Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael - Horrifying

Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael - Horrifying

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Ishmael:  Horrifying  

Among the people of your culture, which want to destroy the world? Which want to destroy it? As far as I know, no one specifically wants to destroy the world. And yet you do destroy it, each of you. Each of you contribute daily to the destruction of the world.  This truth was stated by a gorilla named Ishmael who, through his experiences of being taken from the jungle, placed in a zoo in the 1930's, put in a menagerie, and bought by a private owner named Mr. Sokolow, had all the time in a world to think about the world around him. Daniel Quinn writes about the horrifying realities of our culture in a book called Ishmael, by stepping outside of the world as we know it and describing what he sees through a talking gorilla. Behind the bars of his cage, he was able to take a look at our culture as an outsider, to see things that we never could. This sagacious, passive, and extremely patient primate wanted to share this knowledge to others so as to stop man from destroying the world. So, he placed an ad in the paper and caught the attention of an eager student, the narrator, who was willing to save the world.

Desperately confused, this everyday writer tries to step out of his culture and experience a whole new world. Day after day, this half ton gorilla, Ishmael, opens the narrators eyes and teaches him "how things came to be." He starts out by dividing man into two different cultures. He calls the people of our culture takers and the people of all other cultures leavers. Each culture has a story. In Ishmael's teachings, a story is a scenario interrelating man, the world, and the gods. This story is enacted by the people in a culture. In other words, people in a culture live as to make the story a reality.

The first story Ishmael tells is that of the takers. Every story is based on a premise. The taker premise is that the world was made for man. If the world is made for man, then it belongs to him, and man can do what ever he pleases with it. It's our environment, our seas, our solar system, etc. The world is a support system for man. It is only a machine designed to produce and sustain human life.

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Without man, the world was unfinished. It was just a jungle. It was in chaos so man was needed to come in and rule it.

The taker story began when the hunters and gatherers, the leavers, who were at the mercy of nature and had many limitations, decided to settle down and take nature into their own hands. They were the first farmers. The agricultural revolution was rooted in the fact that we wanted and still want to have our lives in our own hands. This was inspired by the idea if we could make more food that they needed, the gods would have no power over us when they decided it was our time to go hungry. When these early takers started to farm they faced a lot of resistance from nature and the rest of the community of living things. Birds came in and ate their seeds, insects came in and ate their shoots, mice came in and plundered their crops, and blizzards and droughts destroyed everything. So, since nature wouldn't succumb to man easily, man had to conquer it. Settlement led to division of labor, which led to technology, which led to trade and commerce, which led to science, math, and literacy. This is how things came to be this way, man was merely fulfilling his destiny, or enacting the taker story. The end of this story will ultimately be disaster.

There is a good reason that the takers are predestined for disaster. They didn't play by the rules. For example, it's impossible to build a working airplane if the laws of aerodynamics aren't applied. So, in order to make a successful culture or civilization, it's critical to know the laws of living. This is the law of limited competition. This law states that a species can compete to the full extent of its capabilities, but it may not destroy its enemy's food or deny them access to food. In simpler terms, it's all right to compete, but not wage war. This law is divided into three parts. First, no one species shall make the life of the world its own. Second, the world was not made for any one species. Third, the rule of this law was and is sufficient. Mankind was not needed to bring order to the world. Any species that exempts itself from the law of limited competition will end by destroying the living community to support its own expansion.

The leaver story, however, worked quite well under this law, but it has been virtually wiped out by the takers. The premise of the leaver story is that man belongs to the world. In the short, the leaver story says that the gods made man for the world, like any other animal. This seems to have worked pretty well so far, so the leavers could relax and leave the running of the world to the gods. The takers thought that the gods messed everything up, so they decided to take matters into their own, more competent, hands. They take what they need from the world and leave the rest alone. They live at the mercy of the gods. While the taker story ends in disaster of all life, the leaver story ends in creation that goes on forever.

One of Ishmael's most powerful methods of teaching was using allusions to the Bible and interpreting it in a way that makes frightening sense. The Old Testament was a story carried on by an ancient leaver civilization, the Semites, which was eventually carried on by their taker descendants called the Hebrews. Ishmael starts by analyzing Genesis with Adam and Eve. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was only eaten by the gods for it helped them decide who should live and who should die. So, Adam, or man, was told not to eat of this tree because only the gods were meant to rule, and if Adam did eat this fruit he would kill everything until he eventually ended up by killing himself. Then, Adam ate of this tree and realized he was naked. He was naked to the world, and he was powerless like all the otheranimals. This is the point at which the leavers observed the takers beginning to settle down and take over land and kill anything that got in the way of their food. When Eve gave Adam the knowledge of who should live and who should die, Adam learned that he no longer had to depend on the bounty of the gods. With the knowledge of who should live and who should die in his hands, he could create a bounty that would exist for him alone, and that meant he could live and multiply without limit. Instead of being the progenitor of man, Adam was really the progenitor of our culture, the taker culture.

The other part of the Bible discussed in Ishmael is the story of Cain and Able. As Ishmael interpreted it, this was a piece of war propaganda told by the wandering Semitic herders, or Able, who were being killed by the expanding farmers, or Cain. In the Bible, God favored Able, the Semites, and looked down upon Cain, or the early takers. As the farms expanded, they had to get rid of all the animals, trees, and leavers that got in the way.

In concluding his teachings, Ishmael gives some advise on how the world can be saved from the takers. He describes the culture of the takers as a prison whose industry is consuming the world. So, in order to stop consuming the world, we must find the key that can unlock the gate. We must escape so we can stop destroying the world while there is still time. Most importantly, we must stop destroying the leaver cultures that still exist in various parts of the world today, and learn from them. To save the world, Cain must stop killing Able.

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