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an outstanding achievement.,
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This review is from: A Criminal History of Mankind (Panther Books) (Paperback)
Even if this was the only book Colin Wilson had ever written it would be enough to enough to cement his reputation as one of the greatest thinkers of his generation. Just the title alone shows you what a formidable task this must have been to write. Wilson goes right back to Man's earliest development, and shows how aggression has always been a part of our make-up. It's a fundamental flaw in the human psyche that has baffled philosophers for centuries. Just why is Mankind the only species on the planet that kills for pleasure? Why can Mankind never seem to learn from its mistakes, however far we progress? (I don't know about the poor always being with us, I think war will always be with us!).
This isn't just a look at the criminal elements of history though, he also shows how the major religions developed, which I found invaluable when trying to understand what's going on in the world right now. For instance how Christianity took off as a spiritual alternative to the corrupt materialism of the Romans ... and then quickly grew as corrupt itself. How Islam was founded, and all the complex factions contained therein. It's a startling fact that most religions in the world can't seem to avoid squabbling amongst themselves.
Aside from religion, he shows us the antics of some of the most evil men in history, and the swathe of killing they indulged themselves in, which beggars belief even in this cynical age, for instance the carnage wrecked by Tamarlane is quite gobsmacking. He explains to us The Right Man syndrome, how some men (and to a lesser extent women) become so crazed by their own egos that they defy any rationale, which has been responsible for some of the most outrageous crimes and mass murders ever committed.
At times the endless litany of murder, torture and corruption seems to depress even the author. He admits that philosophers are pessimistic by nature, because they see no end to Mankind's faults, as Mankind constantly makes the same mistakes over and over again (power corrupts being the most constant one), and yet Wilson also points to many crucial stages in our evolution, where good came out of the evil, and allowed us to advance significantly, which is the kind of optimism we need to hang onto.
In some ways I feel this book could just as easily have been called "An Alternative History of Mankind". I feel quite strongly that it should be standard reading matter in schools, but somehow I doubt it will be!
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Initial post: 2 Sep 2012 21:39:55 BDT
Mr. Jerome Brown says:
I completely agree with the author of this review. I have recently read this book, and was totally fascinated by it. I think it must have been a monumental task for Colin wilson, but the product is worth his blood sweat and tears. thoroughly enjoyable read, and I am looking forward to reading it again!
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