Guns, Germs and Steel

Mel O'Dea is an artist (painter) and a human rights defender. She has been the latter for 20 years, starting with the Anti-apartheid movement in the late Eighties. Mel's initial career was in the sciences, developing microprocessor devices for University College Cork. She dropped out of four degree courses, but is aiming to start a degree in politics, philosophy and economics with the open university this year. Her campaigning interests are basic human rights, fair trade policy, debt cancellation and global climate change.

Guns, Germs and Steel Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond is an examination of the differences between races and cultures, and why they occur. The book is particularly important as it argues virulently and convincingly against 'social darwinist' or 'racist' explanations of difference, and offers instead a reasoned argument that refutes any notion of societies or cultures being in some way 'inherently superior or inferior'. The arguments are important, particularly when examining certain of the attitudes towards the world's indigenous communities, and the often stated belief that their rights have to take 'second place' when competing with loggers, miners etc.. The book celebrates difference, and explains difference in a way that values it, rather than seeing difference as an intrinsic part of a 'necessary social hierarchy'. The book brings together both history and science, is excellently researched, and puts across its arguments in a rigorous, lively and well informed manner. I would recommend it to anyone who seeks to understand both difference and its ultimate value, and who seeks a real alternative to ideas of inherent superiority, whether put forth by 'racists' or by ideas such as the New American century.

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