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Final Thoughts on GGS? 
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
giselle wrote:
Saffron wrote:
giselle wrote:
Saffron: that's good ... where are you in GGS?

I am at the end of chapter 13: Necessity's Mother. I've not had a look inside my book since last week - painting right now. When I bought my townhouse I painted everything with the exception of one room - the largest room - I am in the throws of painting it. I promise to pick the book back up tomorrow evening. What other books are you reading? DWill's of Colapsed is apropos. I also think that maybe the most important take away from GGS is the explanation of how power became distributed as it is. Colapsed is a good follow up to GGS, in that it continues to develope some of JD's ideas about the interaction between humans and the enviroment (geography).

I understand what you mean about the 'throws of painting' although I think you mean 'throes' :roll: sorry, couldn't resist. Anyway, throes is fine but best if you don't throw your paint, that would be very messy.

:lol: I am so tired I feel as if I could fall asleep on my feet - so, throes, throws, they are all the same to me at the moment. I must have edited that little post 4 times and still I missed the mistake! Off to bed with me.


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giselle
Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:14 pm
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
saffron seems to have been hinting in a way that reading Diamond is somewhat akin to the joy of slapping paint on walls--even if not as excruciating as watching it dry. Well, I agree. Although I give him a lot of points for thoroughness and patience, he tries ours! He's not a writer to excite; he's rather plodding in my view. But then again, so was Darwin, I guess.


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Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:31 pm
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
DWill wrote:
saffron seems to have been hinting in a way that reading Diamond is somewhat akin to the joy of slapping paint on walls--even if not as excruciating as watching it dry. Well, I agree. Although I give him a lot of points for thoroughness and patience, he tries ours! He's not a writer to excite; he's rather plodding in my view. But then again, so was Darwin, I guess.

Well, I'd say he's better at broad strokes of the brush than the fussy, careful work in the corners and he has to learn that its best not to keep painting over the same spot ... 8)



Wed Feb 01, 2012 2:04 am
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
giselle wrote:
'kago' refers to material goods and technology, maybe the meaning could be stretched to include health care but that would be a stretch.
Drugs and clinics are cargo, health services are not. The Cargo Cult in Melanesia sees the provision of goods as a symbol of political power, demonstrating the patron-client relation between the big man and the ordinary people. There is something rather primitive and magical about the cargo cult, because it sometimes happens that people care less about whether a facility operates effectively than about the material transfer of goods. Australia provides a large quantity of free pharmaceuticals to PNG.
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So, when we consider the world's have's and have-nots, I would argue that we have to consider the wider basket not just 'kago'. I think GGS does go some way toward seeing this wider basket but Diamond returns to Yali's question as the fundamental one he is answering, when I think in reality, Diamond is addressing a substantially wider question.

Yes, Diamond is talking about sustainable and effective development, whereas the cargo cult neglects the institutional and human factors that are essential for real progress. Money and goods are not sufficient to achieve development in the absence of wise strategic investment.

Guns are sometimes seen as the most important cargo. Hilaire Belloc had a famous poem in which he said the difference between Africans and Europeans was that European's had machine guns. This was a grossly simplistic, but all too common, misunderstanding. Machine guns only deliver development within a complex institutional framework. Too many Africans believed Belloc, with the sad results of kleptocracy and the violent corruption of power coming from the barrel of a gun.

Whatever happens, we have got The Maxim gun, and they have not.


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Wed Feb 01, 2012 4:35 am
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
giselle wrote:
DWill wrote:
saffron seems to have been hinting in a way that reading Diamond is somewhat akin to the joy of slapping paint on walls--even if not as excruciating as watching it dry. Well, I agree. Although I give him a lot of points for thoroughness and patience, he tries ours! He's not a writer to excite; he's rather plodding in my view. But then again, so was Darwin, I guess.

Well, I'd say he's better at broad strokes of the brush than the fussy, careful work in the corners and he has to learn that its best not to keep painting over the same spot ... 8)

:laugh: :laugh: to both of you!


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Wed Feb 01, 2012 6:16 am
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
Robert Tulip wrote:
giselle wrote:
'kago' refers to material goods and technology, maybe the meaning could be stretched to include health care but that would be a stretch.
Drugs and clinics are cargo, health services are not. The Cargo Cult in Melanesia sees the provision of goods as a symbol of political power, demonstrating the patron-client relation between the big man and the ordinary people. Whatever happens, we have got The Maxim gun, and they have not.

The focus on the physical delivery of goods as demonstrating power of the big man places the development worker in Melanesia in the odd spot of being expected on the one hand to deliver cargo and on the other hand being seen as competitive with the locals who have brought cargo in. The real struggle is between this input focus and the lack of focus on development outcomes. I think Yali's question is quite common among young males in PNG and elsewhere in Melanesia but I don't think that a focus on 'cargo' is good development policy or strategy, even if it resonates with their culture. So, this is why I question JD's focus on Yali's question - I think the answer to this question will never come close to explaining haves and have nots or to guiding future development, a broader question is needed.



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Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:51 pm
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
Giselle wrote:
I question JD's focus on Yali's question

Hi Giselle, interesting to hear your perspectives on Melanesia. The concept of development as resource transfer is fundamentally flawed. Handouts disempower people and create dependency. In Australia we call it 'welfare poison' or 'sit down money'.

Politicians often want to see development in terms of "how many people got that". They love cutting ribbons and being seen as the giver of gifts. The reality is that development is about values, systems and institutional rules. Giving people things is a syndrome of reciprocal obligation, reinforcing power relations, and does not establish sustainable development.

I think Diamond has a more sophisticated take on this than your summary might imply. He is not suggesting that giving things to Papua New Guineans will transfer western institutions and values to them. Rather, he is looking to the deep cultural causal factors that enable one society to acquire advanced technology and wealth while another makes do with stone and wood and poverty.


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Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:51 am
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
Thanks for your insight Robert. My point was only that 'Yali's question' articulates one viewpoint with respect to development because it is attached to the notion of cargo, when in fact Melanesians hold many views on the subject of development. For example ... the adoption of technology which you mention and which JD does focus on to a great degree ... the spectrum of views on this vary from favouring adoption at the highest rate possible to many who fear loss of culture and values if change comes too quickly and also who see the potential for import/adoption of western values that will ride in with that technology.

Although the latter view might seem backward or regressive, I think there is considerable legitimacy to managing the rate of change to avoid adverse impacts whether they be social, environmental or other. Whether 'cargo' includes adoption of technology is an interesting question but in my view it does not, 'cargo' is limited to the material objects and the wider question of if or how technology is adopted goes somewhat beyond the delivery of cargo.

Going back to loss of culture/values and to repeat a point I made earlier in this discussion, Melanesia has been under considerable pressure from development agencies and international banks etc. to revise its land tenure practices in favour of private, titled land systems. To my understanding, this requirement comes up in the face of cultural values embodied in customary land practices and confronts the related, culturally defined power structures. It may be that the customary land system originally arose from geographic/environmental factors as Diamond describes, and this is a take-away from this book for me, and so I agree with you that he is addressing deeper causal factors. I'm only noting that these factors go way beyond the scope of Yali's question.



Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:02 pm
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
Yali's question is "Why is that you white people developed much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" (Diamond, p. 3)

As Diamond says, this basic question is the theme of the whole book, and pondering the answer to it helps to explain the geographical factors of development. The scope of this question is almost infinite in terms of the explanation for human history.

I don't agree that Yali's question does actually articulate a viewpoint. It is an open question. And you cannot really separate the Melanesian concept of cargo (goods) from the cultural issues around technology transfer and adoption. In Melanesia, things of stone and wood were fine until whites arrived with paper and metal and electricity and money. The isolation of Melanesian communities meant there was little pressure for innovation. The victory of the colonial powers did not mean that Melanesians were stupid, but it did show that the competitive pressures that had spewed the conquerors out of the western end of Eurasia were immensely powerful and world changing.

The question of land tenure is very interesting. Dr Helen Hughes of the Center for Independent Studies in Australia has argued that absence of individual property ownership with legal title is a binding constraint for development in Melanesia. Hernando de Soto of the Institute for Liberty and Development in Peru argued in his book The Mystery of Capital that unlocking the value of land by enabling borrowing with collateral through a shift from informal to formal legal systems is the key to economic growth and poverty reduction.

By and large Melanesians have rejected land reform, but it is happening anyway through corruption, with large scale theft of property rights especially with forestry and mining concessions, and also with coastal development in Vanuatu. Land has a religious significance, and customary tenure is seen as a basis of security and identity. In fact, the security of Melanesia is provided by the military alliance between Australia and the USA which prevents Asians from invading. The local traditions are really very fragile. Huntington's map that puts PNG in the West shows the real security umbrella.

Hughes and De Soto have a point in their focus on tradeable property rights, in that the western economy was basically stagnant until the cadaster enabled fiat creation of money through fractional reserve banking. We are now in a situation where we do not know if this invented electronic money we use is real or imaginary as a store of value. But compared to the primitive barter system of traditional cultures, money has enabled an almost unimaginable increase in wealth. We have shifted from a de facto gold standard to a land standard. The gold standard was always slightly magical anyway.

A friend said to me when he visited a village in PNG that he had never seen people who were so happy. There is much to lose in terms of belonging to a community through the loneliness and selfishness of modern life.


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Fri Feb 03, 2012 7:18 pm
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Post Re: Final Thoughts on GGS?
Robert Tulip wrote:
The question of land tenure is very interesting. Dr Helen Hughes of the Center for Independent Studies in Australia has argued that absence of individual property ownership with legal title is a binding constraint for development in Melanesia. Hernando de Soto of the Institute for Liberty and Development in Peru argued in his book The Mystery of Capital that unlocking the value of land by enabling borrowing with collateral through a shift from informal to formal legal systems is the key to economic growth and poverty reduction.

Thanks for these references, I will look them up. I'm quite interested in the impact of collective versus private land ownership/tenure on development, both in the historical sense and in modern times. The way I understand it, the shift from a customary land to titled ownership is far more than a legal technicality - it goes to the root of spiritual and cultural connections with the land, converting the land to a privately titled commodity that can be bought and sold on a market. This commodification creates the twin effect of alienation (spiritual and practical) from that land of the traditional owners and, at the same time, creates the potential for collateral and significant financing arrangements that are critical to land development and production of goods and services. Commodification of land permits land grabs and corrupution as well, and this has been experienced and documented in many countries.

When you look at the variety of land/resource tenure that is typically available and the money that can be made very quickly by certain people in power, it is not surprising that countries with relatively weak governing systems end up experiencing corruption or land/resources falling into the hands of interests who may not care for the plight of the people and communities on that land. It is also clear that customary land and other forms of collective 'ownership' have no place in capitalist banking systems, which means that money invested on those lands cannot be leveraged with debt. I have encountered a few instances where lenders have attempted to finance projects/business on collectively owned land but I don't think these efforts were successful.

Perhaps this really comes down to the rate of development .. those living in countries where the land tenure system does not square with banking and lending systems see themselves falling ever further behind, in a material sense?



Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:44 pm
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