So many times, in conversations with friends reflecting on things we see happening in the world, someone will say “well, basically we’re all shit aren’t we?” Or “human beings are basically vile aren’t they?” Or words to that effect. This belief in a selfish, destructive, greedy, violent core to our being is deeply pervasive and underpins so many of the systems that are proving so damaging to the world. Rutger Bregman’s new book, ‘Human Kind’, turns that toxic nonsense on its head and argues that, in essence, “most people, deep down, are decent”, and that the world would be a very different place if we were to recognise that. It may be one of the most important books you will ever read.
Bregman writes, “if we believe most people can’t be trusted, that’s how we’ll treat each other, to everyone’s detriment. Few ideas have as much power to shape the world as our view of other people. Because, ultimately, you get what you expect to get. If we want to tackle the greatest challenges of our times – from the climate crisis to our growing distrust of one another – then I think the place we need to start is our view of human nature”.
Bregman begins by revisiting all of the ‘scientific’ research and works of fiction that we have been continually told shows that we are, essentially, selfish and horrible, and looks at it with fresh eyes. ‘Lord of the Flies’? Most UK-based readers of this will have studied this book in school, a book that shows how, when left to their own devices, kids turn on each other and act out the worst impulses of adult society.
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