Plus ça change? No, the more it changes, the weirder the world gets. For policy wonks with an eye toward the middle term,...

THE SEVENTH SENSE

POWER, FORTUNE, AND SURVIVAL IN THE AGE OF NETWORKS

Salutary futuristic reading for those still inclined to “use a mechanical way of thinking in an age of complexity.”

Has there ever been an age without complexity and confusion? Probably not. However, as Kissinger Associates CEO Ramo (The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It, 2009, etc.) writes, this is a time of disruption that lends itself to “seventh sense” thinking—in less trendy terms, the ability to discern how things connect to other things in nodes and networks, “to look at any object and see the way in which it is changed by connection.” These networks can be benign; they can be useful, as in digitized library connections; and they can be harmful, in part owing to the “hyperdense concentrations of power” that are produced by networks, introducing opportunities for chaos and complexity into situations that are already fraught with them. Ramo quotes approvingly from the philosopher Paul Virilio in this regard: “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck.” Shipwrecks are all around us, as witness the network that is the Islamic State group, something that old-school thinking might imagine can be fought by air forces and bunker-buster bombs but that the Seventh Sensible would know requires different tools for dismantling. Ramo is sometimes vague but sometimes profound in a postmodern way that’s not the usual stuff of Washington think tanks: we have been busy “murdering the exotic,” he writes, with our first-world technologies and high-speed Internet connections, so we shouldn’t be surprised when “from time to time, the exotic shows up and murders us right back.” It all makes for provocative reading, and if the author is light on specifics, he offers plenty of interesting scenarios for such things as global power shifts, AI–enabled weapons systems, and the like.

Plus ça change? No, the more it changes, the weirder the world gets. For policy wonks with an eye toward the middle term, Ramo provides a good effort to make sense of it all.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-28506-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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