What book has the most important ideas for helping the world through the problems of today? It is easier to say what books should not be nominated. Cross off most of the books you were encouraged to read in school: Montesquieu, Locke, Rousseau, the Federalist Papers, etc. They are excellent and important, and worth reading in general. But not today.
My nomination goes to a book that you can be damn sure was not on the reading list at school; nor was it ever a New York Times best-seller. The books is La Boetie's "Discourse on Voluntary Servitude."
As a runner-up I nominate Thoreau's "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience."
Both books discuss the ease with which dictators can be opposed merely by the human herd not complying with the edicts of the Mighty.
|Camping a couple years ago in the Utah high country. A thousand sheep were being managed by a Peruvian shepherd and his 3 dogs.|
Now, it seems like I have taken all the sport out of this post for the reader, by answering the question before even giving the reader a chance. But voluntary servitude might only be half the issue.
I am not proposing a book to solve the other half of the problem. Consider the nature of middle class, normal, responsible, law-abiding people: they work for the Boss. They show up for work on time, and follow directions in their daily work. They try not to complain, since it won't do any good -- all it will do is make their co-workers grumpy.
Their lives at work and at home, in front of the television set, is about being compliant. How many people do you know have felt sheer rage in front of the television set, and thrown a brick through it?
They worship comfort and safety. There is no sense of the Heroic in their lives. Some of this comes from living in a post-Christian age: only the Here and the Now exist for modern people.
What is the most important book you know of that addresses the sterility of the soul and its habitual degradation, resulting from a mindset of materialism, comfort, and safety?
Where is the transcendent Idea that adds dignity to human life, and which claims our loyalty? Or are we just rotting piles of flesh with big egos, tied to our incomes, house, car, and toys; and any risk that threatens that income must be avoided?
In such a world, Courage does not exist. Therefore degradation and slavery must exist. Nor does an all-important 'honour' attach itself to an individual's reputation after death.