Thursday, August 27, 2015
Mark Boyle's "Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi": Book Review
This Irish activist lived without money and oil for three years. Yet he writes in his third book about how such gestures seem to pale before what lies ahead. Those who disdain the capitalist and ecologically destructive system, Mark Boyle concedes, are outnumbered and overwhelmed by it.
And by those of us who capitulate to its ecocide. Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi, as its title signals, carries a mixed metaphor to those who want change. Peacemaking can only go so far against relentless violence perpetuated upon our planet. Boyle confronts pacifists with tough questions about how far they can advance their rear-guard and small-scale efforts, however ethical and sincere, against an uncaring economic juggernaut. What, Boyle reasons, is the violent action carried out to protect earth when compared with that inflicted upon it? We need, he demands, to fight back hard.
Many figures enter this to give some guidance to Boyle. He draws on influences from Aldo Leopold to Slavoj Zizek, Thoreau to Tolkien. Also, he integrates Earth First! leader Dave Foreman's arguments into his own lively reaction to those who condemn eco-fighters as if terrorists, while either directly or indirectly colluding with a far deadlier cabal of corporations and nations who damage far more than a lumber road into old-growth forests. Boyle makes a convincing case for rethinking this.
Boyle also includes a few anecdotes to make his case. I found a telling one in how the communal activity of cutting the bog for peat in rural Ireland, followed by a break to boil the water for tea, allowed the workers to relax and chat. When the flask was introduced, each laborer could then take his or her own tea, warmed already all day, into the bogs, and this cut down interaction with others.
Out of such incidents, we grow apart as technology separates us from our natural ties to each other. Nature and its draw plays of course a central role in this polemic. Boyle may not give glib answers to us, but from his own experience making it on a three-acre farm, he confronts what he tries to solve.
(To be published Oct. 13; e-galley reviewed.)