What I’m Reading

Men Explain Things To Me

The patriarchy has created a system where female voices, ideas, opinions and roles in conversations are discounted. ‘Mansplaining,’ as many of us now refer to this scourge of discourse, is primary focus in Rebecca Solnit’s collection of essays, ‘Men Explain Things To Me.’

Using her own personal experiences as a ballast, Solnit shows how our socially constructed gender roles have led to condescending treatment from men.

It’s not that she doesn’t like learning new things from men, the problem is when men *think* they’re right and try to explain, incorrectly, to women simply because of their gender.

Perhaps the greatest example comes from an encounter she wrote about in a 2008 Los Angeles Times essay. She had recently published her seventh book, the latest was on Eadweard Muybridge. At a party, the host approaches her, diminishes her bibliography and proceeds to explain how there was another ‘very important’ book out about Muybridge he heard about in the New York Times Book Review.

As confusion ensued, she realized he hadn’t actually read the book he was mansplaining, because if he did he would have realized it was hers.

While mildly entertaining, not all experiences have comedic endings. Every young man should read this book to better understand their surroundings. Pick up a copy here.

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women

‘The End of Men’ by Hanna Rosin details how globalization and other market factors have changed the workforce over the last few decades and, consequently, our society has responded. Women, she explains, more adaptively.

Rosin’s book is an examination of traditional gender roles, masculinity, society, the work force and how all these elements intersect and evolve over time. Whether it’s the redefinition of “hookup culture” on college campuses or the ascension of women to top leadership positions in the private sector. [Regarding the latter, however, there is much more progress to be made.]

These advances toward a more equitable society have resulted in monumental societal changes. Men stay at home more while more women are the primary “breadwinners,” maternity leave has evolved into family leave and more jobs/industries are being created as a result of vacancies at home as women continue to claim real estate in the workplace. Certainly worth reading, especially if you’re a man. You can get a copy here.

Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America

This book is an exploration of the moral erosion in American society using the 10 Commandments as framework for 10 vignettes.

Anyone familiar with his style will appreciate the presentation of the personal accounts, anecdotes and interviews with people who have violated a commandment that serve as ‘lessons’ for the reader and all are interconnected by one overlying theme. Love, Hedges argues, is what can bring us together, deliver atonement and pave the way for a better society going forward.

While it’s certainly worth a read if you’re interested in moral philosophy—he invokes Immanuel Kant and Hannah Arendt at various points—or anyone who subscribes to a religious sect that adheres to the 10 Commandments, this is my least favorite Hedges book. This is, most likely, a result of our theological differences [I am an agnostic vs. his ‘unyielding faith’ that, understandably, a Seminarian would possess]. That said, Hedges remains my favorite writer and, for the aforementioned reasons, it’s certainly worth reading. Pick up a copy here.

Death Of The Liberal Class

The liberal base was once a strong check on the power elite and the ruling class but, writes Chris Hedges, those days are far behind us leaving a morally bankrupt ‘moral class’ that idly inhabits the Democratic party.

This book is of great importance we approach the Presidential primaries. It challenges our perception of ‘progress’ & progressivism and argues, quite convincingly, that what we now accept as progress is anything but. Digitized and commercialized, the world in which we live has rendered us as commodities to be bought and sold and, eventually, discarded as human refuse by the ruling class, Hedges explains.

If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll observe similar themes that supplement each work’s respective theories. [Note: This book pairs well with ‘Empire of Illusion’ & ‘War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,’ for example].

Part history lesson, part polemic, ‘The Death of the Liberal Class’ is a harrowing yet necessary read for anyone who identifies as a liberal. Get a copy here.

War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning

No better lens can be used to examine war, national aggression & military occupation than through the writing of Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer-prize winning former New York Times reporter in his timeless classic, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning.

Few have seen the horrors of war on as intimate a level as Hedges. He’s been held captive, starved, heard bullets zip past his head and witnessed the grim reality of death first-hand throughout his few decades reporting on the front lines of the world’s most harrowing times. PTSD now perturbs the Harvard-educated journalist.

Hedges fluidly lays out what war does to societies, how cultures glorify it, how it augments killers into role models, fuses sex and violence to perpetuate the culture of violence and destruction, and reduces the enemy, their families, beliefs and cultural traditions to sub-human levels.

“The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood,” Hedges writes in a recent column which slams the film American Sniper. “The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s ‘manly’ virtues.”

Heralding soldiers and war unilaterally in the name of valor does a disservice to everyone. It devalues the lives of foreigners, militant or otherwise. It perpetuates this idea that war, soldiers and the military are infallible and inherently worthy of our admiration and loyalty.

Hedges points out in his book and the column, how granting warmongers deference unwittingly can have consequences:

“It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. ‘American Sniper’ caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.”

Would highly recommend this book. Get a copy here.


Out Of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court

The first female justice of the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, provides a brief, yet detailed, history of the Supreme Court, its role in the American political process & recounts some of her favorite moments from her tenure. A short, yet delightfully insightful book. Certainly worth a read. Pick up a copy here.


No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State

If you suffer from paranoia Glenn Greenwald’s ‘No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State’ may not be for you.

Greenwald, the former columnist for the Guardian, tells all in this shocking exposé of the NSA & the United States’ secret spying tactics. Relying heavily on classified and top secret documents provided to him by former-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Greenwald reveals the chilling, invasive nature of the Federal Government’s beyond-Orwellian practices.

Through these documents, Greenwald details the NSA’s myriad programs that infiltrate digital devices, systems and communications which many people throughout the world believe to be secure and private. Heralding a mantra of “capture it all,” senior NSA officials push for total information collection and retention through programs like “XKeyscore,” which gives NSA analysts the ability to sift through a private citizens emails, phone records, social network accounts, and communications on various platforms without a warrant and, often times, without legal justification.

However, not only can those employed directly by the NSA access your private information, but contractors as well with sufficient security clearances too, like employees at Booz Allen Hamilton and Dell.

An estimated 500,000 people have this type of access.

The capabilities extend far beyond what many believe to even be possible. Perhaps the most shocking revelation was the NSA’s ability to not only access “offline” devices–i.e. phones, computers and webcams that aren’t actively connected to the internet or in use–but observe, listen, collect and retain the information without the subject’s knowledge. When meeting with Snowden in Hong Kong, Greenwald learned that the NSA could eavesdrop through personal devices even if they weren’t on, and the only way to prevent this was remove the battery or, if that wasn’t possible, place the device in a freezer so it would muffle the sound.

As the collection and retention efforts advance at steady rates, the NSA shows no signs of slowing and is encouraging world leaders to participate and share in this “technological advancement” by granting them easier access to THEIR citizens’ information.

The book is a fast read, pick up a copy here.

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