What are the 3 objections to answering Yali's question discussed in Diamond's Prologue?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that you mean "objections" to Yali's question and not "objectives."  That is why I have changed the question...  The three objections are:

  1. If we explain why some people rule over or dominate others, aren't we saying that the domination is okay?  If we say that the Europeans dominate Yali's people due to various reasons, aren't we saying that it is right for the to dominate?
  2. If we answer this question, aren't we automatically being pro-European?  Isn't it wrong to talk about European dominance when that might be disappearing anyway?
  3. Doesn't the question imply that civilization is good and other types of society are not?
thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In the Prologue to Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond says that his impetus for writing the book began when his friend Yali, a Papua New Guinean, asked him:

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?

Before Diamond goes about answering the question, he looks at three possible objections people may have to his writing the book at all.

The first possible objection is that people might read his explanation of this as a justification for colonialism and assures the reader that he is attempting to explain rather than justify the success of Europeans in colonizing many areas of the world.

The second objection is that the book might take a Eurocentric perspective, but Diamond points out that he sees unequal cultural developments as a global rather than Eurocentric issue, devoting much space to China and other non-European powers. 

The third objection is that a book that explains the military success of Europe might appear to be assuming the cultural superiority of technological societies, but Diamond makes the case that he does not consider possession of "cargo" something that makes a culture better in any other way. 



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