Here’s the latest World Wide Work update.
The Postcard by Anne Berest (Europa Editions). A thoroughly researched novel tells the powerful story of the author’s family members who, as Jews, were forced to leave a long series of countries in the early 1900s until four of them were killed in a German concentration camp. Berest brings alive the terror Jews faced during that period, and explores her feelings about being Jewish and anti-Semitism today.
Tolerance Is a Wasteland by Saree Makdisi (University of California). In 1948, the great majority of Palestinian communities in what would become Israel were destroyed, driving an estimated 800,000 people from their homes and farms – a process that continues to this day. Yet, Israel denies that history and portrays itself as an outpost of liberal values, racial tolerance, and environmental sustainability. For anyone who is heartsick at the escalation of violence in the Middle East and is interested in understanding a different perspective, this recent book is one of many places to start.
Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter (Simon and Schuster). Drawing on his direct experience as an international negotiator, the former president wrote in 2006 that negotiated solutions had been acceptable to Hamas and other Palestinian groups on multiple occasions but that “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement.” Illegal Israeli actions are condoned by “a submissive White House and U.S. Congress,” “voices from Jerusalem dominate in our media,” and “most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories,” he wrote.
Rust Belt Union Blues by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol (Columbia University). Most people vote based not only on policy issues but on their identity and the social networks they belong to. As corporations succeeded in destroying union jobs in states like Pennsylvania, many working people turned away from national Democratic leaders who didn’t stand up for them and didn’t seem to respect them. Union halls that once functioned as community centers with ties to local churches, ethnic organizations, sports leagues, and social clubs largely disappeared. In their place, gun clubs, mega churches, and company-sponsored social activities filled many people’s need for connection and community identity. Efforts by national unions to phone bank and canvas at election time cannot replace the need to rebuild a sense of community and solidarity at the local level.
Excluded by Richard D. Kahlenberg (Public Affairs). “Highly educated liberals who are admirably concerned with inequality by race, gender, and sexual orientation” often support zoning and other housing policies that “segregate their communities by income.” Kahlenberg reports that unions, community organizations, and climate activists have joined forces in some states and cities to win policy changes that promote economic integration with an eye toward making housing more affordable. He also addresses objections to those reforms commonly raised by conservatives and liberals.
The Lies of the Land by Steven Conn (University of Chicago). Rural America is often talked about as a place full of family farmers and wholesome values. But in reality, cheaper land, lower wages, and the general absence of unions in rural areas have long been exploited by big corporations and developers that extract profits and leave poverty in their wake, and by the U.S. military that uses rural youth as cannon fodder.
The Fantasy Economy by Neil Kraus (Temple University). Politicians, corporate profiteers, and the media tell us that if working people are experiencing a drop in living standards and economic security it’s because they don’t have enough education, and that there is a shortage of professionals with science and technology training. Neither of these assertions is supported by the facts. Instead, those who benefit from wealth inequality use these “blame the victim” myths to stave off reforms that would address inequality directly, like raising the minimum wage, stopping companies from falsely claiming their workers are “contractors,” or making it easier to form unions.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer (Levine Querido). This plain spoken and unromanticized guide by a professor of Ojibwe from Minnesota admirably lives up to its title, answering common questions about Native peoples’ history, culture, politics, and contemporary activism.
Corporate Bullsh*t by Nick Hanauer, Joan Walsh, and Donald Cohen (New Press). Throughout U.S. history, big corporations and their political allies have opposed progressive policies using six messages: 1) There is no problem, 2) The free market will solve it, 3) You are at fault, not us, 4) Any reform will kill jobs, 5) You’ll just make it worse, and 6) What you propose is socialism! The authors have collected hundreds of such statements that were used to justify slavery, child labor, toxic pollution, tobacco profiteering, and many other practices that are now outlawed or regulated.
A Fabulous Failure by Nelson Lichtenstein and Judith Stein (Princeton). Liberals who wonder why fewer working class people support the Democratic Party can learn a lot by studying the history of Bill Clinton’s presidency, in which he removed public interest regulations on Wall Street and set the stage for the Great Recession of 2008, lowered labor standards and cut jobs through “free trade” agreements, took away welfare benefits from many households while increasing policing in poor neighborhoods, and designed a failed health care reform proposal that generated enthusiastic support from virtually no constituency.
Israelism. The young woman and young man featured in this film both grew up in unequivocally pro-Israel Jewish families, schools, and communities. Neither of them learned anything about the Palestinians whose homes had been appropriated. The young man enthusiastically volunteered for the Israeli army after high school. But when he was sent on patrol in the West Bank, he saw the conditions that Palestinians were subjected to. The young woman -- the great-granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor -- went to meetings at UC Berkeley armed with pro-Israel talking points, but when she heard Palestinian students speak she became curious and eventually spent extensive time in both Israel and Palestine to learn more. Both of these young American Jews, as well as Palestinians and Israeli Jews who are interviewed in the film, have come to the conclusion that there can be no military solution and that there will never be an end to the hostilities in that region as long as there isn’t liberty and justice for all.
And Then There Was Israel. This documentary recounts the history of the establishment of Israel. In the early 1900s, Britain, France, and the U.S. did not want Jewish refugees who were fleeing persecution in Russia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. In 1917, the British government announced that it would “favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and that it would use its “best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.” Many Jews around the world opposed this proposal to take over Palestinians’ territory, saying that the major western nations should do more to end discrimination against Jews in the countries they already called home.
War Pony. Two residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation co-wrote the script for this touching film that uses local actors. The story is centered on a 23-year-old man and 12-year-old boy who are trying to survive despite the obstacles colonization has left behind.
Past Lives. A young girl moves from Korea to New York with her family and eventually settles down with a Jewish man. Two decades later, a boy she knew in Seoul reappears in her life, sparking questions about her identity and the life path she has followed.
Cassandro. Gael Garcia Bernal stars in this true story of a gay man who breaks barriers in the Mexican wrestling art form known as Lucha Libre.
C’mon, C’mon. A nine-year-old boy has been raised by his mother to be able to express his feelings. The same is not so true of his uncle, who is working on a radio project interviewing kids in various cities about how they see the future. The two are thrown together by circumstance, and each learns from the other.
Dos Estaciones. A 50-year-old woman who inherited her family’s tequila factory in Jalisco tries to keep it going despite competition from foreign-funded competitors, all the while dealing with her own identity as a non-conforming woman attracted to other women.
Can’t Eat Clout by La Doña. In concert, the young performer from the Bay Area mixed musical styles and languages but always had the multi-generational audience moving to the beat.
Carion Wind Quintet. A Danish-Latvian quintet makes classical music entertaining even for the uninitiated.