John Berger occupies a unique position in the international cultural landscape: artist, filmmaker, poet, philosopher, novelist, essayist, he is also a deeply thoughtful political activist. In Hold Everything Dear, he artistry and activism mesh in an attempt to make sense of the world as we have come to know it during the past six years.
Berger analyzes the nature of terrorism and the profound despair that gives rise to it. He writes about the homelessness of millions across the globe who have been forced by poverty and war into lives as refugees. He discusses Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Serbia, Bosnia, China, Indonesiaanyplace the power of corporations, the military, or paramilitary elements is being exercised, depriving ordinary citizens of autonomy or livelihoods or the most basic of freedoms.
Singularly lucid and bold, Hold Everything Dear fully acknowledges the depth of suffering occurring around the world and suggests ideas and action that might finally help bring it to an end. From one of the most widely admired, articulate, and impassioned writers of our time, this is a powerful collections of essays that holds a starkly reflective mirror up to post-9/11 realities.
Slender, slight collection of aphoristic essays by British art critic, novelist and political activist Berger (Here is Where We Meet, 2006, etc.). "Are you still a Marxist?" Berger, echoing an interlocutor, asks in one piece later in the book. He answers in the affirmative, but not before writing, gnomically, "Every day people follow signs pointing to some place which is not their home but a chosen destination" (yes, for that way lies London, the Pantheon, and points beyond) and urging, "The consumer is essentially somebody who feels, or is made to feel, lost, unless he or she is consuming" (oh, blessed circularity!). The question, the answers, are characteristic of Berger; the approach is of signal interest when approaching, say, a piece by Tatlin or Chagall or Van Gogh, much less so when brought to bear on literal matters of life and death, for does anyone but Harold Pinter need take notice when such observations as "What makes a terrorist is, first, a form of despair" are offered for public-yes-consumption? Berger wrestles with the obvious questions: Why the despair? (Living in a refugee camp tends to focus the mind.) Why do they hate us? (That requires a few paragraphs.) Why are terrorists so willing to blow themselves up? (To blow us up.) But then, grammar be damned, "if a kamikaze martyr could see with their own eyes, before he or she died, the immediate consequences of their explosion, they might well reconsider the appropriateness of their steadfast decision." Concluding, in good Marxist manner, that the pursuit of profit is a pitiless business and that corporations "consistently wage their own jihad' against any target that opposes the maximization of their profits," Bergerpaints himself into a distant corner of irrelevance, even if he does get off a few good zingers. Why is the publication date timed for the sixth anniversary of 9/11? For the maximization of profits, of course.