What Are You Reading, Mr President?
Take along a book (1910) camping poster by Magnus Norstad, Library of Congress/Rawpixel (public domain)/

What Are You Reading, Mr President?

Paulina Wilk
time 3 minutes

I love to imagine what would happen if our politicians read books. In what kind of country and mood would I wake up in if I possessed the knowledge that the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Sejm – just like other distinguished personalities in this world – had been up since 5am, their minds immersed in a book, before the everyday, mundane matters took over their now fully-awake heads. I imagine how they would attempt, through reading, to anticipate and solve upcoming quandaries and widen the scope of their policymaking, and how every once in a while, while reading, they would contemplate ways in which we humans could be more content, trusting, healthy and well-educated. How great would Poland be, if only its leaders slept less and read more!

There is no need to imagine or imply that our politicians read nothing but fake news dedicated to them. After all, among these jacks-of-all-trades (depending on what job, pardon me, what government department they land), a number of traits is quite commonplace: a terrible standard of


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How to Save the Earth in the Era of the Anthropocene

Edwin Bendyk

In her poignant Epoka człowieka. Retoryka i marazm antropocenu [The Human Epoch: The Rhetoric and Apathy of the Anthropocene], Ewa Bińczyk writes: “The Anthropocene desperately needs critical hope and conviction that constructive change is possible.” The philosopher examines the strange condition of mankind that has just reached the peak of its dominance, gaining the power to shape the entire geo- and ecosystem. Yes, we are living in the Anthropocene, the epoch of humans. Instead of rejoicing, however, we must accept that its swift culmination may equal an ecological apocalypse. And although we are well aware of the scenarios describing the approaching catastrophe, we are not able to take action that would protect us from the worst. Bińczyk sums up her work with a complaint: “How wonderful would it be to offer an array of inspiring utopias at the end of this work. Unfortunately, I did not come across any while examining the discourses of the Anthropocene.”

Is the situation truly as bleak as she claims? After all, there is no shortage of proposals for how to better organize the world. While the Kurdish Rojava are experimenting with the system of democratic confederalism, Bolivians and Ecuadorians have revised their constitutions to reflect the principle of buen vivir – ‘good living’ or ‘well living’ – questioning the idea that development should be understood in terms of quantitative expansion. Led by Ada Colau, Barcelona advances the idea of municipalism; grassroots civil movements taking over power in towns and cities, leading to, among other things, the feminization of politics. All such local initiatives can be seen as utopias, or projects that feed on the hope that a better world is possible. More importantly, they are not just literary visions, but rather tangible projects implemented within existing social and political realities.

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