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Stefane Hessel is a 93 year old veteran of WWII. And more. After release from a Nazi concentration camp, he entered French government service and rose to represent his country as a diplomat. He is an unabashed liberal and patriot. He wrote a 13 page book, Indignez vous! (Cry out!), with nothing factually new between the covers, but with content organized to hit home.

Having sold 600,000 copies in its first three months, his book with timely advice hit home. To quote John Lichfield in The Independent: "But Mr Hessel and his small left-wing publisher (which is used to print runs in the hundreds) say that he has evidently struck a national, and international nerve, at a time of market tyranny, bankers' bonuses and budget threats to the survival of the post-war welfare state. They also suggest that the success of the book could be an important straw in the wind as France enters a political cycle leading to the presidential elections of May 2012."

His advice rings true to many American ears as well:

  • "I would like everyone everyone of us to find his or her own reason to cry out. That is a precious gift. When something makes you want to cry out, as I cried out against Nazism, you become a militant, tough and committed. You become part of the great stream of history ... and this stream leads us towards more justice and more freedom but not the uncontrolled freedom of the fox in the hen-house."
  • "It's true that reasons to cry out can seem less obvious today. The world appears too complex. But in this world, there are things we should not tolerate... I say to the young, look around you a little and you will find them. The worst of all attitudes is indifference..."
  • "The productivist obsession of the West has plunged the world into a crisis which can only be resolved by a radical shift away from the 'ever more', in the world of finance but also in science and technology. It is high time that ethics, justice and a sustainable balance prevailed..."

This little book is meant to preserve the good stuff we all enjoy. At the same time, it can be read as a divisive (psycho-sociopathic) call to arms in the political internecine wars that make the news in our era of instant communication. What makes us nervous is the following passage--suggestive of society polarization given our propensity toward the Authoritarian Personality to obey even psychopathic leaders of whatever political stripe:

"'The originality of the book is the suggestion that an organised [sic] "Resistance" is now called for, just like in 1940. "We, veterans of the resistance ... call on young people to revive and pass on the heritage and ideals of the Resistance,' the book says."

Only history can judge how that issue will come out--for better or worse. Meanwhile, hats off to Stefane Hessel for producing a record-breaking all-time best seller of 13 pages in a brief 90 days flat!!


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