This is a truly fascinating exploration of the violence inherent in mankind, its history and evolution, and why mankind out of all creatures is so prone to violence.
Every age is prone to its own particular brand of violence, and Wilson argues that can roughly be mapped out according to Maslow's hierachy of needs: that, for example, when mankind's primary concern was finding food, most acts of crime and violence were connected to obtaining food and water, i.e. robbery. When food was no longer a pressing concern, the violence became related to Maslow's next level - safety, security, domesticity - and violence became more a territorial issue. When food and shelter were secure, the next level kicked in - the need for love, companionship, intimacy - and this is were sex crimes and crimes of passion became more common. We, Wilson argues, are currently in the fourth level: the self-esteem and esteem of others. Crimes are now committed for fame, for recognition, to be on the news, to be known.
He also argues in humans crime is a result of our bicameral brain, that the left-brain, the conscious, the head, tends to dominate our actions and can override the right-brain, the unconscious or head - and this is why humans can commit acts that our unconscious or instinct insists is wrong or counter-productive. Most crime is a result of the left-brain seeking a short-cut to a desired end, rather than the 'right' but longer route. A man wants riches, and rather than work for them, he sees he can have wealth almost immediately by robbing his neighbour.
Wilson also argues that territorial issues play an enormous part in crime - that in any population, of any size, in any species, around 5% will be 'dominant' and require more space than others of the species. In today's overcrowded society this can lead to tension and aggression, and of this 5% a number will be prepared to use violence to get their way.
I'm not sure I entirely agree with all of Wilson's arguments - particularly his argument that if criminals could only look at their actions objectively and see the illogic they would no longer commit crime. But this is an intriguing romp through several million years of human history, and it certainly serves to demonstrate how much of history has been made by individuals, by dominant 'Right Men' asserting their will over others in search for 'short-cuts', from Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Alexander the Great, the Caesars and Popes.
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