After a brief hiatus for schoolwork, I’m back. Hopefully I won’t have to go so many days without posting again but I make no promises. As I said in my post on reading diversely, today I’m going to review a book on economic disparity and reform titled Cast Away For These Reasons: Economic Jihad by Jo M. Sekimonyo.
I can anticipate what people are probably focusing on: “jihad.” I know that, in this day and age, many people associate it with extremist radicals claiming to be part of the Muslim faith such as ISIS, especially against other Muslims whom they’ve deemed “unbelievers” and non-Muslims. However, “jihad” is also used outside of religion in a way similar to how “crusade” is used, i.e. “a crusade against drugs”. (Read this entry from The Oxford Dictionary of Islam for more information.)
Don’t get me wrong, most people would think this book is highly controversial. After all, it takes on capitalism, economists, industry leaders, and world leaders. (Of course, the last two are a bit interchangeable nowadays, and Sekimonyo isn’t shy about suggesting that.)
It’s also, by the very nature of the topic, a very dense read. Sekimonyo does his best to make the book reader-friendly with personal tales, analogies, and a minimum amount of economic jargon and graphs, but it can still be a slow read for non-economists. After the initial heart-wrenching story of poverty, the book can be a slow read when he’s not talking about his personal experiences with capitalism and the experiences he’s witnessed. Just keep in mind that the conversation behind the rhetoric is very important and worth taking a hard, long look at Sekimonyo’s words. At least he doesn’t waste valuable space on senseless formulas.
In my opinion, this book is a must-read for those concerned about economic disparity and willing to open themselves to unconventional possibilities.
I usually try to summarize the book at this point in my review but I hesitate given all the layers behind it and my own inexperience with the subject. Still, I’ll try.
Sekimonyo takes the reader on a journey, both personal and universal, to expose the injustices and faults of capitalism not just in the United States but in several first-, second-, and third-world countries. He guides us throughout history, from the origins of “selling and buying” and wages to the messy web we’re tangled in today, and examines several different economists’, philosophers’, and politicians’ approaches. Then, after thoroughly covering all that is wrong with capitalism, we get the icing on the cake: Sekimonyo’s alternative.
Part personal essay and part economic treatise, Sekimonyo has a very unique way of engaging any reader with the daunting subject of economics. He grabbed my attention right off the bat with the sad story of a poor single mother, one of many stories and images he provides from his tour of the world’s poor. These personal anecdotes combined with a conversational tone made feel, for a good portion of the rhetoric, as though I were speaking directly with the man rather than reading a stale tome of socio-politico-economic woe.
Add to this gumbo–to steal one of the author’s colloquialisms–his own experiences at various stages of economic struggle and success and what you get are the (somewhat rambling and sometimes disorganized) thoughts of a well-rounded man who knows first-hand what he’s talking about.
Mind you, I noticed several grammatical errors which tripped me up, but they aren’t anything that the reader can’t overcome.
Word to the wise: read this book with as thick a skin as you can muster. This may go without saying but Sekimonyo is not merciful towards capitalism and its perpetrators. In fact, he doesn’t spare anyone in his rhetoric. I was forced to see some people I admire in a new light, including Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Nelson Mandela. That’s one of the beauties of Sekimonyo’s work: he makes you face new opinions of leaders around the globe and economic systems with which we are quite familiar.
The downside is that, at times, his brutal honesty makes you want to smack him upside the head. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to reading things that negatively reflect on things and people we like. If you get to that point, I encourage you to push past it. What he has to say is important and intriguing. Besides, he has a great sense of humor and knows how to poke fun at himself and his readers.
Don’t think that the more “liberal” economic solutions are safe from his scrutiny. He makes certain to cover the debate regarding minimum wage, and his answer isn’t exactly what you’d expect.
Another couple words of advice: keep a dictionary nearby (or a dictionary app open) and take your time reading it. You’ll probably have to read through many sections multiple times, especially when Sekimonyo explains his alternative to capitalism. Mind you, I had to because I’m very new to the socio-politico-economic debate. You may not be, in which case you shouldn’t have any problems, but you may still want to re-read this book a couple times to thoroughly digest it.
Admittedly, I’m still trying to digest it myself but it’s been a very stimulating experience. Sekimonyo has helped keep my brain from melting in the NorCal summer heat and distracted me from the rest of the world’s ugliness. Nothing distracts you from one uncomfortable subject than another equally uncomfortable subject that simultaneously inspires guilt and an urge to take action.
I was impressed by the range of Sekimonyo’s knowledge. Beyond economics, he also addresses politics, history, social interactions, and, my personal favorite, lore from multiple religions. I especially enjoyed seeing him use the story of Lilith in one of his analogies. I so rarely meet people who know or acknowledge Lilith’s story, especially Christians, so it’s refreshing to stumble across it randomly. (If you’re unaware, you can read about the story in this Wikipedia entry.)
After reading this book, I have a lot to think about. If I could have had someone like Sekimonyo as an economics professor, I might have made that one of my elective courses as an undergrad. I would also love for him to write an updated version of this book discussing the current socio-politico-economic state of the world, especially in light of Brexit and President Trump. I’m sure he’d have much to say about the latter.
Conservative or liberal, economist or novice, I urge my readers to give this book a chance. Would Sekimonyo’s capitalism alternative work? Honestly, I don’t know, but I think it’s a good place to start a conversation. Sekimonyo has given us much of the information we need to start a discussion; now we need to hold up our end of the bargain and actually explore new economic avenues.
Have any thoughts on this book? Economic policies overall? Books you think I should review? Feel free to drop a line in the comments below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just remember that while we encourage intellectual discussion, it must remain polite and civil. Please express when you have a dissenting opinion but keep in mind that any trolling or bullying will lead to disciplinary action.
Published a book and want me to review it? E-mail me or contact me through Fiverr and I’m sure we can arrange something.