Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Volunteer - Michael Ross (with Jonathan Kay)

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

African Proverb (from The Volunteer)

I don’t usually discuss politics on this blog. I prefer not to. However, in the case of this particular book, I feel I should be up front as to my stance vis-à-vis the Arab Israeli conflict. I’m pro-Israel and have been since studying history in high school and university.

Okay, that’s out of the way. My objectivity (or lack of) has been revealed.

And so? My opinion regarding The Volunteer? I loved it. I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read - fascinating, engrossing and educational.

Canadian Michael Ross did the backpacking about Europe routine when in his twenties. He ultimately found himself in Israel where he, “…immerses himself in Israeli culture, converts to Judaism, and adopts his new country’s struggle for survival as his own, joining the Israel Defence Force and eventually Mossad’s most elite and storied covert-operations unit, Caesaria.”

Not only did I find reading about the life of a spy intriguing, I also gained an understanding as to the origins, workings and supporters (worldwide) of groups such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, etc. Although such knowledge may be frightening, it is something we should possess. Ignorance is not bliss in a world of suicide bombers, Islamic jihad and the like. Know thine enemy. (See proverb above.)

The following quotation illustrates just one of the many thought-provoking issues in this book. (And it’s one that stayed with me.)

“My experience in Africa is one of the reasons I have little regard for the ‘poverty equals terrorism’ theory, according to which suicide bombers are driven to explode themselves because of the poverty and repression they experience in their societies. If squalor and tyranny inspire self-immolation, then sub-Saharan Africa would be one big fireball.”

Mr. Ross shared his stories with the world because he believes, “A storm is coming...”

I think the storm is already upon us – we’re simply unaware as to how close and strong it actually is.


Jen said...

With regards to the quote at the end of your post - you only have to look at the recent terrorist attack on my hometown (Glasgow) to see the truth in that.

The perpetrators were certainly not poor or facing repression. They were highly educated and most of them were medical professionals working for the NHS (worrying!).

Thanks for the review, it looks like a very interesting and thought provoking book - one I will add to my list of books to read.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post today and one that has me thinking. You made a lot of very good points, and I agree, that even thou it is scarey to read and hear about, it is so important to know.
I never heard of this book, but will be ordering it. Thanks for your honesty and for telling us about this book. XOXO

Beth said...

Thanks for your comment/input.
It is a thought-provoking and informative book.

Glad it has you thinking - despite the fact some of the subject matter is disturbing.

Nomad said...

Hi Beth,
Very compelling review, just added it to my reading list. Thank you.

I agree whole heartedly with your conclusion.

Living only as far away as the EU but with North American culture, ethics and practices in the forefront of our minds it makes me realize that cultures that spawn terrorists are so much more uncomprehensably removed from our sphere of thought than we cannot even begin to comprehend the cultural differences. It always puzzles me that we try to assess their morality based on our framework.

In contrast our North American throw away culture and our attitudes towards sustainabilty not only our many resources but also from a moral perspective it seems to me we are on a destructive collision course.

It is eye opening to view "western"; North American culture from an ocean away after having lived in it for 40 years...and it is all that positive after all...

World history is conflict, why would our time be any different.

I think that North Americans (sorry if I generalize here) live in such a relatively comfortable and secure reality partly due to geography granted but it seems ot me to be a pretty insular...


(I am REALLY am not a left wing nut case ...)


Nomad said...

OH gosh...why can't we edit comments...

Is NOT all that positive after all...


Beth said...

I actually thought of you and your family while reading parts of the book dealing with where you are living in Europe.
And I heartily agree with you as to our North American culture and way of life. We are so comfortable and insulated (despite the events of 9/11) that we do go on and live our lives as though we are not at risk. And do so at our own peril.

Diesel said...

Fascinating. I will have to read that (once I get through the rest of my list... sigh.)

Beth said...

If your list is anything like mine, that will be awhile...

Michael said...

Thank you for the very kind review and generous praise for the book. The U.S. launch is scheduled for September 1st and I am extremely curious as to what the reaction will be. I've added a chapter to the U.S. version and the U.S. publisher's (Skyhorse) edit has been quite tight. If the reviews are half as good as the one I received here, then I'll be quite pleased.
Thanks again!
Michael Ross

Beth said...

My pleasure! And best of luck with the U.S. launch.