Read previous Eats & Entertainment columns


April 26, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow

By Jim Hightower with Susan DeMarco


By Candace Talmadge

Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow is dedicated to the late political columnist Molly Ivins. She would have been proud of the mention and of the book, and probably is, wherever she may be now, still raisin’ a ruckus.


This book is co-written by a Texas populist who was twice elected (with my vote both times) the state’s agriculture commissioner. It encourages readers (us) to get out of our nine-to-five ruts. It provides plenty of concrete examples of Americans who don’t have megabucks or political connections but who nonetheless have bucked big business and big government to make happier, more sustainable livelihoods for themselves and/or to right some wrongs.


Kudos to authors Jim Hightower and Susan DeMarco. We so much need practical optimism in these discouraging and dispiriting times. They show us on every page how not to give up on the possibility of healing our lives and, in doing so, helping to make our beloved nation just a little bit calmer and saner. That is an enormous contribution to our collective well-being in these stressful, crazy-making times.


Best of all, they do so with that dry Texas humor that Ivins made so well known in her columns.


The book is divided into three sections – business, politics and life. In business, the authors start by quoting our most taciturn president, Calvin Coolidge. He said more than just, “The chief business of the American people is business.” He offered these additional comments: “Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. It’s only natural that people seek some level of wealth, but there are many other things we want very much more. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism.”


In that vein, the authors describe business without greed, such as a fair trade coffee cooperative, an organic dairy products farm cooperative, micro-lending to the poor and for projects such as affordable (and profitable) housing, workers who acquired their cab company and transformed it.


For the politics part, Hightower and DeMarco relate the story of a herd of Jersey and Angus cows in Southern California that broke free a number of years ago and have eluded capture ever since, roaming the Santa Monica Mountains north of Los Angeles.


Their point: We, the voters, can either remain passive bovines to be milked by politicians representing special interests, or we can take action on our own behalf, including running for political office, supporting clean election laws to get public financing for state and local campaigns, organizing to fight for a “living wage” as opposed to minimum-wage increases and protesting war in a creative manner, as did a group of grannies. Then there’s the chapter about the politics of fun, which helps those unfamiliar with Southern culture by providing the different definitions of the words “naked” and “nekkid” (see the book for details, Nosy).


Finally, the section on life discusses various issues, such as the complete disconnect between those who make public policy and those who suffer the consequences of said policies – and the climate situation and the growing Christian evangelical environmental movement. While I don’t agree with Hightower and DeMarco that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the primary causes of warming global temperatures, I cherish and applaud their deep commitment to stop harming our Earth. We are the stewards – not the dominators – of this planet and our lives will improve immeasurably if we start behaving accordingly.


After each section, the authors provide invaluable contact information for every organization or person they write about. DeMarco includes a recommended reading list, which should include this book. All in all, this is nonfiction at its finest.


Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)


Title: Swim Against the Current—Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow

Author: Jim Hightower with Susan DeMarco

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Publication Date: March, 2008

List price: $25.95 (hardcover)

Pages: 212

ISBN: 978-0-470-12151-1


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.


This is Column # EE018. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
David J. Pollay
Eats & Entertainment
The Laughing Chef