5 thoughts on “Jared Diamond’s New Book”

  1. I enjoyed “Collapse”, but this review gives me pause. If true, this book won’t be appearing in my library.

    The review lists the following as suggestion for America by Diamond

    “dedicating more resources to mediation as an alternative to civil lawsuits, establishing “conventional monopolies” to smooth out trade fluctuations, deemphasizing competition and the desire for excellence among children, on-demand nursing for infants, spending more time talking to our children, devising new living conditions for the elderly, accepting that the gulf between rich and poor in the United States provides an explanation of the popularity of religion in our country, preserving language diversity, and ending obesity.”

    Mediation instead of lawsuits… I can see that being a good idea, but largely, we already have it; that’s why so many contracts assign dispute to binding arbitration.

    Spending more time talking to children.. I’m not a parent and have no desire to be one, so I have no clue if this is a good idea or not. It sounds good to me, but I don’t understand children well enough to have a viable opinion.

    Devising new living conditions for the elderly? That could mean anything, good or bad.

    As for the rest: awful ideas!!

    I disagree with the reviewer in one place through, the “self-indulgent” claim near the end, for including an example of a language. I found that interesting. (though would not have had he done it more than once.).

    1. I disagree with the reviewer in one place through, the “self-indulgent” claim near the end, for including an example of a language. I found that interesting.

      I wondered whether Schake realized that the words were in English (sort of), and that’s why the excerpt was interesting. If the language had been French or Tagalog, yeah, I might’ve thought Diamond was preening.

  2. It’s the same classic “noble savage” trope in a new form. People look at primitive societies and they see what they want to see, and they avoid seeing what they don’t want to. And, of course, because these folks never bother to actually practice what they preach it makes it all that much easier to hold up these societies as models to be imitated.

    In truth there is a lot of bad with any of the good. Often small tribes tend to be, well, rather tribal, and racist, and oppressive. I find it quite fascinating how “liberal” thinkers idealize these societies that are regressive and stultifyingly traditionalist. These societies aren’t exactly all that tolerant of free thinkers who buck societal trends.

  3. My trig teacher once noted to our class that Trigonometry is a closed field of mathematics. There are, he said, no open trigonometric questions. Everything that can be known about triangles is already known.

    Diamond, I think, is an anthropologist who sees Anthropology rapidly approaching the status of a closed field of study also and doesn’t like it. I believe it has been something like 40 or more years since the last previously uncontacted primitive society was discovered. Primitive societies everywhere are in decline, have been for centuries, and the small ones – and their languages – are going extinct at an accelerating rate.

    The Anthro establishment thinks this is tragic. There is even a magazine called Cultural Survival that seems to exist mainly as a forum for public hand-wringing and wind-pissery over this trend. For a humorous treatment of this subject, rent, buy or download the movie Krippendorf’s Tribe from a few years ago. It’s quite good and based on the premise that the ratio of university Anthro profs to remaining primitive tribes is becoming like the ratio of Agriculture Department employees to actual farmers.

    At one time, I seriously considered putting up a website to be called Cultural Extinction as a counterpoint to Cultural Survival. It would have gleefully chronicled each documented cultural and linguistic extinction and offered such diversions as betting pools on which of several tiny drain-circling tribes of doomed primitives were going to be next to go. But it looked to be a lot of work and offered no real prospect of downstream monetization and so I let it slide. Anyone with sufficient interest and time on their hands – and a taste for bear-baiting the academic Left – is welcome to take the idea and run with it.

    I still think that one of the signal accomplishments of the 21st century should be the extinction of tribalism as an extant cultural form. Static primitives have nothing to teach the rest of us. Anyone who idealizes traditional societies has simply announced, by implication, that he is unfit to be the owner of frontal cortex. I do not see existing until the next extinction-level event occurs on planet Earth as merely the smartest type of monkey in the forest as a worthy aspiration for anyone who regards themselves as fully human.

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