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Forum » Book Reviews By Students » Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press » Must Read 8.5/10 Stars (A Brief Analysis on Beautiful Souls: Part 1)
Must Read 8.5/10 Stars
michaelDate: Wednesday, 2013-06-12, 11:24 PM | Message # 1
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Beautiful Souls                We learn a lot ofthe AP Human Geography. We learned about the what, the how, the where, and the
when. To study what Human Geo is, we use terms and definitions, to study how it
all happens, we have models and theories to aid us, and the where and when is drilled
into us with places and important dates around the world. But we learned little
of the why, the human aspect of Human Geo. Why are there border conflicts? Why
are there ethnic tensions and conflicts that lead to atrocities such as ethnic
cleansing and genocide? Why would humans do that to each other? What goes
through someone’s mind when they do such a thing in the name of their
ethnicity, in the name of their nation, or the name of their religion?
Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press goes over the humanity behind actions that goes
against the social norm, or what is to be expected of a person in such
turbulent times. In his book, he covers extensively the psychology, the human
part, of people when they are forced to make decisions that decide the fate of others,
as well as the consequences that comes after going against your race, your
nation, and even your own people in order to do what is right.                 His book is brokenoff into four parts, each one detailing a specific scenario in which an
ordinary individual does something extraordinary, goes out of his or her way to
save others. After describing the event, Press goes on to explain the science
behind the event, what goes on in the human mind, as well as touch over the
social and political aspects of what lead to the conflict in the first place.
Then, he goes on to describe similar scenarios, and the consequences of each
one, leading up to a profound statement on selflessness and disobedience.
Skillfully written, this book has a little something for everyone, from the
first story to the last, every page engages the reader and encourages us to
reconsider our moral standing, our perception of what is right or wrong. Many
times while I read this, I had to ask myself, what would I do in this
situation, would I have done the same?                 The first storyinvolves a chief of police in charge of a part of the Swiss border in a rather
peaceful village. The officer was told to not let any Jews inside Switzerland
regardless of their situation, in order to prevent “Jewification” or a Jewish
takeover of Switzerland. The human geo topics covered in this chapter are
border conflicts, immigration, as well as bits of ethnic cleansing and racism
that went on during WWII. We learned a lot about immigration, especially in the
US, and about the quota system, however nothing much about the effects of such
upon the immigrating family, and what goes on in a border police’s mind when
confronted with a situation that could potentially kill the immigrants trying
cross. The chief was in a position of the reaper, with two stamps of APPROVED
and REJECTED he decides the fate of the Jews crossing the Swiss border. He
defies his orders, stripped of his job, his honor, and his life, forced to take
on odd jobs, and dies after leading a less than fulfilling life all for because
of one thing: he “could do nothing else” – but save the Jews.                 The next story isset in the warring states of Yugoslavia, during the Balkan wars, specifically
in Croatia. A simple man, a Serb, “Acho”, is faced with a morally destructive
task, to pick which of the rounded up prisoners are Serbs and Croats, those he
said that are Serbs will live, those he leaves alone are bound for death. In
front of him are broken, dying, hopeless Croats, who knew only death will
awaits them. What he does next is nothing sort of extraordinary, risking his
life, he started calling Croats by traditional Serbian names, and getting as
many into the “safe” room as possible. His reason? Because he sense it was the
right thing to do, he acted on an emotional impulse. The topics covered in this
chapter includes ethnic cleansing, ethnic tension, balkanization, nationalism,
and a new thing, something I like to call, ethnic isolation. With Acho, the
Serbs does not like him because he helped save Croats, and the Croats can’t
like him because he is a Serb that goes against what they believe of all Serbs,
he was a Serb with kindness. When asked about his nationality, he simply responded,
“I am a citizen of the world.”

Added (2013-06-12, 11:24 PM)
---------------------------------------------
Part 2:

The next installmentincluded an Israeli soldier, one that has the highest honor of serving in the
esteemed special units, but was left to defy orders to occupy bordering
Palestinian territories. Torn between his duties as a soldier for his state,
and the duties he has towards humanity. Disillusioned by the realities and
cruelties that happen in these border territories, he decides to not patrol
these villages. He is not making a stand to change his community, his disobedience
is not to fix the system, but to simply stay out of it, wash his hands of the
moral impurities around him. In this chapter, nationalism is also addressed,
but also the community and the mentality behind genocide and ethnic cleansing.
It is said that ethnic cleansing is more of a communal bonding activity than it
is of pure terror or racism. Ironically the humanity behind something so
barbaric and cruel, is actually something everyone craves for, a sense of place
and self, a craving for belonging. But also this also covers how religion plays
into politics. When a soldier is forced to pick between following orders or
following his religion, his rabbi, what is he to pick? How do you choose which
is best, when in the end, what you choose might very well end up haunting you
for the rest of your life in complete isolation.

                As for the laststory, I’ll leave that for you to find out on your own, as I highly recommend this
book to everyone. However, be warned, although it has a little something for
everyone, it is not something anyone can just pick up. You need to reach a level
of maturity and understanding before fully grasping the meaning behind this
masterpiece. One would not give Lord of the Flies to a 10 year old and expect
him/her to appreciate the messages within the book, the same goes for Beautiful
Souls. Be warned, if you think you are capable of reading this, then prepare
yourself for some serious self-reflections, as you will reconsider a lot about
yourself, the world you live, and everything we learned about Human Geo as
whole. I rate this book 8.5 out of 10 for its eloquently written stories, in
depth research, and life changing perspectives. The only set back is that this
is a very tough read, one that takes a lot of time per page due to the amount
of insight/ information on each page, it may be short in length, but is
extremely extensive in content. This will be one of the few books I will enjoy
re-reading.

 
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