This paper looks into the movie “guns, germs and steel”.
This movie is based on Jared Diamond’s book that sought to explain inequality in the world cultures. In the beginning of the movie, focus is on Francisco Pizarro. Pizarro was a team leader of a Spaniard mercenary group in search of treasure.
He had a band of not more than 168 men. The movie then brings scenes contrasting developments in Spain as contrasted with developments in the Incas kingdom over time. In the movie, Jared uses the conquest of the Spaniards over the Incas to illustrate how geography contributed in a big way to the development of some cultures such that they became superior over others. The film contrasts the lives of the Incas and that of the Spaniards. While the Spanish lived in an expanse bordering other competitive cultures, the Incas lived in a valley that did not allow them to interact with other people. By the 1500s, the Spaniards were already advanced farmers who had tapped into animal power to increase their productivity (National Geographic, 2010). Much progress in the European region had resulted from interaction with other regions such as the Middle East and Africa.
It is in the Middle East that farming or agricultural practice developed and later spread to North Africa before being adopted by the Europeans. As explained in the movie, over the years, improvement in farming gave some cultures a head start over others. The animals that were domesticated provided more than just meat. The farmers got wool, manure but most importantly animal power that helped them move farming to a higher level. In contrast with the Incas, the Spaniards adopted animals that their geography supported or helped them access. For example, they were able to use horses to facilitate movement. Overtime they learnt the art of horsemanship; using horses in a powerful way to control their farms but also as a means flight or pursuit during war fare.
The Incas due to their limited access to other exposed cultures largely depended on hand power. The animals they had domesticated were small and could not be used to provide power that could improve productivity. As the film proceeds, it is indicated that the news of Spaniard exploits reached the Incas even before they could reach the empire (National Geographic, 2010). The Incas heard stories of people who were more or less gods. No Incas man had been able to ride an animal before.
Therefore, to see men riding on animals was like seeing a god. The emperor having heard of the Spaniards exploits tricked them into entering his palace in the hope of trapping them thus defeating them. However, with the use of horses and marked horsemanship, Pizarro was able to capture the emperor and kill thousands of Incas soldiers. Before the entry of Pizarro’s men into the palace, the film focuses on development of swords from steel among the Spaniards (National Geographic, 2010). According to Diamond, the Spaniards developed superior weapons because they lived in a competitive environment where survival relied on weaponry supremacy.
The better weaponry a society developed the better it was at fending off the enemy. Much ancient wars between Spaniards and neighbors were in or around water bodies. That also affected the way swords that were developed appeared; or the qualities that blacksmiths developed into swords. With combined swordsmanship and horsemanship, the Spaniards were able to defeat the Incas easily.
In an open field, with the Incas running the horsemen easily attacked and crushed the Inca soldiers. The Incas fought with their spears and bows but the supremacy of horses and swords led to their breaking ranks and trying to scamper for safety. The Incas had regarded their leader like a god but with his capture, the Spaniards were feared and revered.
Although Pizarro captured the Incas King, they did not kill him. They saved him based on belief that Christians could only kill in the heat of a war. Any chance of regrouping, by the Incas, was rendered untenable due to germs and infections that came with the Spaniards. The Spaniards came with Small pox which affected the Inca men and spread among them like fire (National Geographic, 2010). According to Diamond, the Spaniards were more immune to smallpox because they had been exposed to many more germs than the Incas. The domestic animals they had reared for over 10000 years enabled them to get exposed to germs and infections that made them more resistant. Later the Spaniards used the Incas king to force his people to subject to their demands. I liked this movie a lot because it provides evidence to a more realistic explanation as to why inequality exists in the world.
Although not conclusive, geographical features played an important role in determining how people developed. Although the movie focuses on Pizarro’s conquest over the Incas, the same story can be discerned of European conquest over Africa and other parts of the world. Jared’s theory of old world and new world perfectly captures differences in level of civilization among different cultures of the world. The intrusion of the foreigners from the old world affected the ways of living in the new world. Through colonization, cultures were dismantled and European dominance established.
By use of guns, any resistance was easily quashed.
National Geographic, 2010, Guns, Germs and Steel, Available athttp://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6846344734969027300#(Accessed 3rd May, 2010)