Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
A book I read when younger and liked a great deal was “Ishmael”. I have also since watched the movie “Instinct” several times, a movie loosely based on the book “Ishmael”. What I remember from it was “Givers” and “Takers”.
The book was good enough to be worth a revisit, and I have now found it on part of a trilogy so I am going to try for three. The first more trivial point is “reading”. Nobody, close followers, will note that I have not reviewed “Homage to Catalonia”. This book is enjoyable but I haven’t finished it. It is giving me a real view of the “revolutionary” as I had hoped. But as with books they tend to be of the author’s current interest at the time, whilst I am reading Orwell his view of revolutionaryism is not taking me over 24/7.
The second point concerns Ishmael/Daniel Quinn. I am not certain whether his book totally embraces the need for socio-political awareness. This is very important because the 1% enjoy deflecting the truth, and it requires concentration to focus on the need to highlight the power, influence and inhumanity of the 1%. Categorising people as Givers and Takers is a fair categorisation but place that in the context of the 1%-paradigm – are we 99% Givers and 1% Takers? There are undoubtedly more Takers than Givers but of the Takers less the 1% would they be Takers if not for the paradigm. My answer to that is not 100% “Yes” but I have no doubts at all that these “indoctrinated takers” would number well over 50%; straightforwardly there would not be so many Takers if it was not a Takers-paradigm to suit the 1%.
In the current stage of social chaos, increasing wars-for-profits and environmental catastrophe-for-profit focus is necessary. Intellectuals especially suit diversions. If an intellectual can say the fault is takers they will say so because they can keep their jobs, if those same intellectuals are honest analysing the proper context of the 1% reality they will have no job. This is the meaning of compromise.
To the book:-
First thing I note, it was Takers and Leavers – not Takers and Givers, the emphasis of my memory was on that of Taking!! To begin with I noted I read the book maybe 30 years ago, but that doesn’t fit with the age of the book which appears to have a publication date of 96 suggesting I read it when in Africa at the time of my mid-life re-evaluation.
I am now disappointed with the book. It does bring into question the way man has become distanced from Gaia, this is good questioning. It focuses on war and the resulting effects of lack of biodiversity, these are all good points. As a writer he makes these points as revelations*&*, but those revelations feel tame to me, obviously they didn’t at the time because the book impacted on me. He does reach the fundamental point that man is part of Gaia and not separate from it, this is integral to sociopolitical awareness but it is far from new – maybe it was new then.
But his book describes effects culturally, using Mother Culture as the enemy. This I cannot forgive. To describe in terms of culture does not look at the impact of power and influence. The 1% have accumulated wealth at the expense of humanity and not because they are typical people. Throughout my life I have met those who struggle and more importantly those who have given up. It is an important facet of the neoliberalism (which is the Chomsky word for the 1%-system) that people feel powerless to change. Yes there is the 1%, but it is not only the 1% but the many collaborators and compromisers with varying degrees of complicity who make up the Takers. And of Taker culture there is a high percentage who detest what is happening in their culture. To describe these interlacing dynamics as Mother Culture without making any reference to them does make Quinn a darling intellectual of the 1%.
It reminds me of how divisive the word “culture” is. On my travels I met people who defended their culture especially in the Third World. Attacks on culture and race were corollaries of the 1% drive for profit however much it appeared differently. Perhaps the hardest battle within the struggle is to make people see that they are all 99%, and that the divisions of gender race and culture are tools of the 1% to cause division. The lack of awareness of this in Ishmael is a major flaw, and in me at the first time of reading.
The Story of B by Daniel Quinn
As can be seen from the above review I am now disappointed with the context of Ishmael but it was Quinn’s first book. Where did he move with his analysis …. of Gaia? I don’t have high hopes of this especially as I have not previously read this. Maybe it will be a revelation like Lila.
Note:- Pirsig is the business. First Zen rocked my world but I couldn’t get into Lila. Now Zen seems tame compared to Lila, both are brill.
I began reading the Story of B, and realised that it is liklely to be spiritual – Laurentian priest after all. So what about the 1%? And then looking at this I have to ask “What did Pirsig say about the 1%?” It is still however an important benchmark but in itself is worth clarification. Perhaps one of the most important splits the 1% have succeeded in fabricating is that between the internal and external seekers of truth – a split that Russell Brand has avoided interestingly enough. The need to find your Path and the need to struggle against the 1% are not separate, they are part of the same one truth, the Truth of What is. Spirituality is the journey to learn “What is” and political awareness is concerned with examining what our society is and deciding how to act in terms of equality, democracy, fairness etc – in other words to decide how to act as human beings based on what society is. There is a sad reality of an intellectual split. Spiritual people make the journey inwards and often fail to act for justice within the society they live. Political people do not go in, and spend the time battling with each other about ideas and how they must fight for ideas – an external battle. Because they have not gone in they spend their lives focussed on ideas that reside in the external, they lack the measuring stick which comes from following the Path, a Path that brings a recognisable Unity. Personal growth (spiritual growth) leads to socio-political awareness if the spiritual journey does not get blocked by adherence to a particular dogma. This is why the 1% make sure that spiritual dogma is hamstrung from being active in society – church, charitable status etc., sadly the only action the 1% needed to take to prevent the socially aware from going inwards was to make them intellectuals so that they become bogged down with surface intellectual wrangles. I suspect the Story of B will not raise the power and influence of the 1% or bourgeoisie but that does not stop it from having value in terms of the spiritual-political spectrum that is the Path linking personal growth and socio-political awareness.