Hamja Ahsan’s book, Shy Radicals: the anti-systemic politics of the militant introvert, draws our attention to a largely unacknowledged, yet ubiquitous oppressed people, whose voices are drowned out by their oppressors and face marginalisation and discrimination across states, class, race, gender and sexuality.

Cruelly, this systematic silencing is abetted by the people’s own preference for solitude and quiet, and fear of public speaking. Ahsan’s book calls for the acknowledgement of the situation of Shy people in an extrovert-supremacist world. It is a perceptive and entertaining analysis of late capitalism’s aggressive invasion of our senses, time and privacy.

The separate state of Aspergistan, the Shy Radicals political project, is imagined as a safe haven for Shy people, introverts and those on the autistic spectrum. It is designed for those who seek a quiet, unharassed existence, free of intrusive advertising, neon and strobe lighting, and compulsory social events…

The promise of Aspergistan will appeal to the bullied, the socially awkward, the introverted, the marginalised and the medicalised, and to all self-identifying Shy and autistic spectrum people. It imagines a world in which we value and give apposite space to ‘alternative,’ quiet and nonconformist ways of being.

In our world of celebrity culture and reactionary politics, where the loudest and often the most obnoxious voices shape public debate and hold political office, this book describes a fictional but compelling project of radical societal transformation.

Ahsan asks us to imagine a world in which political campaign leaflets are unobtrusively scattered on park benches for the population to pick up, if they feel like it. Compare that to the glaring, professionally oratorial and expensive campaigns of our contemporary politics. Imagine a world in which one is encouraged to contemplatively read manifestos (again, if one feels like it) rather than consume catchy and reductive soundbites.

The world encapsulated in Aspergistan is one where thoughtfulness and reflection, solitude and listening, are prized over brashness, over-confidence and self-promotion. It is a state free of coercion, where people are free to behave as they feel comfortable, without being labelled as ‘weirdos,’ ‘loners’ or ‘freaks.