Life, the universe, and why people abuse each other over how to classify it

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

What ever happened to all the good in the world?

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?

The dangers of being a good Samaritan when society is dysfunctional

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

Social panics – when the stupid becomes the normal

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

Hard lessons in the unprovoked malice of strangers

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