Monday, February 13, 2012

Guns, Germs, and Steel - Reflection

What interested me most about how space and objects affect culture in Guns, Germs, and Steel is that geography seems to play a huge role in the success and power of a culture. Eurasian cultures have historically been the most prominent influences in the world; this is a result of colonization and thriving populations. But what made Eurasian people able to maintain such high numbers in population? The answer lies not within genetics, but within geography.

Some geographical areas are simply much better at providing natural resources which supply food and raw materials. This puts the culture inhabiting these areas at an advantage, because they do not have to work as hard to provide for themselves.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs describes the different levels of human needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. According to the hierarchy, the lowest, most basic needs (physiological needs) must be met before a person can achieve the higher ones (safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization). In the context of Guns, Germs, and Steel we see that the progression of Eurasian cultures happened more quickly because their geographical areas more readily provided people with the things they required to fill their most basic needs (food, air, water, sleep, etc.). Because of this, Eurasian cultures were free to move onto fulfilling more complex needs, giving them an edge against cultures whose more basic needs were less easily filled because of the geographical areas they inhabited.

Because people of the Eurasian cultures were well-sustained physically, their populations grew, which opened the door to new skill development. This in turn lead to a more advanced system of technologies, which allowed Eurasian cultures to develop powerful tools and weapons that made gaining power over other cultures much easier.

In short, the fertility of the Eurasian geographical area created a snowball effect. They did not rise to power because they were genetically superior to any other culture. They did so almost by chance. Eurasia owes much of its success to the land, to their availability to food.

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