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Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins Of What Divides Us by Avi Tuschman (book review).

July 16, 2019 | By | Reply More

OK, I am not very prone at all to reading political books. What Avi Tuschman has done with this book, ‘Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins Of What Divides Us’, is look at whether out choices are innate than by free choice rather than which way your political beliefs you support.

More so as fraternal twins brought up separately still hold the same political beliefs. Not 100% I grant you but enough to sit up and listen that there might be a biological inference. Tuschman also has an engaging way of writing which makes for an engaging read.

Obviously, as an American book, much of the emphasis is on American people, although other countries get referenced a lot as well. He raises an interesting point that with the likes of Obamacare to help poor people with medical problems with no insurance was opposed by the people who actually needed it. In some respects, I think Tuschman might be too close to the problem.

The USA deems money as the means of status. To declare you need help, even if you need help, is seen as a weakness that many don’t want to admit to, even if it has fatal consequences. To me, that sounds more like indoctrination and not questioning a system that they’re brought up with. You see similar things happen in suppressive regimes where the majority of people accept their lot, no matter the harshness that is imposed on them.

I wish Tuschman had explored the more conservative actions of life before exploring evolution and breeding. Not that he doesn’t give a credible account of evolution and even sexual practice but also on the matter of in-breeding amongst the nobility and in certain religions.

The latter tends to bring out the worse kind of genetic traits and also the Hapsburg lip is pointed out but not the little tails, you do have to wonder why no one put two and two together. Fortunately, much of the these recessive characteristics resulted in early deaths and the gene pool expanded to introduce different people. Even so, this is still going on around the world and first cousin marriages does not help any family.

It should hardly be a surprise that the male of the species is the more aggressive when it comes to protecting territory, propagation and killing rivals. If anything, the bonobo chimpanzees seem to have even beaten humans in finding peaceful solutions to all of this. Maybe sex is the answer? Humans also have a nasty habit of covering up some of these traits in religion and reading this book, you’ll wonder why Moses was regarded so highly when he ordered wholesale genocide of women.

Tuschman makes a good argument why the American first-born is likely to turn out conservative but I would probably add that with more siblings, they would also strive for independence earlier. It doesn’t really explain why being conservative would deepen your desire for harsher crime sentences compared to the more liberal-minded. Even so, Tuschman makes a good point that families follow in their parents’ political ideas more than not. That goes back to indoctrination again.

Reading about altruism experiments, that is the measure of your generosity to relatives and friends would have been hopeless with me. It raised a memory of one of the only time I attended a works evening prior to becoming diabetic. A tombola was going from table to table and when it came to ours I picked out an extraordinary number of prizes. I didn’t really have a need for them and left them to the rest of the group.

Mind you, considering I later won successive years on a random pick of who would win the Grand National ensured I wasn’t asked to participate in future meant people thought I was too lucky. That tends to put people off for some reason than waiting to see if I would fail even on something totally at random when I have no interest in it.

Although I haven’t seen ‘The Invention Of Lying’ (2009), where everyone is truthful, I can see flaws in its plot. If humans always spoke the truth then the history of the world would be drastically different to what we have today.

Something more significant is Tuschman’s look at political leaders, especially dictators, who are mostly hypocrites by ordering their people to do as they say, especially with sexual amore, and then they get pretty wild in private life, totally contradicting their own orders. In some respects, I wish Tuschman had further explored the mechanism of power corruption and how such leaders think they are above the law rather than heed it. The same also applies to why people don’t trust politicians or even have any interest in politics when you consider we are all affected by it at a personal level.

Tuschman’s in his ‘Concluding Thoughts’ could quite easily make a second book in its own right. More so, why don’t more people evaluate what politicians say against what can be done. One thought on this is that any country’s population is not privy to all of the things that is going on at political levels or why politicians renege on their promises once in power.

Of the two appendixes at the back, the second deals with the conflicts in American politics and contradictions.

Please remember, this book is more about human motivation what tends to determine your political motivation more than what party you vote for. I do hope that Tuschman explores some more of these topics in future books. He mentions the traditional bell-shaped statistical curve several times throughout the book and it would have been helpful to understand the extremes that can sweep people towards them.

GF Willmetts

July 2019

(pub: Prometheus Books. 563 page illustrated indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: $18.00 (US), $19.00 (CAN), £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63388-570-7. Ebook: Price: $12.99 (US), $14.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-63388-571-4)

US release: 16 July 2019

UK release: 20 July 2019

check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com

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Category: Books, Culture

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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