What I’ve Been Reading this Summer (Part 2)

More free time, and more books to fill it with. Here’s a look at a few I’ve been poring over:

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

This book is long — nearly 600 pages. It’s gripping, too. Klein thoroughly investigates and raises troubling questions about the historical struggle for power and use of shock therapy in implementing neo-liberal ideals around the globe, the often-predatory nature of disaster capitalism, and the conundrum of prolonged war-for-profit staged by increasingly privatized groups. (That may sound a little buzzword-heavy and abstruse, but I’ll defend the vocabulary as putting my Bachelor of Arts degree to use.) Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“The dirty secret of the neo-liberal era is that these [socially democratic] ideas were never defeated in a great battle of ideas, nor were they voted down in elections. They were shocked out of the way at key political junctions. When resistance was fierce, they were defeated with overt violence […] At other times, they were simply betrayed through what John Williamson called ‘voodoo politics’ […] It is precisely because the dream of economic equality is so popular, and so difficult to defeat in a fair fight, that the shock doctrine was embraced in the first place.”

My Spiritual Journey by Dalai Lama XIV and Sofia Stril-Rever

This book is an interesting look at not only the Dalai Lama’s life and philosophy, but also the situation of Tibet. The Dalai Lama’s dedication to nonviolence and environmental protection is admirable, as well as his insistence that above all else, he is a human being — something which he feels is crucial for everyone to realize about themselves if the world’s population is to find true cooperation and lasting peace. Here’s one segment that stuck with me:

“When I consider the lack of cooperation in society, I tell myself it is due to the ignorance of our interdependent nature. I am often moved by little insects, like bees. The laws of nature dictate that they work together in order to survive, since they are endowed with an instinctive sense of social responsibility. They have no constitution, laws, police, religion, or moral education, but they faithfully work together because of their nature. There are times when they might fight, but in general the entire colony survives thanks to cooperation. Human beings have constitutions, elaborate legal systems and police forces, religions, remarkable intelligence, and hearts endowed with the ability to love. But despite these extraordinary qualities, in actual practice we lag behind the smallest of insects. In some ways, I feel that we are poorer than the bees.”

All the Way by Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Brunt, Playing with Fire by Theoren Fleury and Kirstie McLellan Day, and Boy on Ice by John Branch

I’ll group these three together, because they all speak to different facets of a problem facing professional hockey: namely, that it’s steeped in a culture that belittles injuries, enables painkiller use, and neglects the mental well-being of its athletes. All three athletes profiled are casualties of the sport, in a way: Tootoo struggled with alcohol and dealt with racism, Fleury turned to drugs after being abused by a minor hockey coach, and Boogaard developed a painkiller addiction. Tootoo and Fleury were able to recover. Boogaard paid the toll with his life.

Often, we see athletes through a very narrow prism: either as avatars of our own sports fantasies, superhumans immune to injury and criticism, or spoiled millionaires playing a child’s game. These books serve an important purpose by humanizing them.

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