The conventional history of nations, even continents, is a history of warfare. According to this view, all the important ideas and significant changes of humankind occured as part of an effort to win one violent, bloody conflict or another.
But there have always been a few who refused to fight. Following the grand sweep of history from Confucius to Tolstoy, Erasmus to Gandhi, bestselling author Mark Kurlansky traces pacifism and its proponents to show how many modern ideas, a united Europe, the United Nations, and the abolition of slavery - originated in non-violence movements.
Oscar-winner Dreyfuss lends his voice to a timely subject matter. With his characteristic crystal-clear annunciation and emotionally charged delivery, Dreyfuss adds an element of energy to Kurlansky's exhaustive historical journey. Listeners of all partisan stripes should find themselves intrigued by some of the lesser-known examples of nonviolent activism that Kurlansky's research highlights, including campaigns that could have prevented both America's Revolutionary War and the Civil War. However, the tenor of Kurlansky's message often seems unnecessarily strident, fiercely attacking political, religious and media defenders of the just war theory. For instance, the Rev. Billy Graham receives the pejorative label of "right-wing evangelist," and Steven Spielberg's acclaimed 1998 film Saving Private Ryan draws scorn as "war propaganda." Sadly, Kurlansky seems more intent on doing battle with sacred cows than building bridges or advancing practical solutions.