Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God and the State

God and the State, Mikhail Bakunin's dissection of the church, government and socialism, is standard in any anarchist's library.  I know plenty of atheists and political science majors who have read it, as well.

At this stage in the game of life, you would think most people with any sort of governmental mistrust and those who question the authority of religion would have at least given this a glance.  Yes, it's incomplete (Bakunin died before he could finish it, and it is published that way), but it is one of the more influential books on the subject.  The foundations of the current anarchist movement are laid here.  The argument against the church is made clearly ... more clearly than a lot of the atheist movement's own literature (which, in its fervor, gives organized religion more power credence than it has on its own).

In other words, this should be standard reading for those who question the status quo.  What I have found is that it is not.

I can't really blame "free thinkers" for not knowing about the book, let alone reading it.  While referenced in plenty of other books on political history and theory, it is far from a household name.  You would really only have a working knowledge of it if you read a lot of anarchist history or read a lot of political theory.  Most of the people I know who question the order of things get their knowledge through The Daily Show.  (Which is on par with those who only get their knowledge through Fox.)  Few seek out anything really in-depth.  Fewer still seek out books published in 1882.  That doesn't make it any less historically important, however, and not just to anarchists.

 With America becoming even more polarized (something that seemed almost unimaginable six years ago), this book's message could not be more timely.  It teaches one how to critically challenge those in authority, and it sets the basis for the not only the current anarchist movement, but for every current movement that professes a desire to be free from government (including the Tea Party, the members of which would probably gasp if they read it).  Will it change the world?  I'd say it already has.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jitterbug Perfume

I'm reading, as to be expected by this post's title, Jitterbug Perfume.  It is the first Tom Robbins book I've ever read (I know, I know), and won't be the last.  Everyone who has seen me reading it, and who is familiar with his work, has said it is his best.  I don't have enough history to agree or disagree, but I am enjoying it. 

The circumstances behind me reading this are not something I am going to delve into too deeply.  Only two people really know why this book is so important, but I will say this: It was a gift, and it means a lot.  In fact, it was part of a book exchange.  I presented a gift that seemed to be just as appreciated.

Books always make excellent gifts ... unless you are giving them to someone who reads all of one book every five years because they saw something about it on the news or something.  The ones that are given because they have inspired someone or represent what they think is the finest work in the field are the most special because it isn't just a book you are getting, but a sort of window into the gift-giver's soul.  When I give Beyond Good and Evil or The Shining, the receiver is getting a glimpse into the philosophy I live by and the book that made me want to be a writer.

If I give Daredevil: Born Again they are getting the trade paperback that made me realize that I wanted to write something other than horror.  The Preacher and Lone Wolf and Cub series are given because I think they are two of the greatest stories ever told and represent values I think are important (truth, honor, friendship and revenge).  Pranks is another that showcases my philosophy.

The point is, books can be far more than just words or images on paper.  They are the mixed tapes you used to make for a loved one ramped up to the nth degree.  That's what makes them special (the same can be said for a movie or album that particularly inspired someone).  They are, in the end, far more than gifts, and that's why the right book at the right time can do far more than a gift certificate or a "I thought you would like this because it has blood in it" type of thing.  Think about that the next time you want to give someone special something.  Give them something that made you what you are.  The results can be amazing.