Posted on 19 September 2010 by John Rippo
538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal by Justin Krebs. Skyhorse Pub. 246 pp. Paper. $12.95. ISBN: 978-01-60239-982-2
American society changes itself through the years by a democratic process that is shaped through discussion, consensus and action. The premise of 538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal is to give shape to the process of getting to know the society surrounding the individual and cohering it around shared ideas, and ultimately to action to make a better and more suitable society. This may as often as not begin over a beer in a favored bar or café.
Though hanging out and solving the world’s problems over a beer can be fun, 538 Ways isn’t merely a planform for evening discussions. It’s an ideal; an example of what some people once called a salon that’s as old as democracy itself and one that lends a maximum of interaction in a non-threating environment. So much for the form.
What happens is that people coalesce around what matters to them. In the author’s case, his first weekly drinking and discussion session turned into a social group that bounced ideas, got feedback, got noticed and got queried by the press, the curious and others who wanted to know what “liberals” thought on things. Soon, a network of discussion nights in other places was born. The book is a natural result.
The 538 ways are points of behavior; guidelines on things to remember about interacting with the world and suggested ways to live more like a liberal; everything from shortening commutes to questioning authority and one’s friends, to inviting candidates for office to an evening of beer and discussion about issues prior to an election get numbered and expounded on. It’s clear that living liberally is not merely a social club but an action group that organizes like minded people into communities to make their lives and communities better. It seems to be working, too. So far, there are chapters of Drinking Liberally in many cites in the east and midwest and the program is uniting liberals even in the reddest of states.
Discussion is the lifeblood of coffeehouses and has been for four hundred years. This book is a gold mine for café spirits of all kinds who might want to implement some of the actions found within its covers to meet fun people, start an action group or merely overthrow the whole existing social order. Democracies can do that and it usually starts with someone with an idea to share with someone in a pleasant environment with time to listen. What could be more egalitarian and filled with promise than that?