Yuval Noah Harari wrote a children’s book: “Kids need to understand what a business is”

Humans are solely responsible for global warming. With this achievement, our race wasn’t the most visible hero during Children’s Book Week (October 5-16) with the “Gi-ga-green” theme. But look, the book really shines among the titles of cockroaches, palms and reptiles How did we become the strongest animal on earth?by Israeli bestselling author (adult) Yuval Noah Harari.

This is not unreasonable, says Harari, who is known for books like sane And the gay god, during a conversation in Amsterdam. “It would come as a shock to some people, but man is an animal. In Israel, people are always angry when I say that. It’s almost a taboo there. A large percentage of people don’t accept it, or just in theory. But to understand how our emotional life or our politics work, you have to really the study of humans as a species, in conjunction with other animals.”

Harari says human fears also come from the animal kingdom. A human child who loses his mother is afraid, like a baby porcupine or a giraffe. Behind this fear is an evolutionary fact: the lost porcupine does not live in the wild. So humans take advantage of separation anxiety in order to survive. Or take the monster under your bed. Harari says this is also “a memory from millions of years ago, when a lion came to eat you.”

Harari says you see the same phenomenon in the human response to terrorist attacks. “We react to that much more aggressively than slowing down a danger, like climate change. We recognize that terrorists are a fundamental danger, just as other social animals are aware of such dangers. But no animal has had such an impact on the climate as humans over hundreds of years. The last few. The fear of the threat of climate change, which is much greater than the threat of the bomb, has not had a chance to get into our genes.”

And this, Harari says, was the reason he wanted to write a children’s book on the origin of man. “I think kids want to understand where the fear of the monster under their bed comes from.”


If Harari could choose one message he would have liked to receive as a child, it would be the message of inclusivity. This would have freed me from false stories, for example about nationalism and religion. In Israel, I grew up on the story that the Jewish people are the most important people in the world, and that your Jewishness is an important part of your identity. Of course this also has value, but it’s not the whole story. Man is millions of years old. To understand our feelings, you must look not at Judaism, but at evolution. ”

In doing so, he says, the purely religious nationalist narrative detracts from outside influences. “We are not the most important people in the world. As a child I loved football. The British invented it. I loved eating sweets, and sugar cane was originally grown in New Guinea. Hebrew comes from other languages. And that I can write a book, I owe it to the Sumerians, the people who They developed the concept of “writing.” That’s why I don’t understand anything about contemporary extremism open civilization.

Cultural appropriation occurs when members of a dominant culture adopt elements of a minority culture without truly understanding its cultural background. This must be seen in a colonial context, and thus differs from the exchange of cultural elements on an equal footing. There is often also an economic component, which is that the members of the dominant group make money by exploiting the minority culture. Adopting elements of another culture or identity—think white people with dreadlocks or Native American feathers—is considered inappropriate by some left-wing activists.

Harari: That’s ridiculous! Everything about our culture comes from another culture, from the clothes we wear to the songs we sing. Our entire culture has been taken over.”

not simplified

Harari’s children’s book, appropriate from the age of ten, is the first in a four-year series. Together, this quartet will deal with the history of mankind. After the now published first part, About the Stone Age, books that will discuss, among other things, the development of agriculture and colonization will follow.

Harari admits that it’s not easy for kids when you have such sweeping ambitions with a history book. “Of course, the history of the nation has value as well. But there are already many books on that. You can fill an entire library with books on Judaism. I wanted to add something to what was already there.”

This is the story of his world superhero book sane, in childish language, but not simplified. Harari is not shy about explaining abstract concepts such as “democracy” or “capitalism” to children. He laughs, “although fortunately I still have some time before the parts where those concepts come out.”

In the first part, he explains the concept of “company” using McDonald’s. Does this burger restaurant consist of its buildings? No, because if buildings collapse, the company builds new ones. Who are the burgers? from Staff? No, they are all replaceable. Harari argues attractively that business is an abstraction like debt or money. People agreed with each other that it exists, so it does exist.

Regarding religion, Harari promises to write “with respect.” “We don’t joke about faith, and we’ll focus on good things. But faith has also brought violence and intolerance. And I want to say the world’s religions are about stories people made. Take the New Testament. It’s made up of 27 texts. But Jesus didn’t know that travel. In the early centuries After birth, Christians debated which texts should or should not be included. So it is the work of the people.”

Through his book, Harari hopes to motivate children to ask questions about things you wouldn’t normally think of so quickly. “During a meeting in Leiden, one of the children asked: Why do people cry? That is a great question! Exactly the kind of question I hope to inspire the children to.”

weak wise man

In addition, he hopes to help children understand that people are making a difference on this planet – in a positive and negative way. The book contains examples of children who did something important, such as discovering the world-famous cave paintings in Lascaux, France. It relates to the power of cooperation, the decisive cause of world domination by the relatively weak Homo sapiens.

It also shows that humans were already responsible for the mass extinction of animal species tens of thousands of years ago. It began in Australia, where soon after the first humans arrived, all the large land animals died down to the last specimen. Giant Moa, wanambi, procoptodon, megalania, diprotodon, glyptodon, and ground sloth are beautifully depicted in Ricardo Zaplana Ruiz’s book.

Harare: In the Stone Age there were no pets or farm animals. Even humans were savages, living closely with animals. Our current life we ​​live far from animals. Animals like meat in the freezer section of the supermarket. People are too busy with modern life to spend much time with animals. At the same time, you can see a desire to associate with animals: from stuffed animals to images of animals on T-shirts and animals as the main character of the cartoon. ”


According to the historian, it is man’s responsibility to do better than he did. And not with simplistic messaging, for example that the climate crisis is capitalism’s fault. Obviously, there are problems with capitalism. But this is not the full story. We have already done a lot of damage before the advent of capitalism. And the state of the course of communism is only worse: in the Soviet Union there was more pollution and destruction of nature than in the capitalist countries. We need a broad historical understanding.”

He says that if you want to understand climate change, you need to understand businesses. They’ve done the damage, but they’re also part of the solution. That’s why I thought it was so important to tell the kids what a company is. Children may no longer encounter elephants in their daily lives, but companies see them around them all day long.”

The central message in his book, Harari says, is that the world does not have to be the way it is. People made decisions that created this world. So they can change it too. This is not easy, but it has been done before. It’s a message from Empowerment. ”

Instead, the historian notes, “people tend to be victims.” The Russians and the Chinese tell themselves that they are victims, and Israel does too. Sometimes this is more justified than other times. But as a base story, it’s serious. It makes you irresponsible. After all, if you were a victim, you did not cause the situation. So you’re not responsible for the solutions either.”

Of course Harari also knows that there are strength differences. “Everyone has a little bit of strength. Because of their unique ability to cooperate, people are also in a position to conserve animal species, for example. This is part of my message to children: You are stronger than a lion, who cannot change the economy or the legal system. You do, especially if you’re with many.”

Read also: In search of one story about everything: This book chronicles 300,000 years of history

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