"You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.” RIP Ursula Le Guin


It's sad to report the death of Ursula K. LeGuin, one of the great writers - not just SF writers - of the last 50 years. As our post from last week on using science-fiction to empower communities identified, LeGuin wrote about the future and alternative worlds with a powerful awareness of politics and power. Her "alternative" worlds were critiques of present power imbalances, but also evoked better lives and solutions too.  

The above quote is from The Dispossessed, her great epic on about two planets with three ideological systems (it's included in this round-up from Red Pepper). Here's the full passage, spoken by a character from Antarres, which is an anarchist society:

It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it. We know that there is no help for us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give... We have nothing but our freedom. I have nothing to give you but your own freedom. I have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals. I have no government but the single principle of free association... If it is the future you seek, then I tell you that you must come to it You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit or it is nowhere."

Le Guin describes how The Dispossessed came to be (Wikipedia)

The Dispossessed started as a very bad short story, which I didn’t try to finish but couldn’t quite let go. There was a book in it, and I knew it, but the book had to wait for me to learn what I was writing about and how to write about it. I needed to understand my own passionate opposition to the war that we were, endlessly it seemed, waging in Vietnam, and endlessly protesting at home.

If I had known then that my country would continue making aggressive wars for the rest of my life, I might have had less energy for protesting that one. But, knowing only that I didn’t want to study war no more, I studied peace. I started by reading a whole mess of utopias and learning something about pacifism and Gandhi and nonviolent resistance. This led me to the nonviolent anarchist writers such as Peter Kropotkin and Paul Goodman.

With them I felt a great, immediate affinity. They made sense to me in the way Lao Tzu did. They enabled me to think about war, peace, politics, how we govern one another and ourselves, the value of failure, and the strength of what is weak.

So, when I realised that nobody had yet written an anarchist utopia, I finally began to see what my book might be. And I found that its principal character, whom I’d first glimpsed in the original misbegotten story, was alive and well—my guide to Anarres. [4]

More obituaries of Le Guin here (NYTimes).