It is difficult to review and rate this book. The author has done a masterful job of tracing the events leading to what has come to be a general feeling about the economic decline of the United States and for that he deserves a high rating. Yet, in order to understand that trauma for the United States fully, the culprits responsible for it should have been featured, critiqued fairly, and then judged. There should have been some mention of the fact that none were brought to justice and that we were all left with the same hens guarding the henhouse and in some cases, running it. For me, the presentation was one-sided, and therefore, deserves a rather mediocre rating, since it seemed to descend into a cheerleading event for the progressive viewpoint.
The Unwinding is George Packer’s view of America’s decline. Tracking the lives of several characters, through world and political events that affected their lives and ours, he tries to uncover the flaws and strengths, in the fabric of society and the individual’s backgrounds, which led to their success or failure. Many of his chosen are lost souls. Their pasts are questionable as they did not lead stellar lives, but they seem to be “comeback” kids, trying to fight their way back into society after having failed to succeed on their first go around. Many are truly successful, and they are often demonized for having made it and accumulated so much money while others have not.
Using these individuals, that he has carefully chosen to present his point of view, he has written what can best be called a very interesting, but very liberally slanted message. Utilizing his anecdotes, he often condemns the right, (tea party and such), mostly offering negative information rather than any positive view, while he extols the virtues of the left (occupiers and such), by and large only offering a positive side, pretty much playing down all of the errors on the left, that were committed by various administrations, which inspired or added to, the debacle we faced in this country. He maligns Newt Gingrich while he barely mentions the fiasco in the White House with Monica Lewinsky, during the Clinton years. He barely mentions the Democrat senators who inspired the repeal of Glass/Steagall, while he pretty much demonizes Wall Street and the banking industry as if they acted alone, without pressure from the government. Then while he demonizes Romney, Biden is extolled. There appears to be a blind side in the narrative.
Even those who represented the Republican view were cast as converts to the Democrat’s way of thinking. They, by and large, come out as leaders of the pack, more virtuous, more compassionate, less racist, which is a common view of liberal “talking heads” who often present this message unfairly. It was, after all, the conservative movement that really helped pass civil right’s legislation, against the efforts of their more liberal counterparts. It was the Democrats who revered a senator who was a part of the Ku Klux Klan. Why was none of this information presented to enlighten the reader more equitably?
Many of the individuals he chose to follow were disillusioned with their lives, although many were the cause of their own disillusionment. Still, in spite of the feeling of leftist bias, it is very well written and well documented. He points out the brain drain in our society, the end of our major industries, steel, textiles autos, etc., the failure of the poor to get a leg up and get ahead, but he places the blame on the shoulders of the rich and famous, on Wall Street because of the corruption that developed in the banking and housing market, without exposing the governments complicit guilt in the regulations it placed on bankers, and without placing blame on certain highly placed Democrats who were possibly causative agents in the failures leading up to the collapse of our economy, and without recognition that it is the very industries and services he condemns that have been responsible for the rise of the United States, the very industries that often left our country to go abroad because people clamored for cheaper prices and more accessible products.
It is not a difficult read, and if you are of the progressive persuasion you will be captivated and in awe of the presentation. This is one of your own explaining the causes of the failure of society to make a more equitable life for all and he places the blame pretty squarely on the shoulders of those you probably disagree with and may, in fact, be reduced to singing lalala, when you even hear their point of view.
One example of obvious bias, was when he was discussing a liberal and a conservative. He used the word sanguine in reference to the liberal and malice in reference to the conservative, seemingly to prove his point, most unfairly. He portrays “Liberals” as kind and tender while “Conservatives” are racist and cruel. Another example of this one-sided presentation was that hardly a mention was made of the thefts, rapes and murders that took place while the Occupiers were in Zuccatti Park, but great detail and time was given to condemning the Tea Party, although there is no record of any crime or violence committed on their part during their demonstrations. They were simply trying to voice their opinions, as were the Occupiers. He definitely uses fouler, ruder language when referring to those on the right and gentler descriptions of those on the left, even when they are really people of less than stellar character, like JZ. Still, overall, it was a good analysis of what motivated people during the decades of America’s decline.
There was really no substantive conclusion at the end of the book, and the reader may well wonder, what has happened, here? Did I lose a few pages? How did the book end without a realistic message for our future? Many of the people cited were able to find a cause célèbre to help them rejoin society in a meaningful way, but was this simply a propaganda piece? What was the book’s ultimate message? I felt the obvious one-sided presentation of the author, diminished the power and influence of the book. To me it really felt like the book provided a platform to push the left’s agenda and will therefore receive great praise, because the people he is speaking to, in the media, in entertainment, love what he is saying and will support it, even if it’s emphasis is often unfair, and therefore, possibly stretching the truth, when details are omitted to protect the left. I felt as if he had one hand on the scale as he interpreted world events and the life experiences of the people he interviewed, in order to present his ideology but thanks to our soldiers and our military, that is his definite right!