One of the ways humans understand the world is by classifying it – finding categories into which everything slots. This style of thinking has always been around, but it became something of an art form during the Age of Reason, and is still with us today. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the … More Life, the universe, and why people abuse each other over how to classify it
I’ve been getting the disturbing impression of late that the default human position isn’t generosity and kindness; it’s selfish malice. I’ve blogged about this before, but it won’t go away. Life, it seems, is a zero-sum game in which all that counts is self, and the way to get ahead is to break somebody else. … More What ever happened to all the good in the world?
Back when I was a kid at intermediate school (‘junior high’ in US parlance) there was an incident involving a trestle table at the back of the class, on which had been placed a lot of craft works. Adjacent to the trestle was a large cupboard in which all the coats and bags were stored, … More The dangers of being a good Samaritan when society is dysfunctional
I am always intrigued by the way that, every so often, western society is seized with a ‘social panic’ in which some recent and usually small-scale event becomes evidence of a supposedly deep-seated problem that is going to bring society crashing down in ruin. The archetype, for me, is New Zealand’s Elbe Milk Bar scandal … More Social panics – when the stupid becomes the normal
One of the main features of New Zealand’s society, last century, was its ‘cultural cringe’. It was a classic inferiority complex; the idea that, on the one hand, we were punching above our weight and beating the world; yet on the other, that we would always somehow never be good enough. My own work has … More Reconciling the battle for Crete
I was absolutely horrified the other week to see a news report from India about a fatal scooter accident. Instead of helping, bystanders took selfies in front of the dying victims. Nobody even assisted them for half an hour. That sort of behaviour is utterly repugnant. In New Zealand, where I am, it is also … More Which moral pit is the world falling into?
As a rule these days, I don’t engage with local enthusiasts who style themselves ‘historians’. It sounds harsh, but my experience of being attacked – out of the blue – by strangers with an interest in the field has been so consistent I’m reluctant to respond. Let me reveal a few experiences of my work, … More Hard lessons in the unprovoked malice of strangers