A visit to the bookstore provokes in me two opposite emotions- euphoria and anxiety.
I get euphoric by the thought that the production and ingestion of knowledge is still an important thing for some segment of society. Snippets, lies, and fake news are not the only “data” that exists. I get euphoric also by the tantalizing thought that if given enough time, I too could perhaps produce work that influences others.
The euphoria gives way to anxiety quickly. Typical bookstores carry very little by way of real intellectual work on important matters. If you strip away Right-wing pabulum, fawning celebrity biographies, business and self-help books, cooking and travel books, and entertaining-if-uncreative fiction, you’d find the shelves denuded.
This is not a diatribe against bookstores in favor of Amazon by any means; instead it’s a lamentation of both the capitalist world of publication and distribution and the disinterest so many have in matters that affect their lives and the future of society and the planet itself. It’s a lamentation that history gets erased by this disinterest. It’s a lamentation of the state of the “post-truth” and “who cares anyway” world that is upon the horizon if we don’t work hard to avoid it.
But it’s also a celebration that in contrast to this pool of mediocrity, we still have publishers like Haymarket that continue to produce progressive work on, inter alia, sociology, economics, environment, race, gender, and history.
Progressives have to support these publishers. As the doyen of progressive journalism P. Sainath reminds us, we must subscribe to and support publications that still investigate sources of inequality and the abuses of power; sitting on the sidelines helps no one.
In a world in which the sensible production of knowledge (authorship) is under fire, in which the inspiration and perspiration to move knowledge and truth forward is undervalued by society, and in which – really, really- we need more truth, more knowledge, and more rationality than ever, we all must support outfits like Haymarket.
Romi Mahajan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org