The news that thousands of Burning Man festivalgoers were told to conserve food and water after torrential rains left them trapped by impassable mud in the Nevada desert led some to chortle about a “Lord of the Flies” scenario for the annual gathering popular with tech lords and moguls.
Alas, I have to spoil the hate-the-tech-rich revelries. No matter how this mess is resolved — and many there seem to be coping — the common belief that civilization is but a veneer that will fall apart when authority disappears is not only false; the false belief itself is harmful.
Rutger Bregman, who wrote a book called “Humankind: A Hopeful History,” read “Lord of the Flies” as a teenager like many and didn’t doubt its terrible implication about human nature. However, Bregman got curious about whether there were any real-life cases of boys of that age getting stranded on an island.
Bregman learned of one that played out very differently,
In 1965, six boys from 13 to 16, bored in their school in Tonga, in Polynesia, impulsively stole a boat and sailed out but became helplessly adrift after their sail and rudder broke. They were stranded on an island for more than a year. Instead of descending into cruel anarchy, though, they stayed alive through cooperation. When one of them broke his leg, the others took care of him. [Continue reading…]