[Marxism] Jared Diamond: what an idiot

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jan 12 10:08:11 MST 2014

Sunday NY Times Magazine, JAN. 10, 2014
Jared Diamond: ‘New Guinean Kids Are Not Brats’

Interview by AMY CHOZICK

Q: Your latest book, “The World Until Yesterday,” is about traditional 
societies and your research in New Guinea. Why is the acronym Weird 
central to the book?

A: In Weird — Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic — 
societies we take these things for granted that just didn’t exist 
anywhere in the world until a few thousand years ago. We encounter 
strangers, and it’s normal, and we don’t freak out and try to kill them. 
We eat food that somebody else grew for us. We have a government with 
police and lawyers to settle disputes.

Q: Then why are traditional societies better at dispute resolution?

A: Weird societies are big and have laws that govern how you behave with 
strangers. In traditional societies, you know everyone and you’re going 
to be dealing with them for the next 50 years of your life. So, dispute 
resolution aims to achieve emotional closure.

Q: On the other hand, the book has been criticized for saying 
traditional societies are very violent.

A: Some people take a view of traditional society as being peaceful and 
gentle. But the proportional rate of violent death is much higher in 
traditional societies than in state-level societies, where governments 
assert a monopoly on force. During World War II, until Aug. 14, 1945, 
American soldiers who killed Japanese got medals. On Aug. 16, American 
soldiers who killed Japanese were guilty of murder. A state can end war, 
but a traditional society cannot.

Q: People have called the book racist, saying it suggests third-world 
poverty is caused by environmental factors instead of imperialism and 

A: It’s clearly nonsense. It’s not as if people in certain parts of the 
world were rich until Europeans came along and they suddenly became 
poor. Before that, there were big differences in technology, military 
power and the development of centralized government around the world. 
That’s a fact.

Q: But does that suggest that the rich will always be rich and the poor 
will always be poor?

A: Nonsense. There are certain geographies that make it easier to be 
rich than others. In modern times, there have been nations that looked 
at their geography, addressed its problems and became suddenly rich. 
South Korea was really poor in 1950, and today it has a first-world economy.

Q: In the book, you offer some traditional advice for Weird people, like 
an on-demand approach to breast-feeding. How could that work for modern 

A: It’s not possible for us to adopt everything good about traditional 
societies. A 35-year-old congresswoman won’t breast-feed while she’s 
giving a speech.

Q: You also write that people in traditional societies are not lonely. 
How do you know that?

A: They’re talking with each other constantly. In New Guinea, people 
spend their lives with the people with whom they grew up. Of the people 
that I knew before I was 10 years old, there are only two with whom I’m 
still in contact.

Q: Is it true that you raised your sons, Max and Joshua, like Pygmies?

A: Yes, but we did not go to what I would consider the extremes. In 
traditional societies, children are allowed to make their own decisions, 
so we let them make their own decisions within reason, with some 
surprising results. When Max was 3 years old, he saw his first snake, 
and he demanded one as a pet. We bought him a nonpoisonous snake, and 
eventually he had 147 different pets: snakes, frogs, salamanders and 
other reptiles and amphibians.

Q: That approach to parenting could be seen as spoiling children. A: 
Theoretically yes and in practice no. I think you get brats when you 
raise children who are told what to do for seven hours a day and in the 
remaining one or two hours they express their will, which has been 
frustrated all day. New Guinean kids are not brats, and my kids were not 

Q: Have your children been to New Guinea?

A: No, it’s too dangerous.

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