This is a profoundly depressing but utterly necessary read. It charts Fiona Hill's journey from the moribund educational opportunities provided in a dying coal city in England, all the way to her testimony in the Trump impeachment hearings.
It is part biography and part political manifesto. Both parts work well together, but requires a degree of context switching. She contextualises all her political observations with personal anecdotes. This helps her make the case that large western democracies like the UK and USA are at risk of sliding into Russian style totalitarianism.
Cultural despair is the sense of loss, grievance, and anxiety that occurs when people feel dislocated from their communities and broader society as everything and everyone shifts around them. Especially when the sense of identity that develops from working in a particular job or industry, like my father’s image of himself as a coal miner, also recedes or is abruptly removed, people lose their grasp of the familiar. They can then easily fall prey to those who promise to put things—including jobs, people, or even entire countries—back in “their rightful place.”
She finely picks apart the policies which have led to people feeling like victims and demanding retribution, often via the medium of conspiracy theories.
The constant thread through the book is that it was almost impossible for her to get where she is today. At every turn throughout her educational and professional journey she was nearly thwarted. Sometimes because of her class, her accent, her gender, her foreignness, or simply not being part of the in-group.
How do we ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed? How do we stop UK institutions relying on word-of-mouth or excluding people with the "wrong" accent?
Unlike other books of this ilk, it contains lots of practical suggestions for how to democratise access to opportunities.
I have a few small gripes. Lots of UK-based concepts have short explanations into Americanese, but the reverse is rarely true. Yay cultural hegemony. There are also a few chunks of her biography which are simply missing - she casually drops in references to former employers she's not mentioned before. But, a biography isn't a CV so can be forgiven.
She lays into Trump with ferocity. I was kind-of hoping that he was different in private to his public persona. No such luck!
An excellent book by a dedicated public servant.
- Buy the eBook on Amazon Kindle
- Get the paper book from Hive
- Author's homepage
- Publisher's details
- Borrow from your local library
- ISBN: 9780358574316