Nationalism Is Rising, Not Fascism. By George Friedman. Geopolitical Futures, May 31, 2016. Friedman: The claims of an increase in fascism in
Europe and the U.S. derive from a misunderstanding of the term.
there have been a number of articles and statements asserting that fascism is
rising in Europe, and that Donald Trump is an American example of fascism. This is a misrepresentation of a
very real phenomenon. The nation-state is reasserting itself as the primary
vehicle of political life. Multinational institutions like the European Union
and multilateral trade treaties are being challenged because they are seen by
some as not being in the national interest. The charge of a rise in fascism
derives from a profound misunderstanding of what fascism is. It is also an
attempt to discredit the resurgence of nationalism and to defend the
multinational systems that have dominated the West since World War II.
is the core of the Enlightenment’s notion of liberal democracy. It asserts that
the multinational dynasties that ruled autocratically denied basic human
rights. Among these was the right to national self-determination and the right
of citizens to decide what was in the national interest. The Enlightenment
feared tyranny and saw the multinational empires dominating Europe as the
essence of tyranny. Destroying them meant replacing them with nation-states.
The American and French revolutions were both nationalist risings, as were the
nationalist risings that swept Europe in 1848. Liberal revolutions were by
definitions nationalist because they were risings against multinational
differs from nationalism in two profound ways. First, self-determination was
not considered a universal right by fascists. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini
and Francisco Franco, to mention three obvious fascists, only endorsed nationalism
for Germany, Italy and Spain. The rights of other nations to a nation-state of
their own was at best unclear to the fascists. In a very real sense, Hitler and
Mussolini believed in multinationalism, albeit with other nations submitting to
their will. Fascism in its historical form was an assault on the right of
nations to pursue their self-interest, and an elevation of the fascists’ right
to pursue it based on an assertion of their nations’ inherent superiority and
right to rule.
more profound difference was the conception of internal governance. Liberal
nationalism accepted that the right to hold power was subject to explicit and
periodic selection of the leaders by the people. How this was done varied. The
American system is very different from the British, but the core principles
remain the same. It also requires that opponents of the elected have the right
to speak out against them, and to organize parties to challenge them in the
future. Most important, it affirms that the people have the right to govern
themselves through these mechanisms and that those elected to lead must govern
in the people’s name. Leaders must also be permitted to govern and extra-legal
means cannot be used to paralyze the government, any more than the government has
the right to suppress dissent.
asserts that a Hitler or Mussolini represent the people but are not answerable
to them. The core of fascism is the idea of the dictator, who emerges through
his own will. He cannot be challenged without betraying the people. Therefore,
free speech and opposition parties are banned and those who attempt to oppose
the regime are treated as criminals. Fascism without the dictator, without the
elimination of elections, without suppression of free speech and the right to
assemble, isn’t fascism.
that being part of the European Union is not in the British interest, that NATO has outlived its usefulness, that protectionist policies or anti-immigration policies are
desirable is not fascist. These ideas have no connection to fascism whatsoever.
They are far more closely linked to traditional liberal democracy. They
represent the reassertion of the foundation of liberal democracy, which is the
self-governing nation-state. It is the foundation of the United Nations, whose
members are nation-states, and where the right to national self-determination
democracy does not dictate whether a nation should be a member in a
multinational organization, adopt free trade policies or protectionism, or welcome
or exclude immigrants. These are decisions to be made by the people – or more
precisely, by the representatives they select. The choices may be wise, unwise
or even unjust. However, the power to make these choices rests, in a liberal
democracy, in the hands of the citizens.
are seeing is the rise of the nation-state against the will of multinational
organizations and agreements. There are serious questions about membership in
the EU, NATO and trade agreements, and equally about the right to control
borders. Reasonable people can disagree, and it is the political process of
each nation that retains the power to determine shifts in policy. There is no
guarantee that the citizenry will be wise, but that cuts both ways and in every
current rise of nationalism in Europe is the result of European institutions’
failure to function effectively. Eight years after 2008, Europe still has not
solved its economic problems. A year after the massive influx of refugees in
Europe, there is still no coherent and effective policy to address the issue.
Given this, it would be irresponsible for citizens and leaders not to raise
questions as to whether they should remain in the EU or follow its dictates.
Similarly, there is no reason for Donald Trump not to challenge the idea that
free trade is always advantageous, or to question NATO. However obnoxious his
style and however confusing his presentation, he is asking questions that must
1950s, the McCarthyites charged anyone they didn’t like with being communists.
Today, those who disapprove of the challengers of the current system call them
fascists. Now, some of the opponents of the EU or immigration may really be
fascists. But the hurdle for being a fascist is quite high. Fascism is far more
than racism, tinkering with the judiciary, or staging a violent demonstration.
Real fascism is Nazi Germany’s “leader principle” – which dictated absolute
obedience to the Führer, whose authority was understood to be above the law.
seeing a return to nationalism in Europe and the United States because it is
not clear to many that internationalism, as followed since World War II,
benefits them any longer. They may be right or wrong, but to claim that fascism
is sweeping Europe and the United States raises the question of whether those
who say this understand the principles of fascism or the intimate connection
between nationalism and liberal democracy.
Kotkin: In his
still improbable path to the White House, Donald Trump has an opening, right
through the middle of the country. From the Appalachians to the Rockies, much
of the American heartland is experiencing a steady decline in its fortunes,
with growing fears about its prospects in a Democratic-dominated future. This
could prove the road to victory for Trump.
like to explain Trump’s appeal by focusing on the racial and nationalistic
sentiments of his primarily white supporters in places like the Midwest and in
small towns. Perhaps more determinative are the mounting economic challenges
facing voters in that part of the country. Much of this has to do with an
industrial structure facing growing challenges from a high dollar, decreasing commodity prices and a pending tsunami of environmental
the Democrats’ coastal strongholds, which depend increasingly on such
professions as media, software, finance, and high-end business services, the
middle swath of the country depends far more on manufacturing, resource
extraction, and agriculture. All these so-called “tangible” industries
are facing serious declines, which in a close election could swing some
critical states such as Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Iowa
into the Republican column. Seven of the 10 most manufacturing-dependent
metro areas in America are in the Midwest battleground states. Another lies in
yet another purple state, North Carolina.
Economic Slowdown in Mid-America
President Obama ran for re-election in 2012, the tangible economy was on a roll. Super-charged by the federal bailout, the car
industry was roaring back, restoring jobs and confidence in the country’s
midsection. The president was even described by The Washington Post as a “man on a mission” to save American manufacturing.
And the two states then with the fastest declines in unemployment
since the onset of the Great Recession—Ohio and Michigan—are in the Midwest.
same time, Obama benefited from the resurgence of domestic oil and gas
production that stimulated growth
in steel, heavy equipment, and industrial sector employment. This fortunate
confluence was fortuitous for the Democrats, who carried most of the states
outside the South buoyed by this nascent industrial rebirth. Good times in coal
country helped the president in parts of Virginia; the energy boom helped lock
up Colorado for him.
Clinton likely will not enjoy a similar tailwind this year. Manufacturing indexes have tended downward over the past year, and the energy sector has
been in full-scale retreat.
This not only impacts oil patch bastions Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, which
are unlikely to vote Democratic anyway, but also the battlegrounds states
Pennsylvania and Ohio. Agricultural economies in the midsection are also
will argue that job growth is on the rise nearly everywhere, but more than half of the increase has come in low-wage sectors such as retail and
food service, which is one key reason for persistently weak income growth.
damage is not yet universal, but can be seen clearly in many areas. Many Rust
Belt and Appalachian regions are once again hemorrhaging residents. In a recent survey of metropolitan economies for Forbes,
economist Michael Shires and I traced the job growth in communities across the
country. The bottom 10 among the 70 largest metropolitan areas reads like a
stroll down Rust Belt Lane: Hartford, Conn., Milwaukee, Detroit, Albany, N.Y.,
Newport News, Va., Birmingham, Ala., Cleveland, Newark, N.J., Pittsburgh,
Buffalo and -- in last place -- Rochester, once one of the beacons of
industrial innovation in the country and now part of New York’s upstate
year, amid some decent employment growth nationally, almost all these areas
suffered sub-1 percent job declines after enjoying growth rates well above that
in previous years. More grievously affected are a host of smaller communities,
many of them in the Midwest and industrial Northeast, several already seeing
negative job growth. At the bottom of the list are places like Johnstown, Pa.,
and Elmira, N.Y., where the Democrats’ “hope and change” promise has failed to
reverse dismal local economies.
his divisive campaign, Donald Trump has fattened up on these voters, winning by
landslides in places like upstate New York,
central and western Pennsylvania, the industrial suburbs of Detroit, northern
Indiana and the resource-dependent parts of Colorado. In hard-hit Erie County,
N.Y., home to Buffalo, Trump won two-thirds of the primary vote.
appealing to similar populist sentiment, Bernie Sanders
has won some of the same areas, often decisively. For his part, Trump’s only
serious Rust Belt setbacks occurred in Ohio (where John Kasich ran as a virtual
favorite son candidate), Iowa (where evangelicals still wield outsized
influence) and Minnesota, which is arguably the most post-industrial of the
central states. Recent announcements by such large companies as Ford
and United Technologies to move jobs to Mexico
have reinforced Trump's appeal.
support, as Nate Silver has shown, is not comprised only of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
On average, they earn above-average incomes and boast education levels that
also exceed the national average. Some are professionals and merchants on Main
Street, who acutely ride the ups and downs of the tangible economy. These
voters may also be susceptible to rants about Mexican “rapists” and certainly
would not favor a massive incursion of Muslim refugees. But their primary
concerns are economic, not social. If they really favored regressive social
policies, Ted Cruz was their man.
trajectory of the Democratic race—as well as that of the economy—could help
Trump expand his appeal to such voters. Hillary Clinton once tended to be
supportive of industrial and energy development; her State Department gave tacit approval to the Keystone XL Pipeline. Now, under pressure from Bernie
Sanders’ left-wing legions, she has backed away from support for this organized-labor-backed
project. The divisions
between the public sector unions and those in the industrial sector could boost
Trump’s turnout in states where manufacturing and energy still matter.
matters more difficult, Clinton may be saddled at the convention with a ban on fracking.
This stance warms the hearts of bicoastal enviros, but is unpopular in large
parts of the nation’s heartland. Likewise, the Obama administration’s all-out
assault on fossil fuels has already cost Clinton any shot at formerly
Democratic-leaning West Virginia, and is likely to hurt her across the Appalachian belt, which includes portions of Pennsylvania,
North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio. Even if oil and gas prices rise, the Obama proposals for higher taxes and regulation of energy seem destined to slow
any recovery in this high-paying,
largely blue-collar industry.
addition, Trump is showing unanticipated strength in several
key states dependent on coal-fired electricity. He’s currently running even
with Clinton in Ohio and Pennsylvania, both of which twice went for Obama. This
should be enough to keep Clinton’s advisers, who are planning to deploy massive resources to these states, awake at night.
respect, Clinton faces a difficult situation. Ever more dependent on her
party’s post-industrial urban core, she will be hard-pressed to moderate her
stance on environmental issues. Her
predecessor and her husband were able to finesse this ground by feinting toward
the moderate middle in campaign years, but such ideological contortionism is
getting harder to pull off.
donors like San Francisco’s Tom Steyer are committed to forcing Clinton to embrace progressive green orthodoxy. This will leave
many mid-America workers and businesspeople feeling abandoned and, thus,
potentially more receptive to Trump’s pitch. Ultimately, suggests historian Michael Lind, Trump could presage the transformation of the GOP into a middle-class
populist party, with a strong Midwestern as well as Southern base, while the
Democrats rest their hopes on an unlikely coalition of the coastal gentry, the
hyper-educated, minorities, and the poor.
the crass New York billionaire has played brilliantly on middle-American
resentments, many of them well-founded. He promises repeatedly to cut a “better
deal” for them. If he can convincingly make his case, Donald Trump also might
yet close the most successful real estate deal of his lifetime: occupancy of
the White House.
Sample: Smarter artificial intelligence is one of
21st century’s most dire threats, writes Yuval Noah Harari in follow-up to
hard to miss the warnings. In the race to make computers more intelligent than
us, humanity will summon a demon, bring forth the end of days, and code itself
into oblivion. Instead of silicon assistants we’ll build silicon assassins.
doomsday story of an evil AI has been told a thousand times. But our fate at
the hand of clever cloggs robots may in fact be worse - to summon a class of
eternally useless human beings.
least that is the future predicted by Yuval Noah Harari,
a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, whose new book says more of
us will be pushed out of employment by intelligent robots and on to the
economic scrap heap.
rose to prominence when his 2014 book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, became an international bestseller. Two
years on, the book is still being talked about. Bill Gates asked Melinda to
read it on holiday. It would spark great conversations around the dinner table,
he told her. We know because he said so on his blog this week.
book is a hit, the publisher wants more. And so Harari has been busy. His next
title, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is not out
until September but early copies have begun to circulate. Its cover states
simply: “What made us sapiens will make us gods”. It follows on from where
Sapiens ends, in a provocative, and certainly speculative, gallop through the
hopes and dreams that will shape the future of the species.
nightmares. Because even as the book has humans gaining godlike powers, that is
only one eventuality Harari explores. It might all go pear-shaped, of course:
we sapiens have a knack for hashing things up. Instead of morphing into
omnipotent, all-knowing masters of the universe, the human mob might end up
jobless and aimless, whiling away our days off our nuts on drugs, with VR
headsets strapped to our faces. Welcome to the next revolution.
calls it “the rise of the useless class” and ranks it as one of the most dire
threats of the 21st century. In a nutshell, as artificial intelligence gets
smarter, more humans are pushed out of the job market. No one knows what to
study at college, because no one knows what skills learned at 20 will be
relevant at 40. Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not through
chance but by definition.
aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years,
from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so
far. It’s basically the boy who cried wolf,” says Harari. “But in the original
story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I
think that is true this time.”
Harari sees it, humans have two kinds of ability that make us useful: physical
ones and cognitive ones. The Industrial Revolution may have led to machines
that did away with humans in jobs needing strength and repetitive actions. But
the takeover was not overwhelming. With cognitive powers that machines could
not touch, humans were largely safe in their work. For how much longer, though?
AIs are now beginning to outperform humans in the cognitive field. And while
new types of jobs will certainly emerge, we cannot be sure, says Harari, that
humans will do them better than AIs, computers and robots.
not need more intelligence than humans to transform the job market. They need
only enough to do the task well. And that is not far off, Harari says.
“Children alive today will face the consequences. Most of what people learn in
school or in college will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40 or 50.
If they want to continue to have a job, and to understand the world, and be
relevant to what is happening, people will have to reinvent themselves again and
again, and faster and faster.”
so, jobless humans are not useless humans. In the US alone, 93 million people
do not have jobs, but they are still valued. Harari, it turns out, has a
specific definition of useless. “I choose this very upsetting term, useless, to
highlight the fact that we are talking about useless from the viewpoint of the
economic and political system, not from a moral viewpoint,” he says. Modern
political and economic structures were built on humans being useful to the
state: most notably as workers and soldiers, Harari argues. With those roles
taken on by machines, our political and economic systems will simply stop
attaching much value to humans, he argues.
this puts us in the realm of the gods. In fact, it leads Harari to even more
bleak predictions. Though the people may no longer provide for the state, the
state may still provide for them. “What might be far more difficult is to
provide people with meaning, a reason to get up in the morning,” Harari says.
For those who don’t cheer at the prospect of a post-work world, satisfaction
will be a commodity to pay for: our moods and happiness controlled by drugs;
our excitement and emotional attachments found not in the world outside, but in
which leads to the question: what should we do? “First of all, take it very
seriously,” Harari says. “And make it a part of the political agenda, not only
the scientific agenda. This is something that shouldn’t be left to scientists
and private corporations. They know a lot about the technical stuff, the
engineering, but they don’t necessarily have the vision and the legitimacy to
decide the future course of humankind.”
Cadwalladr: The author of the bestselling Sapiens says
that the future of life on Earth is now, worryingly, in the hands of a very
small group of entrepreneurs.
rights, Yuval Noah Harari should be an anonymous academic buried in an obscure
university department somewhere toiling away on his somewhat dusty discipline –
medieval military history. He’s a professor of history at the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem and there is almost nothing in his background to suggest that he
would write a book that has become one of the most talked about non-fiction bestsellers of the year – Sapiens. Or that
he’d join the globetrotting TED-ocracy:
the academic superstars who travel the world delivering keynotes on zeitgeisty
topics, in Harari’s case, the not inconsiderable subject of the history of the
whole of mankind.
meet him, he’s just been the star turn at Penguin Random House’s global sales
conference. In May, he packed out Hay. Earlier this month, he delivered a TED
talk. And last month, he received the ultimate imprimatur when Sapiens was selected by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, for his online book club. He’s invited his 38 million followers to read what he
describes as “a big history narrative of human civilisation– from how we
developed from hunter-gatherers to how we organise our society and economy
a workable description of what Sapiens is, though it’s a history book only in
the sense that Stephen Hawking’sA Brief History of Time
is a physics book (Sapiens’ subtitle
– A Brief History of Humankind –
suggests that this is not entirely coincidental). Its scope is so hugely
ambitious that I had expected Harari to be one of those overconfident telly
historian types, all male ego and a crushing sense of certainty, whereas, in
the flesh, he’s a slightly nerdy, more thoughtful figure. Academic superstardom
seems to have caught him by surprise as much as anyone.
book was based on an introductory course on world history he taught when none
of his more senior colleagues wanted to take it on, and it was turned down by
almost every major publishing outfit in Israel before finding a receptive
editor. Since then, however, its success has been swift and resounding: it
became a bestseller in Israel and has gone on to be published in 20 countries
around the world. But then, the book’s success, and the way that Harari has
been taken up by the global tastemakers, makes sense in that he considers
himself a historian of globalisation. “In a way, it’s like in the 19th century
with the rise of nationalism. You establish an independent national state and
the first thing you do is to write a history of that state. Now we have a more
global world, you need the history of the whole of the global world, not of a
particular country, or religion, but the history of humankind as a whole.”
entirely characteristic of the way that Harari speaks. In full sentences,
paragraphs, even. My transcript, which is usually a mess of elipses, reads like
it’s been lifted off the page. And his book is a brilliant read. He zips from subject
to subject, through thousands of years of human history, alighting on whatever
seems to take his fancy but gradually builds up a picture of us as… well, as
what exactly? As more successful monkeys, basically, so successful that we’ve
enslaved all the other animals and bent the planet to our will. But whereas
sharks and lions evolved over millennia to take their place at the top of the
food chain, Harari compares us to “banana republic dictators” who just got
here. “They came to power very violently and lately so they feel extremely
insecure about their position. So all the time they just take more and more
power to beef up their position.”
chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on
holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band.
in Harari’s view, we have no real idea what we want even at the most basic,
personal level, let alone as a species. “Even what people take to be their most
personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order.” There’s nothing
“natural or obvious” about taking a holiday abroad, he says by way of example.
“A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on
holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band. The elite of
ancient Egypt spent their futures building pyramids and having their corpses
mummified but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon.” We’re all
victims of the “myths of romantic consumerism”, he says.
everything is a myth, a story, according to Harari. Justice is a story. Human
rights are a story. Money, he told the moneyed elite at TED, is “the greatest
story ever told”. So what’s your story?
the history of the world?”
about you. Your story, about yourself.
myself? For me, I suppose the most important thing is the search for the truth.
I really want to understand reality, what’s really happening here. As far back
as I remember, this was something that I was extremely preoccupied by. I
remember in high school asking my parents and my teachers to explain what’s
happening here, what is life, what’s it all about, and so forth.
struck me most was not that they didn’t tell me an answer but that they weren’t
really concerned about it. Many people in their teens wonder about these big
questions, what’s the meaning of life, what are we doing here, then somewhere
in their 20s they seem to say, ‘I’ll just get married. I’ll just have kids.
I’ll get back to that later.’ But they never do. For me, it kept boiling. And
it still is boiling.”
up in a secular Jewish family of eastern European origin in the Haifa area and
there are a few things he recognises about himself that have informed his world
view, or at least his desire to question other people’s view of the world. The
first is being gay.
don’t take the accepted view for granted just because everybody believes it. It
really affects the way that I view everything. Nothing should be taken for
granted even if everybody believes it. It forces you to look at society a bit
from the side.”
influence was the collapse of the Berlin Wall when he was a teenager in 1989.
means I don’t take capitalism and neo-liberalism for granted. I teach all these
20-year-old students and they were born into a capitalist world. It’s the only
system. There’s no alternative and nobody can even imagine that there could be.
But I remember the time when these things were really hotly contested. And also
the way that you can live in a certain type of world and be sure that this will
go on for ages and ages and suddenly everything collapses.”
ways, I say, it struck me that Sapiens
isn’t actually a history book – it’s a philosophy book that asks the big,
philosophical questions and attempts to answer them through history.
that’s a very accurate description. I think that I see history as a philosophy
laboratory. Philosophers come up with all these very interesting questions
about the human condition, but the way that most of them – though not all – go
about answering them is through thought experiments. But if you’re interested
in, say, justice, history is full of empirical evidence about justice in human
surprise, either, that he’s come to the attention of Mark Zuckerberg. Harari is
one of the very few thinkers around who’s really looking at what’s happening
now. Sapiens is his attempt to tell
the story of the past to understand the present: the great technological
advances that we are all living through now.
you tell it is that we’re at a point of inflection: that we’re on the cusp of
perhaps the greatest change for the human race ever?
yes. I mean the one thing that has remained constant in history was humans
themselves. Homo sapiens, you and me, we are basically the same as people
10,000 years ago. The next revolution will change that.”
“next revolution”, as Harari sees it, the latest in a line that began with the
cognitive revolution and takes in the agricultural revolution and the scientific
revolution, is what is happening in the biotech field, in artificial
people talk about merging with computers to create cyborgs, it’s not some
prophecy about the year 2200. It’s happening right now. More and more of our
reality exists within computers or through them.”
this is only the start of it. For the first time in history, “we will see real
changes in humans themselves – in their biology, in their physical and
cognitive abilities”. And while we have enough imagination to invent new
technologies, we are unable to foresee their consequences.
the same with the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago. Nobody sat
down and had a vision: ‘This is what agriculture is going to be for humankind
and for the rest of the planet.’ It was an incremental process, step by step,
taking centuries, even thousands of years, which nobody really understood and
nobody could foresee the consequences.”
now, the decisions are being taken by “a small international caste of business
people, entrepreneurs and engineers”. Governments have become “managers”, he
says. They have no vision, “whereas meet the people in Google, in Facebook,
they have tremendous visions about the future, about overcoming death, living
for ever, merging humans with computers. I do find it worrying that the basis
of the future, not only of humankind, the future of life, is now in the hands
of a very small group of entrepreneurs.”
then, even those of us who are aware of the arguments aren’t necessarily losing
sleep over it, a fact that Harari puts down to one of our unique attributes as
humans: our cognitive dissonance, our ability to hold two utterly conflicting
ideas in our heads at the same time. That we can say, what a cute dog and yum,
yum, what a delicious steak and not see a problem with that somehow.
is a vegan and the dire plight of animals, particularly domesticated animals,
since the agricultural revolution is something he riffs on in the book, but
there are countless other examples. “In modern secular societies, people
believe in equality and people believe in freedom and they don’t realise that
usually freedom and equality are contradictory. The more freedom you give
people, the more inequality you have.”
views on inequality – that the 20th century was a blip basically; we’ve always been
unequal and we’re heading back that way – link him to that other great
intellectual du jour, Thomas Piketty, but much of Sapiens feels
inventively original, a fact that he puts down to his longstanding interest in
meditation. Harari, it seems, doesn’t succumb to the myth of romantic
consumerism when it comes to deciding what to do on his holidays. Last summer,
he went on a 60-day silent vipassana retreat. He discovered it at Oxford when
researching his PhD.
suddenly had a tool to scientifically observe directly my mind… and I realised
I had no idea who I really was. I had this fictional story in my head but the
connection between that and my reality was rather tenuous.” It changed him,
personally, he says, but also professionally. “It gave me the ability to focus
on what is really important. When you look inside, you find that there are so
many different voices inside you. Most of life, we just allow all these voices
just to pull us any which way.”
interest that he shares with the Silicon Valley types he critiques (Steve Jobs
was a practitioner of Zen Buddhism) and, in a distracted age, focus – and its
handmaiden, mindfulness – is more fashionable in west-coast America than curly
kale. But without meditation, he says, “I would probably be far less satisfied
and happy. And I would probably be a far worse historian. I suppose I would
still be researching medieval military history, but not the neanderthals or
bracing, Harari’s focus on the big things. His next book is “about the human
agenda for the 21st century in terms of dangers, opportunities, questions”.
Mark Zuckerberg will no doubt read it. Probably the rest of us should too.