All the Trouble in the World, by P.J. O’Rourke; Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd 1994; 340 pages; $20.00 paperback

Everyone will enjoy this book. Well, everyone except paranormalists, ecological alarmists, pseudo-scientists, feminists, left-wingers, the entire New Age community, and of course those eternally doom-ridden types who seem determined to drag everyone else down to their own level of self-imposed suffering.

My only complaint — and it is a grievous one — is that O’Rourke prefaces the book with the exact same H.L. Mencken quote that I was on the brink of using myself. (Call it a coincidence if you want, but the odds of such a thing happening strike me as so slim it’s hard to avoid thinking that some form of telepathy was at play.)

The quote in question appears in one of Mencken’s autobiographical books, Newspaper Days, written in 1941, wherein he refers to a formula he devised way back in the ’20s. He called it Mencken’s Law and it goes like this: “Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretence of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.”

This was Mencken’s way of describing the same political correctness that plagues us today. The same old notion of virtue-on-the-cheap that has been annoying and injuring B since…Adam, probably. In Mencken’s time such nonsense led to Prohibition.

All the Trouble in the World opens with the line “This is a moment of hope in history. Why doesn’t anybody say so?”, which pretty much sums up what the book is about.

His general thesis here is that we are living in great and exciting times, and that humanity is better off now than it has ever been. But thanks to ecological despair mongers, whinging leftists, and the apocalyptic messages of the New Agers and Born Again Armageddonites, who believe that the only road to salvation is to abandon all rational thought and embrace the teachings of the fairy dust queen, we have been bamboozled into thinking that the monsters of ruin and disaster are breathing down our very necks.

The book is subtitled “the lighter side of famine, pestilence, destruction and death”, and to look at the whys and wherefores of all this O’Rourke takes us on a hilarious romp to countries where such things are taking place, including Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Haiti and the Amazon, resulting in a travelogue guaranteed to send the painfully virtuous on a book-burning spree.

Like all of O’Rourke’s writing, the style is garrulous, comical and fun to read; the content well informed and the reporting first-rate. Unfortunately, there is no outright O’Rourkian madness such as we find in Republican Party Reptile — “How to Drive Drunk While Getting Your Wing Wang Squeezed Without Spilling Your Drink”, for instance — but such failings aside, I would not hesitate to put All the Trouble in the World on any skeptic’s reading list.

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