Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. See main page for full contents

September 19, 2009


By Rebecca Solnit

Publishers Weekly: Natural and man-made disasters can be utopias that showcase human solidarity and point the way to a freer society, according this stimulating contrarian study. Solnit (River of Shadows) reproves civil defense planners, media alarmists and Hollywood directors who insist that disasters produce terrified mobs prone to looting, murder and cannibalism unless controlled by armed force and government expertise. Surveying disasters from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, she shows that the typical response to calamity is spontaneous altruism, self-organization and mutual aid, with neighbors and strangers calmly rescuing, feeding and housing each other. Indeed, the main problem in such emergencies, she contends, is the elite panic of officials who clamp down with National Guardsmen and stifling regulations ORDER


Anonymous Mairead said...

Thanks for the pointer, Sam. I just read the single review the book's so far garnered at Amazon, and am eager to read the book itself.

There's a ton of anecdotal evidence in the historical record that we do not need a ruling class --that we actually do better without people In Charge, possibly because, unlike our rulers, when we self-organise we're not doing it to exploit others but rather only to make things work.

It'll be interesting to see how well she's pulled together the available evidence. I believe she is the first to have systematically researched it with a view to publication.

September 19, 2009 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The very last thing the power elite wants us to discover is that we really don't need them at all.

September 21, 2009 1:40 PM  

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