Acclaimed novelist Walter Mosley spins a different yarn in Workin' on the Chain Gang
, imploring citizens to solve the social, economic, racial, and political crimes of late-20th-century civilization. Mosley takes aim at the average American's feelings of disempowerment and--while he is quick to point out the role race plays--he also states: "The problem facing Americans today does not originate from racial conflict. The problem is the enslavement of a whole nation to the rather small and insignificant goals of the few who own (or control) almost everything." Mosley covers a lot of ground--from Plato's Republic
to his own bid for the presidency--but through it all, his faith rests in the individual to change the world through changing his or her own world; he cites as an example his creative powers as a writer to turn fiction into reality. Mosley calls for us to "recognize some of the restraints placed on us by the organization of labor and popular culture, then to see, from a calm place, that there might be a world in our hearts that we would like to realize, first by speaking out, then by shouting out, and finally by action." --Eugene Holley Jr.
From Publishers Weekly
Mosley, the author of the popular and critically acclaimed Easy Rawlins mystery series and other novels, issues an ardent manifesto that addresses the political and economic "chains that define our range of motion and our ability to reach for the higher goals" under capitalism, and argues that these "chains might be more recognizable in the black experience, but they restrain us all." Pointing out how "history, economics, self-image, the media, politics and our misuse of technology" limit us, Mosley boldly calls for an aggressive reevaluation of how public information, social life, work and identity are constructed in the United States, invoking a simple axiom: "What we need is a reexamination of the people and their needs." While he claims not to be specifically advocating socialism, he targets an economic system that values corporate profits over the lives and well-being of workers as the main source of psychic and physical pain and ill health in our society. His evaluation of U.S. politics is harsh ("What kind of democracy gives you two candidates who represent less than 5 percent of the population?"), but his message is idealistic, even utopian in its simplicity. In the end, Mosley urges his readers to take responsibility for their own lives and to use their imaginations to envision a new world: "The only way out is to be crazy, to imagine the impossible... to say what it is you want." Less a rigorous political proposal than a cri de coeur against the stifling of the human spirit, Mosley's short book is a bracing and provocative declaration of intellectual and political independence. (Jan.)
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