Defiance: Greece and Europe, Roger Silverman, 262 pages, Zero Books, zero-books.net
I’ve often felt when trying to convince conservatives of the evils of capitalism that my arguments have been tarnished in advance by the climate created by the lazy-if-correct opinions of my peers. Given the conspicuous – much less the hidden – crimes of big business and its political allies, people of a progressive bent have become so complacent in their opposition that self-righteousness has become our default. Reading Roger Silverman’s excitingly current book on the Greek economic fiasco reminded me of the importance of being rigorous even if you’re certain you’re right.
It is interesting to consider whether the book is truth-seeking, versus weakened by bias, given that its socialist agenda is on full display. Unashamedly polemical, it smacks axiomatic that the book would compromise on truth, yet Silverman earns his right to preach by providing a vast knowledge of Greek and European history. I questioned conventional historiography; maybe history should be openly polemical instead of a pretended objectivity serving a tacit personal or vested interest.
The writing is rousing, a fist punching the sky in the solar plexus. You get the voice of an angry man who witnessed something in Greece, defrauded and impoverished by capitalism, which compelled him to speak out. Upton Sinclair comes to mind. There are moments that the impassive way historians are supposed to write can no longer contain Silverman’s pleas for action. He describes the austerity measures lenders forced upon Greece as “a laboratory experiment conducted on the living body of the Greek nation to test out how far it could withstand the trauma of ever more drastic surgical amputation.” He describes quasi-democratic political dynasties as “tinged with the faint afterglow reflected by the yearnings for liberation of generations gone by.” Silverman bucks our contemporary trend of implying rather than stating ethics. He does not leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions; he gave you the facts for a reason. If you want to floor your class enemies with specifics instead of feeling pointlessly smug, right but not knowing why, read this book. (Norman Feliks)