“…[S]ince 2019, we’ve been experiencing our share of setbacks and challenges…the sustained and devastating bushfire season of 2019-2020; the floods that engulfed entire towns; and the COVID-19 pandemic…punctuated by lockdowns, mask wearing, physical distancing, home-schooling, working remotely and all the other changes to our lives that increased the risk of social isolation”, says leading social psychologist and bestselling author, Hugh Mackay, in his latest book, The Way We Are: lessons from a lifetime of listening. Canberra based, Hugh recently presented at Muse in Kingston, discussing with Canberra Times journalist, Sally Pryor, the book which represents a compilation of his work throughout 65 years as a social researcher. He tells us that “we are born to cooperate…neuroscientists tell us there is no ‘competitive centre’ in the human brain”. So, being competitive is a socially-conditioned form of behaviour which is “at odds with our essentially cooperative human nature”. And underlying this are our need for and benefits of staying in touch with each other: “We need communities and communities need us”. “When a flood sweeps through your town, you won’t be worried about anyone’s sexual orientation or religious convictions or cultural preferences. You’ll be lending a hand to anyone in strife, you’ll simply be a member of a community pulling together.” Hugh highlights various issues in Australia, which may be uncomfortable for some people to hear, including societal changes and trends which aren’t to everyone’s benefit; the treatment of asylum-seekers; billions being spent on nuclear-powered submarines that may or may not be in service by the 2050s; tax cut beneficiaries; poverty; and the demise of organisations which had previously helped to keep us together, often resulting now in loneliness, anxiety and depression. Not surprisingly given Hugh’s expertise and knowledge, The Way We Are: lessons from a lifetime of listening is a great read, very well written and packed with invaluable information and insights. As such, it’s likely to encourage thought among many readers about what kind of society we would want to become. Apart from extensive experience in social analysis, psychology, communication and ethics, Hugh has authored nine novels, been a long-time weekly newspaper columnist, and is an honorary professor at the ANU’s School of Medicine and Psychology, a member of the Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Society of New South Wales. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by five Australian universities and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2015.