Rebecca Solnit wrote the extraordinary reflection on catastrophes and their aftermaths, A Paradise Built in Hell. If you haven’t read it, go find a copy: it’s a graduate course in understanding where community comes from, using examples such as the London Blitz, the Mexico City earthquake and 9/11 to make her points. Citizenship, Solnit is arguing, is simply survival equipment. She writes beautifully and in her quirky Californian fashion turns out to be an optimist about human nature, despite the dark topic of this book.
A few years ago she was interviewed here at the New York Public Library, where she observes that we have allowed our moral imaginations to become “privatized”–so that they now tell us we are no longer our brother’s keeper. Another pungent comment: “Being a citizen is really the antithesis of being a consumer. You become a producer of meaning, you have all these pleasures that money can’t buy…” She’s an original–but Solidarity Hall folk will probably want to start with her Paradise book–it’s fantastic.