Monday, January 3, 2011

Call to arms

For a couple of weeks now, the bestseller list in France has been topped by a 30-page pamphlet (Indignez-vous!) penned by Stéphane Hessel, a 93-year-old former resistance fighter. He appeals to readers to become outraged and express indignation at the state of modern society: the growing gap between the rich and poor under Sarkozy, France’s callous treatment of immigrants, the plight of the Palestinians, threats to France’s welfare system and the environment, etc. Essentially, Hessel calls on French society to reembrace the values of the resistance. How nice when someone who has lived a truly rich and meaningful life really cares to leave such a precious intellectual legacy behind. As another example, take Gordon Murray, the dying banker who recently published The Investment Answer, a pamphlet advising investors to relax and give up on efforts to beat the market. Or Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon computer scientist who, after similarly being diagnosed with terminal cancer, gave several “last lectures” (available on YouTube) – advising anyone willing to listen how to achieve their childhood dreams, and how to manage their time more efficiently (by, for example, installing extra monitors on their PCs, avoiding long phone conversations, etc.).