"We should not romanticise traditional societies he says. "There are horrible things that we want to avoid, but there wonderful things that we should emulate." take the example of child rearing. Far from being harsh towards children, many tribes and groups adopt highly permissive attitudes. "I mean good permissive in that it is an absolute no-no to punish a child. If a mother or father among African pygmies hits a child, that would be grounds for divorce. There is no physical punishment allowed at all in these societies. If a child plays with a sharp knife and waves it around, so. They will cut themselves on some occasions, but society figures it is better for the child to learn the hard way early in life.
Several challenge diamond's claim that the fate suffered by the easter Islanders was self-inflicted, for example. Slave raids and diseases introduced by europeans were the real causes of depopulation, not civil war, while feral animals were the reason for the island's environmental collapse, they state. Most reviews for all diamond's books have dream generally been favourable, however. Writing in the new Yorker (about Collapse malcolm Gladwell praised the importance that diamond places on biological issues when it comes to studying cultures and societies. Praising ourselves for being civilised is no guarantee of survival, says Gladwell. "We can be law-abiding and peace-loving and tolerant and inventive and committed to freedom and true to our own values and still behave in ways that are biologically suicidal." The same vexed issue lurks at the back of diamond's writing: humanity's increasing dissonance with the. He describes how small groups of humans ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred hunter-gatherers survived several ice ages, kept close to nature and still managed to conquer the world. "I believe the few remaining tribes and nomad groups left on the planet have a great deal to teach us he says and it is this belief that inspired The world Until Yesterday. Some tribal customs, such as widow-strangling, will not be missed, of course.
Painted on a larger canvas, the fate of the people of Easter Island could therefore be repeated for the whole planet unless we take action. There are no great heroes or leaders according to the narratives. The pages of, the Third Chimpanze, guns, germs and Steel, and, collapse contain no Churchills, no hitlers and no genghis Khans. This is history stripped of its personalities, its nameless human protagonists hovering at the edge of extinction in an environmentally unfriendly world. Some anthropologists resent diamond's assumption that individuals play no real role in the grand sweep of historical affairs. These critics claim that men and women are depicted not as conscious agents but as helpless pawns of their environment by diamond, that he underplays the importance of human initiative. Diamond argues that the collapse of the easter Islanders civilisation was self-inflicted, due to their degradation of the local habitat. Photograph: Art Wolfe/Getty Images Other critics make more particular accusations.
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The first, The rise and pay Fall of narrative the Third Chimpanzee, appeared in 1992, its title referring to homo sapiens, who are depicted by diamond as a species of chimpanzee that is increasingly out of kilter with the natural world, particularly since the invention of agriculture. With the arrival of farming, diamond argues, women were subjected to domestic drudgery; people started to hoard resources and wealth; and our proximity to animals triggered disease epidemics that still threaten to overwhelm. "With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence he states. The Third Chimpanzee won the royal Society prize for science books that year. Guns, germs and Steel came next, with diamond adding a new sin to those introduced by the first farmers: colonialism, including as we have already mentioned the enslaving of the Inca people by the conquistadors of Spain. Then, in 2005, came.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to fail or Survive. Here he attempted to answer another basic question about the human species: why do some cultures implode and disintegrate because their members destroy their own habitats while other cultures maintain a careful ecological balance? Why did the vikings perish in 16th-century Greenland while the Inuit flourished? Why did the ancient mayans wreck their own ecology by stripping their lands of forests, thus triggering the soil erosion and starvation that caused the collapse of their civilisation? And, most poignantly of all, why did the people of Easter Island chop down every tree on their remote island and so maroon themselves in the middle of the pacific, where they eventually descended into civil war and cannibalism? In tackling this question, diamond identifies several factors which help to explain why societies collapse: political intransigence, climatic change, loss of trade, attacks by neighbours and self-imposed environmental degradation. Crucially, these factors are now operating at a global scale, he says.
Diamond today seems fit and self-confident, and, although he is now 75, he assures me he still takes field study trips every year or two to new guinea. For several decades, he has camped in its forests with local tribes, studied their habits and watched as they have embarked on endless raids and bouts of conciliation. "It has been an utterly fascinating experience, " he says, "and the initial motivation for writing. The world Until Yesterday was to share my times in New guinea over the past 50 years and to show what the people have taught.". Jared diamond in New guinea in the 80s. Photograph: courtesy of Jared diamond.
Diamond came to his field from an odd angle. His father, louis, was a distinguished paediatrician and expert on blood diseases, while his mother, Flora kaplan, was a concert pianist and linguist. Both parents came from east European Jewish families who escaped the pogroms of the early 20th century and who settled in Boston where diamond grew up, leaving him with a husky, mellifluous New England drawl in which his vowels seem stretched near to bursting point. Jared followed his father into medicine and studied physiology at Harvard and later Cambridge before becoming an expert in salt transfer processes in the human gall bladder. In his 20s, diamond swapped subjects to take up ornithology, which took him to new guinea. (he is the author of several academic works on the island's birds.) There he became fascinated by its various native societies, and he turned finally to the field of cultural anthropology and sociology. He is currently a professor of geography at the University of California, los Angeles. Since moving to la, diamond has produced a series of books that have propelled him to fame.
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The book's message is simple but politically charged: there is nothing special or innately superior about western people. They are not the master race. They are simply geographically privileged. Guns, germs and Steel has been praised for its erudition, clear prose and elegant syntheses of multiple sources, from archaeology to zoology. One us reviewer hailed it for being "Darwinian in its authority" while in the. Observer we described it as "a book of extraordinary vision and confidence". The mattress book won. Pulitzer prize ; was mi"d by mitt Romney during last year's us presidential campaigns; and spawned a number of sound-a-like works, including Peter Nowak's history of modern America: Sex, bombs and Burgers.
Diamond has no truck with that thesis. Europe became a power base because its nations grew out of the first farming societies, which arose in the middle east 8,000 years ago, he says. And agriculture first appeared there because the world's most easily domesticable animals, including sheep, cattle and horses, were found there. With this head start, europe sas was able to maintain a level of food production that allowed the first political states and military power bases to materialise. Guns and steel were invented there and were then used to conquer the rest of the world. Lacking these technologies, the Incas had little chance against the Spanish. Germs "Europe's sinister gift to other continents" followed in our wake.
useful nuggets of tribal life before it is finally destroyed by the spread of nations and states. The world Until Yesterday is diamond's latest foray into a field that he has virtually made his own the biological analysis of human history and will be eagerly awaited by a global army of loyal readers. While traditional historians concentrate on treaties and successions, diamond has concerned himself with the ecological constraints that influence the fate of a particular nation or state. Consider diamond's astonishingly successful, guns, germs and Steel, which has sold more than.5m copies since its publication in 1998. It was written to provide an answer to a basic question: why did Spain conquer the Incas and not the other way round? Or to put it in more general terms, why did the nations of the west prosper at the expense of the rest of the world? Historians have tended to avoid this question or have alluded to the innate intellectual vigour and genetic strength which, they have suggested, are possessed by western people.
So, in order to shame him into killing her, the widow marched through her village shouting that her son did not want to strangle her because he wanted to have sex with her instead." Humiliated, the son eventually killed his mother. Widow-strangling occurred because the kaulong you believed male spirits needed the company of females to survive the after-life. It is a grotesque notion but certainly not the only fantastic idea to have gripped traditional societies, says diamond. Other habits have included infanticide and outbreaks of war between neighbours, though these are balanced with many cases of care and compassion, particularly for the elderly, and a concern for the environment that shames the west. "We have virtually abandoned living in traditional societies explains diamond when we meet. "But this was the only way of life that humans knew for their first 6m years on the planet. In giving it up over the past few thousand years, we have lost our vulnerability to disease and cold and wild animals, but we have also lost good ways to bring up children, look after old people, stave off diabetes and heart disease and understand. Diamond is wearing a bright red jacket, checked trousers, a carefully ironed shirt and a tie.
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The kaulong people of New Britain used to have an extreme way of dealing with families in mourning. Until the 1950s, newly widowed women on the island off New guinea were strangled by their husband's brothers or, in their absence, by one of their own sons. Custom dictated no other course of action. Failure to comply meant dishonour, and widows would make a point of demanding strangulation as movie soon as their husbands had expired. The impact on families was emotionally shattering,. Jared diamond makes clear in his latest book, the world Until Yesterday. "In one case, a widow whose brothers-in-law were absent ordered her own son to strangle her he says. "But he could not bring himself to. It was too horrible.