The Landscape of Destiny
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of the white colonialists openly despised New Guineans as "primitive."
Even the least able of New Guinea's white "masters," as they were
still called in 1972, enjoyed a far higher standard of living than
New Guineans, higher even than charismatic politicians like Yali.
Yet Yali had quizzed lots of whites as he was then quizzing me,
and I had quizzed lots of New Guineans. He and I both knew perfectly
well that New Guineans are on the average at least as smart as Europeans.
All those things must have been on Yali's mind when, with yet another
penetrating glance of his flashing eyes, he asked me, "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?"
was a simple question that went to the heart of life as Yali experienced
it. Yes, there still is a huge difference between the lifestyle
of the average New Guinean and that of the average European or American.
Comparable differences separate the lifestyles of other peoples
of the world as well. Those huge disparities must have potent causes
that one might think would be obvious. Yet this simple question
is a difficult one to answer.
all know that history has proceeded very differently for peoples
from different parts of the globe. In the 13,000 years since the
end of the last Ice Age, some parts of the world developed literate
industrial societies with metal tools, other parts developed only
nonliterate farming societies, and still others retained societies
of hunter-gatherers with stone tools. Those historical inequalities,
which constitute the most basic fact of world history, have cast
long shadows on the modern world because the literate societies
with metal tools have conquered or exterminated the other societies.
Yali's question concerned only the contrasting lifestyles of New
Guineans and of European whites, it can be extended to a larger
set of contrasts within the modern world. Peoples of Eurasian origin,
especially those still living in Europe and eastern Asia, plus those
transplanted to North America, dominate the world in wealth and
power. Other peoples, including most Africans, have thrown off European
colonial domination but remain far behind in wealth and power. Still
other peoples, such as the aboriginal inhabitants of Australia,
the Americas and southernmost Africa, are no longer even masters
of their own lands but have been decimated, subjugated and in some
cases even exterminated by European colonialists.