I usually buy Malcolm Gladwell’s books with my eyes closed. There is always something you can glean from his writing that goes beyond the original advertised message.
At least that’s what I thought when I picked up his latest book, “The Bomber Mafia”. I was expecting an anecdotal analysis of the strange workings of the human mind, or its collective manifestation. I wasn’t expecting a historical sojourn.
I am still trying to fathom the overarching message which Malcolm wants to convey in this book. Usually, this is very evident from the onset, as Malcolm himself would underscore it. Even his previous book “Talking to Strangers” had this leitmotif approach to writing. The Bomber mafia is however different.
It is a story of a clash of ideas and morals. On the one hand you have lofty ideals of the so-called Bomber mafia, who at the peak of World War II strongly believed in bombing of strategic targets so as to inflict the least collateral damage. Then on the other, you have the gritty and driven general who believed his job was to end war in the fastest way, by any means possible – even if it involved levelling down a country.
The book highlights this dichotomy of morality – do you want to save lives but prolong the duration of war, or be the harbinger of death and destruction driven by the intent to end war swiftly? How far would you go to achieve on or the other?
I think Malcolm’s “The Bomber Mafia” still remains a story of human struggle. Would you give up your long standing morals and beliefs in the face of failure and pivot to new modalities, shifting your ideals drastically in the process – or stand your guns with strong conviction in consideration of the greater good, even if it means ostracization, or failure? When do results matter more than their fallout? Who makes the call? How do you make that call?
Malcolm Gladwell’s writings are now making a transition – they no longer showcase the human condition. They question it.