I hit the "Snooze
" button 7 times this morning. My eyes are bloodshot
and burning as I stare at this computer screen. I nearly dozed off
a few minutes ago at my desk here at work.
Why am I so tired?? Because I was up half the night reading and thinking about Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, an absolutely fascinating book about human society and why history happened as it did. The premise of the book is explaining how and why European people expanded and conquered so much of the world, instead of it being the other way around. An example he gives of this is: Why did the Spaniards go to Mesoamerica and conquer the Aztecs, and why did the Aztecs not go to Spain and conquer the Spaniards?
The simple answer is, of course, that the Spaniards had steel swords, guns, and germs which decimated the Mesoamerican peoples. But why did the Spaniards have these, and why did the Aztecs not have them? Diamond answers the question with a reasoned and factual, step-by-step breakdown of the factors which lead to Europeans developing guns, germs, and steel, while barring other races from the same advancements. He debunks the popular myth of underlying genetic racial differences, and shows (at least in my mind) that the limiting factors were mainly geography and climate.
The beautiful thing about this book is that as I finish each chapter and read his conclusions, I immediately think "Well of course, that's obviously the reason." And then I have to make myself remember that at the start of the chapter, the point was not at all clear or obvious. It's truly a testament to Diamond's amazing explanatory ability and his well reasoned and supported thesis.
I'm halfway through the book now, and I'll probably be up again for half of tonight reading this wonderful tome of knowledge. Unless the second half is a rant about the price of lunchroom cookies by an 8 year old, this is about to become one of my favorite books, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in history. I mean, not only do I waste half of my sleep time reading it, I waste time here at work writing about reading it (I figure this daylog is worth about $50 in company time).
Sadly (but blissfully so), this is the only thing going on in my life right now.