Quotes of Note

Throughout Guns, Germs, and Steel author Jared Diamond makes the point over and over that we shouldn’t judge “primitive” people as being unintelligent simply because they don’t possess the same knowledge database that we have.  In the example below Diamond gives us an example of how knowledgeable the Foré tribesmen of New Guinea are about the practical things they must be aware of in order to stay alive, and how stupid they think some American “experts” are. 

“For the last 33 years, while conducting biological explorations in New Guinea, I have been spending my field time there constantly in the company of New Guineans who still use wild plants and animals extensively.  One day when my companions of the Foré tribe and I were starving in the jungle because another tribe was blocking our return to our supply base, a Foré man returned to camp with a large rucksack full of mushrooms he had found, and started to roast them.  Dinner at last! But then I had an unsettling thought: What if the mushrooms were poisonous?

“I patiently explained to my Foré companions that I had read about some mushrooms being poisonous, that I had heard of even expert American mushroom collectors dying because of the difficulty of distinguishing safe from dangerous mushrooms, and that although we were all hungry, it just wasn’t worth the risk.  At that point my companions got angry and told me to shut up and listen while they explained some things to me.  After I had been quizzing them for years about names of hundreds of trees and birds, how could I insult them by assuming they didn’t have names for different mushrooms?  Only Americans could be so stupid as to confuse poisonous mushrooms with safe ones.  They went on to lecture me about 29 types of edible mushroom species, each species’ name in the Foré language, and where in the forest one should look for it.  This one, the tánti, grew on trees and it was delicious and perfectly edible.”

— — — — —

“Litigations between husbands and wives exceed in bitterness and hatred those of any other relationships.  I have represented defrauded businessmen who fight their deceivers for fortune and power.  I have seen them pour out their venom against their opponents until they suffered heart attacks or were ulcerated.  I have witnessed struggles for the protection of copyrighted property, where the pride of authorship, being dearer than life itself, consumed the creative artist.  I have seen public figures libeled or accused of wrongs which could wreck their life’s work, strike back at their detractors.  I have observed men with spotless reputations who were indicted, suffer nervous breakdowns.  I have witnessed children sue their fathers to deprive them of their businesses, or brothers engaged in fratricidal contests without quarter.  I have seen defendants in antitrust suits beleaguered by plaintiffs seeking treble damages or defending themselves against Government actions aimed to break up their enterprise, painstakingly build over a lifetime.  I have participated in will contests in which relatives were at each others’ throats for the inheritance.

“All these litigations evoke intense feelings of animosity, revenge, and retribution.  Some of them may be fought ruthlessly.  But none of them even in their most aggravated form, can equal the sheer, unadulterated venom of a matrimonial contest.  The participants are often ready to gouge out the eyes or the soul of the once loved, without any pity whatsoever.” – Louis Nizer, My Life in Court

“Hot lead can be almost as effective coming from a linotype as from a firearm.” – John O’Hara

“It’s not that I don’t like things, I mean some things are very nice, but they certainly take a distant second place to being able to live your life and being able to do what you want to do. I always knew that I didn’t want to work.” – Cormack McCarthy

“We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.” – J.K. Rowling

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Anthropologist Margaret Mead

“Be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland

“There are five stages in the life of an actor: Who’s Mary Astor? Get me Mary Astor. Get me a Mary Astor type. Get me a young Mary Astor. Who’s Mary Astor?” – Actress Mary Astor


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