New Finds

Change Agents

Twenty-nine 20th-century radical commentaries.

Book Cover One wonders what it takes to staunch the hemorrhaging of originality from cultural conversation—in this case, the overuse of Yadda-Yadda-Nation this or Blah-Blah-Planet that? The clichéd title being the only complaint I can raise with this compendium of 29 dissident texts entitled Protest Nation: Words That Inspired a Century of American Radicalism (The New Press), edited by Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian.

Called by the authors a field manual of sorts for the contemporary culture wars, it contains various speeches, letters, broadsides, essays, and manifestos from activists and radicals such as Angela Davis, Stokley Carmichael, Rachel Carson, Cesar Chavez, Betty Friedan, Marcus Garvey, Allen Ginsberg, Emma Goldman, Abbie Hoffman, Harvey Milk, Peter Singer, Paul Robeson, and others.

The editors caution:
As we begin the next American century—one with unmistakably global implications—it is worth remembering that many of the things we now take for granted have radical roots. It is also worth noting that radical thinking can be valuable regardless of the degree of influence. In times of great crisis and repression—the likes of which we have experienced recently—citizens may find it worthwhile to simply speak their minds, demand their rights dream of a different world and work to bring it about. As Margaret Mead exhorted us: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the worlds. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” Democracy is not inevitable. As we have seen again in recent years, it cannot be imposed from high: it must be generated from below. In these precious times we need to remember that freedom and equality have never been given freely or distributed equally—in America or anywhere else.
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