Tuesday, April 05, 2011

As the world burns.

Oh what a nice pretty book. And such a colourful cover. And how sweet it is illustrated. Look girls! Isn’t it just too cute?
No. It isn’t. It hits you rigt in your face. Bam.
„As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to stay in denial“ by Derrick Jensen & Stephanie McMillan comes to you innocent. Nothing would prevent you from reading it, no „oh not another inconvinient truth“, no „but I’d rather read some entertaining not-so-tough-stuff“. If you hesitate, then it’s because you might fear it is just another irrelevant comment on scouts-world-saviour-behaviour (of wich I myself may definitely be „guilty“ every once in a while... and sorry, no offend to scouts!).
The style of the book might remind of IKEA-assembley-instructions: Reduced, simplified (right along the conceptual edge, floating between the picture plane top and the „meaning“ corner of Scott McClouds pyramid) and thereby universally understandable. But this doesn’t mean it’s not complex and manifold too. We can see that word-specific panels prevail, but we also find some very strong image-specific panels. Very often we have a word-image relation that is additive, so that you can understand the meaning (or jokes) only „between“ word and image (for example where the president is „killing the bad guys“ – in a computer game).
The panel structure is also very various, next to the dominating one-to-five-rectangular-panel-pages we find unframed (full page) panels as well as irregularly scattered smaller panels, combinations of framed and unframed panels in one page do also very often occur.
If you read the title carefully, you might not be blinded by the „50 simple things you can do (...)“ but will prick your ears (well, actually your eyes might do something like that...) at reading „(...) to stay in denial“. The title already reveals that we will be confronted with irony and maybe a little cynicism (and a lot of fun!). Eventhough this is an ongoing undertone, transported especially in the slightly (but just slightly) overdone caricatures of the politicians, the book stays „friendly“ in so far, as the reader is in the first place identifing with the naive blonde girl „Bananabelle“. Bananabelle is constantly „corrected“ and taught by her best friend who seems to have all knowledge about how it really goes – but her friend still loves and supports her. So we, as the readers, do not have to feel all too bad about sharing naive ideas about environmentalism – Kranti (the blackhaired girl) will also teach us throughout the book. And at some point she will be pround on how our eyes are opening and how good we understand and how we get angry.
The book is a good and entertaining read with an absorbing and amusing story that still doesn't lack the depth. That it does only provide an abstract, fictitious ending and no explicit (or maybe they are but we just can’t accept them as such?) instructions how to save our planet will only disappoint those who’re still stuck with the „50 things you can do...“ from the title. All others will feel refreshed, some even enlightened, and hopefully angry and enthusiastic.
On the other hand – when the triumph of the fictional ending decays – the sense of helplessness and powerlessness - forwarded by the repeated rebuffs of Bananabelles (and therefore our) actions and a realistic view on power structures in our world - might return. And in the worst case frustrate and paralyze.
Nevertheless: What gets clear is, that we have to understand and change the „mechanics“ of power and global economics, well, and also society, to make the world a better place. The book itself wants to help with the understanding part, I guess. You might find it a bit too blatant here, but that shouldn’t keep you from trying to make your own research on it. I think „As the world burns“ is a book that should definitely obligatory be read in schools. But it is definitely not for schoolchildren only (I guess they might even need help for a proper understanding), don't let the looks fool you!
What I personally like very much is the almost last page, that nails down the pit of it all – we must face it, it does not just adress politicians and industrials living in clover. It is us too that must decide for and accept the „We won’t“. 


writing this post I may have 
been a little distracted by
listening and singing to 
"Beds are burning" by Midnight Oil

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