Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History (Library of Contemporary Thought)

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9780345430694: Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History (Library of Contemporary Thought)


Slavery was outlawed in this country more than a century ago, but Americans still wear chains. Each one of us, black and white alike, is shackled by a system that values money over humanity, power over truth, conformity over creativity. Race has undeniably made the problem worse, but race is not the root of the problem. Indeed, as black novelist and activist Walter Mosley brilliantly argues in this impassioned call to arms, though the chains might be more recognizable in the lives of blacks, the same chains restrain us all. Only when we understand this truth can we begin—black and white together—to cast off the shackles.

Far from being a cause for celebration, the millennium, Mosley argues fiercely, should be the occasion for a frank reckoning with the real state of our society. We have the power to end starvation, but one-third of our children live in poverty. Our politics have degenerated into a multimillion-dollar game show ruled by two indistinguishable monopolies. We drug ourselves with television, sports, sex, apathy, and obsession with celebrity, while our cities rot and violence erupts in our schools.

Why is this happening? Because we have allowed ourselves to be made into property, owned and controlled by an economic system in which "value" means only profit. "Some of us are cogs in the economic machine," writes Mosley, "others are ghosts, but it is the machine, not race or gender or even nationality, that drives us."

But each one of us can work toward breaking off these chains. First by recognizing the truth of our history—a history that is crucially informed by the black experience. Second by beginning to free ourselves from the noise, the often shallow, diverting entertainments, and an all-consuming economic system. The nation and its potentials are ours to command, but only if we work, individually and collectively, to cast off the chains of yesterday's politics and seize the freedoms that the future holds.

Angry, original, and fearlessly honest, Workin' on the Chain Gang is a powerful examination of the American economic and political machine. No matter what your race, gender, politics, or beliefs, this is a book that will profoundly alter the way you think—and the way you act.

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Review:

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 the Back Cover:

A fiery call to arms from one of America's most brilliant black voices

"Black American history is American history. There is an echo of Jim Crow in the HMO: people shunted aside, denied access, and allowed to suffer with no real democratic recourse. Downsizing is an excellent way of robbing a worker of her accrued wealth. The widening gap between rich and poor is a way of demonizing the latter, because poverty is a sin in the richest country in the world. These new systems of injustice wear the trappings of freedom, but they are just as unacceptable as their forebears. The only difference is that under these systems we all suffer. This time everyone is a potential victim".

-- from WORKIN' ON THE CHAIN GANG

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