Beautiful Souls- By Eyal Press
Eyal Press is a journalist and a book author.
In this book, Eyal Press used a series of compelling stories about four people who acted with bold acts of dissent in conditions of different crises from the world’s history: World War II, the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the recent financial meltdown.
His main characters are:
– Paul Gruninger, a state police commander in St. Gallen in Switzerland.
In World War II he let numerous Jewish to refugee in his country against the law.He was stripped of his job, his reputation had to suffer. His town began to acknowledged and to honor him more than half a century after the fact.His chapter is entitled “Disobeying the Law”.
-Aleksander Jevtic, a serb who risked his life when asked to separate Serbs by Croats from his fellow Serbs.In this way the Croats, the enemy, could be identified, detained and later killed.He invented serbian names to a lot of Croats, declaring them Serbs and saving their lives.
His chapter is entitled “Defying the Group”. After the war finished, just a few hometown Croats thanked him for saving their lives.
-Avner Wishnitzer, an Israeli soldier, who was in the most elite commando unit in the Israeli Defense Force, for his mandatory service.But later after he was discharged from his service, he joined a civilian convoy, to deliver blankets to Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.His conscience made him revolt against the Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.He joined with a few others reservists from his unit to take a public and risky stand, by signing a letter proclaiming that they will not serve if called upon in Palestinian territory. He received a lot of public shaming.His chapter is entitled “the Rules of Conscience”.
-Leyla Wydler, was a financial advisor with Stanford Financial Group, created by financier Allen Stanford who was charged with massive fraud for taking billions of dollars from investors.
She was a whistleblower who alerted some regulations agencies about the fraud involved.
As a single mother, she risked everything. She was fined for breaking her contract and today she works as a real estate.Her chapter is entitled “The Price of Raising One’s Voice”.
We can relate his ideas presented in this book with our lessons about American History.
Going from four ordinary people acting different from the majority,with courage and conscience, in different extraordinary moments of the history, we can take a new understanding about the limits and the potential of the human nature in general along the history.Examples of bold acts of dissent were often carried out by selfless persons who stood out and fight fiercely for their convictions and conscience and their actions influenced their community.The author underlined the idea that acts of resistance are always subjective acts.
History showed us that not always the stand up for moral convictions represented a progress.
Sometimes moral convictions lead to disengagement from civil life and sometimes even wars.Some used conscience as an argument to protect their beliefs even though they harmed other people.The author underlined that what someone can call “fanaticism”, others can call “ justice”.
From the author’s characters of several system resisters, we can look closer for the reasons and the results that make some people to do something risky and to say ”No”, in critical history times when majority of their people said “Yes”.
The book goes further to look into psychology, philosophy, history, sociology and fiction.
The author indirectly underlined the questions some will face when principles, loyalties and duties collide together.Showing about how moral problems played out in his characters’ life, he tried to show the role of prejudice, idealism and community influences.
Even though we can admire his characters and find them inspiring,they are nonconformist people who took risky stands and we can see how their actions created conflicts for them and their surrounding society. Some will call them idealist, some will call them naive idealist, others will call them true believers. For all it was a hard and painful process.
But we don’t have to forget that history showed us that might be considerably harder and painful for other people who spent their lives by identifying with the values of majority and fighting fiercely for them.
I found the presentation about this book very interesting, even though sometimes the discussions seemed to be very complex. The author Eyal Press was a very good speaker and entertained the audience.