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"We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us." Chris Hedges wrote this in his most recent column for Truthdig.com, but it could be the mantra of a new book, "The Compassionate Rebel Revolution".
Twin Cities activist-writer/editor, Bert Berlow, continues the journey begun in the 2005 "The Compasionate Rebel" with inspiring, courageous stories of sixty ordinary people taking direct, positive action in the world.
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Mr. Berlowe writes in the foreword: "there is a powerful people's movement stirring in the land that is bent on making change...a hybrid of sorts, an eclectic blend of sub-movements, individuals and causes spread far and wide with a common title that holds them together: the compassionate rebel revolution."
A defining characteristic of the individuals featured in the book (many of them living in and around the Twin Cities) is that their progressive activism isn't just a side gig: it's a way of life.
Take Sami Rasouli, from the chapter entitled, "Peace Messengers." Mr. Rasouli, an Iraqi-American, left his successful Minneapolis restaurant, Sinbad's, returning to Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion, to start a Muslim Peacemakers Team. This was his first visit to his homeland in twenty-seven years.
"I saw how much war and sanctions had affected my people. I saw an Iraqi state of mind that was damaged beyond repair," Rasouli remembered. "The people had been deprived of basic needs because of the first Gulf war, the sanctions and now the beginning of the second war. When I returned to Minneapolis I couldn't function. I knew I had to go back."
Or George Siemon, the "Organic Rebel," from the "Community Builders" chapter. Having observed the business model of corporate America in general, and large agribusiness farms in particular, he set out to make a "better alternative" by creating the Organic Valley farmer-owned cooperative. Located in the Kickapoo River Valley of Wisconsin, it started with just seven organic farmers and has now grown to more than 750 farmer-owners.
"I think the biggest thing is to prove that [business] can be done differently, and just start to do new models rather than fight the old models, "Siemon says. "What's really unique about a co-op is that the owners are the people who benefit from the business activity."
One story, written in the first-person, is particularly moving. Nichola Torbett takes you on a life-altering sojourn through her spiritual, intellectual, and personal struggles with reality.
"Like most everyone I know, my life has been shaped by having grown up in a culture of domination, violence, individualism, and materialism, " Torbett writes. "Efforts to dominate, control, and subjugate are so common for us that they are often unconscious," and this is just the beginning of her thought-provoking essay.
Although I read this book in order from front to back and relatively quickly, it is the kind of of book that can be put down and just as easily picked up a week or two later. I suggest just a few stories in each reading session to ensure that these worthwhile individuals do not become a blur. If you're feeling discouraged about the state of politics or wonder what difference one person can make, "The Compassionate Rebel Revolution" is an antidote to apathy and a spark for action that makes life meaningful.
From the afterword, Mr Burlowe writes, "There is no doubt that stories can change the world...It is out of these individual stories that active communities and larger movements are made." As he said to KFAI Radio, "Welcome to the revolution."
For the interview with Bert Berlowe and Kirk Lund, a Compassionate Rebel, go to http://www.kfai.org/catalyst.