REBECCA SOLNIT: The thrust of my book is that everyday life is a disaster that sometimes even disaster can liberate us from. That most people don’t have that meaningful work; they don’t feel connected enough to the people around them. A system that’s built on consumption wants us to be consumers, not citizens. And I think being a citizen is really the antithesis of being a consumer. You become a producer of meaning, you have all these pleasures that money can’t buy, you might be a lot less interested in buying things. You may with the collective power of civil society make some radical changes in your society, which is part of why the aftermath of disaster and any moment when people congregate as civil society is quite intimidating or even terrifying to the business elites and et cetera, but we also don’t have the language for it, and that’s what struck me over and over again is that we have so much—
PETER COYOTE: Language for what?
REBECCA SOLNIT: Public pleasure, social pleasure—the sort of love that’s of society, of membership in society, et cetera. We hear so much about erotic love and family life, which are so fetishized and celebrated right now, and they’re great and they’re lovely, but it’s part of the private world, but there’s a whole public world where you’re also a citizen, where you also are somebody participating in making history and making a nation and making a community and making meaning that doesn’t necessarily take place in the private realm, and everybody in some sense is part of that project, but they don’t feel that, they don’t feel they have a voice, and every time you see them get it, as I did, for example, on February 15, when people on all seven continents rose up against the current war, you see this incredible joy of feeling like you belong to something big and powerful and meaningful, that you’re able to participate in creating meaning, that you’re a writer of history, not just a reader of it, that you’re a maker of history, not a victim of it, and, you know, which sounds very grandiose, but I think it’s also about having agency in everyday life, about what you eat and what, you know, what your work is like and how things are connected and how decisions are made….
Watch/listen to Rebecca Solnit in conversation with Peter Coyote from September 24, 2009 here…