Reading Notes /
Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?, 2013
Hooray, a new book by the great man!
… the world of yesterday wasn’t erased and replaced by a new world of today: much of yesterday is still with us. That’s another reason for wanting to understand yesterday’s world. (Reminds me of Faulkner’s “the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”)
chains of causes 67.1
Religion’s near-ubiquity among human societies suggests that it fulfills important functions, regardless of whether its claims are true.
Thus, if these diseases kill us, it is with our own permission.
market economy: money, trade: a specified obligation, not a subsequent reciprocal gift at the buyer’s discretion.
Knowledge is inseparable from social life. 295.3 deschooling!
I co-invented the internet, that is, I offered FLEX as a gift, from me, from Illich, from God, from Christ, to be enjoyed by my society, which should then give me gifts for the rest of my life, so I could live and live well, and continue to give my society gifts. Instead the state stole my invention, perverted it, arrested me, jailed me, censored me … What kind of an economy is that?
And of course the ordinary people, the kleptocrats, the thieves, the secular and religious hypocrites think I‘m the one being naive!
cryptic notes, I know.
Great plates, great portraits, his forte since The Third Chimp.
2013 08 12 In last night’s reading he told some acute stories of cultural assumptions: a New Guinean spends time with some Euro, they appear to have become “friends”: will he now visit his friend when he’s in Seatle or Cairo or Capetown? “Huh? Why would I waste my time doing that?”
Different cultures have all sorts of different assumptions, with little alertness to those differences, let alone their implications.
When I was in college there were Protestants, Catholics, Jews, atheists galore. I, a Protestant, but a liberal Protestant, went out of my way to befriend Jews, atheists, Catholics. Then I made black friends! had a black girl friend! (she broke up with me because I was white!) All around me other Protestants were hoarding their resources. My “Jewish” friends had trouble at home from parents worried that their boy was wasting time with a goyim, I’d betray him in the end; so they betrayed me first: the blacks, everybody.
I say that I was wise even though the end was bad. Tradition says that tradition was wiser, safer.
Once upon a time all my Jewish (read atheist) friends were fierce atheists, I got such a kick out of them, they seemed so sure. But then we turn thirty, have kids approaching Bar Mizvah, and these atheists have Jewish wall paper with little Jews in orthodox garb, side locks, dancing around: no Protestant with a wedding reception on the Vinyard looked more Protestant than these atheists now looked Jewish! Investing in what they started as, to the exclusion of all else. I bet every black who bounced a check on me swore that I was about to do that to them.
Prof. Eco tells of the missionary giving the chief an alarm clock, the chief hangs it from a cord around his neck, the Euros laugh. None of their business what the chief is doing, or thinks he doing, or why.
I’m reminded of a favorite joke in a favorite novel: Heller, Catch-22.
|All Colonel Cathcart knew about his house in the hills was that he had such a house and hated it. He was never so bored as when spending there the two or three days every other week necessary to sustain the illusion that his damp and drafty stone farmhouse in the hills was a golden palace of carnal delights. Officers’ clubs everywhere pulsated with blurred but knowing accounts of lavish, hushed-up drinking and sex orgies there and of secret, intimate nights of ecstasy with the most beautiful, the most tantalizing, the most readily aroused and most easily satisfied Italian courtesans, film actresses, models and countesses. No such private nights of ecstasy or hushed-up drinking and sex orgies ever occurred. They might have occurred if either General Dreedle or General Peckem had once evinced an interest in taking part in orgies with him, but neither ever did, and the colonel was certainly not going to waste his time and energy making love to beautiful women unless there was something in it for him.|
There! I bet Diamond doesn’t mind sharing a little space with another great writer: two great writers.
Not that great science doesn’t put all but the very greatest novels in the shade. You need a Tolstoy before Diamond begins to look human.
I still think that Third Chimp is his greatest, most important. Guns, Steel is justly very very famous (but 90% of it is in Chimp). I adore Why Sex is Fun. Collapse too. And shorter essays.
|Religious supernatural beliefs are irrational, but emotionally plausible and satisfying.|
Order! Order in the Kleptocracy!
Diamond’s book would be great if it made only one point, the point made at the outset: He portrays New Guineans at an airport: they’re queueing up, they’re waiting, they’re buying tickets, flying around, the whole world: and they’re not (generally) in a genocidal frenzy, they’re not a Hatfield peeking around to find a McCoy to kill.
First rule of centralized state order: no vigilantes, no private justice, no taking the law into your own hands. Great: we wouldn’t be one civilization without that; but, I’m not at all sure that becoming one civilization is a good or survivable thing: despite my being the one to have founded the Free Learning Exchange, the (potentially) major step toward an electronic global village. The world didn’t buy it, the world doesn’t deserve it, the world doesn’t keep accurate records of what happened, Diamond himself shows no awareness of what happened, seems to accept the theft and perversion of the world, the silencing of evolutionary messages.
Anyway: the Free Learning Exchange
A-Rod is being disgraced by MLB. A-Rod is openly fighting the Yankees. A-Rod is about to be banned, A-Rod gets into a game, vs. Red Sox, A-Rod gets hit by a fastball … And though he hit a revenge homer next time up, that time, hit at bat, the dugouts were ready for revenge: Hit our Guy?! Die, you mothers!
Ah, human nature.
Do New Guineans have any legitimate business learning to stand on line, to not be at each others’ throats?
Once upon a time, I did everything I could think of to support the one world. Nothing I do has any effect that I can tell, so it hardly matters, visibly, what I do or don’t do, but I no longer root for my old position. I think HSs has the best chance of passing genes onto tomorrow only if there’s only a few of us left, hiding in a few different caves, here and there. Reason would have nothing to do with it. Nor rhetoric, nor politics.
It won’t matter what this or that Bible says, this or that history department, this or that Library of … whichever kleptocracy …
I don’t see any connection between intention and accomplishment.
Euoo, here’s another example: http://news.yahoo.com/looking-back-ugliest-protest-white-house-history-102608118.html
Civilization depends on the king being able to screw the people and the people have to stand and take it. The White House has to be safe from the citizens, the citizens may not defend themselves or protest against the White House. Pilat can crucify Jesus, not Jesus Pilat.
In nature, anybody can crucify anybody, or could if they weren’t too busy trying to live.
Reminds me of that great line in The Godfather, Michael says “the only things that history proves is that anybody can kill anybody.”
Now, gotta find Diamond’s insult to anarchists: “Alas for all of you readers who are anarchists and dream of living without any state government, those are the reasons why your dream is unrealistic: you’ll have to find some tiny band or tribe willing to accept you, where no one is a stranger, and where kings, presidents, and bureaucrats are unnecessary.” But in the meantime I offered the world a tool that could have made that untrue, if anyone had understood it, at all! Even now, I see zero understanding, including from Jared Daimond: the one thing he’s wholly blind and ignorant on.
2014 02 12 a point to cherish: Diamond says that the point of civil suits in some emerging countries is not to establish who’s right but to find what set of decisions may restore the order as it was before the upset: go back to yesterday, or pretend to, or try.
2017 05 24 Time has passed, time tends to do that, doesn’t it? I’m carrying on my reading with Chapter Three, Diamond discusses state justice. He refers to “the state” and to “criminals” as though the state were compentent to determine who’s a criminal! The state is more than competent to convict you of being a criminal, the state convicted me of being a criminal. But it doesn’t matter what the state “proves” if the state is a liar, if the state banishes truth and shoves “facts” up your ass. Jesus got crucified as a “criminal”: does that mean that we shouyld join the name-calling? Or does that mean that we should resist the name calling? Call the victim anything but the state-imposed label.
I don’t trust “God” to be any better than any state. Here’s what I trust instead: the truth! If our survival depends on truthful maps of reality, then state-sponsored lies, however state-enforced, however unanimous, are killing us, not saving us.
This is a rare case where Diamond’s diction needs to be minutely examined.
Tribal Academe: Dee-Fence!
2017 05 26 I took my first grad course while in the army: Byron, @ NYU, Leslie Marchand, famous scholar on loan from Rutgers. Released from the service I matriculated full time. Initially the administration loved me: they had themselves a genuine intellectual. They awarded me a fellowship (that paid a portion, not the whole of my tuition — and they made up a part time job for me in the administration. On one of my first days there I met an anthropology professor. He too was slumming in the grad office. I exclaimed that I’d recently read an account of tribal warfare in New Guinea. Maybe I mispronounced something: the professors brows darkened and corrected my footnotes: attacking me as though I’d sabotaged his bailiwick. I was offering enthusiasm (and a tad of knowledge) about his field; he was defending his turf from invasion.
I’ve encountered territoriality and irrational warfare all my life, but that was my first taste of shoot-first and reason-later bellicosity in grad school.
Now I’m reminded of a movie from that same period: Eugene Ionesco: guy eating dinner peacefully in a restaurant, finds a fly in his soup! Suddenly, World War III!!!
/ Culture … Reading Notes /
Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday
Everything Diamond touches turns to gold. I’m taking my time with this relatively recnt Diamond, floored as the topics and insights accumulate. Now he’s informing us of a subject I’ve long been fascinate by: Infanticide. Sho decideds which babies get abundant resources, scarce resources? In the primiive society the womann goes off into the forest as labor approaches: normal birth? no problem, the mother comes back with a healthy baby, presents it to her tribe. If it’s twins, she strangles the weaker baby, bestows the healthy baby on her neighbors. … Which baby gets murdered is up to tradition, tradition as interpreted by the mother. Grow the population a bit, and the missionaary decides: then the doctor: then the nun / nurse. The midwife takes the freak by the heels, bashes its skull aainst the sink, throw the kid down the toilet, says to the mom, So sorry, born dead. Next case.
When I was a kid my mother was terrified that she’s get in the cluthces of the nuns in the Catholic hospital: No, save me first, my baby sedond.
Related: when my son was due I tried to discuss circumcision with the famiy doctor: Hilary’s doctor. Nothing to discuss: this doctor just informed me that universal circumcision was best, it needed no justification, no argument, no discussion. Thus, the culture owned y kid, not me. And certainly the shaman owed no explanation to the young mother. That’s OK, she wouldn’t get any explanation from the elder wives either.
2017 05 30 https://www.yahoo.com/news/big-tobacco-leaves-huge-ecological-footprint-083511619–finance.html
Recent decades have blamed “big tobacco”, even sued, even collected, for decades. But wait a minute: who’se fault are all the faults? Big states, for one. The US has encouraged tobacco farming since the Divil War, hasn’t it? Or was it before the Civil Ware?
The US military subsidized soldiers smoking in WWII. Maybe that too is older.
Cigarettes are cheap at the PX. When I was a kid a pack of Lucies lost me 21¢, or was it 22¢? At the PX a carton was a couple of bucks. Young men were told that smoking made you strong, smoking made you brave. It was true that smoking got you laid: the girls smoked too. We all stank like an ass hole, but we smoked the more.
I’ve gobbled all Jared Diamond books as they came out, except for one of the more recent: The World Until Yesterday. My reactions there are penetrated multiple aspects of Knatz.com since it was published, but I’m still just reading Chapter Five for the first time, plenty is left to go. Diamond brings science to bear on war, on revenge, on traditional cultures vs. state cultures: all state cultures being younger than a half-dozen-thousand years. Last night I was reading how some traditional cultures have an entirely laissez-faire attitude toward children: the kid is about to roll into the first? let him roll? the kid is about to eat a toxic fruit, let him: he’ll learn or he’ll die. My own attitude toward society is 100% laissez-faire: nature will find the sustainable balance, not congress. These days I’m even laissez-faire about the state itself. Leave it alone, it will kill itself off the sooner!
Humans can’t be taught? Humans won’t be taught? It may be “our” fault, but it isn’t the fault of the guy on the cross who overturned the money tables at the temple. It ain’t my fault: I offered a laissez-faire internet in 1970. The state stole it. just as the state has stolen whatever parts of Jesus’ preaching suited it. Don’t correct them, don’t stop them: let them. We’ll be gone from the earth the sooner.