We, humans, are different from one another, different between ourselves as individuals. Hardly anyone will argue with this indisputable fact of nature. Why then will I dwell on it? The reason is that my working on the topic has led me, and hopefully will lead the reader, to some far-reaching thoughts.
The book entertains the two primary themes alluded to in its title. One theme is aiming at developing appreciation for the multitude of variables and complex interplays between them that reflect upon the differences. We will also ascertain an empirically obvious fact that the variances in the values of any variable are large. The other theme concerns with the enormity of the implications of being different. Our goal is to assert that the property of being different is at the root of a number of social phenomena which we have had difficulties to understand and, or because of that, have kept unsuccessfully fighting against.
The book, as I would like to see it, is of a scholarly character. For one, I have avoided political and any other biases as fully as humanly possible. For two, reasoning is intended to be the primary piece of the book's weaponry.
You will notice that certain methodological tactics permeate the book. I will start with something so obvious that hardly anyone would argue with, and then build on it, sometimes up to the borders with political controversy and factual sloppiness. I am also often appealing to the reader's, as well as my own personal experiences.
Where I list examples and references to historical situations, you will often find that I have missed more significant cases and that the list is too short. First, please treat this edition as an abstract. Second, I would really like to get you into an argumentative mood so that you start thinking of other and better examples and then conclude that either you agree or disagree with me.
The ideas presented in the book started to brew two decades ago. More or less organized sketches date back to January of 1991. But I have only been able to concentrate on the writing during the last six months. The first forewarning of the book came out on its web site at the end of October, 1998. The first two Case Studies were released on the web site on January 27, 1999.
As I have already mentioned, the book has to be viewed as an expanded abstract. I intended initially to put all the material together, but by mid-1999 started to sense that it would take another year. In addition to this, I was under pressure to publish whatever I could assemble before the year 1999 is over.
The book is divided into parts (Foreword, We Are Different and so on), a part may contain chapters, and a chapter may contain sections.
There are no illusions about the book gaining a wide readership. Its audience would be the kind of people who take pains in thinking about such unearthly themes as the history and present state of human societies, their possible evolutions and destiny, the order and governance, freedoms and their inevitable limitations, fairness and its rarity, the strengths and shortcomings of democracy, free markets and autocracy, the peculiarities of our individual characters, the origins of our achievements and misfortunes, the environmental eventualities, and, sliding to a lighter side, life on other planets and the possibility of highly advanced celestial visitors taking a purely gastronomical interest in us. The following circles come to mind: university students in humanities and pure mathematics, employed philosophers and unemployed economists and executives, and a person here and a person there from any walk of life. Futurists and visionaries? I don't think so; they already understand all and know the future. I hope to strike a chord, first of all, with young people of various persuasions, and of course with those of all ages who have not rusted away from concerns beyond the pressures of the day. Collectively, I would associate the people who might be interested with these traits of character: spirituality, intellect, civic duty and pragmatism.
Reader feedbacks regarding any aspect of the book, both supportive and critical, are welcome, especially those that will bring to my attention relevant facts, organizations, publications, unpublished and ongoing works, etc. As to the criticism, whether or not it is put forth in a friendly way and sounds nicely is not important, as long as it is constructive. Readers' input will serve as a guide, a compass so to speak, in my further efforts. Ideally, I would like to have another edition of the book written with the readers involvement. All contributions will be acknowledged, provided the publisher has the explicitly stated permission of the contributor.
And, maybe (dreaming on!), the book and debates around it will stimulate others to take upon the gray areas and arguable issues, wherever their competencies may lie.
I beg the reader not to judge this book as a literary work. With my second-language English, it cannot possibly be a fine piece of linguistics. Although my good friends Arnold Rose and Randy Carey have tried to make my English more palatable, I am sure a fair number of grammatical errors and stylistic imperfections remains, for which the responsibility is solely mine.
My good old friend Gregory G. Menshikov has helped me with recalling some particulars of the Soviet past.
My son Dan Shakhmundes has sprinkled his imagination onto the book's cover.
The publisher's addresses as well as the book's web site domain name are shown on the copyright page.
November 9, 1999
This page was last updated on November 19, 1999
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