Not Oprah’s Book Club: Blessed Unrest

In Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Say it Coming, environmentalist and journalist Paul Hawken, admits, “In a world grown too complex for constrictive ideologies, even the very word movement to describe such a process may be limiting.” He goes on to map this “movement” as having three basic roots: environmental activism, social justice initiatives, and indigenous cultures’ resistance to globalization. Through his impressive grasp of systems theory, scientific research, and activism efforts worldwide, he goes on to pain a picture of a paradigm shift in our world, one where “the goal is to create a more resilient social and economic understory in what is basically an oligarchic world, a powerful act that restores a measure of autonomy and power to citizens.”

As I was reading this incredible book–so rich with poetic language and unusual insight–I kept thinking of how much Hawken’s perspective pertains to the so-called “women’s movement.” As I’ve written before, our feminist landscape has become more and more fragmented, more and more grassroots, less and less interested in ideology so rigid that it echoes the very dualism we are fighting against (like “women are inherently more peaceful” or “all women should vote with the same interests in mind.”) Hawken writes at length about the ways in which this new movement is one of ideas, not ideology, thought leaders in regional contexts all over the world, not one or two figureheads. All of this, I believe, can also be said of contemporary feminism.

This book is so worth checking out if you care about how movements are created, interconnected, and grown. Hawken’s gift with words makes what is sometimes a fairly historic and scientific book flow as if it were memoir, but the most valuable thing about this book is its bird’s eye view. Hawken writes:

We can not embrace or manage the plethora of problems that confront us. The world simply appears to be out of control. Too often, however, such problems seem insoluble because of how they are managed–with ideological, top down, oligarchic, militaristic management styles. If we tried to consciously control our bodies, we would die, just as the planet is dying. We don’t manage our bodies because we can’t. We can, however, protect, nurture, listen to, and tend to them with food, sleep, prayer, friendship, laughter, and exercise. And that is all the planet asks from us: allies, rest, nurturance, respect, celebration, collaboration, and engagement.

Here’s Hawken talking about all of this:

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