Humankind - A Hopeful History
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
Interesting book, examining the fact that catastrophes bring out the best in people.
‘Man will become better when you show him what he is like.’
-- Anton Chekhov (1860–1904)
Psychologie des foules – ‘The Psychology of the Masses’ – by one of the most influential scholars of his day, the Frenchman Gustave Le Bon. Hitler read the book cover to cover. So did Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt.
Le Bon’s book gives a play by play of how people respond to crisis. Almost instantaneously, he writes, ‘man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization’. Panic and violence erupt, and we humans reveal our true nature.
‘British society became in many ways strengthened by the Blitz,’ a British historian later wrote. ‘The effect on Hitler was disillusioning.’
Twenty-five years later, US forces would drop three times as much firepower on Vietnam as they dropped in the entire Second World War; This time it failed on an even grander scale.
1. A New Realism
This is a book about a radical idea.
One that’s corroborated by evolution and confirmed by everyday life. An idea so intrinsic to human nature that it goes unnoticed and gets overlooked.
If only we had the courage to take it more seriously, it’s an idea that might just start a revolution. Turn society on its head. Because once you grasp what it really means, it’s nothing less than a mind-bending drug that ensures you’ll never look at the world the same again.
That most people, deep down, are pretty decent.
Imagine an airplane makes an emergency landing;
- On Planet A, the passengers turn to their neighbours to ask if they’re okay. Those needing assistance are helped out of the plane first. People are willing to give their lives, even for perfect strangers.
- On Planet B, everyone’s left to fend for themselves. Panic breaks out. There’s lots of pushing and shoving. Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities get trampled underfoot.
Which planet do we live on?
‘I would estimate about 97 per cent of people think we live on Planet B,’ says Professor Postmes. ‘The truth is, in almost every case, we live on Planet A.’
There is a persistent myth that by their very nature humans are selfish, aggressive and quick to panic.
In actuality, the opposite is true. It’s when crisis hits – when the bombs fall or the floodwaters rise – that we humans become our best selves.