On first impression while reading Ishmael, the fact a gorilla is teaching the reader about the human race is almost insulting. At second glance however, one realizes the primate has a better perspective on human action. Always viewing our civilization from afar, he is able to notice certain aspects of our nature that are so natural to us; we are blind to their destructiveness. Although some of Ishmael's analogies may seem far-fetched, the points he makes with them are frighteningly true.
The metaphor that struck me the most was Ishmael's comparison between a freefalling airman and human civilization. The airman believes he is flying just because of his distance above the ground; however, he is actually plummeting towards the earth at an accelerating rate. According to Ishmael, this is exactly what man is doing with civilization. Just because we have not destroyed ourselves yet, does not mean it is not going to happen soon the earth is catching up with us. We, like the airman, are saying to ourselves, "our civilization 'has brought us this far in safety ... [we] just have to keep going'" (106). When, in fact, we should be noticing the irreversible damage we are causing on both ourselves, and the entirety of our planet. The realities that we are destroying the ozone and melting the icecaps are not small events, nor is the accelerating process of causing the extinction of many of this planet's species. "Basic, irreplaceable resources are being devoured every year and they're being devoured more greedily every year" (109).
Our race has passed the point at which we can just wake up suddenly decide to reverse our damage; we cannot fly upward. Much of it is permanent. Fortunately, we can learn how to glide. We can improve our aircraft while in midair, but it will require fast and meticulous work. Our population growth, our destroying of the rainforests, our melting of planet, it can all stop, if we work hard enough. This would not be simply "pedaling...
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