Humankind by Rutger Bregman: Part Two
A few more examples to show you just how awesome humans really are.
Covid, the economy, the un-presidential debate, Tiger King’s Carole Baskin competing on Dancing With The Stars – there is certainly a lot of frightening news lately. Are things just getting worse?? Last month, I reviewed the book Humankind by Rutger Bregman. It gave me hope. Bregman provided examples throughout history that proved the awesomeness of humans in times of distress. If you’ve got six and a half months of Zoom, mask, and sanitizer burn-out, perhaps a few more of the author’s stories will help lift your spirits.
During grade school, you were probably asked to read William Golding’s Lord of The Flies. It is the story about a group of boys stranded on an island. Over a period of time, they end up turning on each other and supposedly displaying the worst of mankind.
Bregman actually found a real-life Lord of the Flies example in 1966. Six schoolboys from the island of Tonga stole a boat and became shipwrecked on a remote Pacific island for 15 months. Unlike, Lord of The Flies, they did not turn on each other. Instead, they built fires, shared food and they made a pact not to argue. After the rescue, they remained friends for years.
Bregman cites another example of camaraderie over conquest from the first world war, when English and German soldiers defied orders and stopped fighting on Christmas Day. From the trenches, the two sides drank, sang Christmas Carols and exchanged gifts instead of gunfire. Even after they were forced to resume battle, the rival soldiers sent each other secret messages regarding attacks and/or they fired above the enemy lines so as not to cause death or injury.
Contrary to what action movies seem to depict, taking a human life is not easy or natural. Bregman provides a statistic from the Battle of Waterloo. Less than one percent of the injuries inflicted during that battle were injuries from bayonets. This is phenomenal considering that bayonets were attached to tens of thousands of rifles. Bregman says that, even in the face of life-or-death situations, humans avoid violence whenever possible.
Yes, there has been and will continue to be dark glitches in history, but statistics show that it is not the norm to react like barbarians. Humans have stepped up and risked their lives to prove over and over again that no, it is not survival of the fittest. In many cases and as Bregman states, it is survival of the friendliest. It is part of our caveman brain and instinct to want to be part of the clan, not against it.
So, take a deep breath, take the bone out of your hair and smile. If history provides any indication, we are still pretty darn amazing as a race. The majority of us will summon our better sides to get through these challenging pages of the calendar.
Until next time,
Admit it. How many of you got dragged into the virtual presentation world, kicking and screaming? How many of you had nightmares of sweat dripping down your forehead one minute before the green light came on in front of a virtual roomful of clients? How many of you felt like Dave from Space Odyssey 2001?
“HAL, open the pod bay doors!!”
“I’m sorry Judy, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“All right, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.”
“Without your space helmet, Judy, you’re going to find that rather difficult.”
Okay, so maybe this was my imagination going overboard.
For the past few years, I have been encouraged by friends and clients to do more video presentations. As a comedian and motivational speaker, I have always enjoyed live presentations and conferences.
In the past, I had been speaking and coaching virtually with some of my clients but then COVID hit. The game changed overnight. There wasn’t an option to do conferences or comedy shows.
So, like many, I was forced to make a choice. Wait it out or go all-in virtually.
I have to admit, the idea of speaking into a green light for an hour was a bit daunting. It was so different. However, I took a lot of inspiration from my two sisters. One is a speech-language pathologist and the other is an elementary school teacher. I was impressed with how they both learned the new technology necessary for their work and adapted, almost overnight. They had never done virtual presentations before. They were motivated by their young students and clients who really needed them to step up.
I don’t think people give themselves enough credit for making such a huge shift in such a relatively short time. They beat themselves up for not ‘getting it’. Luckily, both of my sisters were able to lean on their teenagers to help them navigate the new information asteroid fields. I’m sure there were some eye-rolling and gum-smacking along the way, but those little astronauts stepped up too.
I was proud of my nieces and nephews. All those years spent on Snapchat and Tik Tok (or Tic Tac, as my dad calls it) finally paid off.
So, if my sisters could step up for those that virtually needed them, then so could I.
During my first mission right after COVID, I talked to the green light for an hour and then I said goodbye. The green light went out.
It was just me alone in my pod.
I had no idea how the presentation went over.
It was only afterward when I received some nice comments from the organizers and participants via email and LinkedIn, that I knew that the presentation was a hit. Phew.
My next few presentations were via WebEx. Although WebEx isn’t as user friendly as Zoom, it is apparently more secure and as a result, a common choice for various businesses. Also, if it was good enough for guests on CNN then heck, I thought, it should be good enough for me. I may not be as political or incendiary as some of those talking heads but I bet I could still make Don Lemon laugh.
Since then, the platforms have changed but the work itself remains the same. Whether you are talking into a green light or a roomful of people, be yourself, tell your story, don’t be a HAL, be human and make sure you don’t have any space food on your face.
We’re all on the same ship together. It’s a new world but let’s travel safely.
Don’t get rattled. As HAL might suggest, “Look, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”
It will be different but we’ll be fine.
Until next time, Laugh Long and Prosper.
Recently, I read a terrific book – Humankind by Rutger Bregman.
Bregman asked, ‘What did Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt have in common?’
They all read a book called The Psychology of the Masses by French author Gustave Le Bon. Le Bon’s main premise is that when all hell breaks loose, humans turn into barbarians. We turn on each other. Chaos is created and as a result, an enemy’s attack is made easier. The flames of fear are good for the oppressor.
Though this ‘survival- of- the- fittest’ mentality may be the case for a small percentage of people, Bregman gives numerous examples throughout history that prove the contrary. His stories and statistics prove that overall, the kids are alright – humans are pretty darn amazing.
Bregman provides the example of the bombing of England during the second World War.
In 1940, Hitler sent 348 Luftwaffe bombers to London. He probably hoped panic and chaos would make the English more vulnerable and easier to overthrow. British authorities worried as well. In anticipation of the panic that war with Germany would create, British authorities built emergency psychiatric wards throughout the country.
Yes, as expected, the bombings were horrific. London alone suffered 40,000 casualties.
However, the psychiatric wards for the most part remained empty.
Churchill encouraged the Brits to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. The English tried to live their lives as normally as possible. The trains continued to run. People shopped. Kids played.
In fact, some people reported feeling psychologically better off than before the bombings started. Suicide rates were down and alcohol abuse decreased.
Why this ‘strange’ reaction in the face of death and fear? As it turned out, average civilians helped each other like they never had before. Hitler’s bombs had the opposite effect – they brought people closer together. Chaos was replaced with camaraderie. Similarly, Bregman describes how so many ‘hardened’ New Yorkers risked their lives to save strangers during that horrific morning of Sept 11th, 2001.
Throughout the ages, contrary to what warlords, dictators and autocrats have and continue to hope for, the worst actually brings out the best in most of us. It is instinctive to choose good. It is safer to be with the clan than against it.
If you need further proof, consider these statistics. According to 700 separate field studies at The Disaster Research Centre in Delaware, the number of murders, thefts and rapes actually decrease in the wake of catastrophe.
So why do we always think the sky is falling?
Fear sells. Left- and right-wing media giants are both guilty.
Bad news is big business.
So, what should we do as we face our recent global ‘attack‘, Covid 19?
Perhaps we should continue to exercise caution, listen to the scientists and, every now and then (and trust me, I’m guilty of this too), turn off CNN. Bye- bye Anderson Cooper.
Keep Calm and Carry On and hey, it doesn’t hurt to crack a smile every now and then.
Until next time, laugh long and prosper.
At the beginning of the year, I started with 12 resolutions – one for each month. Then COVID-19 struck. My journal became more about coping during a pandemic vs a ‘things to do’ blog.
I have to admit that, like everyone else, I freaked out.
Conferences and comedy clubs were shut down. I know this is nothing compared to what a lot of people are dealing with but for me, it was my way of life for many years.
As I faced the abyss of unknowing, a very obvious answer smacked me right in the face. What was I teaching others for years??? ‘Relieving stress with HUMOUR’!!! Uh- should I not take my own advice?? So, I found myself leaning on all the funny people around me. Yes, the humour was dark at times but I know now that that was all part of our right, bright, creative brains trying to get us to calm down.
Laughter is a great way to trigger our right, bright, creative brain and parasympathetic nervous system. Our parasympathetic nervous system is the flight attendant that tells your body to calm the hell down, put your oxygen mask on and breathe as the left brain, sympathetic nervous system pilot tries to land the plane.
We would be nowhere without both of them.
Humour is a great button to hit to ask for help from our flight attendant. So is gratitude. Gratitude also triggers our parasympathetic nervous system.
When we say thank- you to our flight attendant for our free pretzels, we have a better chance of staying in our right, bright, creative brain than when we start screaming about having to pay five bucks for Pringles.
I was in a ‘minor’ automotive altercation this month. My left-brain pilot got me safely to the side of the road. My right- brain flight attendant said, “Stay calm, don’t freak out. Aren’t you grateful that you are safe?”
By staying calm, my right- brain guided me to summon two angels (CAA and my mechanic). Everything worked out and in a couple days, I was back in the pilot’s seat.
Yes, temporarily the skies were dark. Comedy clubs and conferences were shut down.
Again, my right-brain flight attendant said aren’t you grateful that you are safe? Aren’t you grateful for all the work that you’ve had in the past? Also, ma’am, can you please stop crying hysterically and kicking the back of that baby’s chair?
I did all of the above. I stopped crying. I stopped kicking. I expressed gratitude and that baby is part of my act now.
All of the work in the past lead to new and former clients (who were as unsure about the rocky horizon as I was) asking me to bring some relief in the form of my presentation- virtually.
Left brain or right brain, young or old, economy or business class – we always have a choice.
Panic and run through the aisles or put on your mask (which means SO much more nowadays) and breathe and, oh yeah, don’t forget to laugh.
Until next time, I’m your pilot AND flight attendant, Judy Croon.
Laugh long and prosper.
At the beginning of 2020, I decided that I was going to make twelve resolutions (one per month) instead of one big resolution at the beginning of the year that ran the risk of fizzling out by January 3rd.
In January and February, I got a couple of good things done. Then Covid-19 struck and suddenly, like everyone else, I waited and wondered, ‘What was going to happen next?’
The world hit ‘pause’ and my yearly ‘things -to – do’ list turned into more of a personal survival guide.
After a few months though, something rather unexpected happened. Creativity kicked in. I probably should have panicked more but, instead, I took a deep breath and I started to write.
I started working again on jokes and writing projects that I had put off for years.
There must have been something in the air because so many people that I knew felt the same way. They were writing. They were creating. They wanted to collaborate.
Since the beginning of time, creativity and stress seem to have gone hand in hand.
When the cavemen heard an unknown noise outside of their cave, naturally their first reaction would have been fear. However, when the dreaded monster turned out to be tiny creature instead, everybody probably laughed out of relief.
Research shows that when something is incongruous to our regular brain patterns, our reaction is sometimes laughter.
When a punchline zigs instead of zags, we laugh!
Take my wife. Please. Hilarious.
Sometimes we smile, sometimes we laugh hysterically, sometimes we cry AND laugh.
It’s like watching an episode of Ricky Gervais’ brilliant dramedy called After Life.
Half the time we don’t know if we are laughing or crying.
When we face the unknown, we sometimes laugh.
Covid-19 is unknown. We don’t have a cure. Add that to global warming, pollution, protests, unemployment, Trump and never-ending Zoom calls and you’ve got a real comedy extravaganza (NOT). Over the past four months, I’ve had snickers, cry-laughs, belly laughs and laughs so maniacal that I’m surprised someone didn’t slap me across the face.
No, not everything is funny. In fact, right now, some things are pretty damn terrifying.
But if we want to keep moving forward for ourselves and others, if we want to help, if we want to contribute, then we have to stay engaged. The best way of ensuring THAT happens is by keeping our right, bright, creative, brain happy. Yes, 2020, we’re mad as hell and we’re going to type, write, sing, dance, joke, paint and perform about it!
I know I might not be the next Tina Fey, Carrie Fisher or Nora Ephron.
In fact, I’m probably a few lines away from ‘All work, no play makes Jude a dull girl’.
And that’s okay because I’ve always maintained that I would rather pee my pants laughing than pee my pants from fear.