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Off the Map: An Expedition Deep into Empire and the Global Economy
Chellis Glendinning
Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2002
187 pp., $15.95, paper
ISBN: 0-86571-463-0

Off the Map: An Expedition Deep Into Empire and the Global Economy, is Chellis Glendinning's latest attempt to get us off out "buts" and active for the good of ourselves and the world.

In an earlier book, Hello, My Name is Chellis, and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization, Ms. Glendinning argues persuasively that we are all addicts. As a group, as a tribe, as a hive, we have bought into a lifestyle that includes a renunciation of personal responsibility and an addiction to comfort. It's not doing our bodies or our world and good, but it is proving hard to shake.

For example, at Alcoholics Anonymous, the template for beating addiction, we learn that we are not capable of escaping on our own. We need companions and hard work. And it is generally agreed we need the good will and assistance of the Big Fellow Himself. In her latest book, Ms. Glendinning gives us hope that such needs can be met. She does this by offering herself up as a case study. In brutally graphic terms, she describes childhood abuse that her own father visited upon her and her brother.

She then draws an analogy between the effect of global imperialism on our world and the effect of familial imperialism upon her own body, effects poisonous to all. She tells us, metaphorically, "Friends, if I can survive and become whole, you can too, and so can our earth. Don't give up the fight!"

Through struggle, and by humbly accepting the help of her community, Ms. Glendinning is healing. She tells us that she is getting better. And based upon this book, we must say, "My God, I believe her." She has beaten the odds. So we may, too.

Characteristically, Ms. Glendinning also stirs our minds with some provocative and troubling propositions. For example, what if maps and computers, those favored toys we all love, are not such good things? Maps give us the illusion of possession, thus leading to imperialistic pretensions. They purport to represent Truth. They are some expert's opinion, which we follow thoughtlessly. We no longer look for signs and clues among the way, but trust in this abstract to bring us home safely. Therefore, maps dull us to the actual breathing sensuous world that surrounds us.

As for computers, they have ills to answer for us as well. Many have observed that our world is being taken over by inhuman, amoral entities called corporations. Ms. Glendinning points out that these corporations are made possible by computers, and are run by computers. Computers have been presented to us as our salvation, but they might turn out to be bad weavers, connecting the evil we see growing everywhere.

Off the Map offers the reader big hopes, big thoughts, and big dreams. There is a Yiddish saying: "It is not our responsibility to finish the work, but we must not allow ourselves to stop." Thank you, Ms. Glendinning, for preserving in these labors which enrich us all.

— Laura Weisberg

Order from:
New Society Publishers
PO Box 189
Gabriola Island, B.C.
(800) 567-6772

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"For as adamant as my country has been about civil liberties during peacetime, it has a long history of failing to preserve civil liberties when it perceived its national security threatened. This series of failures is particularly frustrating in that it appears to result not from informed and rational decisions that protecting civil liberties would expose the United States to unacceptable security risks, but rather from the episodic nature of our security crises. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis came along."
--Supreme Court Justice William Brennan
December 22, 1987

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