William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Plagues of the Mind by Bruce S. Thornton

Plagues of the Mind: Bruce ThorntonPlagues of the Mind: The New Epidemic of False Knowledge

by Bruce S. Thornton

This book was provided to me by a generous donation from an anonymous reader.

Here’s what many people think happened: It was the dawn of the First Age of Mankind. And there was harmony upon the land; a land which was bountiful, without disease and with no sharp objects; a land which was one giant organic grocery store for which money was not needed. Health abounded.

There was a great, unbroken peace between the various tribes of mankind, yet all men were one; peace between man and animal, yet animals, willingly and happily, sacrificed themselves for man’s sustenance; there was even peace between the lion and the lamb! For the gentle lamb knew, as it was making its way in ragged chunks down the esophagus of the king of the jungle, that it was fulfilling a Higher Purpose. Thus its last moments were not shrieks of terror and agony, but of cries of joy, for it knew that it was part of the Great Circle of Life.

Incidentally, there were no jungles, just magical rain forests.

Yes, rain forests. Watched over by the Goddess, for there was yet no God. From the Goddess flowed all blessings. Of course, She wasn’t really a Goddess—no intelligent person believed in Gods or Goddesses—but She was a she, and She was in charge, and that’s what really counted. Some tribes of man called the Goddess “Grandfather”, others “God”, but they knew it was really “Goddess.”

Women ruled over this peaceful, complaisant Earth. Not actually “ruled”, you understand, because ruling implies hierarchy and hegemony, and these are bad: instead, these women guided, by entirely intuitive ways of knowing (evidence was unwelcome); guides which were, we can only guess, accomplished by issuing a vast streams of non-confrontational edicts and reminders, which were not to be confused with nagging.

The peace which ruled man extended to all the lands of the Earth, including those across the oceans. There men, organized into loose “teams” such as the Algonquin and Iroquois, engaged in divers kinds of play. Teams would chase one another and, when one member from one team “tagged” a member from another team, the man tagged would willing lie down and offer up his intestines and various other body parts to the victor, who would, in the spirit of amity, dispose of the body parts in a festive manner, sometimes by slow roasting. The tagger would then proceed to tag as many other members of the opposite team as possible before the snows set in and completed the yearly Circle of Life. It was all great fun.

And then one day, a peaceful day—all days were peaceful—with the colorful clan gathered around the campfire, burning just brightly enough to illuminate but not so vigorous to expel excess CO2, the clan feeling feelings and talking about harmoniously about harmony and, my, isn’t it grand that the neighboring village is filled with such nice people?, they came.

The Kurgan!

The Kurgan
There can be only one (way of knowing)!

The Kurgan arrived from the West, some said from Greece via a detour in Jerusalem, and with them came strange new ideas, new inventions. The more curious of these were war, death, pestilence, disease, reason, science, progress, pollution, money, and enormous phalli which they wielded to terrific effect. Suddenly, and disappointingly, the old clans discovered where babies really came from.

Even though the extant tribes were in every way superior to the Kurgan—they were more healthful, had a better system of governance, lived in tune with their environment, were more moral, less fearful, stronger, smarter, led by women, you name it—the inferior men-led Kurgan somehow drove the colorful tribes from their lands, usurped their leaders, stole their lunch money.

The world turned ill and was scared by corn fields and other agriculture. Machines removed the joys of endless labor. Animals, which were once pals to the tribes, were incensed by the unwelcome changes and started eating people, behavior punishable by death. Worst of all, what caused the greatest grief and consternation, when somebody now wanted to prove something, they had to actually prove it!

Well, that’s what many like to believe. Before the white man came, the world was no different than a goofy B-movie envisioned by James Cameron (white), a state many wish we could return to, possibly via a steady stream of legislation. Yes, this will be so, but only once these romantic folk give up their iPads and freedom to whine. Thornton spends his efforts showing why these beliefs are asinine. He, of course, does so in a more scholarly fashion than this review suggests. Worth reading.

11 Comments

  1. Frederick Davies

    9 November 2010 at 7:18 am

    That was probably the best book review I have read in ages! You should add it to the Amazon page for this book.

  2. Can’t get over being scared by a cornfield, etc. You forgot to mention that the plains where the buffalo roamed became cowered (coward?) pastures.

    On the whole, though, gotta agree with Fred.

  3. I suppose, in context with prior posts, an important but unanswered question is: Was this book read on a Kindle, or, via sentimental analog paper? And is it suitable for a Kindle, or, is paper a more suitable medium due to its scolarly import?

    The good ole days can be argued as being better & just a few data points suffice to make this vividly clear: ritual sacrifice, sometime of humans, ritual cannibalism, non-ritual cannibalism (and all long before Soylent Green!), temples & fertility rituals–including those with the temple ‘matrons'(!).

    And think of all the problems associated with old age that simply didn’t exist (though the fact that few survived much past 40 or 45 years ought not be considered a negative as, even as Hollywood has endorsed — aka Logan’s Run (an odd movie about a utopian future, sort of) — preservation of youth was clear & programmed positive social bias).

  4. Briggs

    9 November 2010 at 11:33 am

    Ken,

    Paper. Doesn’t exist as a Kindle book.

    DAV,

    Run away!

    Frederick,

    You’re too kind.

  5. Looks like a combination Rousseau-Marx vision of the world. Humanity is an innocent and well-meaning horde of erstwhile noble savages living in harmony with nature until an evil group of white male heterosexual patriarchal hegemonists, who use logic, mathematics, science, classics, capitalism, democracy and testosterone, cause inequities and disenfranchise politically and deprive socio-economically the inhabitants of this perfect world. Oh, the horror.

  6. Did Ray just summarize the review in three sentences? Amazing!

  7. Briggs

    9 November 2010 at 2:25 pm

    All,

    No less an authority than the author himself wrote me and said he liked the “delightful send-up of modern Golden-Age fantasies.”

    I blush.

  8. I am inclined to agree with the author, and previous commenters. It’s not only the most entertaining review I’ve seen in ages, but it’s the most delicious evisceration of airy thinking that I may have ever read.

    Clearly, you have gotten past your old “doesn’t know how to write” problem.

  9. This explains how Conan the Barbarian became governor of California, but throwing in “rationality” and “science” as Kurgan characteristics might be a stretch. Mainly it’s our tall, dark, and handsome good looks, IMHO.

  10. I do accept there is a yin and yang to all things.

    There is the rational and emotional. Having been too rational, I understand there is a problem there; however, the answer is not to be too emotional as that does not admit critical thinkings.

    Conspiracy or not, our culture has been transformed into the emotional. Having lost the ability to think clearly, most of us react to emotional stimulus and look for soap opera lives.

    Each stimulus and, hence, each reaction, is not connected to anything other than selfishness. Hence, there is a not a matrix of concpets to explore, but a herd of chickens wandering off into their own, individual new worlds.

    The chickens, however, will defend the right of other chickens to wander off into their little world, as it justifies chicken myopia. Then, all clucks become part of the the whole of the non-connected emotional reactions, which must be taught in our brand schools. At school, you better react properly or you will get a bad grade.

    I wonder if this all comes down to permitting our children to grow up sissies. If so, we all must take responsibility and no longer tolerate PC gibberish. (It is also a good way to end a stupid conversation,)

  11. You left out the part about how the Golden-Age people peacefully kept cattle to harvest the sacred mushrooms that grew in their bulls__t (I swear I’m not making this up) that provided such insights.

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