I generally get all heated up by a Diamond book---all the campaigning, the accolades, the use of other peoples' material to suggest he has spent fifty years studying Papua New Guineans...etc But this Stephen Colbert interview makes him look as silly as he really is. Finally. Not just an Amish-looking ponce with the voice of Slip Mahoney from the Bowery Boys, he really is arrogant enough to suggest the Kaulong people continue to murder widows (and demonstrates how this is done) and tries to pass off old age in New Guinea as an unalloyed golden experience. Consider the following exchange for example---on how generalists can slip up with particulars:
Diamond:"Old age plays out more happily in New Guinea.'
Colbert: ' How long do they live?...32?'
Diamond: 'Ok--you're correct--there's a problem!'
Colbert: 'That's not a small problem! I would have been dead...months ago.'
Diamond: 'Their average lifespan is shorter.'
And alittle later:
Colbert: ' If I went there with an electric can opener would they treat me as a god? As Van Kamp the King of Beans?'
Diamond explains how they would find a way to decorate their nose or ears with the can opener instead. Because, of course, there are no cans in PNG, just as there are no iphones (something Diamond declares up front). Probably no motor cars or aeroplanes or wireless radios either.
You decide for yourself whether this man, as so many anthropologists and historians have been saying for years, does a greater disservice to New Guinea than all the tourist brochures with happy Hulis put together?(Which, by the way, is no slur on the Hulis; they singlehandedly rule the tourism industry in PNG. But are we now going to have waves of visitors asking to see the murderous Kaulong ?)