Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, The Archipelago of Arrogance

April 15, 2008

Rebecca Solnit arrived at Tomdispatch in May 2003 in a moment of relative silence with a piece entitled “Acts of Hope, Challenging Empire on a World Stage.” (It later morphed into the book Hope in the Dark, which certainly changed the way I look at the world.) The invasion of Iraq was already two months old. The vast, worldwide demonstrations by tens of millions of sane and sensible people who could see clearly enough that a disaster was on its way — and who have never, on any “anniversary” of that disaster, gotten the slightest mainstream credit for having been right — had already ended in despair.

It was then that Solnit spoke up, reminding those of us ready to listen that “activism is not a journey to the corner store; it is a plunge into the dark” — and that history “is like weather, not like checkers. A game of checkers ends. The weather never does.” It was, she wrote, too soon to tote up the “score” or declare matters over on the invasion of Iraq or much else. In fact, it’s always too soon, since you can never really know what effect your actions have had — or where, or on whom. Which was, and still is, the reason for none of us to pack our bags and go home, for none of us to fall silent. Historically speaking, this is a lesson that’s been harder yet for a woman to take into her bones. Silencings of all sorts have long been at the heart of what it’s meant to be a woman. Today, Solnit turns, in her own irrepressible way, to that kind of silencing — in her life and on this planet. Tom

Men Explain Things to Me

Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way
By Rebecca Solnit

I still don’t know why Sallie and I bothered to go to that party in the forest slope above Aspen. The people were all older than us and dull in a distinguished way, old enough that we, at forty-ish, passed as the occasion’s young ladies. The house was great — if you like Ralph Lauren-style chalets — a rugged luxury cabin at 9,000 feet complete with elk antlers, lots of kilims, and a wood-burning stove. We were preparing to leave, when our host said, “No, stay a little longer so I can talk to you.” He was an imposing man who’d made a lot of money.

He kept us waiting while the other guests drifted out into the summer night, and then sat us down at his authentically grainy wood table and said to me, “So? I hear you’ve written a couple of books.”

I replied, “Several, actually.”

He said, in the way you encourage your friend’s seven-year-old to describe flute practice, “And what are they about?”

Click here to read more of this dispatch.