Guns Germs and Steel

The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond

Have you ever wondered, how did we get here? Where did we come from?  Why here and Why now? Why are some countries rich, and others poor? Why do human live where they live today, and where did the first peoples come from?

Being an avid reader poses challenges now and then. Picking up a substantive book, and reading it from cover to cover, requires time, treasure and commitment. I have several substantial books in my “read” library stack. It took me quite a while to consume Guns, Germs and Steel. Not only does this book require time and treasure, it demands of its reader, patience, understanding, and a desire to learn; something that I found, was enlightening and educational.

Jared Diamond begins some 13,000 years ago, when the world was first populated with hunter gatherers. The continents were finding their places, ice ages, came and went. And early humans, as archeologists have studied began to populate the earth. When oceans were shallower, and land bridges existed, in several locations on the earth, people moved here and there.

Indigenous peoples worldwide don’t garner very much respect from the conquering peoples who overtook them. There were multiple indigenous communities worldwide, before the proverbial “white man” came and either infected them with disease, enslaved them to serve, relegated them to reserves or killed them outright in wars and conquests.

This book is methodical in its approach to humanity. And in pain staking detail we learn what peoples lived in prehistory. We learn where they lived to begin with and where they moved, on the earth as time progresses.

We learn how advances in food production, disasters of germs and disease, and the advancing industrial revolution, where guns and steel overpower those who did not have them.

We learn that in historical times, conquest and war, dispensed with entire groups of people. You did not only get the peoples who took up conquest, but the people who suffered because of it. The people who were here, before we got here, grew into some, successful communities. In the end, those vibrant indigenous communities were laid wasted by diseases brought by the conquerors, and the wars perpetuated in the names of Kings, Queens or Country.

As the continents were solidified, where people lived either assisted their success or advanced their demise. Where you lived, in relation to the latitude of your environs, either helped you, or harmed you. The success of peoples, farming, livestock, and growth all depended greatly, on where you sat, on the earth, in terms of latitude and longitude.

The spread of all things necessary for life, worked well, in areas with an expansive East – West axes. Those countries with North – South, axes, did not fare so well, the population and spread of food, animals and technology flourished in the Eurasian, East West Expanse of location.

There is a direct correlation between the location of a people, and the environment they found themselves in. From the Equator, reaching either North or South, temperate regions flourished. Guns, Germs and Steel tells the story of how the world became what it has.

Time, Distance, Location and the problems associated with location either helped peoples grow and succeed, or they took much longer to achieve certain benchmarks in their human existence. All things moving East – West grew faster than those things moving North – South.

Time is measured in hundreds of years,  The movement of people, goods, animals, and agriculture took TIME. And it seems that in pre-history, time is a very important component in the building of peoples, world wide.

Jared Diamond spins a very intricate web of story telling about Time, Talent, and Treasure. How the world built itself, learned how to govern itself, farm the land, produce food, and be able to store that food over Time, and then industrialize, are very important factors in human existence.

Guns, Germs and Steel is not a simple story, it is complex on many levels and explains the difficulty early peoples faced, in maintaining a home, finding food to eat, and learning the hard way, especially, “what not to eat.”

Every continent on the earth has a particular Origin Story. Every peoples who populate the earth, where ever that may be, also have complex Origin Stories. This very complex but wonderful study of humanity is one of the best books I have ever read, on the subject of just How We Got Here !

How each continent and how each people on each continent arrived where they did, and prospered to the level they are at today is studied exhaustively in this text. The Origins of People, Language, Customs and Lives and how all these things moved from one area of the world to other areas of the world is fascinating.

No stone is left un-turned by page 444 …

Pulitzer Prize books must contain certain factors that I always look for, IF a particular book has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Because I have read a handful of winners, that turned out to be real losers.

Guns, Germs and Steel is a Winner !!!

Read This Book !

We Went to the BEACH …

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It was a fabulous weekend in Ottawa. I love getting on a bus, and having someone else do the driving. I put on some tunes, or I hit a meeting in a pod cast, or I read. On the recommendation of a good friend, I had ordered a couple of books via Indigo last week. One of them, which I took to Ottawa this weekend was Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” It’s a history of the world kind of book. Very interesting, a little academic, but so far, I have enjoyed the read.

Friday night we hit the Royal Oak for dinner, after my arrival and I got a free dinner because the kitchen screwed up my order. Free Food gets my vote any day.

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Saturday we packed the car and drove into Gatineau on the other side of the river from Ottawa to a National Park, and Lac Philippe. It is a HUGE lake, park, picnic and BEACH park, with all kinds of water fun to be had. Canoes, paddle boards, and stuff like that.

This car was parked right near us, and I had to photograph it because it was cool. A Canadian Maple Leaf car …

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I haven’t been in a body of water, i.e. a beach, since I left Florida all those years ago. We have a pool in the building, but it is enclosed on the 20th floor. And I never use it. So going to the beach was a novel idea.

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The water was cool, and very welcoming for sure. We hung out in the lake all afternoon, and watched people frolicking in the water.

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After the beach we went to Carlo’s for dinner. It is a roadside retro, restaurant in an old bus, with the retro neon sign above, serving easy quick fare of poutine, burgers, hot dogs and other sandwiches. They have a picnic table area to sit and eat. It was quite good actually. Very enjoyable.

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We then drove over to Wakefield for desert. Wakefield is close to the park we were at, so we parked the car and browsed the little shops in town, and had some ice cream. They built a brand new boardwalk along the river.

It was a special occasion. Rafa crossed his six-year mark a few months ago, so we gave him his six year chip standing at the river walk. Wakefield is where they want to live in the future, so I thought it would be a good spot to mark an anniversary.

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Old train tracks run along the river walk, and there are portal signs along the way explaining the history of the village where ever an old house or building stands along the line. We found this push car on the tracks at the end of the line. The kicker had been disconnected from the push bar, so the little car would not move, but you could push it manually.

The sun had set as we hit the road. And on the highway, the “You have low fuel light came on, and we were running on fumes by the time we found a gas station, thanks to Google Maps … We came into Ottawa around 9:15, and thought we should hit Parliament Hill to see the Northern Lights, light show. So we parked the car at the lot and walked back to the Hill, and got prime seats for the show.

The Northern Lights show runs all summer. It is a multimedia light, laser and film presentation, that is illuminated right on the face of the Parliament building itself. It tells the story of Canada and all the history of our country. It was the second time we have seen this particular show.

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At the end of the presentation, they play O’ Canada.

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Everybody stands while we sing …

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

It was last summer that we first saw this show, and it was an emotional moment for me, standing on the Hill, with my best friend, both of us had become citizens, he, a year or so ago, and me, in 2003. I did not get pomp and circumstance when my papers came through, so standing on Parliament Hill, with my best friend, two new citizens of Canada, singing the National Anthem … Gets me every time.

When I get to the line .. God keep our land Glorious and Free …

My heart swells and tears fall from my eyes. It is like that whenever they play O’ Canada at the Olympics too.

It happened again on Saturday night, however, all three of us were sobbing by the end of the anthem. I think that is the most patriotic thing to do, is stand on the Hill, with your friends and family and sing the national anthem.

I get very emotional over that.

Sunday we slept in until 1 o’clock in the afternoon, had a brief but tasty brunch and I took the bus home to Montreal. Today it is miserably hot. Supposed to rain for he next 4 days. UGH.

We really need the rain.

More to come.