I swallowed this book in about 5 days.
I almost felt hungry for it when I wasn't reading it.
It felt like listening to a snarky, intelligent friend tell me stories. Good stories. Challenging stories. Thought-provoking stories. Stories that made me do some research. Stories that made me uncomfortable. Stories that made me think. Stories that made me want to talk to other people about these stories... Really good stories.
Aaron's main governing principle is 'curiosity/scepticism' ... about why things are the way they are, why we are the way we are, why we're told "that's just the way it is, always has been and always will be", why we're told what the only possible choices of a thing are - who decided those were the only choices? what formulas were used to decide what choices are possible/logical/viable? who created those formulas? who decides what possible/logical/viable mean in those formulas? what system(s) created those choices? who benefits from that system? who is disenfranchised by that system? what fuels that system? how is that system reproduced? how can that system be reformed or even dismantled? ... ask, pursue, follow, challenge, question, inspect, analyse, dissect "why, why, why, why?".
... Which seems very casual, but is actually, deeply, radical when applied... Questioning the cores of what seems natural and normal.
For example, (in my very rough and shoddy summary) he talks about the creation and expansion of the American schooling system. As young girls/women started strikes/walk outs from cotton mills due to exploitative, brutal working conditions, to the owners....
... (and a capitalist, patriarchal society at large) this was wholly unacceptable... To be intellectually independent, curious and motivated enough to question and to act on the results of that questioning. The areas where there were strikes were "also the home of America's first schools ... Instead of corporal punishment, teachers were encouraged to secure order 'by the mildest possible means' to 'instil a regard for right, and thus a standard of self-government in the minds of the children themselves'". With lessons on geography, history, math, writing ("curiously" nothing that meaningfully/specifically contributes to improved skills/knowledge on how to better understand the demands of working/succeeding in a cotton mill) "Why did the mill owners spend so much money building and running these schools? They were quite clear about their intent ... more orderly and respectful in their deportment, and more ready to comply with the wholesome and necessary regulations of an establishment ... An analysis found that what led to a town getting a school was not its growth into a city nor a rise in incomes ... but instead the introduction of the factory system itself ... In short, schools don't really teach kids anything because they're not really about teaching kids anything. They're about teaching kids to stay quiet, do their work and show up on time". (which opens up all these questions about how schooling systems are related to/molded, informed, impacted by capitalism/the social, cultural institutional normalcy and expectation of accepting the world "as it is" etc)
He also discusses corruption and politics, intellectual property, copyright/"illegal" downloading (Did you know about 'Compulsory licensing'? That if a few $ or £ (around 5) is/are added to broadband bills, we can download (from torrents etc) as we usually do and the artists/creators can be compensated from that added total? The details are slightly complex (but here are two of his blog posts on it, "Downloading isn't stealing" and "Fixing compulsory licensing") but what's important is that it's possible and can be done (They don't want us to know about compulsory licenses!) ... instead of criminalizing/militarizing how we get/share information/media on the internet, instead of that process being a cat-and-mouse game between corporations, legal systems and people, instead of youtube's "3 strikes, you're out" policy etc ... how can we reimagine what a copyright is/should look like? In a way that's fair to the consumers and creators? In a way that encourages creativity?), rigidity of schooling systems, books he liked etc.
He also emphasized action as an ideal result of analysis and new information. To think and see and know and understand aren't the end goals.
"What can I do?" is the next governing principle.