Book Review: “HUMANKIND: A Hopeful History“ Rutger Bregman

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“HUMANKIND: A Hopeful History “

Rutger Bregman, Little Brown, 2020


© Hazel Henderson 2020

Now here’s some really good news!  This book is the invigorating tonic so many of us need to break the pandemic gloom.   Author, Rutger Bregman is a Dutch historian who has painstakingly sifted through thousands of historical records describing how various theologians, scientists, philosophers, and authors have described human nature.  Bregman found thousands of examples from Greek philosophers, religious texts, Enlightenment thinkers to ethnographers and psychologists.  All told similar gloomy views of human nature as sinful, greedy, selfish, exploitive, untrustworthy, and basically irredeemable.

Bregman’s first response was his “Utopia for Realists” (2016) which became a New York Times best-seller after translation from Dutch into 32 languages.

In “Humankind” Bregman searches for alternative views and ignored evidence, uncovering thousands of well-documented examples of the better side of human nature.  He offers explanations of why these are so often overlooked.  Bregman shows how the prevailing historical view of humans as born sinners was reinforced by religious dogmas, cultural beliefs, academic rewards customs, patriarchal regimes, mass media, and money systems incentivizing greed, selfishness, and competition.  This rewarded exploitation and power over caring and cooperation.

Bregman’s skeptical approach validates his vast array of positive evidence of our caring, sharing, cooperative, and loving behaviors.  He changed my views and restored my faith in the future of our human family.  My belief is validated once more in our ability to learn from Nature’s many lessons:  from climate crises, fires, floods rising sea levels, and pandemics. We may yet face up to our ignorance of the planet’s functions, turn away from adolescent consumerism and self-indulgence and re-shape our worldviews, overcome our cognitive limitations and develop the planetary awareness which can lead to higher values, wisdom and inclusive goals enhancing all life.  Let’s discount all the Machiavellians’ advice and remember our deepest systemic knowledge we teach our children:  behaving according to our traditional principles embodied in The Golden Rule!

~Hazel  Henderson, author, Mapping the Global Transition to  the Solar Age: From Economism To Earth Systems Science”, London, (2014) and other books.”