Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Guns Germs and Steel

Guns Germs and Steel

Last night I watched the last few minutes of a PBS program entitled Guns Germs and Steel. It was based upon a book by Jared Diamond that looks at world history and posits Europeans dominate the world because of several key factors: the domestication of crops and animals in Eurasia, advanced weapons technology and the fatal diseases that helped them wipe out most of the indigenous populations they came in contact with as they descended upon the globe like locusts. Of course Diamond’s piece while accurate about the devastation Europeans have wrought upon humanity spins it to make it look as if white rapine and domination are merely the luck of the geographic and genetic draw. Since I hadn’t seen the whole program, I went to the PBS Website and looked up the program and read the synapsis of the three part series. I saw the last part about Africa and the part I saw did mention how the invading Europeans suffered from malaria which the indigenous Africans had developed ingenious ways to combat and immune themselves from, the end of the program showed the usual propaganda about Africa, disease ravaged Africans dying in massive numbers from squalid conditions and malaria a disease their ancestors had developed ways to survived but where in this predicament because of European imperialism and barbarity.
Reading the synopsis of the series on the PBS Website was quite interesting . Diamond is a genuine academician but none the less he has his own cultural biases and blind spots. While it is true Eurasians domesticated animals and had access to wild crops like wheat, barley and rice Diamond’s account of history is less than accurate. Now keep in mind my position is based not on seeing the whole program but the reading the synopsis on the PBS Website and my own studies. Interestingly, Diamond’s series actually hails Sub-tropical African social organization and progress but says nothing about the Nile Valley. While Diamond’s documentary does mention the Fertile Crescent little is said about the Indus Valley or Sumer civilizations which were Africoid and black. And while it is true the Eurasians had access to the wild crops of rice barley and wheat and numerous domesticated animals that were not available in other sections of the ancient world, the Eurasians did not develop the types of settled urbanized civilizations and central government organizations that sprang up in the Nile, Indus, Mesopotamia or Yellow River valleys. In fact my reading of the material is a rehash of the typical white supremacist garbage even though Diamond attempts to be “objective”. As food gathers and hunters all humans migrated in search of fresh and abundant food sources. However at some point many groups settled and became sedentary because they were able to find ideal conditions of ample food or were able to cultivate and domesticate the crops they found or transported to new locations. I find it interesting Diamond came to the conclusion it was the luck of the draw and geography that allowed Europeans to dominate the world. A closer look may provide an alternative theory. Even Diamond pointed out in his segment on Africa, that the Zulus had created an empire through conquest albeit not the type of slashed earth, bloodletting conquests of the Europeans. A real question would be why were the Europeans so aggressive and ruthless? Why did they bring death and destruction everywhere they set foot on planet earth? Why did they come with the intent to rob and steal from the aboriginal people? In what ways if any, did geography directly influence the belligerent ways Europeans interacted with indigenous folk?
I must admit I am biased because from my perspective, Europeans are not smarter nor are they more resourceful than nay other group of humans. As their history clearly indicates they were just more barbaric. Think about this, if according to Diamond the Europeans had the raw materials i.e. the abundant crops and domesticated animals why didn’t they, build sedentary civilizations like those found in the Nile Valley, Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, the Andes or Mexico? What prompted their nomadic existence? Why are there no pyramids in Eurasia? There are numerous pyramids in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Nubia and even in South America, why none in Europe? Why is it the first time we see Caucasians in history they come on set as invaders, rapists and marauders? I agree with Diamond on one issue, the diseases the Europeans transported all over the world and their current propensity to use biological warfare for conquest are a major factor in their dominance as well as their obsession with weaponry, and killing. If conditions were so ripe for progress in Eurasia why was so much of their cultural activity devoted to war and plunder? Also why did Diamond focus on say smallpox when the Europeans also devastated and whipped out whole cultures with their venereal diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea?
When we look at the ancestry of the Indo-Europeans Diamond’s, theories while having some merit do not tell the whole story. Obviously there are moral and spiritual aspects Diamond fails to see or refused to recognize. What are the moral implications of the legacy of invasion, murder rapine and plunder of the Indo-Europeans. Obviously they thought and still think, judging by their modern decedents (the British and AmeriKKKans) it is okay to invade, murder, rob and plunder. We see that being played out in current events today. But then again that is the basic premise of Diamond’s work.
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