4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Fred Emil Katz, author of Immediacy: Our Ways of Coping in Everyday Life, is a retired Sociology professor and Holocaust survivor. Although he survived the Holocaust, most of his family did not. His life experience left him with a burning question: How can people who love their family, who are kind to their children, wife, and pets, who are in every other way "good" people, how can these very same people perpetrate the kind of evil that occurred during the Holocaust and different points in the history of humanity?
There are two essential words/concepts found throughout this book: Immediacy and Riders. Immediacy refers to all the different things currently impacting our life. They include things that are both good and bad. Riders are the often unacknowledged thoughts, beliefs, and expectations that have a deep impact on how we respond to our Immediacy.
For Katz, it is not enough to simply answer the question of how otherwise good people can commit atrocities, but we must also figure out a way to prevent these kinds of atrocities. So he sets up a case for his point of view and then presents what he views as the solution. He splits the book up into five different sections. Each section begins with an introduction that explains the thesis he is presenting, and then supports that theses with several essays. The sections move smoothly from the presentation of the problem to an explanation of the complications of the problem, and then to a transformation of the problem.
Katz does not shy away from the difficult discussions. He covers the Holocaust, but also Cults like Heaven's Gate, who committed mass suicide in 1997, the Rwandan massacre, and even the Spanish Inquisition, just to name a few. This has been his life's work and as an octogenarian, he has had a lot of time to think through his ideas in-depth. Although I did not always find myself agreeing with his conclusions, I always found myself being stretched to think about things more deeply and to ask the difficult questions. He comes at the problem from a mostly sociological point of view, rather than a psychological or religious point of view. Even though Katz does touch on some religious discussions, this is not a religious or spiritual book.
There is some repetition of thought and ideas throughout the book, but I felt this was an acceptable thing as some of the concepts can be hard to grasp and the repetition helps with retention and understanding. Additionally, this book consists of essays which connect smoothly together but could also stand alone. Indeed, several of them were meant originally as stand-alone essays or lectures but were set to a new purpose here in this book. Katz's arguments, even though heady, are well thought out and articulated. Although it is not a long book at just 186 pages, it is not a quick read because it is dense. I can see this book working well for a serious-minded book club. I would have loved to have a discussion group to process with me at the end of each section. This is one of those books that I was talking a lot about to my friends because I found his ideas so fascinating.
This book would be very appropriate for those who do not mind a somewhat challenging read and find social history interesting, or those who have similar questions to Katz about how people can do such horrible things. It is unlikely that children or many young adults would find this especially interesting. Although this book does talk about difficult topics, the language or discussions found within are not graphic in any way.
There are a handful of mistakes found in this book, most of the missing period variety. Katz has a particular writing quirk where he likes to use ---- a lot. I am unsure why he chooses to use four, rather than two, but he is consistent throughout the book. However, it reads a little bit like a writing tic, he uses it multiple times in every single paragraph, and the book would read more smoothly without it, primarily because it is somewhat distracting to the eye.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The very small critiques that I have made are not enough to support taking away a full star, although I would have taken away a half a star for that if I could. This is a thought-provoking, well-researched and cited book that was a joy to read.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like Kat Berg's review? Post a comment saying so!