Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully

by Robert Jensen

jim-koplin-082-mayday09Third Coast’s Robert Jensen has published a new book, Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully, an account of his intellectual, political, and emotional relationship with his late friend Jim Koplin. A reviewer in the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes:

If at the beginning of “Plain Radical” you wonder what kind of book you’re reading, in the middle you’ll be nodding your head in agreement, and by the end you may be shedding a tear or two. A mix of memoir, manifesto and eulogy, it uses a cross-generational friendship as a through-line to explore the compelling social justice issues of our day.

From his birth on a Depression-era Minnesota farm through every major social movement of the last half of the 20th century, Koplin fashioned a life and politics that blended the best of rural traditions with a relentless radical critique of concentrated power and illegitimate authority.

Jensen calls the book a “polemical memoir,” one that tries to face honestly the social and ecological crises of our time. In Plain Radical’s chapter offering a critique of capitalism, Jensen looks back at Koplin’s experience in the rural town of Lake Park and writes that:

the community of Lake Park didn’t work because of capitalism, but in spite of capitalism. The sense of mutual obligation that cemented those bonds didn’t come from capitalism, which is based on exactly the opposite idea, that people have no necessary obligation to each other beyond maximizing their self-interest. The connections people felt to each other came from other ways of understanding what it means to be human, rooted primarily in the social and religious institutions of the community. Those connections come from philosophies and theologies that understand human life as achieving its fullest meaning in the common body, and in rural communities that also typically meant understanding the common body as one part of a larger living world, with its own rhythms and cycles. In other words, capitalism is able to function not because of its value system but because it cannibalizes those other value systems.

Dahr Jamail, author and reporter for Truthout, said

Jensen’s heartfelt book about perspective, love, growth, kinship, and the necessity to live radically couldn’t possibly come at a better time. Consider it both a handbook and a compass for guidance toward both how to be human, and how best to live during the Anthropocene, as climate disruption wracks the planet and makes our lives all the more uncertain with each passing day.