Ill Fares the Land

Today’s post has no picture, because I couldn’t bear to look again at the images of the oil spill in the Gulf.  Today’s post is also a book review — of sorts — because, although it might appear my interests are confined to bicycles and lighting, I am actually still interested in words and books.

The best thing  I’ve read this year (well, I did love Parrot and Olivier too)was a book by the historian Tony Judt called Ill Fares the Land.

One of Judt’s significant points  — that we’re in a bad way because we have abandoned our belief in the idea that the government can actually perform functions that private enterprise cannot — is tragically and aptly illustrated by the BP oil spill.  Every answer to the question how did this happen? leads to this answer:  because we thought a private company like BP, acting with little public oversight, would keep our coastline safe. Paul Krugman is good on this subject too.  (“We need politicians who believe in good government, because there are some jobs only the government can do.”)

It’s a short book, one that reviewers have pointed out reads like a great commencement speech.  That’s not a criticism though. The book is rousing, intelligent, and uses the past to illuminate the present, which happens all too seldom.  And, for me, it turned out to be just what was needed to fend off the despair that comes with tragedies like this oil spill.

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3 thoughts on “Ill Fares the Land

  1. The news from the Gulf is depressing, BL. Just the thought of how many animals and birds and plants will die, and how many livelihoods will be lost, and how long the oceans will be poisoned makes me sick. And we haven’t even begun to think of the people who died in the initial explosion 😦 .

    On to more cheerful matters, I have something that might pique your curiosity since it has to do with bikes. The witty blogger “BikeSnobNYC” has a book called Bike Snob – Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling. It is hilarious from start to finish. His comparisons and pop culture references had me grinning from ear to ear.

  2. Lilian — I’m with you on that.

    Dear Polaris, Thank you for that suggestion. I LOVE him. Well, you know. He is indeed very funny. My sons ride fixies (with brakes!), and I think they might be amused to hear that they’re part of a movement of hip, but clueless twenty-something guys. eAnd to have a verb for the idiocy that is riding on the wrong side of the road: to salmon — is very handy when I’m out on my law-abiding rides.

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