Review: Threshold–The Crisis of Western Culture

Amazon Page

Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Five for the Voice, Four for the Substance

December 12, 2009
Thom Hartmann
Thom Hartmann is one of a handful of individuals that I consider to be true guides for the rest of us, and I consider two of his earlier books, Cracking the Code and SCREWED, to have been instrumental in my own transformation from recovering spy to intelligence officer to the public.

The book does cover a lot of ground lightly, but it is coherent, and because it is Thom Hartmann, whose voice is hugely important to all of us, I settle on a five instead of a four. Other books that complement this one include Tom Atlee’s The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All, Jim Rough’s Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People, and The People’s Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy.

Here are my notes:

+ Book may be missing pages, mine starts at page xi (Preface) so I am left wondering, what happened to i through x?

+ Book opens with quotes from Einstein and Schweitzer with respect to the urgency of widening our circle of compassion to include ALL living things, and explicitly ALL humanity.


+ The author is at pains to honor Gottfried Mueller, the subject of his earlier book The Prophet’s Way: A Guide to Living in the Now, and later in the book he honors Greg Mortinsen Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time and I am hugely impressed.

+ The book can be summed up as a) population explosion is the root problem behind the ten high level threats to humanity (see A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change; and b) empowering women will solve most of that problem. While simplistic, I agree.

+ The book is structured with one chapter each for each of three major thresholds:

01 Environment (not just Climate Change but Oceanic Decomposition, Atmospheric Degradation, etcetera)

02 Economy Owned by 1% of the Public with Corporatism Rampant

03 Explosion of Human Flesh (which is his broadest and deepest concern

+ That section is followed by chapters on each of the four mistakes:

01 Separating ourselves from nature

02 Economy as an abstraction

03 Subordination of women (who used to rule)

04 Focus on governance by fear instead of governance by love

+ Cool phrase early on: “Edges are where all the action is.”

Book opens with Darfur as hell on earth but still showing a sense of community. The author uses Maslow’s hierarchy to discuss what has changed and how “cultural overhead” that used to be low is now very high. He discusses how oil, religion, and “civilization” changed the entire dynamic.

While there are those who might be critical of the author’s flitting about combined with a lack of mention of many, many works relevant to each of the points he makes, I would point such people to the annotated bibliography on reality in Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography), a book that enjoys a preface by Thom Hartman as well as several others–I view all of my reading and all of my reviews as being explicitly supportive of this “once over” tour. See also my first chapter in that book (free online as with all my books), Paradigms of Failure.  Use Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to browse across 98 categories, all reviews there lead back to Amazon, but one can easily see all books on Democracy, or on Capitalism (Good and Bad), or Pathology of Power, or whatever.

There is a lot of neat stuff in this book I would not have encountered otherwise. A few examples:

+ Worms in our bodies provided specific immunizations that have been lost with the their elimination.

+ Ann Rand was a Russian emigree originally named Alisa Zinov’yevna

+ Game theory only works on economists and psychopaths, everyone else chooses collaboration over deceit

+ Tim Roper and Larissa Conradt, “Group Decision Making in Animals as published in Nature in 2003 is huge for me

+ Democracy trumps despotism in the animal world over both the short and the long terms.

+ Cost of 1 cruise missile could buy 20 schools instead

+ Ecolonomics seeks to quantify external costs. Here it is possible to be critical, instead of Al Gore the Nobel should have gone to Herman Daly, pioneer of Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications, and is is evident Thom is drawing on what he knows to reach important conclusions, but there is a great deal more to explore

+ Chidlren that do NOT learn to read by the age of seven (he has been inpressed by Nordic examples) end up having more balanced brains and also learn to read very quickly immediately after the age of seven. See Howard Bloom’s Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, a book that made me realize we have to occupy Israel and Palestine for 50 years in order to raise two new generations that can live in peace and do not regard, from the age of five, each other as pigs and monkeys.

The book draws to a close with strong expressions of concern about corporate personality, sociopath CEOs, the emergent feudalism that characterizes the USA, the control by corporations of the government, and the reality that 7-10 million Americans were deliberately disenfranchised in the 2008 election, the Republicans having perfected the techniques that Greg Palast exposed in the summer of 2000 as pioneered by Jeb Bush.

QUOTE from page 238: “If we want to end terrorism in the world, we must ends its cause–poverty, oppression, and the domination of women by men under the guise of religion. Building hospitals and schools around the world would cost us a tiny fraction of the trillion dollars we spend every year on our military (and on the interest on the money we borrow to fund our military.”

I quite agree, and at Phi Beta Iota show Medard Gabel’s pie chart documenting how global peace and prosperity can be had for $230 billion a year in comparison to the $1.3 trillion a year we spend. I also connect to other books since Amazon limits me to ten here.

The one book that I would recommend as a substantive complement to this more populist philosophical overview is that of J. F. Rischard, then the Vice President for Europe of the World Bank, High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them

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Other Links Amazon Would Not Allow:

Thom’s other two books that really made a difference for me:
Review: Cracking the Code–How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore America’s Original Vision
Review: Screwed–The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class — And What We Can Do About It
Review Sections that Bear on Thom Hartmann’s Concerns in the Above Book:

Okay, so maybe the entire website and all the reviews bear on this book’s theme, but I had to draw the line somewhere.  For it’s given topic, the crisis of Western culture, Thom Hartmann has provided as easy to read and easy to understand an overview as anyone could, and I have not seen any other work quite like it.