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Guns and Germs: Historical Aids to Discovery and Conquest

by Paojakhup Guite
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By – Paojakhup Guite

Is Coronovirus an invisible gun of modern China? There are many myths and conspiracy theories regarding the virus and its origin. Donald Trump, the US President is one such propounder. President-elect Joe Biden may or may not think ditto. History has it that germs have played a crucial role in the politics of discovery and conquest by colonizing people of different lands.
Twenty-three years ago, Jared Diamond in his celebrated “Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years” had pointed out that guns and germs were primary instruments that shaped the modern world history. Industrial Revolution in the second half of the 18th century added another third tool in the form of steel. Metallurgy, thus, contributed tremendously to make way for discovery and conquest much easier. Jared Diamond (b.1937) is an American geographer, historian, anthropologist and ornithologist. His book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for general non-fiction category.
Electoral politics in Manipur is much influenced by gun culture. In the most recent by-elections at the high of COVID-19 Pandemic flouting SOPs, electioneering was at its peak. “Gunshots were heard during the Public Meeting held today (October 28? subject to correction) at Kangchup…..empty bullet shells recovered from the spot of gunshot at Kangchup….”. This was a statement Dr. Lamtinthang Haokip, the INC candidate for 51-Saitu (ST) A/C was quoted as saying. The incident took place while the INC candidate was on an election campaign at Kangchup. Even in a modern democratic set-up, guns are still in vogue to intimidate innocent electorates. This sort of rigged election has, over decades produced undue results.
Germs and their genesis
Food production and domestication paved way for origin of diseases. Eurasia and the Fertile Crescent (South-west Asia) are T-points where human nomadism took a halt at. Sedentary culture came to limelight at these two centers for the first time. Hunting-gathering came to an end and was replaced by cultivation which necessitated humans to stay put, thereby built a structure that could withstand cold winter and wild animals. Thus, harvested their cultivations. Domestication came next.
Now that a time came for a germ to inevitably groom from its cocoon (foods and animals). Zoonotic diseases began to spread within human populations who were territorially and geographically contagious of one another. Ironically, these communities are the ones who had the capability to strengthen their immunity by developing medicines and antibiotics for themselves. Modern medical science was already at its initial stage to them. Conversely, there are some human populations totally isolated from those of Europeans. They were mostly natives of their land- islands, New World, etc.
From Natives to Captives
For instance, the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru became victims of geographical discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries during the Age of Discovery. This ended up in conquests.
The two tribes of the New World were dominant empire builders of their time. Spanish Conquistadors spared no effort to advance their sinister design of conquest. Advancement in maritime navigation and growth of germs and guns came in handy for the conquerors. They forayed into the New World carrying germs with them. Diseases like chickenpox, smallpox, malaria, measles, influenza, etc., were unknown to the isolated native tribes of the Americas. Nor did they have the immunity to resist the imported viruses. These native Americans could neither develop one which could severely infect back to the invaders so that they died in droves.
Ultimately, because the natives could not develop the strength to fight back the viruses, they lost to the Conquistadors forever. Hernan Cortes (1485-1547) conquered the Aztec Empire of Mexico and Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541) led the conquest of the Incan Empire in Peru. Therefore, the natives became captives in their ancestral land in the hands of the Spanish Conquistadors.
21st Century China Way
Spanish and other European conquerors invaded the land and the people in person with or without germs and guns. This was the case during early modern age.
However, 21st century modern warfare has been changed. Invaders need not necessarily be present on the intended land (battlefield). We have many long-range missile types that can be launched from a continent to another continent. Launchpads can be from surface, air or water. Still, more lethal than those of missiles has always been germs.
The infamous COVID-19 undoubtedly, has its origin in China. Many allegations have been put on the Xi Jinping led Communist government. Conspiracy theories like China’s aspiration to overtake the United States of America (USA) as a world Superpower is in the offing. There is a suspicion that the novel coronavirus was engineered in a lab in China, meaning the virus started in a laboratory there. The theorists believe that SARS-CoV-2 was the most effective bioweapon for China to wrestle power with the USA.
The Chinese mother of whistleblower and a virologist Dr. Li Meng-Yan claims that the new coronavirus is not natural and that China manufactured it. She said she has proof for her assertion. “The genome sequence is like a human fingerprint. Based on this you can identify these things. I will use this evidence to tell people why this has come from the lab in China, why they are the ones who make it. Anyone, even if you have no biology knowledge, will be able to read it.”
Dr. Li Meng-Yan is a researcher at the Hong Kong School Public Health. She has allegedly fled China.
Thus, the surreptitious warfare strategy of China, if anything as per revelations by the woman whistleblower, shows a shift in modern warfare technology: from guns to germs. However, it is reasonable to retrospect the past Pandemics such as Spanish flu, Black Death, Cholera, etc. These global diseases bore no political connotations as to their country of origin as COVID-19 does. It’s high time global leaders shunned their blame game and rather stand on a war footing to give the Pandemic a defeat. Common men should follow suit, so that we win the battle against the pandemic virus. Let’s do our best to remain devoid of guns and germs. Let’s stand up to make way for steel in order to have developments in our society.

(Views expressed here are personal. For queries, the writer may be contacted at [email protected] or 6009962948)

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