by David Bloomberg
The front cover of the pre-release copy Dr. Walker sent me says, "for those over 30 only," but I went ahead and read it anyway. I'm quite glad that I didn't heed the "warning" and read through this extremely well-written satire.
As you may know (or as you will know if you look at the back page of this newsletter), Dr. Walker and company will be presenting a dramatic reading of this book at REALL's next meeting. As such, I don't want to give away too much about the book. I also don't want you to get the idea that this review is nothing more than an advertisement for the meeting, but, frankly, I just don't have anything but praise for Walker's work.
This story is an allegory set in Zooland, a place run in a way which is probably all too familiar to anybody who has worked in a large company or, dare I say it, government. Most of the book deals with two wise, old Foxes explaining the true workings of Zooland to a Young Pup. Baboons, Barking Seals, and, of course, Running Dogs of Loyalty are all explained to the Young Pup as he gains insight and loses his naiveté.
"But what does this have to do with skepticism?" I hear you ask. Well, most of the book is somewhat tangential to the subjects we would normally cover in this newsletter. However, I like to emphasize critical thinking in all aspects of our lives, and this book does hit on the areas we are used to seeing in these pages.
For example, as one of the Foxes is explaining things to the Pup, he says something REALL could almost use as a motto: "The best medicine for misery is neither myth nor miracle, but naked truth." Indeed, I have often tried to explain this to those who claim that certain types of therapy, like past-life or other memory inducing therapy, help the patient, so we shouldn't care if the "memories" they find are true or not. To me, the truth is always the ultimate goal.
However, Walker also points out how many others feel about the truth: "Most creatures prefer a warm lie to a cold truth. If you make them feel good, the masses will love you. If you make them think, they will hate you. I warn you: He who dares disturb the sleepwalk of masses, prepares for nightmare." I sometimes feel this way when discussing REALL with non-skeptics. While I have only met a few who have actually "hated" me for pointing out a lack of evidence for one of their cherished pseudo-scientific beliefs (Dorothy Allison, the shoving psychic, comes to mind), I have certainly encountered a number who have been less than happy with me.
Politics, bureaucracy, True Believers, and other similar non-free thinkers all come under Walker's scrutiny. "The mystified mystify. The petrified petrify. Those who cannot grasp social force -- the whole -- in reality as reality, abstract, mystify, and petrify it. They make it supernatural, mystical, holy." It seems to me that some parts of humanity have not advanced very far from the older civilizations when any phenomenon which was not understood was given a supernatural reason. The sun, the moon, the stars -- all were worshipped and mystified at one time, but are now understood. Today we have psychics, UFOs, and weeping statues, and people who still make the illogical leap that if they cannot figure out why something is happening, there must be a mystical reason for it.
In fact, the more I read Walker's book, the more I find which relates directly to my own experiences. I am sure that most REALL members will feel the same way.
[This book may be ordered for $9.95 + $4.50 shipping & handling by sending a check or money order to:
615 East Industrial Drive
Chelsea, MI 48118
or by credit card by calling:
Orders of multiple copies receive a discount on both the price of the book and shipping & handling.]