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"Guns, Germs, and Steel" and "Collapse": because of plants

Discussion in 'Band of Glockers' started by antediluvianist, Jan 31, 2005.

  1. antediluvianist

    antediluvianist

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    Many arguments in ''Guns'' were dazzling. Diamond showed, for example, that as the last ice age ended, by chance Eurasia held many plants that could be bred for controlled farming. The Americas had few edible plants suitable for cross-breeding, while Africa had poor soil owing to the millions of years since it had been glaciated. Thus large-scale food production began first in the Fertile Crescent, China and Europe. Population in those places rose, and that meant lots of people living close together, which accelerated invention; in other locations the low-population hunter-gatherer lifestyle of antiquity remained in place. ''Guns'' contends the fundamental reason Europe of the middle period could send sailing ships to explore the Americas and Africa, rather than these areas sending sailing ships to explore Europe, is that ancient happenstance involving plants gave Europe a food edge that translated into a head start on technology. Then, the moment European societies forged steel and fashioned guns, they acquired a runaway advantage no hunter-gatherer society could possibly counter.
     
  2. brawnless

    brawnless Junior Member

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    quite reasonable for guns and plants. what about "germs"? is it about warfare or disease?

    does this in turn cause the collapse of the farming population or the hunter-gatherer?
     

  3. horge

    horge -=-=-=-=- Lifetime Member

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    Just another POV:

    Let's look at the 1300's.
    'China' was pretty robust agriculturally, and economically robust as well --by most expert accounts moreso than all of Europe. 'China' arguably had a headstart in firearms technology, but did not capitalize on it, into a continuous evolution of firearms and general-weapon technology.

    Oh, they had large bronze and iron war-cannons too, but further development seemed to cease around the time Europeans began adopting cannon, the 1300's. The Euros had nothing to do with China's arrested development in firearms, though: IMO the stabilization of unitary dominion over 'China' was the key factor. There was simply little left within reach worth stomping on with ever-newer weapons, and plenty of food and wealth to ever need to go abroad in search of it.

    Long prior to that, China had been a mix of city-states and Khanates that were at each other's throats, as much as Europe ever was. The impetus for advancements in military technology and technique was still there, and so the weapons were built. The innate aggression wasn't missing either, or earlier Asiatic invasions of Europe would never have taken place. Later, past the Sung 'dynasty', the faded spectre of war drained most urgency out of weapon R&D. Military adventurism aside, China's armiees and navies already had the best toys in the region, seemingly beyond anyone else overtaking it, so why R&D, right? Domestically, when you're in control, you try to keep the status quo... hence stagnation and decline, as all sensitive technology was stifled as a state property and secret, lest some rebels use it.

    When gunpowder cannon were first institutionally used for war in Europe, 1346 in Crecy (4 full centuries after it was first developed in China) the continent, Europe was less than food suffficient --and certainly a frequent victim to plague and more common deadly diseases in its crowded-hovel cities. Madrid and Paris city streets were, to quote a contemporary bishop: "grate ryvers of sh**". Droves of pigs were employed to eat piles of refuse, but those added their own porcine excrement to the septic vileness. The people lived short, miserable lives without medical care, and worked as slaves or conscripts under constant threat of foreign invasion.

    Gunpowder use merely ushered in a new form of warfare, but Europe
    remained a geographical --and not a political-- construct.
    The countries never really fell into singular entity. The warring between relatively-small, neigbouring kingdoms, principalities and counties continued, and the weapons got deadlier for it over the years.

    Across the Atlantic, Amerindians enjoyed their plenty --they were fat on bison, deer and corn at the time, with a LOT of land and mineral resources. They fought amongst themselves too, but they didn't develop firearms in over 700 years, until 'Europeans' brought guns in (as well as disease to wipe them out both in North and South America). Even as the climate warmed and dried things up towards the 1500's, Amerindians were perhaps in a rigid pattern of behavior suited to relative isolation, comfort and plenty. Bottom line is their agrarian civilizations and military technology stayed almost technologically stagnant for all that 'effin time.

    Filipinos had a near-sufficiency of food (fish, small game, root crops, rice) from at least the 400's up to the 1600's, and there was plenty of violent piracy and interisland strife for Antonio Pigafetta and subsequent chroniclers to document. We had an impressive brass nd iron working capability, but all we had to show for it militarily were melee blades and a few odd small-culverins (the greater number imported from Malacca and merely decorated here). We were partially insulated by the sea against foes from within and without. There was the seed of our comfort and our complacency.

    Not so the United States --a large contiguous landmass that had to be confiscated from natives every state of the way, and then defended from France and, in a 180 degree turnabout, from its mother Britain. Civil war shaped America's land and law as much as anything prior, and modern US foreign policy is designed to maintain a level of external conflict ---to keep the blade sharp, and the blade designers busy.

    Hard to simplify it all into just Germs, Grains, Guns, etc..
    I think it takes all kinds of factors, such as a favorable climate to dictate rigorous work patterns (working all the cool day), physique (strength fom bulk to resist severe cold) and mindset (storing up for winter) across a general population. There's the matter of timing, too, in a global context.

    There's also the usefulness of constant conflict over LIMITED resources to militarize the people. It IS a tricky formula though: If resources are too scarce, warring communities can remain stunted by the lack. If resources are too abundant, everyone around can get complacent, despite technological advances. Then there is natonal cohesion and patriotism.


    ----

    Today:

    We Filipinos are presently in the midst of war --against foes from within and without. The ability and the applicability are there for developing local weapons and techniques better suited to winning this war, since the tools we import obviously aren't cutting it. But we don't. We buy from without, and what we build is copied nd never developed further, except for the odd abortive success. Look up Rancudo's Maulers, the Defiant 500, the MX Kalakian, the Floro Sub 9: all Filipino, but scorned in favor of imported JUNK that won't cut it.

    We Filipinos now make world-class firearms.... but many a Filipino shooter --including perhaps some on this forum-- may not ever want anything to do with 'local junk', and even less likely put down cash for it. Some fellas will dream of paying US$1000 for an STI or Les Baer ---then proceed to customize it into metal-fatigueing unrecognizability, so why? You could just get a local frame for peanuts, have it milled into perfection, Kasenit the sucker for a super-hard skin, and call it a day. It'll shoot better than you can. But you won't, right? If you're 'collecting' guns, then sure. And resale value counts, sure.

    But I think this thread is about why some peopleS are better armed than others, and I'm trying to apply it to our situation today, using ourselves as evidence.

    In today's global economy, a patriotic preference for buying local,
    coupled with strenuously demanding quality, stand among modern pre-requisites.

    Too often is our preference for buying imported,
    and strenuously demanding only that it be imported.


    ----------


    Point out the most patriotic free peoples on the planet,
    and I'll show you the world leaders in military (and any) technology.
    JMO, YMMV, TANSTAAFL.


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  4. Alexii

    Alexii Janeway Forever

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    My take on this is that Filipinos (especially those in power), in general, do not enjoy the faith and trust of their fellow Filipinos. Sure we have locally produced firearms that we claim are making waves abroad and elsewher around the globe. Are these quality Filipino firearms accessible to us locals? Or are we pointed to a shelf of firearms made of parts that didn't quite measure up to world standards? "Dahil kung para sa local market, pwede na." Look at the bananas produced at Bukidnon. No thanks, I'll pass.

    There is a fine, albeit an often undistinguishable line between patriotism and common sense. My common sense tells me that educated research, coupled by the wisdom of respected, experienced pistoleros before me, and a substantial worth of range time should be the determining factors on whether I'd splurge my cash on a particular firearm-- and not from which geographical land mass the unit came from.

    YMMV