Radical Hope?

I have a confession to make. I destroyed a book. I was psychotic at the time. But I still destroyed a book.

That book was Radical Hope by Jonathan Lear. As everyone who knows me knows, I had my first psychotic break when I was writing my MA thesis. Radical Hope was at the crux of my thesis.

You are of course free to read the book a judge it for yourself. In short, Lear argues we should be like Plenty Coups, who he sees as flexible, because any culture is fragile and can be destroyed. Flexibility is thus necessary if we are to even survive.

Setting aside what I take to be factual errors and a mere cursory bit of research on Lear’s part, I took offense to the fact that we should be learning a lesson from the Crows, who Plenty Coups was chief of, while overlooking their current, shall I call it, “plight.” (I know, I hate that term, too.)

It just seemed so white to look at a tribal nation, vaguely study it, give an interpretation and, of all things, make a lesson of it for white folks to enjoy, while glossing over the fact that the Crows individually and collectively are still being colonized by the United States.

While trying to write my thesis on these things and making them as pleasant as possible for my mostly white audience, I cracked. I simply broke down, much like the Sioux of the Ghost Dance, who, on Lear’s interpretation, had a vicious break from reality.

While I was trying to write my thesis on these delicate matters, it took time away from my (Native) family. I was pissed about that. As I broke from reality, I tore up the book Radical Hope because of all that it symbolized to me at the time.

So, yeah. I destroyed a book. Lear may say I had a vicious break from reality. I like to think I my initial break from reality was the birth of and beginning of new ways of thinking. Some people who experience psychosis have legitimate reasons for doing so. Sometimes the work is just too much. For the Sioux, the reality of US oppression of them may have been too much. Dealing with all these (and many other!) issues was my breaking point. So count me a vicious person who broke from reality and destroyed a book along the way.


Author: Jennifer Lawson

Philosopher. That is all.

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