We Need a Revolution

Carol Besse - Louisville, Kentucky
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, October 22, 2010
Carol Besse

Independent bookseller Carol Besse grew up amid the anti-war protests and demonstrations of the 1960s. Looking around her now, with political corruption and economic inequality in our society, Besse believes we could use a little revolution today.

Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in revolution. And revolution is exactly what we need in this country—and we need it now.

I am a child of the ‘60s, so I grew up in the midst of a revolution. One of the first things I did when I left home for college was to join every anti-war protest I could find. Never one described as cautious or timid, I loved to be in the midst of a loud and raucous group trying to right a wrong.

And today my friends often hear me ask, sometimes at the top of my voice, “Why in the heck aren’t we out marching in the streets today—and tomorrow and every day?”

And exactly what are we to rebel against? The list is practically endless—the destruction of our environment, the takeover of our government by special interests, the meltdown of our economy, the growing inequity in our society—everywhere that entrenched corporate and political interests have a chokehold on our culture. Insurance companies tell us we can’t have national health care; oil and auto industries tell us we can’t have fuel-efficient, clean cars; politicians tell us we can’t have a government uncorrupted by money. But we must have these things.

We need a revolution, but it’s not really a revolution until someone gets hurt. We need some pain, and we need everyone to feel it. Too often the pain is borne by those least able to bear it. Four-dollar-a-gallon gas is painful, but it may take $10- or $20-a-gallon gas before the outrage of the people is loud enough and menacing enough to rock our complacency. We’ve been asleep at the wheel for too long now, and the car is out of control, headed toward the cliff.

There are two things that I am passionate about—books and birds—and both are threatened with extinction if we don’t change our course and change it fast. Reading is what I do to connect with the world outside myself, but it’s also how I learned almost everything I know. We have already begun to see the disastrous effects of the decline in reading and literacy. If people stop reading they are at the mercy of politicians and marketers and corporate hucksters of every sort. An uninformed populace is our greatest danger.

My second great passion is birds—birding is how I connect with the natural world, with my planet, our planet. And I see an even more precipitous decline in the health and viability of our ecosystems than I do in reading. Our environment is nearing a tipping point from which we’ll not be able to recover. And if the planet is lost, none of the rest really matters, does it? If the planet is lost, then it seems foolish to speak of half-measures, to take small steps, to talk about going slow.

We need a revolution. This I believe.

Carol Besse is the co-owner of Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky, which was named Publishers Weekly bookseller of the year in 2009. A native of New Hampshire, Besse moved to Louisville in 1978. She is an avid birdwatcher and an advocate of supporting local businesses.