Review of Jared Diamond’s Book, “Upheaval”

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality in times of moral crisis.

~Dante Alighieri~

I have been reading one book after another trying to make sense of where the world was, where it is now and where it is heading. I finally discovered Diamond’s new book. Now that I have finished reading it, I have a better context for understanding, individual people, nations and the world as well a framework in which to consider the challenges facing all of us.

He begins by reminding us that the Chinese character for crisis consists of the characters representing danger and opportunity. Both of these await individuals, nations and the world as we all evolve.

The author starts with individual crises, based on his own life experience, and 12 factors which influence the outcome of a person’s dealing with crisis. The first two of these factors are “acknowledgment that one is in crisis” and “acceptance of one’s personal responsibility to do something.” He then proceeds to list 12 somewhat similar but somewhat different factors which influence outcomes for nations facing crises including “national flexibility” and “national core values.”

He then considers several countries as well as factors on the list which affected each nation for better or worse. He chose mostly countries in which he has lived, learned their language and became familiar with the citizens. Some crises followed a single event and others developed over a period of time. At the end of the book, he considers crises facing the world and how the factors might influence future outcomes for the world and its inhabitants.

The United States has enormous advantages in terms of relevant positive factors. Yet he posits four fundamental problems: “the accelerating deterioration of political compromise, the state of our elections, economic inequality of Americans, and declining American investment in human capital including the wellbeing of all our people.”

He concludes with a consideration of world problems including nuclear weapons, global climate change, global resource depletion and global inequality of living standards. He sees these as problems affecting the earth’s human population, holding out the real possibility of extinction of our species.

He pursues all of these issues in well reasoned detail. Although many of these problems are complex, Diamond presents them in a way which will be easily understood by the attentive reader. At first glance, our future looks dire. Yet many individuals and nations have emerged from their crises with more manageable lives and societies. All is not lost but we have considerable work to do. I hope you are willing to do your part.

Source by Joseph Langen

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