A week ago I was reading this daily blog From Poverty to Power, by, Oxfam’s Duncan Green. Green is author of How Change Happens, a book I stumbled upon a few years ago. Since reading it I’ve been following his daily (5 times a week) blog how change is being made in the world, especially as relates to global development. Last week Green posted a blog post which he called “COVID-19 As a Watershed on How We Run the World. The subtitle was "Important Reflection from Rutger Bregman." Bregman is a Dutch historian. Green links us to a piece Bregman authored in May 2020 which begins:
"In a crisis, what was once unthinkable can suddenly become inevitable. We’re in the middle of the biggest societal shakeup since the second world war. And neoliberalism is gasping its last breath. So from higher taxes for the wealthy to more robust government, the time has come for ideas that seemed impossible just months ago."
This led me to look a little more at Bregman and to checking out his 2017 book Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World. What a fun book. I just got the book from the library this week and I'm almost half way through it (I’m not a fast reader). It is one of those books that helps stand things on end for a different perspective. Steven Pinker, writes:
“If you’re bored with hackneyed debates, decades-old right-wing and left-wing cliches, you may enjoy the bold thinking, fresh ideas, lively prose, and evidenced based arguments of Utopias for Realists.”
or from a review in The Independent,
“ If energy, enthusiasm, and aphorism could make the world better, then Rutger Bregman’s book would do it. Even in translation from the Dutch, the writing is powerful and fluent...A boisterously good read.”
I think I am drawn to works like this because something foundational in me believes that a better world is possible, if only we could throw off the straight-jacket of our thoughts about what is possible. Regardless of the outcome of the election in just two weeks time, if we don’t believe a better world is possible, we probably will not find the energy to repair all that is broken. Bregman’s look at, for example how we think about poverty, alone is worth the price of your time.
Needless to say I’m only half way through the book, so I do not want to preclude where it ends up and what I might have to reconsider as I move through the pages Bregman has painted of possibilities. I just feel in my bones that it is this type of thinking, of recognizing the failures of our economic and social systems and then asking some better questions about what kind of world do we want to live in, that we might find both, some answers and some energy to redirect ourselves and our human family in that direction.
As Duncan Green notes more than once in his review of Bregman's essay, Bregman recently became a rather celebrated persona as a result of this clip of him speaking at the World Economic Forum in Devos. Perhaps that's another reason I started in on his book and in passing this along to you all.