The Messiah Complex and the Treehouse

the cover depicts the Noble Savage myth
Worst book ever?

The messiah complex is a state of mind in which a person believes they are the savior of the world. Usually the person can be found on a street corner or a soapbox. Or in a treehouse.

The Book

is titled A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century, co-authored by a middle-aged married couple. Both of whom earned PhDs in Biology and recently resigned teaching positions from a liberal college in the Northwest. “They cohost weekly livestreams of the DarkHorse podcast.” The podcast is shot in what looks like a backyard treehouse.

When I learned of the book I preordered it. I am a proponent of Evolutionary Psychology and an author, too. I was very much looking forward to reading it. It sounded like something right in my own backyard.

DNF

is book-speak for “did not finish”. I couldn’t – it was that bad. However, I don’t disagree with the major premise – that we humans evolved in a world that is much different than the one we have created. And that we are therefore “mismatched” to it. Ironically, or of a paradox as the authors purport.

But by page 90, I’d had enough. Though I did skim the rest. The writing is redundant, pompous, poorly constructed and the thinking magical. The authors like to make up words, principles, rules, and concepts, then pretend they’re doing “science”.

There are boxes at the end of most chapters wherein they list remedies, or instructions / rules, to “guide” the reader toward survival. They call the lists “The Corrective Lens”. In fact there are 103 of these corrections. The implication being if you follow these instructions you’ll correct the mess we’ve made.

The Writing

and story telling is awful. They mix metaphors, stories, philosophies. Repeat themselves. It reminded me of children I used to counsel in residential treatment. Six, seven, eight-year olds with their nonsensical yammering. Kids in a tree house using their imaginations to construct a make believe world.

Examples

are so numerous you can open to any page and find them. Why use mutual when you can use “mutualistic”? Did you know that fire is “abiotic”? Why be precise when you can flood the page with maybes, probably’s, suggests, mights, may have been’s, almost’s, etc. and so on. And commas, oh my word. Blah,blah, blah, and yada, yada.

Did I want to turn the page and keep reading? Nope. That defines bad writing and ‘did not finish’.

The Noble Savage

myth is the belief that those people – the “natives” who we white folk killed, enslaved, conquered and oppressed – had it right. And yet, almost in the same sentence, Heying and Weinstein deny they are romanticizing that lifestyle and belief. The authors label us (readers of the book) WEIRD.

WEIRD 

stands for Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, Democratic. It’s one of the authors’ clever (?) inventions. What they mean is: English speaking white people, with some college, living with indoor plumbing and full-time electricity, adequate income, and voting rights.

That’s hardly a majority of people living in the “West”. Even in the US! Yet, here’s another one of their favorite paradoxes: we are killing ourselves. With all our convenience. We are too soft and too clean. Furthermore, we live in square buildings with “carpentered corners”! And those corners prevent us from seeing the world as it is.

This book is amazing. At least so far in the 21st Century, 2021. The worst year ever? What’s truly amazing is that it’s gotten any traction at all. Moreover, some high praise from some pretty smart people (Sebastian Junger for one).

Seems like the magical (crooked) thinking of kids in a treehouse works. Robert Wright takes exception. Calling the Weinsteins “crackpot”. I agree with Mr. Wright. Skip this one. Try these: Set Yourself Free: Twelve Books to Read on Human Nature in stead.

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