I recently posted a review of a book by Daniel Quinn titled “Ishmael”. The book is a semi-fiction/philosophical dialog between Daniel Quinn and an old Gorilla called Ishmael (of course Ishmael is the archetype of a wise elder, and symbolic of the anti-thesis of modern man).
The dialog is worth reading and I would urge all medhavis to get a copy of this excellent book and read through. The contents of this book are timeless I think, but they are very relevant nonetheless in today’s world.
When we have problem after problem being created by our Modernity…massive industrialization, automation via fossil-fuel consuming monsters, pollution of Mother Earth on such an epic proportion, that what Ishmael has to say is definitely very very relevant!
The gist of the book is that there is a constant subliminal brain-washing underway, which the author calls “Mother Culture’s message”. The important thing about the message that Mother Culture is constantly whispering in the ears of her “Children” is it’s roots in a very virulent premise — that of the primacy of Man over all other things existent in this Universe.
Quinn (or perhaps I should say Ishmael) makes a very interesting observation:
He traces all problems with the world starting approximately 10,000 BCE. And the problem he claims is the rise of the Farmer. To be more precise, he observes that human beings have bifurcated primarily into two categories around that timeframe —
a) remain the hunter-gatherers they were from pre-historic times
b) become farmers (and eventually become “Civilized”)
Ishmael further observes that the two groups can be called “The Leavers” and “The Takers” respectively. That is, the Hunter-Gatherers he calls “The Leavers” and the agriculturists and settlers he calls “The Takers”.
The premise behind this nomenclature is his assertion that at the time (around 10,000 BCE), when the first farming communities were forming, man had two choices. To “take” to the farming way or “leave” it and continue with the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. So the takers chose to “take up” the farming way of life and the leavers decided to “leave it”.
The other explanation/understanding of the “Leaver/Taker” dichotomy can be as follows:
The Leavers follow Natural Laws (in harmony with the way of things…in Nature. Such as limited competition, etc).
The Takers on the other hand violate all Natural Laws. Instead of fair and limited compeition for food and survival, The Takers hunt down and exterminate all sources of threat to their food supplies and survival. The example Ishmael gives is that one can never find a pride of Lions hunting down and killing everything that might potentially become (or is already) a competitor for food and survival.
The Takers however (with history as witness) has done so (and will continue to do so).
The names can have other connotations to and the irony of that fact will not of course be lost to the readers.
Ishmael then goes ahead to state the following (I will tabulate what I understood, and my apologies if I have mis-interpreted any of it):
The Taker’s World:
A short list of competitors:
|Natural competitors (those animals that compete for same/similar food items|
|natural competitors of the Takers’ Food sources (anything that might prevent natural and preferred food items of the takers’ from growing to levels satisfactory in the takers’perspective)|
Classic Taker Traits:
|At war with rest of the natural world|
|World is made for Takers|
|“Control” and “Improve” the world, such that conditions are conducive for population expansion of the Takers|
|Eradicate everything that does not “enhance” the chances of Taker Population growth sustenance|
|Bring land under the plow (earlier) or in today’s context “Bulldozer”. This trait is connected with the traits of|
Classic Leaver Traits:
|In harmony with rest of the natural world|
|Part of the world, made for the world (World not made for Leaver)|
|Compete fairly and only to the extent needed for sustenance|
|Not seeking to grow Leaver Population at all costs|
|Hunter-gatherer lifestyle (typically hunters, herds-people with limited agriculture|
These are all very valuable insights, especially into the typical Western Civilizational mindset/model that us Indians or Africans or other civilizations that have been “colonized” can definitely identify. In fact, doomsday scenarios painted in many science fiction stories (such as the Matrix) is an exaggeration of our awareness and acknowledgment of such traits (Taker traits) in us. The fact of the matter, sadly enough, also is that almost no “civilized” society today is immune from this syndrome (the Taker Syndrome).
The American subcontinent was “tamed” under the premise that “Taker Civilization” is true Civilization and elimination of the “Leaver Society” (such as those belonging to Native Americans) was done in massive scale and proportion. So effective were the attempts at purging America of it’s Native cultures, that hardly a whiff of those cultures remain (and also what remains is either an extreme caricature of the real thing or a mere shadow of it) .
We have seen similar things happen in Africa and Asia as well, to varying degrees of success. Africa was simply raped and pillaged (and this continues till date, the method of the execution and the executioner might have changed, but the rape continues). In Asia we saw countries like Japan, China, India first slowly poisoned and then effectively take on Taker traits (the Taker-ization of India and China is still underway).
Quinn however, in his thesis doesn’t recognize the fact that Traditional Indian or Chinese societies were not as extremely “Taker”esque as he would like to believe they were. He paints a broad stroke and colors all Civilizations as Takers and only identifies the Native tribal cultures as being the Leavers. In my humble opinion, Quinn did not have good background knowledge of Indian or Chinese civilizations (beyond the fiction that passes as history in the West).
One of the most effective weapons in the Taker Culture’s arsenal is Religion. In fact, Taker Culture sanctifies Taker traits using Religion as a validator. Take the Judeo-Christian thesis for example:
God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:27, 1:28
- An insatiable appetite for Agriculture. In fact, majority of the Vedic seers are actually Forest-dwellers.
- Man’s life is clearly divided into four sections (that of Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprastha and Sanyas), that help individuals live a civilized life, but also one respectful of the natural world. In Grihasta stage, man as a family-dweller might take to farming, but he would only farm for sustenance and never for mass profit. In fact, I am certain the concept of Farming for profits did not exist in Ancient India. When man transitioned to the Vanaprastha stage, he and his wife would head to the Forests where they would set up a quite ashram and prepare themselves for Spiritual growth.
- There was respect for all forms of life. Indian society was primarily vegetarian. Also, the presence of Animal deities in various ancient (and even modern) Indian sub-cultures is a clear indicator that the Indic man was not in competition with other inhabitants of his ecosystem.
- The fact of the matter is that Indic culture and Civilization not only survived, but in fact thrived without violating Natural laws (such as the law of fair/limited competition, not harm other creatures unless absolutely necessary, etc).
Om Dyau ShantiAantariksham ShantiPrithvi ShantiAapah ShantiAushadhayah ShantiVanas Patayah ShantiVishwa Devah ShantiBrahma ShantiSarvam ShantiShanti Eva Shantiroughly translates to:OmMay the Heavens be at peaceMay the Space be at peaceMay the Earth be at peaceMay the Waters be at peaceMay the Medicine be at peaceMay the Plants and trees be at peaceMay the Gods be at peaceMay the Brahman be at peaceMay there be Eternal Peace
More posts by this author:
- Ishmael: An Adventure of Mind and Spirit
- Respecting the Brave — Sam Manekshaw
- How the West defines India – 2
- The Reservation Complex — A look at the “Systematic approach” to treat a non-systematic problem
- Presence of Mind