[Marxism] Jared Diamond: what an idiot
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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