll, and how I’m going to have to restrain myself from hitting everyone who ever says something stupid like “market forces” will make things right. Our free market is anything but free. It’s built on bone and ash, lubricated with blood, sweat, and tears. These are things I’ve always understood on some level. You can’t grow up here, especially in the South, without knowing. It’s just that we have a way of somehow becoming numb to it or filtering it all out. I’ve read enough history, I’ve seen enough of the social dynamic in play all around me, I’ve talked to those who had these stories passed down to them and dealt with the aftermath themselves… I pick things up and put pieces together. I’ve even visited a plantation-turned-museum and have seen the slave quarters, the living conditions, and the working conditions with my own eyes, and even that was a far gentler experience than it would have been in the days before the war. It’s one thing to be aware of such things. It’s something different to immerse yourself in that world through firsthand accounts to see how it was built and how it continues even now, over 150 years after Lincoln.
This is the power of a book.
I think it’s safe to say that few, if anyone, I personally know in my own world will ever read this book. Most people I know online won’t read this book. And yet, it needed to be written, and it needs to be read. That really should be the whole of my review. I fear the actual review will be a lot more ranty because I tend to write while the book is fresh in my mind, like now. I’ll try to dial it back.