“Man has survived hitherto because he was too ignorant to know how to realise his wishes. Now that he can realise them, he must either change them or perish.”

–––William Carlos Williams

For much of modern human history, it has been believed that survival of the fittest holds sway. Or, to put it another way, every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost. This approach has in fact been celebrated in popular culture and elsewhere, and used by those whose only aim is to profit from division and confusion. Divide and rule has been a successful strategy for empire-builders. Now, the algorithm aims to slice and dice all of us. Set everyone against his or her neighbour, and let things fall where they may.

In his eye-opening new book, The Pursuit of Kindness, more than two decades in the writing, Éamonn Toland argues that this worldview has been based on, if not exactly a lie, then at least a misunderstanding of the way things are. He shows, drawing on examples from prehistory, the ancient world, and more recent times, that for the broad span of human history, kindness, not competition, has been the defining characteristic of our species. Now, in the middle of a global pandemic, and as we face into the existential crisis of environmental collapse, we must, as the great American poet put it all those years ago, change our ways.

The Pursuit of Kindness shows us why, and tells us how. Most strikingly, it stares some of the horrors of our more recent history in the face, and remains steadfastly optimistic. It is set to become a classic of its kind.


The Pursuit of Kindness will be published on 27 May. It is available to preorder from bookshops, and here:

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