Walking composition

What comes after the revolution?

Can you spot the owl? It looks like a small gray lump carved into the wood. It only turned around to look at me when I put down my camera. Oh well. A woman who walked by commented that it looked very well-fed.

I read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy last week. It feels like it was written just as fantasy was beginning its shift away from epics where the world-building tended to be over-detailed (I skipped many, many fight scenes and blow-by-blow descriptions of the characters using Allomancy, the metal-based magic-adjacent power particular to this world) and the characters often annoyingly stereotyped. I didn’t like the Mistborn trilogy nearly as much as The Rithmatist, which was just wildly weird and fun (an eternal war with two-dimensional creatures known as chalklings because they’re comprised of . . . chalk drawings??? and you fight them by . . . drawing other chalk drawings???), but it provided a few days of escapism.

Sanderson wrote an intro to each book, and in the second one he talked about how he’d been less interested in writing the first, which is about the overthrow of an all-powerful immortal dictator, than in the second, which was about the difficulties of forming a functioning society after toppling the previous government:

“Everyone wrote stories about bringing down an empire—but I’d rarely seen a story about revolutionaries forced to become politicians. What happens after you topple a government? Building something up is always harder than tearing something down.”

This seems like a good question for our time, and one that many progressive leaders have been trying to articulate. As a citizen, it can be a hopeful practice, too. I’m not talking about toppling a government, but what do we, or can we, envision as a better, more just society, and then how do we start making it happen?

It’s what Naomi Klein talks about in her book No Is Not Enough. What does “yes” look like?

This has been done countless times before. If you’ve ever read The Federalist Papers, you know how deeply America’s founders thought about what a government is, what a country and political entity should be for. There’s also the founding ideas of the Iroquois Confederacy, which from my understanding was crafted as a way to help the several nations set guidelines for how to exist peaceably alongside one another. (In other words, government.)

The world feels very dark right now. But we all know there’s light in the cracks. At least, that’s what I tell myself—after all, my father grew up under Stalin and his parents survived the Siege of Leningrad. No world is without love, laughter, and a vision of better things. We just need to figure out how to make that vision the prevailing one.


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