Friday, November 23, 2007

Recommended Reading

Along w/ brad's pimping of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, may I recommend, esp. for all (both?) the Asymmetrical Info. partisans who drop by here to read clear, concise writing for a change, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. Not that I, being essentially post-literate, have read it, but I've seen the PBS/National Geographic program based on it, & it's a fascinating debunking of the myth of American & Western European exceptionalism, whether based on genetics, "good/bad choices," or Jeebus & the moral superiority he & Joseph Smith grant the lighter-skinned.

From the Wikipedia synopsis:

Diamond found that he had no good answer. He says that the same sort of question seems to apply elsewhere: "People of Eurasian origin... dominate the world in wealth and power." Other peoples, having thrown off colonial domination, lag in wealth and power. Still others, he says, "have been decimated, subjugated, and in some cases even exterminated by European colonialists." (p. 15) He says that, unable to find a satisfactory explanation from the best-known accounts of history, he decided to make his own investigation to seek the root causes of Eurasian dominance.
The PBS/Nat. Geo. presentation is available from Google™ Video. Forget that football game, curl up w/ your computer & learn something.

Bouffe adds (23 Nov. @ 2023):

Piece of garbage Google™ video thing is not working on my devil-box, as compatibility between Flash & Idiot Exploder 7 seems to have gone the way of all flesh again. Where's this much bally-hooed "efficiency" we hear so much about? If it's not working for you either, try the convenient link if you really care.


spencer said...

I second that recommendation of Guns, Germs and Steel - and I've actually read it, for whatever that's worth.

(As an aside, Jared Diamond came to my university on a speaking tour, and the grad students in my department were treated to an intimate, hour-long Q-and-A session with the man. With the very first question, one of my classmates actually made Diamond cry. It was quite weird and unsettling.)

Anonymous said...

I have to say, Diamond needed a good editor for that one. You get the feeling that it was written in fits and starts -- in the short bursts of time he had between his other work -- so he ends up repeating the same points and the same arguments in each chapter, forgetting that he had made those points already. So the book is about twice as thick as it needs to be.

He also lapses into circular reasoning in places. He argues that cultures in some continents lagged behind Eurasia in terms of technology, because they lacked large animals suitable for domestication as beasts of burden... the evidence that none of the animals available to them were suitable, is simply that no-one managed to domesticate them.

Couldn't endure the National Geographic version at all.
[Exit, grumbling about short American attention spans].

M. Bouffant said...

Well, Herr Doktor, perhaps your Antipodean attention span is lengthier because Yanks haven't the time to sit around & "read" stuff, as we're too busy subjugating the rest of the world to our peculiar visions of democracy & free markets. We may soon be coming to your neighborhood. I understand there are many fifth columnists already in place.

'Tis a bit ironic for you to slag us for our limited brain capacity just after complaining about the length of a book, though. My real point not being to pimp anything other than the M. Bouffant Survival Fund, but to point out that it's the random chance of birth/geography that determines individual & cultural success, not mere hard work & the blessings of Gawd on a Christian nation, as certain econobuggers would have us believe.

And thanks to Spencer (new name, same avatar?) for some back up, 'though he is just a goofy ol' American. We're all on the edge of our seats wondering what question made J. D. cry. I'll admit to regretting not having read GG&S when I was a wage-slave in a book store. There were piles of the trade paperback all over the place. However inadequate the telebision version may have been, this simpleton enjoyed it.

(Jeezis, that Doktor Bimler is a helpful sort, but he's just never satisfied, is he?)

Anonymous said...

More to the point, Jared Diamond is not as cute as Binkley the Cat.

spencer said...

Yes, I dropped the pseudonym because it was getting to be a pain in the ass to remember more than one account / password combination.

At any rate, the question that made JD cry had something to do with his experiences in World War 2 - apparently he participated in the liberation of a concentration camp, IIRC (which I may not). The question itself seemed pretty broad and certainly didn't require JD to dig that far into his own experience, which is why the crying caught us all by surprise - but then again, I can only imagine how horrific that event must have been for him, and how difficult it may be to keep those feelings from returning to the surface.

Diamond's a hell of a nice guy, too.

brad said...

No one is as cute as Binkley. Except maybe Zooey Deschanel.
I was further south than you are, Fishbone McSpencer, off the coast of Ft. Myers. Thankfully not the mainland, but an island in the Gulf.