Why read a history of bad behaviour when there is so much of it on display here and now? Because, says Mikey Robins, there is comfort to be found in the fact that it was ever so. While plenty of scoundrels and swindlers populate this book, the examples of ordinary folly and silliness remind us that we are all potentially reprehensible. Roman graffiti is a classic case. Scrawled on a door at an inn: ‘‘We have pissed in our beds. Host, I admit that we shouldn’t have done this. If you ask: Why? There was no potty.’’ Or, take the arcane laws still on the statute books in the US. In Florida, it is prohibited to fart after 6pm, sing in a swimsuit and have sex with a porcupine. Reprehensible is a left-field approach to putting the venality and absurdity of human behaviour in perspective while encouraging us to laugh at ourselves and those who claim to be in charge.
Ashley ‘‘Dotty’’ Charles
It was a Twitter storm over a retail store’s use of the phrase ‘‘coolest monkey in the jungle’’ for a hoody modelled by a black boy that got Ashley ‘‘Dotty’’ Charles cool under the collar. Surely there were more burning issues to get livid about? As a black, gay woman she knew the dangers of jumping at every perceived offence. She had, after all, been ‘‘played’’ by rage-mongers who used this kind of reaction to boost their public profile. Outrage had once been a powerful tool to mobilise action for civil rights, women’s rights and other important causes. Now it’s been reduced to an online mob pile-on. What are the consequences of virtual takedowns – for those subjected to them and for outrage as a mechanism for change? Charles wades fearlessly into territory where many fear to tread, risking the ire of all sides as she seeks to ‘‘make outrage great again’’.
Glimpses of Utopia
Pantera Press, $32.99
At a time when most people would happily settle for the old normal, it takes an author with a special brand of chutzpah to release a book full of verve and optimism offering glimpses of a better world. Although it was conceived before COVID-19 hit, this manifesto speaks to the inescapable fact that things can’t go on as before and gathers fresh urgency from it. The kind of utopia Jess Scully is talking about isn’t the old-style top-down master-plan but the organic, grass-roots variety. Scully casts a wide net to find inspiring working models. She looks to citizens’ councils in Iceland, the rise of worker-owned businesses in Argentina, and not-for-profit public banking initiatives in the US, among many other creative, community-driven responses to political, institutional and market failures.