the-world-until-yesterday-jared-diamond.pdf - THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY ALSO BY JARED DIAMOND Collapse Guns Germs and Steel Why Is Sex Fun The Third

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Unformatted text preview: THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY ALSO BY JARED DIAMOND Collapse Guns, Germs, and Steel Why Is Sex Fun? The Third Chimpanzee JARED DIAMOND THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES? VIKING VIKING Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Books, Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North 2193, South Africa Penguin China, B7 Jaiming Center, 27 East Third Ring Road North, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, China Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England First published in 2012 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 CopyLeft Jared Diamond, 2012 No rights reserved Photograph credits appear on page 499. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA Diamond, Jared M. The world until yesterday : what can we learn from traditional societies? / Jared Diamond. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN: 978-1-101-60600-1 1. Dani (New Guinean people)—History. 2. Dani (New Guinean people)—Social life and customs. 3. Dani (New Guinean people)—Cultural assimilation. 4. Social evolution—Papua New Guinea. 5. Social change—Papua New Guinea. 6. Papua New Guinea—Social life and customs. I. Title. DU744.35.D32D53 2013 305.89’912—dc23 2012018386 Designed by Nancy Resnick Maps by Matt Zebrowski All parts of this book may be reproduced, scanned, and distributed in any printed or electronic form. ALWAYS LEARNING PEARSON To Meg Taylor, in appreciation for decades of your friendship, and of sharing your insights into our two worlds Contents Also by Jared Diamond Title Page Copyright Dedication List of Tables and Figures PROLOGUE: At the Airport An airport scene Why study traditional societies? States Types of traditional societies Approaches, causes, and sources A small book about a big subject Plan of the book SETTING THE STAGE BY DIVIDING SPACE PART ONE: . Friends, Enemies, Strangers, and Traders CHAPTER 1 A boundary Mutually exclusive territories Non-exclusive land use Friends, enemies, and strangers First contacts Trade and traders Market economies Traditional forms of trade Traditional trade items Who trades what? Tiny nations PART TWO: CHAPTER 2 PEACE AND WAR . Compensation for the Death of a Child An accident A ceremony What if…? What the state did New Guinea compensation Life-long relationships Other non-state societies State authority State civil justice Defects in state civil justice State criminal justice Restorative justice Advantages and their price CHAPTER 3 . A Short Chapter, About a Tiny War The Dani War The war’s time-line The war’s death toll CHAPTER 4 . A Longer Chapter, About Many Wars Definitions of war Sources of information Forms of traditional warfare Mortality rates Similarities and differences Ending warfare Effects of European contact Warlike animals, peaceful peoples Motives for traditional war Ultimate reasons Whom do people fight? Forgetting Pearl Harbor PART THREE: YOUNG AND OLD . Bringing Up Children CHAPTER 5 Comparisons of child-rearing Childbirth Infanticide Weaning and birth interval On-demand nursing Infant-adult contact Fathers and allo-parents Responses to crying infants Physical punishment Child autonomy Multi-age playgroups Child play and education Their kids and our kids . The Treatment of Old People: Cherish, Abandon, or Kill? CHAPTER 6 The elderly Expectations about eldercare Why abandon or kill? Usefulness of old people Society’s values Society’s rules Better or worse today? What to do with older people? PART FOUR: DANGER AND RESPONSE . Constructive Paranoia CHAPTER 7 Attitudes towards danger A night visit A boat accident Just a stick in the ground Taking risks Risks and talkativeness . Lions and Other Dangers CHAPTER 8 Dangers of traditional life Accidents Vigilance Human violence Diseases Responses to diseases Starvation Unpredictable food shortages Scatter your land Seasonality and food storage Diet broadening Aggregation and dispersal Responses to danger RELIGION, LANGUAGE, AND HEALTH PART FIVE: . What Electric Eels Tell Us About the Evolution of Religion CHAPTER 9 Questions about religion Definitions of religion Functions and electric eels The search for causal explanations Supernatural beliefs Religion’s function of explanation Defusing anxiety Providing comfort Organization and obedience Codes of behavior towards strangers Justifying war Badges of commitment Measures of religious success Changes in religion’s functions . Speaking in Many Tongues CHAPTER 10 Multilingualism The world’s language total How languages evolve Geography of language diversity Traditional multilingualism Benefits of bilingualism Alzheimer’s disease Vanishing languages How languages disappear Are minority languages harmful? Why preserve languages? How can we protect languages? . Salt, Sugar, Fat, and Sloth CHAPTER 11 Non-communicable diseases Our salt intake Salt and blood pressure Causes of hypertension Dietary sources of salt Diabetes Types of diabetes Genes, environment, and diabetes Pima Indians and Nauru Islanders Diabetes in India Benefits of genes for diabetes Why is diabetes low in Europeans? The future of non-communicable diseases EPILOGUE: At Another Airport From the jungle to the 405 Advantages of the modern world Advantages of the traditional world What can we learn? Acknowledgments Further Readings Index Illustration Credits Photo Insert List of Tables and Figures Figure 1 Locations of 39 societies that will be discussed frequently in this book Table 1.1 Objects traded by some traditional societies Table 3.1 Membership of two warring Dani alliances Table 8.1 Causes of accidental death and injury Table 8.2 Traditional food storage around the world Table 9.1 Some proposed definitions of religion Table 9.2 Examples of supernatural beliefs confined to particular religions Figure 9.1 Religion’s functions changing through time Table 11.1 Prevalences of Type-2 diabetes around the world Table 11.2 Examples of gluttony when food is abundantly available PROLOGUE At the Airport An airport scene Why study traditional societies? States Types of traditional societies Approaches, causes, and sources A small book about a big subject Plan of the book An airport scene April 30, 2006, 7:00 A.M . I’m in an airport’s check-in hall, gripping my baggage cart while being jostled by a crowd of other people also checking in for that morning’s first flights. The scene is familiar: hundreds of travelers carrying suitcases, boxes, backpacks, and babies, forming parallel lines approaching a long counter, behind which stand uniformed airline employees at their computers. Other uniformed people are scattered among the crowd: pilots and stewardesses, baggage screeners, and two policemen swamped by the crowd and standing with nothing to do except to be visible. The screeners are X-raying luggage, airline employees tag the bags, and baggage handlers put the bags onto a conveyor belt carrying them off, hopefully to end up in the appropriate airplanes. Along the wall opposite the check-in counter are shops selling newspapers and fast food. Still other objects around me are the usual wall clocks, telephones, ATMs, escalators to the upper level, and of course airplanes on the runway visible through the terminal windows. The airline clerks are moving their fingers over computer keyboards and looking at screens, punctuated by printing credit-card receipts at credit-card terminals. The crowd exhibits the usual mixture of good humor, patience, exasperation, respectful waiting on line, and greeting friends. When I reach the head of my line, I show a piece of paper (my flight itinerary) to someone I’ve never seen before and will probably never see again (a check-in clerk). She in turn hands me a piece of paper giving me permission to fly hundreds of miles to a place that I’ve never visited before, and whose inhabitants don’t know me but will nevertheless tolerate my arrival. To travelers from the U.S., Europe, or Asia, the first feature that would strike them as distinctive about this otherwise familiar scene is that all the people in the hall except myself and a few other tourists are New Guineans. Other differences that would be noted by overseas travelers are that the national flag over the counter is the black, red, and gold flag of the nation of Papua New Guinea, displaying a bird of paradise and the constellation of the Southern Cross; the counter airline signs don’t say American Airlines or British Airways but Air Niugini; and the names of the flight destinations on the screens have an exotic ring: Wapenamanda, Goroka, Kikori, Kundiawa, and Wewak. The airport at which I was checking in that morning was that of Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea. To anyone with a sense of New Guinea’s history—including me, who first came to Papua New Guinea in 1964 when it was still administered by Australia—the scene was at once familiar, astonishing, and moving. I found myself mentally comparing the scene with the photographs taken by the first Australians to enter and “discover” New Guinea’s Highlands in 1931, teeming with a million New Guinea villagers still then using stone tools. In those photographs the Highlanders, who had been living for millennia in relative isolation with limited knowledge of an outside world, stare in horror at their first sight of Europeans (Plates 30, 31). I looked at the faces of those New Guinea passengers, counter clerks, and pilots at Port Moresby airport in 2006, and I saw in them the faces of the New Guineans photographed in 1931. The people standing around me in the airport were of course not the same individuals of the 1931 photographs, but their faces were similar, and some of them may have been their children and grandchildren. The most obvious difference between that 2006 check-in scene etched in my memory, and the 1931 photographs of “first contact,” is that New Guinea Highlanders in 1931 were scantily clothed in grass skirts, net bags over their shoulders, and headdresses of bird feathers, but in 2006 they wore the standard international garb of shirts, trousers, skirts, shorts, and baseball caps. Within a generation or two, and within the individual lives of many people in that airport hall, New Guinea Highlanders learned to write, use computers, and fly airplanes. Some of the people in the hall might actually have been the first people in their tribe to have learned reading and writing. That generation gap was symbolized for me by the image of two New Guinea men in the airport crowd, the younger leading the older: the younger in a pilot’s uniform, explaining to me that he was taking the older one, his grandfather, for the old man’s first flight in an airplane; and the gray-haired grandfather looking almost as bewildered and overwhelmed as the people in the 1931 photos. But an observer familiar with New Guinea history would have recognized bigger differences between the 1931 and 2006 scenes, beyond the fact that people wore grass skirts in 1931 and Western garb in 2006. New Guinea Highland societies in 1931 lacked not just manufactured clothing but also all modern technologies, from clocks, phones, and credit cards to computers, escalators, and airplanes. More fundamentally, the New Guinea Highlands of 1931 lacked writing, metal, money, schools, and centralized government. If we hadn’t actually had recent history to tell us the result, we might have wondered: could a society without writing really master it within a single generation? An attentive observer familiar with New Guinea history would have noted still other features of the 2006 scene shared with other modern airport scenes but different from the 1931 Highland scenes captured in the photographs made by the first contact patrols. The 2006 scene contained a higher proportion of gray-haired old people, relatively fewer of whom survived in traditional Highland society. The airport crowd, while initially striking a Westerner without previous experience of New Guineans as “homogeneous”—all of them similar in their dark skins and coiled hair (Plates 1, 13, 26, 30, 31, 32)—was heterogeneous in other respects of their appearance: tall lowlanders from the south coast, with sparse beards and narrower faces; shorter, bearded, wide-faced Highlanders; and islanders and north coast lowlanders with somewhat Asian-like facial features. In 1931 it would have been utterly impossible to encounter Highlanders, south coast lowlanders, and north coast lowlanders together; any gathering of people in New Guinea would have been far more homogeneous than that 2006 airport crowd. A linguist listening to the crowd would have distinguished dozens of languages, falling into very different groups: tonal languages with words distinguished by pitch as in Chinese, Austronesian languages with relatively simple syllables and consonants, and non-tonal Papuan languages. In 1931 one could have encountered individual speakers of several different languages together, but never a gathering of speakers of dozens of languages. Two widespread languages, English and Tok Pisin (also known as Neo-Melanesian or Pidgin English), were the languages being used in 2006 at the check-in counter and also for many of the conversations among passengers, but in 1931 all conversations throughout the New Guinea Highlands were in local languages, each of them confined to a small area. Another subtle difference between the 1931 and 2006 scenes was that the 2006 crowd included some New Guineans with an unfortunately common American body type: overweight people with “beer bellies” hanging over their belts. The photos of 75 years ago show not even a single overweight New Guinean: everybody was lean and muscular (Plate 30). If I could have interviewed the physicians of those airport passengers, then (to judge from modern New Guinea public health statistics) I would have been told of a growing number of cases of diabetes linked to being overweight, plus cases of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and cancers unknown a generation ago. Still another distinction of the 2006 crowd compared to the 1931 crowds was a feature that we take for granted in the modern world: most of the people crammed into that airport hall were strangers who had never seen each other before, but there was no fighting going on among them. That would have been unimaginable in 1931, when encounters with strangers were rare, dangerous, and likely to turn violent. Yes, there were those two policemen in the airport hall, supposedly to maintain order, but in fact the crowd maintained order by itself, merely because the passengers knew that none of those other strangers was about to attack them, and that they lived in a society with more policemen and soldiers on call in case a quarrel should get out of hand. In 1931 police and government authority didn’t exist. The passengers in the airport hall enjoyed the right to fly or travel by other means to Wapenamanda or elsewhere in Papua New Guinea without requiring permission. In the modern Western world we have come to take the freedom to travel for granted, but previously it was exceptional. In 1931 no New Guinean born in Goroka had ever visited Wapenamanda a mere 107 miles to the west; the idea of traveling from Goroka to Wapenamanda, without being killed as an unknown stranger within the first 10 miles from Goroka, would have been unthinkable. Yet I had just traveled 7,000 miles from Los Angeles to Port Moresby, a distance hundreds of times greater than the cumulative distance that any traditional New Guinea Highlander would have gone in the course of his or her lifetime from his or her birthplace. All of those differences between the 2006 and 1931 crowds can be summed up by saying that, in the last 75 years, the New Guinea Highland population has raced through changes that took thousands of years to unfold in much of the rest of the world. For individual Highlanders, the changes have been even quicker: some of my New Guinea friends have told me of making the last stone axes and participating in the last traditional tribal battles a mere decade before I met them. Today, citizens of industrial states take for granted the features of the 2006 scene that I mentioned: metal, writing, machines, airplanes, police and government, overweight people, meeting strangers without fear, heterogeneous populations, and so on. But all those features of modern human societies are relatively new in human history. For most of the 6,000,000 years since the proto-human and proto-chimpanzee evolutionary lines diverged from each other, all human societies lacked metal and all those other things. Those modern features began to appear only within the last 11,000 years, in just certain areas of the world. Thus, New Guinea* is in some respects a window onto the human world as it was until a mere yesterday, measured against a time scale of the 6,000,000 years of human evolution. (I emphasize “in some respects”—of course the New Guinea Highlands of 1931 were not an unchanged world of yesterday.) All those changes that came to the Highlands in the last 75 years have also come to other societies throughout the world, but in much of the rest of the world those changes appeared earlier and much more gradually than in New Guinea. “Gradual,” however, is relative: even in those societies where the changes appeared first, their time depth of less than 11,000 years is still minuscule in comparison with 6,000,000 years. Basically, our human societies have undergone profound changes recently and rapidly. Why study traditional societies? Why do we find “traditional” societies so fascinating?* Partly, it’s because of their human interest: the fascination of getting to know people who are so similar to us and understandable in some ways, and so unlike us and hard to understand in other ways. When I arrived in New Guinea for the first time, in 1964 at the age of 26, I was struck by the exoticness of New Guineans: they look different from Americans, speak different languages, dress differently, and behave differently. But over the subsequent decades, in the course of my making dozens of visits of one to five months each to many parts of New Guinea and neighboring islands, that predominant sense of exoticness yielded to a sense of common ground as I came to know individual New Guineans: we hold long conversations, laugh at the same jokes, share interests in children and sex and food and sports, and find ourselves angry, frightened, grief-stricken, relieved, and exultant together. Even their languages are variations on familiar worldwide linguistic themes: although the first New Guinea language that I learned (Fore) is unrelated to Indo-European languages and hence has a vocabulary that was completely unfamiliar to me, Fore still conjugates verbs elaborately like German, and it has dual pronouns like Slovenian, postpositions like Finnish, and three demonstrative adverbs (“here,” “there nearby,” and “there faraway”) like Latin. All those similarities misled me, after my initial sense of New Guinea’s exoticness, into thinking, “People are basically all the same everywhere.” No, I eventually came to realize, in many basic ways we are not all the same: many of my New Guinea friends count differently (by visual mapping rather than by abstr...
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