Saturday, April 11, 2009
Hopes Dies Last
I've heard several interviews with the late radio host, commentator and oral historian Studs Terkel. I've also read several articles about him. So I knew he was a good egg. (Admitedly, I would think that from the name alone- which sounds like a character from the Preston Sturges film- and from his friendly mug)
But, despite having his autobiography in storage, I had never read anything by him until last week when I read Hope Dies Last.
Hope Dies Last is an oral history of the idea of hope. It was published during some of the darkest days of the Bush administration. When Bush was at the height of his popularity. The USA was just about to invade Iraq, the Senate was rubber stamping Bush's legistlation etc. It was a time of little hope for anyone on the Left. Studs book was an attempt at intervened to dispell this hopelessness. This is why its subtitled Making a Difference in an Indifferent World.
It would be impossible to summarize Studs oral history. Impossible to summarize how all the remarkable people he interviews perserve to make a difference in an indifferent world. He interviews so many remarakble people who have done remarkable things in an indifferent world from many organizer's, to Pete Seeger, to teachers to citizens of Japanese origin internee in US concentration camps during world war II etc. etc. He also interviews a truly repellant human being-- the man who dropped the atomic bombs on Japan and shows a twisted sort of pride at the murder of tens of thousands.
Now there is a different president in Washington. One that is better then the Bush administration in many important ways. But his administration is still fucking up the world with its horrendous economic policy. An economic policy that as David Harvey points out is strengthening the capitalist class instead of bailing out the people who are loosing their homes. This president speaks of the audacity of hope. And I can't help but think that when Obama was an organizer in Chicago he was influenced by the discourse of hope of Studs and his interviewees. But the big difference is that Obama speaks hope as audacious in-itself. Studs and the remarkable people he interviews, see it as a necessary means, a source of inspiration for making the world a better place.
Read this book. Don't just take it from me. Take it from Studs.