“Guns, Germs, and Steel: The roots of Inequity” Documentary Review


Spotted on akaTito’s Blog

A native New Guinean asks, “Why do you white men have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little?” Cargo in this instance is a reference to general material possessions. The author of this bookdocumentary asserts that the idea of any race being intellectually superior is absurd, but still he is unable to answer the question. Why didn’t the people of New Guinea create metal tools or build large cities?

Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, is a scientist who set out to understand the path of human history. His hypothesis is simple: through the advancement of guns (military power), germs (the spread of and immunity to diseases), and steel (that advancement of technology) certain cultures have been able to flourish and dominate others.

He begins in New Guinea where their lifestyle has remained basically unchanged for thousands of years. New Guinea is a fairly remote island with scarce food sources. The men spend most of their time hunting small animals and the women gather vegetation. The main source of vegetation on that island is very hard to process, cannot be stored for long periods of time, and is low in protein.

We then take a journey back in time to the once fertile middle east. In the midst of an 1,000 year drought the hunters/gathers of that time were forced to travel long distances to find food. They survived by traveling with protein-rich grains, such as wheat and barely. They eventually settled near lakes and rivers and began to plant and store these grains. Eventually, they begin cultivating the plants that yielded the most food and was easiest to harvest.

After creating the first farms, the Middle Easterners began domesticating the local animals i.e. goats, sheep, and cattle. They ate their meat, drank their milk, and used their skin and fur for clothing. Theses animals ate excess crops and their dung was used as fertilizer.

Later, the larger (plant eating) mammals were used to pull plows or as means of faster transportation. Strikingly, only 14 animals have ever been successfully domesticated. Those 14 animals can only be found in Asian, North Africa, and Europe.

As food sources increased, so did the population. Since farming in those regions provided an abundance of food, people were able to develop specialized skills and technology. Hence the beginning of the arts and sciences.

The bookdocumentary continues with specific examples in history to illustrate and prove the point What I found most interesting is that the fate and path of the world all begin with geographical luck.

What do you think?

Join the Conversation

No comments

  1. Glad this is being discussed, but this theory is not new. This is fact not a theory though. This has been taught in general high-school history classes, let alone high education forums. Or at least the high school (Enloe GT Raleigh, NC) and university (HU, DC) I went outlined this in plain language:
    “* the advancement of guns (military power),
    * germs (the spread of and immunity to diseases),
    * and steel (that advancement of technology)

    certain cultures have been able to flourish and dominate others.”

    Glad it’s getting attention again. We need to put our existence in context as we dont have a long time to live and make impact. Life is chess not checkers.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply to Derek Cradle Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.