Is Paul Mason "an old testament, doom-laden prophet"? That was the impression Sir David Frost got from Mason's new book, Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere, but the BBC economics editor begs to differ. Rather, he has been inspired by seeing a young generation "unplug the earbuds of the iPod and listen to what's going on", taking to the streets in the cause of social, political and economic change. In an interview with Sir David for Frost over the World on Al-Jazeera, Mason said that "a loss of fear and a loss of apathy" amongst protestors—particularly a core of educated, networked young graduates—who have "had their future cancelled" was what has stimulated anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist political protests across the world.
Writing for the Scotland on Sunday Kenny Farquharson finds the linking of protestors in, say, Tahrir Square in Cairo and Zuccotti Park in New York City "bordering on bad taste, if not downright offensive". Whilst there is no political comparison between the two, according to Farquharson, even if both share similar attitudes toward technology and organisation. Despite this criticism, his review is keen to praise Mason for the strength of his analysis and being
...capable of looking at world events and seeing not just isolated happenings and the actions of individuals, but the broad sweep of historic change, powered by dynamic social and economic forces. This gives Mason the confidence to step into the chaos of Tahrir Square, or the ferment of an Athens riot, or the tension of an Occupy Wall Street stand-off, and see what's happening as symptom and consequence, not just actualité.
Meanwhile, writing for the Camden New Journal, Dan Carrier is impressed at Mason's contextualisation of these tumultuous events within a historical framework, with precedents in the 1848 European revolutions —the so called "Spring of Nations"—and the technological developments of the industrial revolution which enabled it.
But for Carrier, Mason's real insights come from his first-hand experience of the frontlines of the struggles of the past year:
He is aware of how lucky he is to have a job that has given him the chance to bear witness to a global revolution whose end game is far from clear. Like those who were on the Paris barricades of 1968. saw the 10 days that shook the world in 1917, or watched police shoot students in Berkeley, he has seen the moments that will define a generation. And in this he finds hope: referring to the student movements of the 1960s, he says: "You may have thought such days were gone such idealism, such eloquence, such creativity and hope.Well, they're back."
Phil Harrison is similarly enthused by Mason's "approachable guide to the fault lines" of the global crisis, in his review of Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere for Time Out. According to Harrison the book is full of the energy of its time. He finds the book "unashamedly episodic, a series of urgent, pertinent snapshots of cause and effect" from across the world:
As a writer, he's lively, funny, and engaging, trading in an energy derived from the thrill and signifiance of what he's witnessing. It's a courageous journalist who volunteers a first draft of history in a period as volatile as this, and Mason is potentially a hostage to fortune.
Perhaps Sir David Frost is playing the role of hostage negotiator when he attempts to tease out some predictions for 2012 from Mason. Asked what he foresees in the coming twelve months, he is happy to offer some reflections. Whilst 2011 was a year of revolutions, 2012 will be a year of consolidation, even counter-revolution, coming down to "who get's what out of these revolutions". "I see a year of economic nationalism" says Mason, offering the prospect of populations looking to domestic politicians to "offer people a national exit route". Mason doesn't elaborate on this, but, for a journalist who, according to a recent interview in the Financial Times, is "very attached to the idea of social justice", there lies within that exit route a very real implicit threat.
Read reviews of Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere at Scotland on Sunday and the Camden New Journal. His interview with the Financial Times can be found here.