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The Question of Yali in "Guns, Germs, and Steel"

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In “Guns, Germs, and Steel” Jared Diamond tries to understand why certain countries and civilizations developed wealth and power and evolved throughout history while other civilizations did not. He also tries to figure out how these certain peoples were the ones capable to expand and colonize other territories around the world, and not the other way around. Throughout the story, Diamond seeks to answer a question asked by a man, a politician, whom he met in New Guinea during his study about bird evolution. This guy was called Yali. Yali was interested in knowing more about why his country was colonized and controlled by the western world. He wanted to understand how the Europeans were capable of controlling New Guinea.

The question that Yali asked was “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” (pg. 6). Cargo is in other terms the materialistic goods. Diamond found Yali’s question difficult to answer at that time. However he realizes the inequality between societies, he even points out that New Guineans are as intelligent as Europeans and Americans.

From now on Diamond attempts to answer the question. He argues why Europe, North America, and eastern Asia are the wealthiest and the most powerful in the modern world. Why most Africans and other people are weak, conquered and submitted to Europeans. Why is the world distributed like that? Jared goes back in history to A.D. 1500, even back then there were differences between continents. Empires used different kinds of weaponry to conquer tribes with older and weaker tools. But then Jared goes back in history again until the end of the last ice age where all sorts of people from all around the globe were still hunter-gatherers. However, between 11,000 B.C. and A.D. 1500 changes and human developments occurred in different continents and this is where the inequalities began to appear. Diamond states that most countries of Eurasia, North America, and others developed agriculture, herding, metallurgy, etc. While other countries remained hunter-gatherers. This is what made Eurasia and other developed countries to stand out, enhance their situation and witness technology. But the other question that Diamond points out is “why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents?”

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