The British Empire Library

Humankind? Planet Earth's Most Enigmatic Species

by Arcas (Stanley E. Jewkes)

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by C. Mary Turnbull (Malayan Civil Service 1952-55; Universities of Malaya and Singapore 1955-71; University of Hong Kong 1971-88)
An American citizen but educated in England, Stanley Jewkes began his long career in the Malayan Public Works Department in the 1930s. An engineering officer in the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force during the Japanese invasion, he escaped just before Singapore fell and served the rest of World War II in the Indian Army. Returning to Malaya after the liberation, Jewkes rose to be Director of Pubhc Works in the post-Independence period, retiring in 1962 to spend the next 25 years as a consultant to the United Nations and various governments in Africa, the Middle East, South-East Asia and other problem areas in the developing world.

In what the author describes as a series of essays in which 'a human journeying through a brief moment in time observes the behaviour of an ancient planet's new enigmatic species, and on the way batters a few of the species' idols'. Humankind sets out to analyse the impact of human evolution on religion, economic systems and political governance: the conflict between genetic inheritance and learned behaviour, which sets cruelty against compassion and the desire for dominance against self-sacrifice, often within the same individual or society. Jewkes illuminates his arguments with anecdotes drawn from his own unique experience, and he chooses to write under the nom-de-plume ARCAS, the founder of the idyllic Arcadia of Greek mythology, in the hope that his philosophy may enhance understanding between people of different ethnicities and religious beliefs.

No doubt biologists, astronomers, theologians and political theorists will find much to dispute in Jewkes's culling of their own particular sacred cows, but his most vigorous battle is waged on modern economists, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Readers of this journal will probably be most interested in his convincing indictment of the fashionable theories which have wrecked many post-colonial development schemes, to which a large part of the book is devoted and which dominated the second half of his career. Claiming that economics is 'an art form rather than a science', since it deals with 'human needs, desires and accomplishments', Jewkes shows a healthy scepticism about the confusion of money with 'real wealth' and the reliance of modern economics on rigid mathematical theory, optimum profit and crude statistics, ignoring human behaviour and common sense, or what Jewkes terms 'fuzzy logic'. Behind a sometimes light-hearted treatment, the book conveys a serious - indeed sombre - message. Looking to the future in a chapter entitled 'Chaos or a Brave New World', Jewkes concludes that the two greatest threats to humankind are the destmction of the ecosystem through population pressures and mass killings, aggravated by religious fanaticism, together with the hunger for money and the unequal distribution of wealth. He argues that the age-old horror of massacres and the destruction of environments have now reached a global scale, together with the ability of financial predators to make and destroy money at 'near the speed of light.'

In order to solve these problems, Jewkes argues that this 'disparate predatorial species' must surrender some freedom of action to more authoritative international governance than the present divided United Nations. He urges strong and united leadership to enforce international legislation to prevent war, weapons of mass destruction, religious fanaticism and terrorism, wrecking of the planet's ecocsystem, and excessive population growth, and to provide a stable international monetary exchange, guarantee fair and equitable treatment for all humankind, and a fair distribution of real wealth. Otherwise he predicts a likely nuclear winter in which 'the species could eventually self-destruct'.

Perhaps not wishing to end on this sobering note, the book concludes with an Epilogue on 'The Noble Female of the Species - The Brave Women of Pompong'. In this detailed and harrowing account of Jewkes's escape from Singapore and the ordeals of his fellow escapees, he observes that, while few men were willing to risk their freedom or their lives to save strangers, the women involved invariably showed compassion and self sacrifice. Reverting to his original premise about evolution, on which the book's thesis is based, he cites this story to illustrate the anomaly between mammalian care for others and ruthless reptilian struggles to survive and dominate, which characterise the enigmatic humankind.

British Empire Book
Arcas (Stanley E. Jewkes)
First Books Library
0 7596 8787 0


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe