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Not quite as taken with this book as others
on 23 June 2012
This book has Parts 1 and 2, but I would characterize it in 3 parts. In the first part, Steve Taylor sets out his invented notion of 'humania', actually a clever term he has coined to describe two core concepts. The first, our 'internal chatter', that phenomenon we all seem to display whereby our mind is constantly in a state of internal flux, our mind wanders incessantly and we have an ongoing dialogue within ourselves. Taylor sees this as a largely negative aspect of broadly speaking white Caucasians. Notice that I am using sweeping terms, something Taylor does a lot. Why do I assume white Caucasians? Because Taylor highlights quite specifically that indigenous peoples around the world do/did not suffer from many of the mental ills that 'we' do, and that in colonizing these good peoples lands (Aborigines, North American and South American Indians, etc) we pretty much wiped them out. So white Caucasians it is. In using historical data to bolster his arguments, Taylor's pick and mix approach to history is somewhat underwhelming. In this first part, my overall impression is that Taylor has taken many of the concepts behind Buddhism and given them an appealing scientific gloss, intermingled with a broad polemic to hang everything together.
In my part 2 (though still part 1 of the book)Taylor tackles consumerism and excessive consumption. In my opinion, this is the most successful section of the book. I would recommend this book on this section alone. Although the arguments have been well rehearsed in recent post-crash years, we can't have enough writers reminding us that profligacy has to come to an end, and that means YOU (and me). This is important as Taylor views much of the negative internal chatter we suffer from as driven by anxieties induced by consumerism, that goods/services once consumed have to be paid for, and debt (problems) just pile up. So the main message here, consume less, borrow less, compete less, and be happier. Towards the end of the book's part 1 and start of part 2, Taylor takes time out to rant about religion, women and the treatment of, the innocence of children, morals, and a host of other topics. All quite interesting but maybe more appropriate for a different book.
The final part of the book, its part 2 and my part 3, I would argue is where it really all falls apart. Spiced up Buddhism drifts into the well trodden path of meditative techniques, neatly blended with lashings of psycho-babble. However, if the reader is looking for answers that look familiar (spiritual) but have a tasty layer of sciency sounding jargon to boot then this could be just the ticket.
The back cover sports the words 'ground-breaking and inspiring'. Ground-breaking it ain't, but you might indeed find it inspiring, and I personally wish any book that tackles greed and over-consumption as social ills much success.
By the by, Taylor lists country walking as great for mental health. Again, hardly ground-breaking advice, but it works for me.