Summary and response of “Yali’s Question”


In the prologue Yali’s Question, the author talked about the reason why he wrote this book focusing on historical inequalities and how to explain such huge disparities. The initial main cause was a penetrating question raised by Yali, who was a local politician of New Guinea. He asked the author why black people could not create cargo of their own as white people. This question made the author ponder long and deeply; as a result, he finally finished this book about “human evolution, history, and language” to attempt to answer Yali. According to the author, as early as of the year A.D. 1500, there were already great differences “in technology and political organization” between different continents. It is “different rates of development on different continents from 11,000 B.C. to A.D. 1500” that led to the technological and political distribution in A.D. 1500. In his opinion, during that period of time, Eurasia developed “agriculture, herding, metallurgy and complex political organization” while people on other continents still remained hunter-gatherers. He also mentioned that “conquest, epidemics, and genocide” were the ways of interactions among people that the modern world was shaped. “Those collisions created reverberations.” One of reverberations was that many indigenous populations fell drastically due to genocide and disease. The other reverberation was that 6,000 surviving languages were replaced by several major languages whose numbers of speakers have immensely increased.

I find many interesting facts in the Yali’s Question that I have never noticed before. We always think that the huge disparity started with the age of discovery and the Industrialization. Due to the discovery of new travel routes and illegal trades, the development of Europe exceeded the other continents. All progress that Europe has made after that are almost based on the Industrialization. However, the author gave an opinion that the different rates of development from 11,000 B.C. to A.D. 1500 led to present wealth distribution today. Also, he mentioned a reverberation caused by the collision between people on different continents, which was that a diversity of languages is replaced by only several major languages. We always see this phenomenon as the result of globalization. If we want to continue globalization, it will be unavoidable that the number of languages surviving in the world is drastically decreasing.

I was born when the structure of the world was almost finalized. I have never thought deeply about the reasons why the structure of the world was like today. The article encouraged my curiosity about what led to political, economic and military distribution of the world today.



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