Bleh. I don't hate it. In fact, as an activist starter pack, I think it's perfect.
Mostly I felt frustrated at certain limitations she didn't talk about. Oftentimes when I read Solnit, I'll start getting a little worked up under what I perceive to be her own "privelobliviousness", and then she'll turn around and show me that she was thinking about that too. I didn't necessarily feel that with this one.
Is it weird that she takes a close-minded stance on the middle ground? I rarely felt like she was opening her arms to people in despair, who, yes, sometimes ARE the people who insulate themselves with downer attitude to seem more intelligent or to avoid responsibility as she rightfully condemns - but also are often people so downtrodden by systems that they simply don't see a way out. People who turn to more drastic measures to improve their situation because in the current time, there IS no way out for them. To these people she gives little comfort, other than maybe a "sometimes it works out in weird ways!" ... Thanks????? I get her point, pointless cynicism is about as unhelpful as blind optimism, but she seems to mix up that cynicism with actual despair
, and it feels like she has little to offer for the immediate moment - everything needs to be big perspective, which is a privilege to be able to consider when homelessness is NOW, hunger and scraps and survival are NOW and TOMORROW and not SOMEDAY IN THE FUTURE. There is painfully little understanding of that, I feel, when these are the people most in danger.
I also felt largely uncomfortable with her extollment of nonviolent protests - almost implying that most protests aren't
nonviolent at their inception, that they aren't escalated by police intensity and the resulting perception that groups (particularly of people of color) are there to be
violent, which then becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy. It was a very "isn't it so great that the Women's March was so peaceful" type of mindset, ignoring that yes, the great MLK marched peacefully - and then proceeded to be ripped apart by police and was assassinated in the end. But it makes a great story, so................
Yes, as long as you are poem that inspires Dante, it's okay. Ignoring stories that go untold, ignoring stories that are vilified
in current media, ignoring that yes, perhaps her more recent marches have not had a visible leader doesn't mean that there aren't people who organize the whole damn thing and that those people tend to be underscored in comparison to people who just needed to show up nowadays. Not that those people aren't valuable, but there is a certain element of delusion I feel like is happening here. If leaders are groups, then LEADERS ARE GROUPS. At the center of a huge Black Lives Matter movement, there is an actual group of people in the middle who stand for it and organize it. Those are leaders, even if they don't isolate it to a single face of a movement.
I do love and agree with her on certain concepts, such as the very true perception that a "victory" is the end of a story, and that real life continues long after a "victory". However, on the same hand she criticizes people who don't take partial victories as victories, insisting on an all universal utopia as the only victory that can exist. All I could think about here is the gap between white women and women of color. The insistence that a win for white women is a win for all women - which it rarely ever is, but the rest of us should be content in this "victory" and not disparage it anyway. I don't feel like this is presented as "it is a victory but the larger victory would be for ALL WOMEN", it largely felt like "just because the victory doesn't include you, person who must still deal with all these side effects, doesn't mean that it isn't a victory". I get the point, I just felt like it was more critical of the continually disadvantaged than it had to be. Going back to the despair thing - how are people not supposed to feel despair when victories consistently don't include them? The fact that "well, wage discrepancy was even lower than 70 cents to a dollar before, isn't that a victory" is framed to be "the man has a point" as opposed to "are you kidding me" was infuriating as hell.
I felt like Solnit was trying to be expansive, but in the weirdest way I felt like she was being incredibly single-minded about being in the middle. Normally I feel like she makes large concessions to her own privilege and the possibility that she isn't the final word and the all seeing perspective on things, but I did NOT feel that here.