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Friday, January 30, 2004

Feeling Discouraged?

Adam Hochschild's writing always opens my eyes and inspires me. His latest book, King Leopold's Ghost told the story of exploitation and reform in the Belgian Congo. His complex meticulously-researched history tells the story of men like Edmund Morel; men with little more than the courage of their convictions and an unwillingness to see injustice perpetuated. It's also the story of the world's first multinational corporation; King Leopold's Congo Free State. Morel's transformation from humble shipping clerk to whistleblower to human rights champion, and the corresponding downfall of a corrupt and ruthless dictator has its modern parallels, to be sure.

The best part of Hochschild's work is that you're able to get a preview of it at Eric Schlosser, author of the thought-provoking Fast Food Nation also works for mojo, providing the best one-two puch in investigative journalism today.

Here's a preview of Hochschild's Against All Odds:

On Slavery in the British Empire, he writes:

"...If you had proposed, in the London of early 1787, to change all of this, nine out of ten people would have laughed you off as a crackpot. The 10th might have admitted that slavery was unpleasant but said that to end it would wreck the British Empire's economy. It would be as if, today, you maintained that the automobile must go. One in ten listeners might agree that the world would be better off if we traveled instead by foot, bicycle, electric train, or trolley, but are you suggesting a political movement to ban cars? Come on, be serious! Looking back, however, what is even more surprising than slavery's scope is how swiftly it died. By the end of the 19th century, slavery was, at least on paper, outlawed almost everywhere. Every American schoolchild learns about the Underground Railroad and the Emancipation Proclamation. But our self-centered textbooks often skip over the fact that in the superpower of the time slavery ended a full quarter-century earlier. For more than two decades before the Civil War, the holiday celebrated most fervently by free blacks in the American North was not July 4 (when they were at risk of attack from drunken white mobs) but August 1, Emancipation Day in the British Empire".
Read Against All Odds

"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have".
-Margaret Mead

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