“What Richard Grossman has to say, as quoted in “Fish Discover Water Last” (and in so many of his other talks and writings), is really important, not negating but brilliantly transcending all the strategizing we do regarding the many important national and global issues and crises that we care about. He insists that we step back and take the time to think, together, about the larger, deeper, structural problems — both legal and constitutional — that continue to fatally undermine virtually all our work for peace, disarmament, social equity, environmental sanity, and human wellbeing in general. This short book, “Fish Discover Water Last,” is a powerful wake-up call.”
— Randy Kehler, Shelburne Falls, MA
“Fish Discover Water Last is a concise, non-nonsense journey through the big ideas and key concepts of Richard Grossman. Pulled together from a collection of speeches and essays, the book cuts right to the heart of Grossman’s core insight; We the People don’t govern this country, and we never have. Instead, the Constitution and the structures surrounding it are at the service of corporate power. At first it was a struggle, the People pushed back and fought to express their authority and ownership of the law. But now, after a century or more of corporate influence and propaganda, we give up that ownership willingly. Grossman calls on us to first discover water, to look up and see how every practice from the Supreme Court down to our own thoughts, are controlled by corporate power. Only then can we move beyond regulating and monitoring the levels of violence, and into a world where that violence has no place. Only then can we liberate ourselves to truly govern, and build a society that treats people and the planet with respect.”
–Mason Marriott-Voss, from Austin, Texas
Book review: ‘Fish Discover Water Last: Richard L. Grossman on corporations, democracy and us’
By TINKY WEISBLAT
Greenfield Recorder, October 14, 2021
Fish, it is said, discover water last. That is, they don’t always realize that the transparent environment in which they swim and live and die exists.
Richard Grossman (1943-2011) was an environmental and economic activist who likened the experience of fish in water to that of Americans going about their daily lives without awareness of the corporate power and culture that permeate our society and government.
According to author and editor Anna Gyorgy of Wendell, Grossman was planning a book that would outline his theories at the time of his death a decade ago. That book was never written so Gyorgy gathered a number of Grossman’s talks into a short volume that outlines much of his philosophy.
“Fish Discover Water Last: Richard L. Grossman on corporations, democracy, and us” (Human Error Publishing) discusses the history of corporations. It argues that the United States has never been a true democracy because much of its governing structure has prioritized the needs of powerful corporations over average people.
Writing about one of the Supreme Court’s wide-ranging rulings that enshrined the rights of corporations, Grossman says, “When did we ever have that kind of language for the rabble, for the denied? …
“We need to look at what’s going here not as a corporation here, a corporation there, that does something bad or isn’t so good. We’re talking about a corporate system.”
He carefully distinguishes between movements in the past that have sought to improve Americans’ lot through change within the system — such as the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Great Society — and those that have argued that the system itself is incapable of true change.
His best example of the latter is the abolitionists. They “basically concluded that they could not envision the goal of emancipation and equality, of a country without slavery, under the existing constitution, set of laws, and culture. So they set out to change that,” he explains. Like many social critics, Grossman is better at describing the problems he sees in our corporate culture than he is at prescribing a solution. He knows that. He is not entirely pessimistic, however.
The answer to our ills, he argues, lies in getting citizens together to envision and work for change on a grand scale, using our individual minds and our collective hearts.
“The goal is engaging more and more people in these conversations,” he posits. “The goal is helping each other to un-colonize our minds. Our goal is to help each other to think, so that we can see what it is we are immersed in.” “Fish Discover Water Last” will be launched on Sunday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m. on the grounds of the Wendell Free Library. Editor Gyorgy and publisher Paul Richmond will be on hand for a reading and discussion of the book. Book sales that day will benefit the Friends of the Wendell Free Library.
This event will take place behind the library at the stone circle. Refreshments will be served. Attendees are asked to bring masks and lawn chairs. In case of rain, visit fishdiscoverwaterlast.net.
The goal is helping each other to un-colonize our minds.”
RICHARD L. GROSSMAN
Tinky Weisblat is the awardwinning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.
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