Review: “Cruelty Or Humanity” By Stuart Rees – For Humanity, Banish Cruelty

Cruelty Or Humanity

“Cruelty Or Humanity” by Stuart Rees is an important book that should be in every institutional and public library. Despite the  Mainstream   hiding or softening horrific crimes, we are all aware of global cruelties, from  deadly Developing World poverty to equally deadly war atrocities. We utterly abhor cruel people of personal acquaintance, and my reading of this powerful book  instructs us to extend this sheer abhorrence to all politicians, elected or otherwise, who inflict cruelties on Humanity.

However this profoundly important humanitarian book explores the many aspects of the human condition described as “cruelty “ or “humanity”. It concludes  with how we can attempt to solve this huge problem, including  by seeking common ground and compromise with present perpetrators (e.g. racists, violent abusers, neoliberals and warmongers) as well exampled by the fall of highly abusive Apartheid in South Africa, and the literal fall of the Berlin Wall.

This is a complex and deep book that covers a wide range of the human experience. Stuart Rees recognized that words fail in describing cruelties and has extensively  used poetry to complement his  prose. As a scientist as well as a humanitarian “truth teller”   I am well aware  of the moral and didactic limitations involved in dispassionate cataloguing of atrocities. I  have tried to do justice  to  this important book by reviewing it in a systematic chapter-by-chapter fashion with appended comments as set out below.

Introduction: towards a theory. Silence is complicity  and decent people are obliged to bear witness to and condemn inhumanity. “Introduction: towards a theory” explores  the need for humanitarian scholars to consider “cruelty” per se in addition to documenting the suffering of Humanity. Stuart Rees: “In commentators’ evaluation of social and foreign policies, cruelty as an intended, or as an unanticipated consequence of policies, has received little attention. In policy appraisal, the notion “cruelty” seldom appears, not even in an index, and has not been acknowledged to be a purpose of policies even if the cruel consequences have been obvious. It is as though an alleged rational process should be cleansed of any consideration of irrational actions such as causing serious harm to citizens or to animals” (page 1 [1]).  Stuart Rees goes on to define “cruelty”: “Cruelty refers to a wanton and unnecessary infliction of suffering on body and mind. The adjective “wanton” describes conduct without regard to what is right, just or humane” (page 1 [1]).

Comment. I must offer the following qualified personal mea culpa. As a scientist and a humanitarian, over the last 25 years I have variously set out immense  atrocities inflicted upon Humanity,  specifically in a series of 8 huge books, namely “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (1998, 2008; it describes 2 centuries of horrendous man-made Indian famines and adumbrates worse disasters from climate change inaction);  “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (2003; it is a huge biochemical pharmacology treatise but in which I inserted in available spaces in 500 pages of Tables details of pertinent human atrocities); “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (2003, updated 2021 edition being edited; it describes the ongoing Global Avoidable  Mortality Holocaust that kills 7.6 million people annually  and has killed 1.5 billion people through imposed deprivation since 1950; it includes a succinct  avoidable mortality-related history of every country in the World);  “US-imposed post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide” (2020; it quantitatively addresses 32 million Muslim deaths from violence and imposed deprivation in the post-9/11 US War on Terror as well as 60 other genocide and holocaust atrocities); “The Most Dangerous Book Ever Published: Deadly Deception Exposed!” (2020, co-authored  with  6 other authors; my 11 chapters deal with horrendous man-made atrocities); and “Climate Crisis, Climate Genocide & Solutions” (2021;  it details the worsening Climate Crisis  and the presently worsening Climate Genocide in which, in the absence of requisite urgent action, 10 billion people may die en route to a sustainable human population in 2100 of only 1 billion).

However in this huge body of humanitarian writing  I repeatedly refer to numerous immense atrocities as “horrendous” or ”horrific” but I do not deal with “cruelty” per se – the unspeakable “cruelty” of those responsible for these horrendous (and continuing) atrocities is assumed. Indeed I have repeatedly pointed out that while millions of infants die avoidably each year through imposed deprivation (presently 5.3 million die thus per annum),  in  all human cultures there is  profound respect for the lives of children to the extent that “thou shalt not kill children” is so fundamental, so obvious  and so instinctive that it is not even specifically prohibited in the 10 Commandments. Thus a Google Search for “thou shalt not kill” yields 952,000 results whereas a Google Search for “thou shalt not kill children” yields merely 23,000. A Google Search for “Cruelty Or Humanity” pleasingly returns 409,000 results.

Chapter 1. Perpetrators and victims. This chapter  gives a range of examples of cruelty ranging from cruel public words by a leading broadcaster about a female prime minister, through appalling maltreatment of subjects to genocide. Subsection “A malignancy” gives accounts of cruel maltreatment of British, Indonesian, Saudi Arabian, US , Australian and Apartheid Israeli subjects. However trade, diplomatic relations and indeed friendly relations are unimpaired.  Stuart Rees: “In response to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, the international community had refused to oppose decades of serious human rights abuse” (page 14 [1]). Subsection “Twentieth-century genocides and mass murders” cites the following 13  20th century genocides (my estimates of duration and deaths from violence and deprivation are given in brackets):  Armenian Genocide (1915-1923, 1.5 million), Ukrainian Holocaust (1932-1933, 7 million), Stalin Terror (1930s, 20 million), WW2 Jewish Holocaust (1941-1945,  5-6  million), WW2 European Holocaust (1939-1945, 30 million Slavs, Jews and Roma), WW2 Bengali Holocaust (1942-1945, 6-7million), China Great Leap Forward (1958-1962, 30 million), Kenyan Genocide (1950s, 0.5 million), Cambodian Genocide (1975-1979, 6 million),  Timorese Genocide (1975-2000, 0.2 million out of  population of 0.6 million), Rwandan Genocide (1994, 1 million), Darfur Genocide (2003, 0.5 million) as well some other lesser atrocities [2]. Subsection “Silence and denial” describes extraordinary white-washing of genocide atrocities, stating “Official denials, often bare-faced  lying, are just one of the dominant themes in accounts of cruelties” (page 22 [1]).

Comment. In the Epilogue to my 2020 book “US-imposed post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide” I present a list of about 60 genocides of which all but 11 occurred in the 20th and 21st centuries , and  10 occurred in the 21st century. An updated list is provided here [2], noting that “holocaust” implies lots of deaths, and “genocide” is defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. Stuart Rees gives the WW2 Katyn Massacre of 22,000 Polish soldiers by the Russians and denied by Russia for 50 years,  as an example of “denial” (pages 21, 22 [1]).  However vastly more astonishing examples of “holocaust denial” can be  given (deaths from violence and imposed deprivation in brackets ) e.g. by the British (1,800 million Indians in the 2 century Indian Holocaust; 6-7 million Indians in the 1942-1945 Bengali Holocaust), the Australians (2 million Indigenous Australians in the ongoing , 2 century Aboriginal Genocide), the Jewish Israelis and their US Alliance supporters (2.2 million in the ongoing, century-long Palestinian Genocide), the Japanese (35-40 million Chinese deaths in the 1937-1945 WW2 Chinese Holocaust), the US  (40 million Asians in the  post-1950 US Asian Wars and 32 million Muslims in the ongoing US War on Muslims aka the War on Terror), and most of the rich world (in the absence of requisite action,  10 billion people will  die this century in a worsening Climate Genocide).

The most astonishing example of “holocaust denial” is The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been  adopted by 34 countries that are overwhelmingly European and members of the nuclear terrorist US Alliance.  The IHRA definition  is worded in such a way as to be easily adopted or considered by Western governments to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, and as a means to suppress the humane opinions of anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish humanitarians. Indeed it was notoriously used to falsely defame and politically destroy anti-racist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and to cripple the UK Labour party. The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on careful analysis is anti-Arab anti-Semitic (falsely defaming anti-racist Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims critical of Apartheid Israeli crimes), anti-Jewish anti-Semitic (falsely defaming anti-racist Jews critical of genocidally racist Apartheid Israelis), and egregiously holocaust denying – the IHRA recognizes only 1 holocaust, the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million Jews killed by violence and deprivation), to the exclusion of scores of other holocausts and in particular the WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slavs, Jews and Gypsies killed), the WW2 Chinese Holocaust (35-40 million Chinese killed under the Japanese, 1937-1945), and the WW2 Bengali Holocaust (6-7 million Indians deliberately starved to death by the British with Australian complicity and indeed the first WW2 atrocity to be described as a “holocaust”,  in “Churchill’s Blind-Spot: India” by N.G. Jog, 1944) [3, 4]. Of course genocide ignoring and holocaust ignoring are far, far worse than repugnant genocide denial and holocaust denial because the latter at least permit public refutation and public debate.

Chapter 2, “Values, attitudes, behaviour”. Stuart Rees initially observes that “Instead of listing cruelties under the names of countries, rebel or terrorist groups, it is revealing to identify patterns of values, attitudes and behaviours, beginning with the age-old stigmatizing of victims” (page 23 [1]). This is explored in successive sections, namely “Stigmatizing” (with examples of the horribly abused Roma, Indigenous Australians, and orphan child migrants to Australia); “Unworthy asylum seekers” (describing the cruel, highly abusive and  indefinite incarceration without charge or trial of boat-borne refugees in off-shore Australian concentration camps); “Fascination with violence” (with examples including the cruel British, Israeli and American  maltreatment of Indigenous Kenyans, Palestinians and  Iraqis respectively); “War and denial” (with examples of cruelties in the Algerian war of independence,  Occupied Afghanistan, the Syrian civil war, jihadi atrocities, Yemen and North Korea); and “Militaristic  and religious motives” (with examples of religion-related cruelties in US-dominated South America, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Uganda).  In “Policy pointers” Stuart Rees concludes: “From this chapter’s range of examples, it is apparent that cruelty has been justified by motives in which religious and sexual gratification merge, in which ethical considerations re absent and humanitarian law is regarded as irrelevant” (page 47 [1]).

Comment. A surprising absence was any  reference to the experiments of Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram who was able to quickly convert otherwise decent, normal people into Nazi-style sadists capable of delivering electric shocks that they  believed to be  lethal to their victims.  Unfortunately we are stuck with our genetically-determined behavioural inheritance arising from Darwinian natural selection of genes (DNA). Thus our close relatives the chimpanzees engage in inter-group killing just like humans, and our capacity for altruism declines as we successively go from immediate  family to immediate community, and thence to other communities and foreigners. However our behaviour can be  ameliorated by societally-selected behavioural “memes” such as “love thy neighbour as thyself”. We can rise above our “animal nature”. However sex, sadism, xenophobia and religious fervour are a potent mix, and once the moral line is crossed and cruelty and killing occur, then  things can quickly go from bad to unspeakably worse. Conversely, in 4 essentially bloodless coups in Fiji only 1 person was killed (a Fijian soldier killed by Fijian rebels) and thus the line was not crossed and a peaceful and multicultural Fiji did not join the long list of genocides and holocausts [2], although 100,000 Indians left for Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. As exhibited  by European colonial powers from Imperial Britain to Nazi Germany, given xenophobic leadership,  ideology and repetitive reinforcement, brain biochemistry can turn  innocent but obedient farm boys and bank tellers into cruel and repetitive abusers and killers.

Chapter 3. Explaining causes. Stuart Rees commences: “Psychological, social, political, religious, cultural forces? How to explain cruelty? To respond to these questions , I’ll explore three overlapping theses: the banality of evil, conditioned, automaton-like behaviour; the attraction of sadism… I’ll also ponder the force of ideas about efficiency as a fuel for cruelty” (page 49 [1]). Under the heading “The banality of evil” (the term used by Hannah Arendt to describe Eichmann’s blindness to his evil complicity in mass murder) Stewart Rees discusses examples including Nazi-occupied Europe, the Israeli-permitted Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon, the Syrian civil war, the Ku Klux Klan, Australian maltreatment of refugees, the Cambodian Genocide, large-scale extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, and the cruel indifference of Apartheid Israel and the Western world to the   horrendous, three quarter century  Israeli maltreatment of the Indigenous Palestinians. Discussed under “Automaton behaviour” are automatic, inflexible behaviours of bureaucracies (described by Franz Kafka and Vaclav Havel) and variously impacting not just occupied populations (e.g. the Palestinians), and subjects of authoritarian regimes,   but also children, refugees and status-queried subjects of liberal democracies like Australia, the UK and the US.  The extensive and horrifying subsections “Identifying sadism” and “Abusive power” discuss a catalogue of torture, massacres and sadistic cruelties  inflicted on prisoners and other subjects by agents of fanatical regimes (e.g. the 1956 Israeli massacres of surrendering Egyptian soldiers). Under  “Efficiency and civil war in Colombia” Stuart Rees considers a culture of violence driven by the inexorable US-backed “logic” of absolute control and terrorizing.

Stuart Rees concludes “Ethics, rules of international law , let alone any concern with a common humanity have been discarded. Such principles and rules appear to be acknowledged only when the mainstream media does its job, and when representatives of powerful institutions  are so exposed that they need to save face” (page 80 [1]).

Comment. Not mentioned in this catalogue of horrors is Mexico where the daily murders total about 120 due to the inexorable commercial “logic” of the  huge US drug market, and the inexorable commercial “logic” of drug cartel turf wars permitted by the inexorable commercial “logic” of corruption at the top of society. The cruel horrors described in this chapter will persist as long as people look the other way. Silence is complicity, and as long as the silent as well as the perpetrators are not held accountable these horrors will continue. Not explicitly explored per se in this wide-ranging book is sadistic addiction to cruelty connected with brain biochemistry and repeated stimulation of powerful pleasure centres.

Chapter 4. Cruelty as policy. Stuart Rees sets out the 4 key attributes of  ways in which states commit cruelties. Stewart Rees gives many examples, including gross Israeli violations of the Indigenous Palestinians.  For brevity I will confine myself to my perception of the horrific maltreatment of Indigenous Palestinians by Apartheid Israel to example these 4  attributes of cruel policies: (1) Deliberate (50% of the inmates of the Gaza Concentration Camp are children and in imposing a blockade the Israelis have determined minimal food for survival; 1.9 million Palestinian Israelis are subject to 65 Nazi-style race laws; 5.2 million Occupied Palestinians  are deprived of all human  rights and are under foreign military rule); (2) Enabling (notably by ruthless armed force, fervent  US Alliance support, and by legislatively stigmatizing and officially categorizing  “lesser” groups as exampled by previous South African and ongoing Israeli Apartheid); (3) Deception (through massive Orwellian  lying assertions that, for example, Palestine and Palestinians don’t exist, a God-granted Israel is existentially threatened by Arab “terrorists”, Apartheid Israel is a “democracy” etc); and (4) Collusion (Apartheid Israel is fervently supported by the governments and Mainstream media of the US Alliance so that self-assertedly “civilized” Western countries  turn a blind eye to Israeli atrocities while selectively condemning malfeasance by other countries, notably China, Russia and typically non-European countries that the US doesn’t like).

Chapter 5. Humanitarian alternatives. Stuart Rees commences: “Utopian thinking requires creation, non-harmful conduct in individual relationships. It imagines socially just practice in situations and in the manner in which policies are crafted and implemented (page 109 [1]). Using poetry to supplement humane argument, he explores this in subsections entitled “Creative and non-destructive power” (diverse and empathic instead of  authoritarian and abusive) , “Interdependence and belonging“ (solidarity and common humanity instead of nationalism and exceptionalism), “Non-violence” (quoting Mahatma Gandhi arguing that non-violent practice was not only a way of life but  law for life), “Technology: help or hindrance?” (increased  information flow but with the downsides of state surveillance and enhanced authoritarian control), “A different economy” (the destructive effects of immense inequalities of wealth and power), and “Courage” ( the extraordinary bravery of people facing up to murderous authoritarianism).

Comment. Put simply, of course we can and must adopt  humane alternatives in an increasingly resource-limited world. For an American lifestyle for everyone we would need 7 planets and for a European lifestyle we would need 3. Unless urgent requisite action is taken 10 billion people will die in a worsening Climate Genocide this century en route to a sustainable human population of only 1 billion by 2100. As explored by economist Thomas Piketty, wealth inequality is bad for the economy (the poor cannot afford the goods and services they produce) and bad for democracy (Big Money buys votes) [5]. As discussed by philosopher Brian Ellis,  the presently dominant  neoliberalism demands maximal freedom for the smart and advantaged to exploit the human and natural resources of the world for endlessly expanding private profit – as opposed to social humanism (socialism, eco-socialism, human rights-observant communism, the welfare state, universal basic income) which seeks to sustainably maximize human happiness, opportunity and dignity through evolving, culturally-sensitive, intra-national and international social contracts [6]. All people  are created equal, and should have all the rights set out in the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Empathy is fundamental  – love thy neighbour as thyself (Jesus).  Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity.

Chapter 6. Cruel or compassionate world?  Stuart Rees identifies key areas of concern in “Erosion of human rights” (violation of International Laws and human rights conventions, “use of the language of morality to defend immoral practises” such as war, the Israeli Apartheid Wall and indeed “70 plus border walls and fences built between nations” ), “Corporate contributions” (privatised prisons, greed-imposed poverty, dependence on child labour, intergenerational poverty cycles, corporations and the arms trade),  “Animal cruelty” (horrendous cruelties from cruel confinement to cruel slaughter for food), “Nuclear cruelty” the (indescribable  horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  mass  incineration in a nuclear holocaust and  survivor  slow death in a nuclear war), “Artistic lifelines” (the sensibilities of the arts to push for peace and away from cruelty), “Educational priorities“ (truth telling about past and contemporary cruelties involving war and abusive occupation, as exampled by the Yemeni War  and the cruel treatment of the Occupied Palestinians).

Comment. People can variously be careless, inconsiderate or even bad, but people who are deliberately, knowingly  and remorselessly  “cruel” have crossed a moral line in the sand. We are familiar with the aphorism “Be cruel to be kind” and the contact sport coach’s exhortation “go in hard”,  but basically we utterly reject cruelty and would do our best to have nothing to do  with people who are “cruel”. This is the core, practical,  and moral genius of Stuart Rees’ book – we  condemn evil individuals as “cruel” for inflicting cruelties on defenceless women and children within our society,  and should likewise condemn as “cruel”  the cruel sponsors of cruel laws that condemn millions of our fellow citizens to cruel poverty. We should reject the demands of  our morally compromised  journalist, politician, commentariat and  academic presstitutes for “respectful conversations”, and publicly assert that those politicians and parties “legally” inflicting cruelties on others – from cruelly imposed poverty and indefinite abusive imprisonment of refugees to genocidal wars – are accordingly “cruel” and thus utterly unfit  for public life.

However  as a numbers-beholden scientist I must take issue with Stuart Rees when he says “The question, are some cruelties worse than others, takes us nowhere” (page 130 [1]).  “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton” is popularly ascribed to the Duke of Wellington, who was a graduate of Eton College, and  for all that Etonians were trained to inflict military, colonial and imperial horrors, there is no comparison between  the scale of cruelty in  Etonian barbarities  (the  caning and worse of boys in the sadistic fagging system and contact sport brutalities) and the mass carnage of British  wars, genocidal wars and  brutal occupations (e.g. 1,800 million Indians died avoidably from British-imposed deprivation in the 2 century Indian Holocaust  under brutal British rule, and some  60 genocides and holocausts have occurred over the last 2 centuries) [7].

The relative extent of atrocities  does matter. Thus  Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention  unequivocally demand that  an Occupier is inescapably obliged to provide life sustaining food and medical  requisites to the Occupied Subjects “to the fullest extent of the means available to it”. Australian soldiers are presently very properly being investigated for one-on-one war crimes in which 39 Afghan prisoners of war and civilians were killed. Surely  judicial war crimes investigations and punishments should also apply to politicians who sent these soldiers to war and who by gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention are complicit in millions of avoidable deaths from deprivation of Occupied people. Thus, as carefully estimated from UN data, the 2001-2021 under-5 infant deaths totalled 4.1 million in Occupied Afghanistan (present population 38.2 million) as compared to about 20,000 for Australia, 20,000 for Apartheid Israel and 60,000 for Occupied Palestine (present populations 25.8 million, 9.1 million and 5.2 million, respectively).

Chapter 7. Humanity on a bonfire. Stuart Rees commences this penultimate chapter with a plea for heartfelt abhorrence of cruelty as exampled by Myanmar soldiers throwing Rohingya children onto bonfires: “There comes a time when abhorrence over cruelty should be expressed spontaneously and passionately, separate from academic references, scholarly analytical theory, legal punctiliousness and political hypocrisy” (page 151 [1]). Stuart Rees distinguishes long term cruelties (suffered by  people in West Papua, Gaza, Western Sahara, and Saudi Arabia) from the relatively short term cruelties of relatively short-lived despotic regimes. He explores this further in “The usual victims” (“groups and individuals stigmatized as unworthy, as detestable, as deserving their treatment and even as not really human”  with examples including the Palestinians, Tamils, West Papuans, Coptic Christians, Rohingyas, Uighurs, Yemenis, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans), “Different types of war” (“slaughter first to avoid being killed later”, “cruelty is also inevitable when one country invades another”, and in peaceful civil society “Normality is success. Abnormality is failure”), “A policy language” (“Policies to promote domestic cruelties have been called rationalist, monetarist, neoliberal, laissez-faire and free… If cruel policies are to be presented as acceptable, camouflage and secrecy are imperative”), and “A common denominator” (bald denial by the perpetrators as exampled by mendacious Apartheid Israeli hasbara or propaganda).

Comment. Any deliberate and remorseless cruelty – from cruel imposition of poverty by  rich societies to the horrors of genocidal war – must be called out and the perpetrators  identified as “cruel” and accordingly subjected to public repugnance and abhorrence.

Chapter 8. Language for humanity.  This final chapter is about what language is appropriate for  overcoming the rampant cruelty that now through climate change inaction threatens to impose cruelty on our children, grandchildren and coming generations. Stuart Rees opines “A language for humanity includes questions of identity, ideals of humane governance and determination not to be  cruel to future generations” (page 161 [1]). Stuart Rees addresses these key demands in “Redefining humanity” (major issues of “justice, equality and survival of the planet”, “Humane regard for others includes determination to avoid cruelty to future generations”, opposing populism and authoritarianism), “Questions of identity” (addressing how the powerless can act as exampled by ways in which the Occupied Palestinians can achieve progress to justice), “Humane governance” (“Avoiding cruelty to future generations could be taken for granted if humane governance prevailed and guaranteed commitments to human rights”, “Human rights are identified with supporting evidence. Protection of the vulnerable is linked to visions of humane governance”), “Redefining human rights” (“Ethics in politics has been treated as irrelevant, requests for human rights fall on deaf ears and appeals to a general public to respect human rights create false optimism”, finding common ground with opponents on issues “not concerned with discrimination, cruelties and killing”, “Paradoxically, by ignoring reference to legalities, the principles of humanitarian law could be expressed and sustained”), “Redefining politics” ( “The victimization of Julian Assange because he dared to reveal truth about murders and mayhem in US wars , illustrates a cancerous cowardice, a might-is-right doctrine peppered with lies that WikiLeaks cables put live at risk”, “As global warning advances, so too [do] the tidal waves of human rights abuses, somehow justified by politicians who insist they are beyond politics”,  “Language to envisage a different politics addresses cowardice and courage, cruelty and compassion, collegiality rather than hierarchy”).

Comment. This final chapter increases our wavering confidence that we can somehow rise to the challenges facing Humanity.  The wisdom of Stuart Rees is that while it is vital to document how injustices,  cruelties and existential threats violate International Laws and basic human decencies (the Natural Law), the solutions or compromise solutions  can be counter-intuitive, and can involve seemingly intractable opponents finding themselves in furious agreement. Some examples variously illustrating this and from deep personal  interest are briefly outlined below:

(1). My great uncle George Polya,  a famous mathematician (and a pacifist), wrote a best- selling book “How To Solve It” (1945 first edition) in which he posited “understand the problem” as the key first step and then described various ways of solving seemingly intractable problems that are applicable to mathematical and other problem solving.

(2). My paternal grandfather Jeno  Polya (a brother of  George Polya) was a world famous surgeon who in the last years of his life before he was killed by the Nazis wrote “The Story of Medical Science” (1941) that was translated from Hungarian into English by my uncle Michael Polya. The final words of the book: “This is the end of the narrative but not of the story. It will never end as long as humane people inhabit the Earth. The struggle for the life and health of man will only cease with the last man”.

(3).  My dear late wife Zareena  née Lateef was from Fiji, all of her grandparents having been indentured labourers (5-year slaves) brought to Fiji from India to slave on British and Australian sugar cane plantations. My father-in-law Abdul Lateef MBE was a lawyer and MP who believed firmly in “all men are created equal” and helped in social improvement and  independence for Fiji. There have been 4 almost completely  bloodless coups in Fiji  conducted by  Melanesian Indigenous Fijians  over the issue of the roughly 50:50 Indian and Indigenous Fijian demographic dichotomy. However the last coup (2006) was conducted by the Indigenous Fijian-dominated Army to stop corruption and to protect the economically crucial Indian community. Fiji is today an example to the world of  multi-ethnic democracy.

(4). Inspired by the examples of democratic and multi-ethnic Fiji and post-Apartheid South Africa, I have long espoused the following humane solution for Palestine: a unitary state (a “one state solution”) as in post-Apartheid South Africa that would involve return of all refugees, zero tolerance for racism, equal rights for all, all human rights for all, one-person-one-vote, justice, goodwill, reconciliation, airport-level security, nuclear weapons removal, internationally-guaranteed national security initially based on the present armed forces, and untrammelled access for all citizens to all of Palestine. It can and should happen tomorrow.

(5). As a scientist I have long recognized that the key  existential threats to Humanity are nuclear weapons and climate change. One of Humanity’s greatest minds, Stephen Hawking has stated (2018): “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change”.  Effective action is technically possible on both threats,  and a big start on the nuclear threat would be global boycotts and  massive ratification  by states of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

(6). I love the personal freedoms of multi-party democracies but it has been argued by Jorgen Randers (a co-author  of the seminal 1972 “Limits to Growth “ report) that top-down action on climate change by a one-party China may be the last hope for Humanity because the short-termism and re-election obsessions of the Western democracies seem to preclude effective climate action. Powerful compromises could include (a) a resolute and no-exceptions adoption by one-party China and indeed obeyed thus  by all countries  of unimpaired human rights and all 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration  of Human Rights (with a register of every person in the world with rapid and independent assessment of compliance for every person),  and (b) a one–person-one-vote World Parliament  dedicated to economics,  sustainability  and the environment (in addition to the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council,  UN funded and supervised election campaigns,  with gender equality and strictly no national government interference).

(7). Guaranteed free speech for everybody and  with (a)  lying by commission and omission addressed publicly by independently funded experts, and (b) large rectangular, vertical  gravestone  monuments in every city and town simply listing  the circa 100 major famine, genocide and holocaust atrocities of past centuries and indeed past millennia, and listing estimates for each atrocity of deaths from violence and imposed deprivation.

(8). Don’t give up. I recently published a huge book “Climate Crisis, Climate Genocide & Solutions” that concluded thus: “At the present plus 1.0-1.2 C the World is being savaged by deadly high temperatures and global warming-exacerbated droughts, floods, forest fires, high energy intensity tropical storms, sea level rise, storm surges, massive ecosystem loss and irreversible Biodiversity loss.  A plus 1.5C is inevitable in the coming decade and in the face of remorselessly increasing CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere one concludes that a catastrophic plus 2C is effectively unavoidable. Nevertheless we are inescapably obliged to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” for our children, our grandchildren and future generations”.

Final comments.

Stuart Rees’ “Cruelty or Humanity” should be read and re-read by everyone and be in every personal, local, school, university, state and national library.  Hopefully this detailed and systematic review will assist understanding of this important book.  Stuart Rees has critically injected “cruelty” into public discussion of the presently rampant inhumanity. It must be reiterated that just as we utterly reject “cruelty”  by people in our immediate, personal lives, so we must identify all “cruelty” and regard the perpetrators with the same utter abhorrence.  Thus, our neoliberal politicians and corporate leaders  who impose “cruelty” on the vulnerable poor,  refugees  and future generations must be identified as “cruel” and as such utterly unfit for public life.


[1]. Stuart Rees, “Cruelty or Humanity. Challenges, opportunities, responsibilities”, Bristol University Press, 2020.

[2]. “List of genocides and holocausts”, Report Genocide: .

[3]. Dr Gideon Polya in Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Feasibility study on strengthening trade and investment with Israel: submissions”, April 2021: .

[4]. Gideon Polya, “Australia must stop Zionist subversion and join the World in comprehensive Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel and all its supporters”, Subversion of Australia, 15 April 2021: .

[5]. Gideon Polya, “Key Book Review: “Capital In The Twenty-First Century” By Thomas Piketty”, Countercurrents, 1 July, 2014: .

[6]. Gideon Polya, “Book Review: “Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics” By Brian Ellis –  Last Chance To Save Planet?”, Countercurrents,  19 August, 2012: .

[7]. Gideon Polya, “List of Genocides and Holocausts”,  Report Genocide, 2021: .

Dr Gideon Polya taught science students at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia over 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, notably a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds”. He has also published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” and “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History”. He has recently published “US-imposed Post-9-11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide” (2020)  and “Climate Crisis, Climate Genocide & Solutions” (2021). For images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see:  .

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