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Archive for August 5th, 2022

Book Review: “Everything for Everyone”

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An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052–2072 by M. E. O’Brien and Eman Abdelhadi

Published by Common Notions 2022

ISBN: 978-1-94217-358-8

There are times now when I feel that humanity – indeed all life on this planet – does not have much of a future. We have been lurching into a climate crisis, preferring the lies of the fossil fuel industry and their tame politicians over what scientists have been trying to tell us. At the same time our political systems seem to be visibly collapsing, with voters preferring to elect posturing fools and other populists over people who are at least in some contact with reality. We may not even live long enough to witness the end of the climate crisis as nuclear war – which once seemed to have been contained as an unthinkable option – now seems to be distinctly possible.

This book sets out an alternative possibility and is written in the past tense about what could happen in the near future. I was born in 1949 and I have already outlived my parents and my older brother, and do not expect to be around for any of these events, if I am lucky. And I cannot say that the possible future described here will be free of pain, and distress and quite a lot of death and destruction before things start getting sorted out. The future envisaged here does not include money. It also gets rid, mostly, of fascists and demagogues – and the exceedingly wealthy. Space travel is recovered from the billionaires and will become just another available service to the people once they have finished building the space elevator. Lots of species – and entire ecosystems – have been destroyed but efforts are underway if not at restoration at least in re-creation of new ones. Most people will live in communes, sharing everything including childcare and working only a few hours here and there on housekeeping and counselling and other essentials. Food is mostly eaten communally too, though a few eccentrics are able to live alone. There are lots of meetings and discussions. There are also many more genders than two. Or if you prefer, none at all. Religion, it seems, continues. People remain attached if they want to but it does not seem that religionists are allowed to make decisions for everyone any more.

There are descriptions over how these changes came about which seem to point to the inevitability of wars and other conflicts but not, apparently the mutually assured destruction that nuclear deterrence has been based on. And, this being America there are an awful lot of guns out there now which we can’t just magic away.

The fact that I won’t be here for most of this actually isn’t much of a comfort, because I have children and an extended family. Of course I am concerned about them – and their offspring. I have done my planning and made my preferences clear – but once I am gone even that is now beyond my control. There is a lot here, in this book, that makes me very uncomfortable and nervous, since in my experience sensible collective decision making seems to be one of the most difficult things we have to do – and there are many decisions which I have seen made which were, to say the least, suboptimal. So while I hope they are right and the will of the people turns out to be a better path, I still fear that the rich and powerful are not going to give up easily. Any more than the people who harbour dangerous delusions and misapprehensions will relinquish them readily.

So while the overall tone of the book is positive I have to say that it is also made very clear that this is not a foregone conclusion and the predicted outcome depends on a large number of unpredictable factors. On the other hand it is very readable and it did not take a great deal of effort to get through. There are other books that I have requested to review where I didn’t get beyond the first chapter, so I think it is fair to say that I do recommend that if you share anxieties about pandemics, and climate change, and international tensions, this will provide food for thought. A better future is possible, just – I am afraid – not very likely if present trends continue. And living through upheavals isn’t going to be all fun and frolics either.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 5, 2022 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized