Steven Pinker's Favorite Thing: A Chunk of the Berlin Wall


Best-selling author, scientific polymath, and friend of Reason (in every sense of the term) Steven Pinker appeared recently on the podcast Person, Place, and Thing, in which guests lay out their top picks in each category. The half-hour conversation is worth listening to in full, but I wanted to draw attention to Pinker's "thing": a chunk of the Berlin Wall given to him by his father.

Pinker explains:

It means something to me as a human being who lived through this just stupendous event in human history: Namely, a gargantuan totalitarian empire vanished overnight, with no violence. Now, this is just astonishing.

The Berlin Wall discussion starts around the 18-minute mark. Click above to listen.

Follow Pinker on Twitter: @sapinker

Don't miss Ron Bailey's 2011 interview with Pinker about his great (and controversial) book The Better Angels of Our Nature:

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  1. I have big chunk of the Berlin Wall that I hauled around during a German-class trip to Germany in April of 1990. Border guards were asking for $5 just for a handshake. I bought a border guard hat out of the back of a beat up Trabat for $15. The piece of the Wall is great with graffiti and all but it was heavy as Berlin was the first city we went to after flying into Frankfurt.

    Ironically, my family just moved to W?rzburg and as we were unpacking a random box I pulled out a very heavy item wrapped in paper. The Wall had returned to Germany with me. Also present was my East Germany travel visa. You can’t get those anymore I would gather.

    1. East Germany travel visa. You can’t get those anymore I would gather.

      You could barely get them when there was and East Germany.

  2. Is it just me, or does that guy look like Wormtoungue?

  3. East Germany was a trip. I visited a couple times in 1986. Even the touristiest parts of East Berlin were unbelievably depressing and shabby, and it’s not like any of the citizens were under any illusions what was going on.

  4. I gave my brother a piece of the Berlin Wall for Christmas when I was a kid. He didn’t really appreciate it at the time. They were actually selling them as souveniers in shops in the mall. Just a small piece, about the size of a large marble, but it came with a certificate of authenticity and everything. Years later he told me he’d lost it but now wished he hadn’t, cause it was one of the best things he’d ever gotten.

  5. Interesting that he would mention mafia related violence which it seems he does not connect with prohibition (government).

  6. I like how uncomfortable the host is with the fact that the world is a better place without the Soviet Union.

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