Tuesday, June 4, 2013
The Norse vs the Inuit
One of the most fascinating chapters of Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse", is the one about how the Norse community on Greenland collapsed, while their neighbours the Inuit community survived in more or less the same (difficult) environment. Diamond claims that if the Norse had been willing to learn some of the techniques (which they could easily observe) mastered by the Inuit, they would also have survived. However, the Norse were prevented from doing so by prejudice. They were so proud to be Europeans that they thought that the Inuit were just an inferior species that did not even deserve their attention. The details of the story are disputed, but Diamond raises the realistic possibility that cultural stereotypes and narrow minded nationalism may be so strong so as to bring a community to commit collective suicide. It is actually not necessary to reach this extreme today to realise that in many corners of the world communities are worse off for failing to realize that one can learn (and economically benefit) from observing, from talking, and from exchanging with those that are not exactly like us.