When Albert Einstein Championed the Creation of a One World Government (1945)

Image by Ferdinand Schmutzer, via Wikimedia Commons

The concept of one-world government has long been a staple of violent apocalyptic prophecy and conspiracy theories involving various popes, the UN, FEMA, the Illuminati, and lizard people. In the real world, one-world government has been a goal of the global Comintern and many of the corporate oligarchs who triumphed over the Soviets in the Cold War. For good reason, perhaps—with the exception of sci-fi utopias like Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek—we generally tend to think of global government as a threatening idea. But that has not always been the case, or least it wasn’t for Albert Einstein who proposed global governance after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Einstein’s role in the development of those weapons may have been minimal, according to the physicist himself (the truth is a little more complicated). But he later expressed regret, or at least a total rethinking of the issue, in his many interviews, letters, and speeches. In 1952, for example, Einstein wrote a short essay called “On My Participation in the Atom Bomb Project” in which he recommended that all nations “abolish war by common action” and referred to the pacifist example of Gandhi, “the greatest political genius of our time.”




Five years earlier, we find Einstein in a less than hopeful mood. In a 1947 open letter to the General Assembly of the United Nations, he laments that “since the victory over the Axis powers… no appreciable progress has been made either toward the prevention of war or toward agreement in specific fields such as control of atomic energy and economic cooperation.” The solution as he saw it required a “modification of the traditional concept of national sovereignty.” It’s a clause that might have launched a thousand militia manifestoes. Einstein elaborates:

For as long as atomic energy and armaments are considered a vital part of national security no nation will give more than lip service to international treaties. Security is indivisible. It can be reached only when necessary guarantees of law and enforcement obtain everywhere, so that military security is no longer the problem of any single state. There is no compromise possible between preparation for war, on the one hand, and preparation of a world society based on law and order on the other.

So far this sounds not simply like a one-world government but like a one-world police state. But Einstein’s proposal gets a much more comprehensive treatment in an earlier Atlantic Monthly editorial published in 1945. Here, he admits that many of his ideas are “abstractions” and lays out a scheme to ostensibly protect against global totalitarianism.

Membership in a supranational security system should not, in my opinion, be based on any arbitrary democratic standards. The one requirement from all should be that the representatives to supranational organization—assembly and council—must be elected by the people in each member country through a secret ballot. These representatives must represent the people rather than any government—which would enhance the pacific nature of the organization.

The greatest obstacle to a global government was not, Einstein thought, U.S. mistrust, but Russian unwillingness. After making every effort to induce the Soviets to join, he writes in his UN letter, other nations should band together to form a “partial world Government… comprising at least two-thirds of the major industrial and economic areas of the world.” This body “should make it clear from the beginning that its doors remain wide open to any non-member.”

Einstein corresponded with many people on the issue of one-world government, recommending in one letter that a “permanent world court” be established to “constrain the executive branch of world government from overstepping its mandate which, in the beginning, should be limited to the prevention of war and war-provoking developments.” He does not foresee the problem of an executive who seizes power through nefarious means and ignores institutional checks on power and privilege. As for the not-insignificant matter of the economy, he writes that “the freedom of each country to develop economic, political and cultural institutions of its own choice must be guaranteed at the outset.”

Ideological conflicts over economics seemed to him “quite irrational,” as he wrote in his Atlantic editorial. “Whether the economic life of America should be dominated by relatively few individuals, as it is, or these individuals should be controlled by the state, may be important, but it is not important enough to justify all the feelings that are stirred up over it.” Like any honest intellectual, Einstein reserved the right to change his mind. By 1949 he had come to see socialism as a necessary antidote to the “grave evils of capitalism”—the gravest of which, he wrote, is “an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society”—even one, presumably, with global legislative reach.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Powerful Messages That Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger Inscribed on Their Guitar & Banjo: “This Machine Kills Fascists” and “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender”

Photo by Al Aumuller, via Wikimedia Commons

Like another famous Okie from Muskogee, Woody Guthrie came from a part of Oklahoma that the U.S. government sold during the 1889 land rush away from the Quapaw and Osage nations, as well as the Muscogee, a people who had been forcibly relocated from the Southeast under Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. By the time of Guthrie’s birth in 1912 in Okfuskee County, next to Muskogee, the region was in the hands of conservative Democrats like Guthrie’s father Charles, a landowner and member of the revived KKK who participated in a brutal lynching the year before Guthrie was born.

Guthrie was named after president Woodrow Wilson, who was highly sympathetic to Jim Crow (but perhaps not, as has been alleged, an admirer of the Klan). While he inherited many of his father’s attitudes, he reconsidered them to such a degree later in life that he wrote a song denouncing the notoriously racist New York landlord Fred Trump, father of the current president. “By the time he moved into his new apartment” in Brooklyn in 1950, writes Will Kaufman at The Guardian, Guthrie “had traveled a long road from the casual racism of his Oklahoma youth.”

Guthrie was deeply embedded in the formative racial politics of the country. While some people may convince themselves that a time in the U.S. past was “great”—unmarred by class conflict and racist violence and exploitation, secure in the hands of a benevolent white majority, Guthrie's life tells a much more complex story. Many Indigenous people feel with good reason that Guthrie’s most famous song, “The Land is Your Land,” has contributed to nationalist mythology. Others have viewed the song as a Marxist anthem. Like much else about Guthrie, and the country, it’s complicated.

Considered by many, Stephen Petrus writes, “to be the alternative national anthem,” the song “to many people… represents America’s best progressive and democratic traditions.” Guthrie turned the song into a hymn for the struggle against fascism and for the nascent Civil Rights movement. Written in New York in 1940 and first recorded for Moe Asch’s Folkways Records in 1944, “This Land is Your Land” evolved over time, dropping verses protesting private property and poverty after the war in favor of a far more patriotic tone. It was a long evolution from embittered parody of “God Bless America” to “This land was made for you and me.”

But whether socialist or populist in nature, Guthrie’s patriotism was always subversive. “By 1940,” writes John Pietaro, he had “joined forces with Pete Seeger in the Almanac Singers,” who “as a group, joined the Communist Party. Woody’s guitar had, by then, been adorned with the hand-painted epitaph, THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS.” (Guthrie had at least two guitars with the slogan scrawled on them, one on a sticker and one with ragged hand-lettering.) The phrase, claims music critic Jonny Whiteside, was originally “a morale-boosting WWII government slogan printed on stickers that were handed out to defense plant workers.” Guthrie reclaimed the propaganda for folk music’s role in the culture. As Pietaro tells it:

In this time he also founded an inter-racial quartet with Leadbelly, Sonny Terry and Cisco Houston, a veritable super-group he named the Headline Singers. This group, sadly, never recorded. The material must have stood as the height of protest song—he’d named it in opposition to a producer who advised Woody to “stop trying to sing the headlines.” Woody told us that all you can write is what you see.

You can hear The Headline Singers above, minus Lead Belly and featuring Pete Seeger, in the early 1940’s radio broadcast of “All You Fascists Bound to Lose.” “I’m gonna tell you fascists,” sings Woody, “you may be surprised, people in this world are getting organized.” Upon joining the Merchant Marines, Guthrie fought against segregation in the military. After the war, he “stood shoulder to shoulder with Paul Robeson, Howard Fast, and Pete Seeger” against violent racist mobs in Peekskill, New York. Both of Guthrie’s anti-fascist guitars have seemingly disappeared. As Robert Santelli writes, “Guthrie didn’t care for his instruments with much love." But during the decade of the 1940’s he was never seen without the slogan on his primary instrument.

“This Machine Kills Fascists” has since, writes Motherboard, become Guthrie’s “trademark slogan… still referenced in pop culture and beyond” and providing an important point of reference for the anti-fascist punk movement. You can see another of Guthrie's anti-fascist slogans above, which he scrawled on a collection of his sheet music: “Fascism fought indoors and out, good & bad weather.” Guthrie’s long-lived brother-in-arms Pete Seeger, carried on in the tradition of anti-fascism and anti-racism after Woody succumbed in the last two decades of his life to Huntington’s disease. Like Guthrie, Seeger painted a slogan around the rim of his instrument of choice, the banjo, a message both playful and militant: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

Photo by "Jim, the Photographer"

Seeger carried the message from his days playing and singing with Guthrie, to his Civil Rights and anti-war organizing and protest in the 50s and 60s, and all the way into the 21st century at Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan in 2011. At the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama, Seeger sang “This Land is Your Land” onstage with Bruce Springsteen and his son, Tao-Rodriquez Singer. In rehearsals, he insisted on singing the two verses Guthrie had omitted from the song after the war. “So it was,” writes John Nichols at The Nation, “that the newly elected president of the United States began his inaugural celebration by singing and clapping along with an old lefty who remembered the Depression-era references of a song that took a class-conscious swipe at those whose ‘Private Property’ signs turned away union organizers, hobos and banjo pickers.”

Both Guthrie and Seeger drew direct connections between the fascism and racism they fought and capitalism's outsized, destructive obsession with land and money. They felt so strongly about the battle that they wore their messages figuratively on their sleeves and literally on their instruments. Pete Seeger's famous banjo has outlived its owner, and the colorful legend around it has been mass-produced by Deering Banjos. Where Guthrie's anti-fascist guitars went off to is anyone's guess, but if one of them were ever discovered, Robert Santelli writes, "it surely would become one of America's most valued folk instruments." Or one of its most valued instruments in general.

Photo by "Jim, the Photographer"

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Gonzo Illustrator Ralph Steadman Draws the American Presidents, from Nixon to Trump

In a 2012 interview with National Public Radio, cartoonist Ralph Steadman, best known for his collaborations with Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, lamented the quality of the candidates in that year’s Presidential race:

The problem is there are no Nixons around at the moment. That’s what we need — we need a real good Nixon to give something for other people to get their teeth into, to really ... loathe him, to become themselves more effective as opposition leaders.

Alas, his prayers have been answered.

Steadman, who has brought his inky sensibilities to bear on such works as Animal Farm and Alice in Wonderland, has a new American president to add to the collection he discussed several years ago, in the video above.




Steadman’s pen was the sword that rendered Gerald Ford as a scarecrow, Ronald Reagan as a vampire, and George W. Bush as a monkey in a cage of his own making.

Barack Obama, one of the candidates in that comparatively bland 2012 election, is depicted as a tenacious, slender vine, straining ever upward.

Jimmy Carter, somewhat less benignly, is a puppy eagerly fetching a stick with which to pardon Nixon, the Welsh cartoonist’s dark muse, first encountered when he accompanied Thompson on the road trip that yielded Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.

And now…

Donald Trump has given Steadman reason to come out fighting. With luck, he'll stay out as long as his services are required. The above portrait, titled “Porky Pie,” was sent, unsolicited, to Gerry Brakus, an editor of the New Statesman, who published it on December 17, 2015.

At the time, Steadman had no reason to believe the man he’d anthropomorphized as a human pig hybrid, squeezed into bloody flag-print underpants, would become the 45th president:

Trump is unthinkable. A thug and a molester. Who wants him?

The portrait's hideousness speaks volumes, but it’s also worth looking beyond the obvious-seeming inspiration for the title to a reference few Americans would get. "Pork pie"—or porky—is Cockney rhyming slang for “a lie.”

See a gallery of Steadman’s portraits of American presidents on his website.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

Artists Put a Hidden Message in Their Letter Resigning from President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities

It wasn't the most high profile mass resignation of last week. (The CEOs on Trump's business advisory councils got that distinction.) But it was arguably the most creative one. Last Friday, "all 16 of the prominent artists, authors, performers and architects on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned," reports The New York Times. And while their resignation letter didn't mince words (read it online here), it did take the added step of encoding in its text a short message for POTUS. Circle the first letter of each paragraph and what do you get? RESIST, the mantra of 2017.

In other related news, the administration announced that Trump will skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors this year--just the fourth time that a president has missed this annual national celebration of the arts. This year's honorees include Gloria Estefan, LL COOL J, Norman Lear, Lionel Richie, and Carmen de Lavallade.

via Boing Boing/Artnet

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Noam Chomsky Explains the Best Way for Ordinary People to Make Change in the World, Even When It Seems Daunting

The threat of widespread violence and unrest descends upon the country, thanks again to a collection of actors viciously opposed to civil rights, and in many cases, to the very existence of people who are different from them. They have been given aid and comfort by very powerful enablers. Veteran activists swing into action. Young people on college campuses turn out by the hundreds week after week. But for many ordinary people with jobs, kids, mortgages, etc. the cost of participating in constant protests and civil actions may seem too great to bear. Yet, given many awful examples in recent history, the cost of inaction may be also.

What can be done? Not all of us are Rosa Parks or Howard Zinn or Martin Luther King, Jr. or Thich Nat Hanh or Cesar Chavez or Dolores Huerta, after all. Few of us are revolutionaries and few may wish to be. Not everyone is brave enough or talented enough or knowledgeable enough or committed enough or, whatever.




The problem with this kind of thinking is a problem with so much thinking about politics. We look to leaders—men and women we think of as superior beings—to do everything for us. This can mean delegating all the work of democracy to sometimes very flawed individuals. It can also mean we fundamentally misunderstand how democratic movements work.

In the video above, Noam Chomsky addresses the question of what ordinary people can do in the face of seemingly insurmountable injustice. (The clip comes from the 1992 documentary Manufacturing Consent.) “The way things change,” he says, “is because lots of people are working all the time, and they’re working in their communities or their workplace or wherever they happen to be, and they’re building up the basis for popular movements.”

In the history books, there’s a couple of leaders, you know, George Washington or Martin Luther King, or whatever, and I don’t want to say that those people are unimportant. Martin Luther King was certainly important, but he was not the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King can appear in the history books ‘cause lots of people whose names you will never know, and whose names are all forgotten and who may have been killed and so on were working down in the South.

King himself often said as much. For example, in the Preface of his Stride Toward Freedom he wrote—referring to the 50,000 mostly ordinary, anonymous people who made the Montgomery Bus Boycott happen—“While the nature of this account causes me to make frequent use of the pronoun 'I,' in every important part of the story it should be ‘we.' This is not a drama with only one actor.”

As for public intellectuals like himself engaged in political struggle, Chomsky says, “people like me can appear, and we can appear to be prominent… only because somebody else is doing the work.” He defines his own work as “helping people develop courses of intellectual self-defense” against propaganda and misinformation. For King, the issue came down to love in action. Responding in a 1963 interview above to a critical question about his methods, he counters the suggestion that nonviolence means sitting on the sidelines.

I think of love as something strong and that organizes itself into powerful, direct action…. We are not engaged in a struggle that means we sit down and do nothing. There’s a great deal of difference between nonresistance to evil and nonviolent resistance. Nonresistance leaves you in a state of stagnant passivity and deadening complacency, whereas nonviolent resistance means that you do resist in a very strong and determined manner.

Both Chomsky, King, and every other voice for justice and human rights would agree that the people need to act instead of relying on movement leaders. Whatever actions one can take—whether it’s engaging in informed debate with family, friends, or coworkers, writing letters, making donations to activists and organizations, documenting injustice, or taking to the streets in protest or acts of civil disobedience—makes a difference. These are the small individual actions that, when practiced diligently and coordinated together in the thousands, make every powerful social movement possible.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

F.D.R. Proposes a Second Bill of Rights: A Decent Job, Education & Health Care Will Keep Us Free from Despotism (1944)

It’s difficult to appraise the complicated legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His New Deal policies are credited for lifting millions out of destitution, and they created opportunities for struggling artists and writers, many of whom went on to become some of the country’s most celebrated. But Roosevelt also compromised with racist southern senators like Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, and underwrote housing segregation, job and pay discrimination, and exclusions in his economic recovery aimed most squarely at African-Americans. He is lauded as a wartime leader in the fight against Nazism. But he built concentration camps on U.S. soil when he interned over 100,000 Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. His commitment to isolationism before the war and his “moral failure—or indifference” to the plight of European Jews, thousands of whom were denied entry to the U.S., has come under justifiable scrutiny from historians.

Both blame and praise are well warranted, and not his alone to bear. Yet, for all his serious lapses and wartime crimes, FDR consistently had an astute and idealistic economic vision for the country. In his 1944 State of the Union address, he denounced war profiteers and “selfish and partisan interests,” saying, “if ever there was a time to subordinate individual or group selfishness to the national good, that time is now.”




He went on to enumerate a series of proposals “to maintain a fair and stable economy at home” while the war still raged abroad. These include taxing “all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate” and enacting regulations on food prices. The speech is most extraordinary, however, for the turn it takes at the end, when the president proposes and clearly articulates a “second Bill of Rights,” arguing that the first one had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.”

Roosevelt did not take the value of equality for granted or merely invoke it as a slogan. Though its role in his early policies was sorely lacking, he showed in 1941 that he could be moved on civil rights issues when, in response to a march on Washington planned by Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, and other activists, he desegregated federal hiring and the military. In his 1944 speech, Roosevelt strongly suggests that economic inequality is a precursor to Fascism, and he offers a progressive political theory as a hedge against Soviet Communism.

“We have come to a clear realization,” he says, “of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.” In the footage at the top of the post, you can see Roosevelt himself read his new Bill of Rights. Read the transcript yourself just below:

We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; 

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

Roosevelt died in office before the war ended. His successor tried to carry forward his economic and civil rights initiatives with the "Fair Deal," but congress blocked nearly all of Truman's proposed legislation. We might imagine an alternate history in which Roosevelt lived and found a way through force of will to enact his “second Bill of Rights," honoring his promise to every “station, race” and “creed.” Yet in any case, his fourth term was nearly at an end, and he would hardly have been elected to a fifth.

But FDR's progressive vision has endured. Many seeking to chart a course for the country that tacks away from political extremism and toward economic justice draw directly from Roosevelt’s vision of freedom and security. His new bill of rights is striking for its political boldness. Its proposals may have had their clearest articulation three years earlier in the famous “Four Freedoms” speech. In it he says, “the basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Guaranteeing jobs, if not income, for all and a "constantly rising standard of living" may be impossible in the face of automation and environmental degradation. Yet, most of Roosevelt's principles may not only be realizable, but perhaps, as he argued, essential to preventing the rise of oppressive, authoritarian states.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Rebecca Solnit Picks 13 Songs That Will Remind Us of Our Power to Change the World, Even in Seemingly Dark Times

Image by Shawn, via Flickr Commons

Apocalypses have always been popular as mass belief and entertainment. Maybe it’s a collective desire for retribution or redemption, or a kind of vertigo humans experience when staring into the abyss of the unknown. Better to end it all than live in neurotic uncertainty. Maybe we find it impossible to think of a future world existing hundreds, thousands, millions of years after our deaths. As Rebecca Solnit observes in Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, “people have always been good at imagining the end of the world, which is much easier to picture than the strange sidelong paths of change in a world without end.” What if the world never ends, but goes on forever, changing and evolving in unimaginable ways?

This is the bailiwick of science fiction, but also the domain of history, a hindsight view of centuries past when wars, tyrannical conquests, famines, and diseases nearly wiped out entire populations—when it seemed to them a near certainty that nothing would or could survive the present horror. And yet it did.




This may be no consolation to the victims of violence and plague, but the world has gone on for the living, people have adapted and survived, even under the current, very real threats of nuclear war and catastrophic climate change. And throughout history, both small and large groups of people have changed the world for the better, though it hardly seemed possible at the time. Solnit's book chronicles these histories, and last year, she released a playlist as a companion for the book.

Hope in the Dark makes good on its title through a collection of essays about “everything,” writes Alice Gregory at The New York Times, “from the Zapatistas to weather forecasting to the fall of the Berlin Wall.” The book is “part history of progressive success stories, part extended argument for hope as a catalyst for action.” Solnit wrote the book in 2004, during the reelection of George W. Bush—a time when progressives despaired of ever seeing the end of chickenhawk sabre-rattling, wars for profit, privatization of the public sphere, environmental degradation, theocratic political projects, curtailing of civil rights, or the disaster capitalism the administration wholeheartedly embraced (as Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine detailed). Plus ça change....

In March of last year, Haymarket Books reissued Hope in the Dark, and on November 10th, Solnit posted a link to a free download of the book on Facebook. It was downloaded over 30,000 times in one week. Along with other progressive intellectuals like Klein and Richard Rorty, Solnit—who became internationally known for the term “mansplaining” in her essay, then book, Men Explain Things to Me—has now been cast as a “Cassandra figure of the left,” Gregory writes. But she rejects the disastrous futility inherent in that analogy:

If you think of a kind of ecology of ideas, there are more than enough people telling us how horrific and terrible and bad everything is, and I don’t really need to join that project. There’s a whole other project of trying to counterbalance that — sometimes we do win and this is how it worked in the past. Change is often unpredictable and indirect. We don’t know the future. We’ve changed the world many times, and remembering that, that history, is really a source of power to continue and it doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.

If we don’t hear enough talk about hope, maybe we need to hear more hopeful music, Solnit suggests in her Hope in the Dark playlist. Thirteen songs long, it moves between Beyoncé and The Clash, Iggy Pop and Stevie Nicks, Black Flag and Big Freedia.

While the selections speak for themselves, she offers brief commentary on each of her choices in a post at Powell’s. Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Solnit writes, “reformulates, digging deep into the past of sorrow and suffering and injustice and pulling us all with her into a future that could be different.” Patti Smith’s anthem “People Have the Power” feels like hope, Solnit says: “it’s right about the power we have, which obliges us to act, and which many duck by pretending we’re helpless.” Maybe that’s what apocalypses are all about—making us feel small and powerless in the face of impending doom. But there are other kinds of religion, like that of Lee Williams’ “Steal My Joy.” It’s a “gorgeous gospel song,” writes Solnit. “Joystealers are everywhere. Never surrender to them.” That sounds like an ideal exhortation to imagine and fight for a better future.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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