Thursday, January 02, 2014

Alternative Narratives

I make it a point to teach in my journalism classes something about the alternative press, its history, incentives, and the apparent need in the media ecology for alternative narratives. It so happens that in the alties you'll find essayists whose messages hardly make mainstream. Among the finest of American essayists (my view) are Marilynne Robinson and Rebecca Solnit. Here's one by Solnit. 
Excerpt: Henry David Thoreau wrote books that not many people read when they were published. He famously said of his unsold copies, "I have now a library of nearly 900 volumes over 700 of which I wrote myself.” But a South African lawyer of Indian descent named Mohandas Gandhi read Thoreau on civil disobedience and found ideas that helped him fight discrimination in Africa and then liberate his own country from British rule. Martin Luther King studied Thoreau and Gandhi and put their ideas to work in the United States, while in 1952 the African National Congress and the young Nelson Mandela were collaborating with the South African Indian Congress on civil disobedience campaigns. You wish you could write Thoreau a letter about all this. He had no way of knowing that what he planted would still be bearing fruit 151 years after his death. But the past doesn’t need us. The past guides us; the future needs us.


Post a Comment

<< Home