The Dispossessed



Why did I read this book?

A dear friend left the book with me after July 4th weekend. She highly recommended it. After I read the first chapter I was hooked, particularly because the book describes a highly collaborative society living on a desert planet—which reminded me of Burning Man, where I’ll be in a week.

 

Summary

“The spellbinding story of a brilliant physicist who attempts to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet from the rest of the civilized universe.”

 

What this book triggered, like Asimov’s I, Robot and Foundation, is thoughts about how we structure our society. On Anarres, the planet of the main character:

 

Money does not exist. Food, clothing, shelter—all these needs are provided by society; everyone has a role that serves society. Once in every ten days every individual does volunteer-work, to fulfill the roles that would not naturally be filled: cleaning, laying roads, composting, etcetera. Cities are organized in blocks, according to industry-specific work, like carpentry, glass-blowing, chemistry, agriculture.

 

Anecdotes or passages worth sharing:

“Here you think the incentive to work is finances, need for money or desire for profit, but where there’s no money the real motives are clearer, maybe. People like to do things. They like to do them well. People take the dangeorous, hard jobs because the take pride in doing them, the can—egoize, we call it—show off?—to the weaker ones. […] But really, it is the question of ends and means. After all, work is done for the work’s sake. It is the lasting pleasure of life.”

 

“If you can see a thing a whole, it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives. But close up, a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”