2013 was a year marked by yet another Jared Diamond book and yet another round of anthropological hand-wringing over Jared Diamond’s public profile. I won’t launch into a criticism of Diamond. Instead, I will sum up the year of Jared Diamond with the following Bill Gates takeaway:
He (Diamond) describes several areas in particular, like raising children, dealing with the elderly, and eating well. He doesn’t romanticize these societies, as I thought he might, or make some grand pronouncement that they all do these things better than we do. He just wants to find the best practices and share them.
For his part, Diamond added this observation in a conversation the two had last July:
For much of the past several centuries, people from Europe and Americans have viewed traditional societies, including our Native American societies, as groups who should be gotten out of the way as quickly as possible or dragged into the modern age whether they like it or not.
The opposite view idealizes traditional people as tree-hugging, peaceful environmentalists who don’t have war and are not subject to all the evil things that began with our state governments.
Both of those extremes, of course, are unrealistic because people are people.