Stephen King makes some excellent reasoned arguments for a way forward in the "gun control debate". In brief: controlling automatic weapons, only allowing public possession of 10 rounds, and background checks.
He also examines the mind set of some of the perpetrators - who had often been bullied, or else 'woke up' in disbelief and shock at what they were doing, and the book opens with a minute by minute account of a typical "event".
However, it's an angry essay, which descends at times into a rant of name calling. King openly discloses how some school shootings had copied details from his own published book "Rage", and while he claims to have no regrets over writing the book (which he withdrew from sale), I wondered if some guilt was fuelling his own rage at these atrocities.
This is a highly intelligent, yet accessible book, beautifully read by the author himself.
If like me you are puzzled by the stupidity of other people's beliefs and values, then I urge you to read "The Righteous Mind". At its core is a message of reconciliation; an enlightened liberation from the "Filter Bubble" of our own confirmation biases to see ourselves & those we most profoundly disagree with as belonging on the same continuum.
Haidt's thesis is controversial :- that Western liberals (e.g. him & me) are "WIERD" outliers, using just three moral foundations of harm, freedom, and fairness, when for conservative & non Western cultures, morality includes a far broader spectrum of sensibilities, including hierarchy, loyalty and sacredness.
Our own values feel like 'The Truth' and the more moral we are, the more self-righteous in imposing our own moral framework. Moreover, we are all moral hypocrites, acting to maximise our good reputation, with our moral rationalisations serving as press officer to our emotional prejudices.
Haidt cites a ton of research (including his own), underpinned by psychology, anthropology, neuroscience & evolutionary theory: the latter an elegant mix of Selfish Gene, Multi-Level selection and Dual Inheritance Theory, summed up in the sound-byte that we are 90% chimp and 10% hive mentality.
Yet it was in his uncritical advocacy for the "Durkheimian Hive Switch" that I started to dissent. Anyone who knows the film "The Wave", the deindividuation of rioting crowds, Milgram's Experiment, or phenomena such as scape-goating or "corporate groupthink" will be wary of the dangers of the "Hive Switch", and the potential madness of crowds. The Enlightenment was about liberation from our hive mentality and the benefits of Mill's style individualism and secularism.
However, that said, I consider Haidt a hero, and I hope this excellent book will help heal the animosity between good people who differ only in the hyper-goods they value.
I really enjoyed this book, after seeing Niall Ferguson's TV series of the same name. If you want to hear him speak, I recommend his 2012 Reith lectures too (on the BBC website). Ferguson is nothing if not controversial, and the central question of the book "why did the West beat the rest?" is the very question posed (perhaps in different terms), by Jared Diamond in his classic book "Guns, Germs & Steel". Their answers are very different, and reflect perhaps the political Right and Left leanings respectively of Ferguson and Diamond. Ferguson's answer lies in his thesis of the 6 "killer apps" which the West perfected, and which he believes we may be in danger of losing our self-belief in. Thus, implicit to his enquiry is "is the West in decline?". It is a bold and interesting thesis, and Ferguson provides copious evidence in support of his "apps" being the midwives of any advanced civilisation with a progressive technology. However, whereas Diamond links cultural advance back to fundamental features of geography (East-West orientation, supporting the spread of cultural innovation), and biology (prevalence of species open to domestication), Fergusons "6 killer apps" thesis begs the question of why these should be the universal properties of an advanced civilisation. Could there be more than six, for instance? Answers on a postcard... Having said that it is an excellent book, made more so by the lively reading by Ferguson himself. He really enjoys reading the book - you can tell - and that enjoyment is infectious.