Ishmael Book

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Sociology 336

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. Daniel Quinn. 262 pp. 1992. Bantam/Turner Books: New York. $10.95 paperback. ISBN 0-553-37540-7

Major Points

Ishmael is about a man seeking peace from the disillusioned lies he has been lead to believe. He comes across an ad in the newspaper stating teacher-seeking student, willing to save the world. The ad inspires him to seek out wisdom of the unknown truth. To the man's surprise the teacher is a caged gorilla. This gorilla "Ishmael" is not just a gorilla he is gifted with the revolution of mother culture; his objective is to teach captivity. Ishmael criticizes human civilization and states "your captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live (25)." He explains that you can try and escape but it is a constant battle against mother culture, keeping people bound to the civilized way of life. If one begins to see the lies as reality change would not likely be erected but if the multitudes began to see the lies then that Ishmael explains is what we must hope for.

As a civilization we are all part of a story, each enacting a role and to this story we are held captive. We are unaware of the story because we have habituated to the hum of mother culture in our ear. We are all blind to the reality of the story but Ishmael says once we are aware of the story then it becomes our reality. The irony of the story is that there is no way out, to get out is to die. The only option is to be aware of mother culture and challenge the inherent lies we have been lead to believe.

Ishmael describes the two distinctive stories between the Leavers and the Takers. Leavers are primitive they live harmoniously with other species and the earth. They hold on to the traditions and the past, preserving the knowledge of their ancestors Takers are civilized and their objective is to conquer the world. Mother culture would describe the past as useless where traditions are lost and ancestral ways should be forgotten. The Takers perceive the Leavers to live an animalistic life; a life style that should no longer be tolerated. Leaver's primitive hunting-gathering way of life soon turned into the Takers agricultural expansion, which ignited the cycle of worldly destruction. Mother culture influences the Takers to believe that more is better; bigger and greater material things are to be desired when in reality it is not prosperous, it is wasteful and disastrous to the world. The ideal of civilized man is to turn the world into an absolute utopia. Contradictory to the ideal the result is consumption and pollution, which causes global destruction. Resolution to the problem will remain unresolved until man becomes aware of the destruction being caused by civilization.

The Takers think that the laws that govern all other species do not apply because through agriculture and technology their belief is that they are exempt from famine, disease and extinction. Ishmael clearly explains that this is not the case. He states, "any species that exempts itself from the rules of competition ends up destroying the community in order to support its own expansion. (135)" For man to live in harmony with the planet the Takers must examine their ideals and mythology by adopting a new paradigm. Change must occur so civilization can fit the guidelines of the natural law. Man is unaware of this law that must be complied with in order to achieve civilized flight (107). Because man is not in compliance with the law it makes flight impossible (108). With absence of natural law civilization is forced to peddle faster and harder pushing itself to stay up when the law is creating a greater force of resistance. Civilization is blind to the reality of the fall, consumed by momentary pleasure. What they don't see is that they are headed for a crash. Mother culture is the false conscious whisper in our ear that it is the individual that should be held...
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