My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you want to make sense of this world -of our history as human being- and how we built empires that we did, how we cultivated beliefs that we have and how we eventually came to where we are- then I can think of no better book than this one to recommend to you.
I greatly enjoyed reading this illuminating piece of work but was also exhausted and drained by it. Not that it’s a bad book, quite the contrary it is very well written and almost everything is supported by evidence and facts. As a pacifist, I was exhausted while discovering our ugly, manipulative and bloodied truth as humans. Careful about what you wish for, sometimes knowledge and the truth is a heavy burden to carry. The truth/historical knowledge portrayed in this book I find is quite a very heavy burden indeed.
A recurring theme that I observed was that every war first fought was a mental one and that our ability for storytelling has had a huge role to play in it. Whether it be through ideas such as faith, divinity, freedom, power, wealth, prosperity etc..
Another recurring theme I observed was our irrationality. We like to pride ourselves as a specie that is rational and intelligent and yet we are so easily swayed and manipulated if the right message is said and the right emotion is channeled such as growing fear, discord, doubt or anger etc..
A third recurring theme aligned with the first two that I observed is the dictation of the narrative that flows during, after and before conflicts. Selectively choosing what people should and should not know is not something new. Misinformation is not something new. Sadly they are weapons honed and utilized time and time again by humans against fellow humans.
These continue to play a massive role in this mess of a world that we have today. Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that if as people we showed less zeal and patriotism toward one particular country/ nationality and collectively showed zeal and patriotism towards one united world, then this earth would be a much more peaceful and enjoyable place to live in. But perhaps we are not as intelligent as we consider ourselves to be and perhaps just like Hernán Cortés and his companions, part of humanity will always suffer from this disease of the heart that causes them to act with greed and violence. Perhaps we do not deserve such a world for the greed, violence and indifference we demonstrate. As history has shown time and time again and this book confirms, this world is hardly fair!
1. The only drawback experienced was from the viewpoint. As the name and synopsis gives away, the book is quite limited in its perspective. Quite understandably the book does not tackle everything in detail (I’d love more maps, pictures, illustrations etc..) leaving gaps here and there for the reader to read and research. But the book is already thick as it is so no complaints there. I’d like to read something similar from other perspectives with even more details, maybe something interactive like a map even.
2. As I was reading this book and especially most of the time I came upon situations when part of humanity was dealt with unfairly, such as the theft of wheat(food), usurpation of land, perversion of truth and loss of lives, words from an earlier book kept echoing in my head “there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. When you kill a man, you steal a life… you steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness… there is no act more wretched than stealing.”- Khaled Hosseini from The Kite Runner. In that sense, I’d like and hope to never be a thief.