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Some people are into recycling cans, helping old ladies across the street, and vaccinating impoverished villagers against polio, but I help my fellow man with what I call “indirect social activism.” By getting to work on time, eating a balanced diet, and washing behind my ears, I help myself and make sure that no hyperproductive do-gooder wastes his time keeping tabs on me. Now that’s generosity. Jeff Hartig, the protagonist of Robert Rosenberg’s debut novel This Is Not Civilization, isn’t my type of generous—he crisscrosses the world on a constant mission to help those less fortunate than himself. So what happens when you go out of your way to help people? You end up living in an apartment with an Apache basketball star, the manager of a failed Kyrgyzstan cheese factory, and the failed-cheese-factory-manager’s daughter. Maybe you learn a little about peace and understanding other cultures. Whatever—I’d rather have my own bathroom. Rosenberg reads at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Josh Levin)