Joining a chorus of criticisms over post-9/11 changes in U.S. law, Whitehead adds this somewhat muddled laundry list of rights infringements during the past decade. Beginning with a critique of the lack of "meaningful discourse" in contemporary society, the author contends that a mere change in administration will do nothing to ameliorate current circumstances if the American people fail to safeguard their own rights. While he notes that this book is intended as a "freedom manual," the ensuing pages form more of a collection of grievances that linger in such possible constitutional crises as the bizarre "robofly," a drone allegedly used by the CIA for domestic spying purposes, and a "Big Brother in the sky" program of satellite surveillance by the Office of Homeland Security. Whitehead's advice for countering such measures remains in the sphere of theoretical exhortations to "[take] responsibility for our own lives" and "stand and fight." The book does provide a useful primer on the Bill of Rights; however, readers unfamiliar with the "462 words" guaranteeing American freedom are unlikely to slog through the first 200-plus pages of this book to get there. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Change Manifesto: Join the Block by Block Movement to Remake Americaby John Whitehead
"The Change Manifesto is a street-by-street, town-by-town guide to making an America that works. Our nation has the potential to be an example of freedom and justice to the world and each of us has the ability to have tremendous impact. In this stirring call to arms, John Whitehead tells the stories of the local heroes who stood up to a cynical government, and who are creating thriving communities of change.
We are on the cusp of a new era of progress, but we can't sit back and hope our elected officials will carry us there. We can join the people taking action at the local level, like the residents of a town in Oregon who protested unfair bills by paying in pennies, chickens and the shirts off their back. And we can follow the examples of the national heroes who are fighting for change and demanding accountability from our elected officials at the highest levels. If we refuse to listen to the cynics, we can join these everyday Americans, young and old, and harness our greatest resource: ourselves."
""The Change Manifesto is a truly bipartisan, even pre-political, instruction manual about how to hold on to our diminishing freedoms. This book offers well founded hope to any readerof the left, right or center, religious or non-religious for a better, freer and more compassionate American future. It's Whitehead vs. the thugs and Whitehead wins! Whitehead provides the antidote to our post-9/11 paranoia. Twenty years from now if America is still a free country (as Orwell would have defined and defended that word) I predict that this book will be remembered as a landmark in defense of that freedom."
""In vivid prose and arresting anecdotes, John Whitehead teaches that a nation's destiny is the moral, mental, and emotional universes of its citizens. Laws, court decrees, and political maneuvering are relative trifles." " -
""The Change Manifesto is right on the mark. Scattered throughout this book are jewels that you will want to memorize, maybe sing."" -
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Excerpt from The Change Manifesto
Author to Reader: We Are Not What We Set Out to Be
BOBBLEHEADS IN BUBBLELAND
We have changed.
Consequently, the light of that once bright and shining city on a hill has dimmed. Americans, says journalist and author Nicholas von Hoffman, are living in a glass dome, a kind of terrarium, cut off from both reality and the outside world. In his words, they are "bobbleheads in Bubbleland...They shop in bubbled malls, they live in gated communities, and they move from place to place breathing their own, private air in the bubble-mobiles known as SUVs."
We are besieged by technological gadgets, which, while they have succeeded in creating numerous conveniences for our already busy lives, have also managed to fully occupy our attention, distracting us from meaningful discourse about issues of national and international significance.
America currently spends in excess of $40 billion annually on public education. Yet the numbers are undeniable: in comparing the literacy level of adults in seventeen industrialized countries, America was number ten on the list. And sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds under-perform their foreign counterparts as well. Moreover, they do so to a greater degree than do Americans over forty.
The number of Americans who read books has also steadily declined. As a recent National Endowment for the Arts report titled "Reading at Risk" found, many Americans do not ordinarily read voluntarily (that is, matter not required for work or school), and only 57 percent of American adults read a book in 2002.6 When they do read, it is often fiction or books that focus on narcissistic themes such as diet and self-help.
Millions of adults are lacking the most rudimentary knowledge about history and world geography, such as the identity of America's enemy in World War II. In fact,
one reads that 11 percent of young adults can't find the
United States on a world map, and that only 13 percent
of them can locate Iraq. It turns out that only 12 percent
of Americans own a passport, that more than 50
percent were (prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall) unaware
that Germany had been split into eastern and
western sectors in the aftermath of World War II, and
that 45 percent believe that space aliens have visited the
earth. As in the Middle Ages, when most individuals got
their "understanding" of the world from a mass
source-i.e., the Church-most Americans get their
'understanding' from another mass source: television.
Television, however, has been a poor teacher. Television news has become a function of entertainment to such an extent that political and historical analysis typically amounts to two- to three-minute sound bites. With such shallow content, it is easy to see why, on the eve of the 2004 presidential election and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, 42 percent of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks and 32 percent believed he had personally planned them. No wonder the average American's understanding of politics is generally reduced to a few slogans picked up the day before from broadcast news or late-night comedy shows.
There is truth in the adage that civilizations do not die from being attacked or invaded. They do themselves in. Americans today have come to embody what the renowned eighteenth-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche termed "stupidity." Nietzsche was not referring to an intelligent quotient or ignorance, per se; rather, he meant stupidity as in mentally clogged, anesthetized, numb. As author and professor Thomas de Zengotita recognizes: "He thought people at the end of the nineteenth century were suffocating in a vast goo of meaningless stimulation."
The same could be said of Americans at the dawn of the twenty-first century. We, too, are mentally clogged, anesthetized, numb. Connected to our cell phones, computers, and television sets, we are increasingly disconnected from each other. Even when physically crowded together at concerts and sports spectacles, we fail to truly communicate with one another. According to author Alex Marshall, Americans live "in one of the loneliest societies on the earth."
Meet the Author
John Whitehead (Virginia) founded the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil libertarian and human rights organization. The Rutherford Institute's website, which hosts Whitehead's blog "On Target with John Whitehead," averages over 800,000 hits a month. The Institute has an email subscriber list of 50,000 and a mailing list of an additional 40,000.
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