Ishmael Essay Takers Leavers Hoodies

It's never easy to catch Mother Culture in her lies - even for me, with all my practice. She teaches that the way we live is the only human way to live, and thinking about other ways is an utter waste of time. The characteristic that Mother Culture attaches to the Leaver lifestyle most predominantly is absence. Leavers lack technology (untrue, but no matter), lack history (what they have is merely prehistory), lack the noble institutions of civilization, lack the opportunities for wealth and luxury that we enjoy. The last of these is one of the trickiest of Mother Culture's deceptions, because at first glance it seems unarguable. Even very modest Taker households boast amenities that would seem miraculous to our ancient ancestors and that would still seem so to Leaver peoples not yet in contact with our culture. In this light, it's easy to accept the idea that the Taker way is the way of wealth and the Leaver way is the way of poverty.

The answering trick to Mother Culture's trick is almost always this: When she holds up a picture of Nothing, look for Something. When she holds up a picture of an Absence, look for a Presence.

The Leaver way is not a way of poverty, it's a way of wealth -- but the wealth of the Leaver way isn't the wealth of products, it's the wealth of human support. Mother Culture never has names for things she cannot see, and there is no name in English (or any other language I know) for this support. It's not comraderie or friendship or neighborliness. It's motivating origins are not to be found in love or charity or kindliness. In Leaver societies, people look after each other for much the same reasons that people in Taker societies take jobs and have careers. In Leaver societies, people look after one another not because they're saintly but because looking after one another assures that they themselves will be looked after. If they don't look after one another, then the community disappears -- and no one is looked after.

When the members of Family A fall ill, Families B, C, and D share their food with them, because they all know that someday they too could fall ill. When a child is injured, the nearest adult runs to help it, because that adult knows that someday his or her own child may need help. When an aged person becomes sick and helpless, the family of that person isn't alone with the problem. All share the burden, because all know they will have a similar burden someday and will need others to share it. Those who give support shall receive support.

It's an economy. An economy based on support instead of products. It works like the diagram to the right...

The Taker economy, by contrast, works like that on the left...

Everyone knows the Taker economy works, but they find it hard to believe that the Leaver economy works too. This is because Taker wealth is so much more visible than Leaver wealth. Products can be photographed, packaged, and put in store windows, but support can't. There are many other striking differences between these two kinds of wealth.

Taker wealth can be put under lock and key, but Leaver wealth can't. For this reason, Taker wealth is inherently divisive. Behind the locked doors of my house are my furniture, my appliances, my television sets, my radios, my computers, my clothes, my records, my books. I've worked for them, I've earned them, and no one else in the world has worked for them or earned them -- and this is the dividing line between them and me, between theirs and mine. The law of every Taker nation in the world confirms all this. Leaver wealth, by contrast, is not divisive but inherently unitive.

Taker and Leaver economies are mirror images of each other. Takers are rich in products but poor in human support; Leavers are rich in human support but poor in products. But note this: Takers complain noisily and endlessly over the shortcomings of their economic system, but anthropologists find that Leavers (until their cultures are undermined by Taker contact) seem remarkably content with theirs.
The experience of Leavers as one of cradle-to-grave security. This security is not the result of utopian design or nobility of character. It's the result of eons of evolutionary shaping of their communities. In brief, community structures that did not provide cradle-to-grave security for their members did not survive. The structures we know are the ones that survived. They're like the species we know: They survived because they worked.

Many readers may wonder if this "cradle-to-grave security" isn't an exaggeration I indulge in for the sake of making a point. Not so, I assure you. In fact, there's little reason to be surprised that Leaver peoples should enjoy such security. After all, among our neighbors in the community of life, the very same security is enjoyed in every species whose members form communities. Ducks, sea lions, deer, giraffes, wolves, wasps, monkeys, and gorillas (to name just a few species out of millions) enjoy such security. It has to be assumed that the members of Homo habilis enjoyed such security -- or how would they have survived? Is there any reason to doubt that the members of Homo erectus enjoyed such security or that they conferred it upon their descendants, Homo sapiens?

No, as a species, we came into being in communities in which cradle-to-grave security was the rule, and the same rule has been followed throughout the development of Homo sapiens right up to the present moment -- in Leaver societies. It's only in Taker societies that cradle-to-grave security has become a rarity, a special blessing of the privileged few.

In Taker societies, needed support is provided by paid ''professional classes'' of support-givers. If your mother becomes ill, for example, your community doesn't rally round to share the burden of her care. You have to pay people to do that, and the more you spend, the better your mother is cared for and the less heavy your personal burden is. The same is true of any condition that could be alleviated by human support. In Leaver societies, this support is available to everyone in the community, automatically, free of charge. In Taker societies, you pay for it or you don't get it. And, my oh my, do we ever pay for it!

I haven't the time or inclination for such research, but it would be fascinating to know how much it costs us to get all the support that is free in Leaver societies. Virtually all services for which we pay taxes are provided for free by members of Leaver societies as an ordinary part of belonging to the community, and they don't find it especially burdensome to provide them. ''Professional classes'' of support-givers are nonexistent or very small; most shamans, for example, do not ''make their living'' by healing or by performing religious ceremonies, and most tribal chiefs do not ''make their living'' as political leaders.

People sometimes ask if it wouldn't be possible to achieve the Leaver lifestyle simply by leaping out of the Taker lifestyle into nothing. The answer is no, because the Leaver lifestyle isn't nothing, it's an economy -- an economy based on a different sort of wealth and on a different sort of economic transaction: not products for products but support for support.

If you'd like to explore the possibility of moving toward a Leaver lifestyle in your community, don't concentrate on giving up Taker things. To concentrate on giving up Taker things is to concentrate on a negative. The Leaver lifestyle isn't an absence of Taker things, it's a presence of something else, and that presence is support.

I've conjectured that we can reinvent Leaver-style support systems for ourselves incrementally, bit by bit, by working within our own communities and building on each other's successes the way inventors of the Industrial Revolution built on each other's successes. I've received a lot of encouragement for this idea, but as yet no one has reported trying it. I suspect the idea of offering any kind of support to anyone makes people very nervous. That's fine. Don't start by offering anything. Start by bringing out into the open the fears and reservations you have about the whole idea. That's progress, because it's a start.

This will not be the normal Surviving Prepper post. I’m worried that it might not be well received. But I feel so strongly about the topic matter that I’m taking that risk. I recently read a book called Ishmael, and even before I finished it I felt a need to write about it. I hope this post will open some eyes. I hope it will make you think about the bigger picture. That’s a pretty big statement, but if you stick with me here you’ll learn that we’ve been lied to, and you might agree that the bigger picture holds a lot more to think about that you’ve ever realized.

Let me say now that there will be lots of SPOILERS in this post. You really can’t cover some of these ideas without giving away what the book says. But that’s okay, because this book isn’t about surprises, or plot twists. It’s a fairly methodical exploration of our society and how we came to be in the screwed up situation that we’re in. You will get the gist of the story and philosophy by reading this post. But the book goes deeper, explains more, and is well worth reading.

At the beginning of Ishmael we are introduced to a student and his teacher. The student is a man who has felt something missing in his life, for all of his life, and has spent a lot of time searching for someone to help him learn the answers to questions that he really can’t even formulate. He finds his teacher in the form of a — don’t abandon me here… just flow with me — he finds his teacher in the form of a telepathic silverback gorilla.

Yes. I did just say that he found his teacher, the one who will help him examine our society and how it came to be so terribly askew — in the form of a silverback gorilla who communicates by telepathy. I know the book already sounds weird, but once you get past that whole silverback gorilla thing, you see what a unique perspective the gorilla has when it comes to the history of human cultural evolution.

The gorilla guru’s name is Ishmael (hence, the title of the book) and he was pulled out of the jungles of Africa as a young gorilla for placement in a zoo and traveling side show in America. Think about the living situation of an animal in the zoo. They spend their time being gawked at by humans all day. And, on the other hand, from the other side of the glass, they watch people all day, too. And you might not think about it, but they learn from watching us. Ishmael spent much of his life watching, listening to, and learning from the humans that paid to have a look at him. Later in his life he was saved from the side show life by a wealthy man who recognized his intelligence, provided him a home away from prying eyes, and served as a source of nearly unlimited learning opportunities and mental stimulation in the form of books and conversation. So with that background out of the way, the real story starts.

Captivity

Ishmael spend most of his life in captivity, which he uses as an analogy for how modern man is captive in our society too. We are no longer self sufficient. We do not know the skills that kept our forefathers alive. We depend on the collective whole to provide for us. And this really isn’t news to most of us. It’s not that we are unaware. It’s just that the majority of us simply don’t think about it. In fact the “normal” person these days:

  • Spends their childhood in school learning to sit still, stand in line, and think inside the box
  • Spends their early adulthood in college/trade school learning how to fit into the workforce, and focusing on ONE career skill
  • Finds a job
  • Fights rush hour traffic in the morning
  • Works a minimum 8 hours a day for someone else’s profit
  • Fights rush hour traffic going home
  • Tries to raise a family the best they can in the evening
  • Hopes that the little they can put away for retirement is enough to provide them what they need to survive old age
  • Ends up working ten years more than originally expected before retiring
  • Never has enough free time with the ones they love

Sure, there are always people who live a different type of life from the one described above. But not many. Most people don’t have a choice. We are programmed into this way of life from birth because the hive — society at large — needs worker bees. This is how society is set up, and how people are conditioned to live. Our culture does not want individuals. Our culture wants trained workers who stand in line, take what they’re given, and don’t think for themselves. That’s practically a textbook definition of captivity. We’re not all that different from the animals kept in a zoo. Our cage is just a little bigger, and we’ve been conditioned to ignore the bars.

But how did we come to be this way?

Take it or Leave it.

Much of the conversation in Ishmael is focused on the concept of Takers and Leavers, dividing the human population into two categories: those who live in harmony with nature, and those who dominate it. The first group — those who live in harmony with nature — is referred to as Leavers because they leave the world as it is, and are content to live as a part of it. They don’t attempt to control their destiny any more than the monkey, or the wolf, or the raccoon tries to control theirs. The second group is referred to as Takers because they take what they want from the world, regardless of consequence. They slaughter mindlessly, and squander natural resources. They act as gods, above all the Earth and the creatures that live upon it.

You are a Taker. So am I. And — unless you’re an anthropologist who has done work with true hunter gatherer cultures — every single person we know… every single person we have EVER met… all of our ancestors going back thousands of years… they have all been Takers, too. People who have altered the land to live differently upon it — chopping down trees to clear land for farming and to make pastures for livestock, damming creeks and rivers for irrigation purposes, growing more food than we can eat and storing it away so that we can feed more and more and then even more mouths. People who have practiced (or relied upon) agriculture. People who have practiced (or relied upon) food preservation and storage systems. People who have practiced (or relied upon) food and supplies distribution. People who have engaged in constant and unchecked population increases. All of that is Taker activity. You may think that some (or all) of the above is necessary for human survival. But, is it really? Couldn’t humans survive without agriculture and food preservation? Most certainly. The only benefit of those has been unrestricted population growth. Overpopulation. We are crowding ourselves out of this world, and taking the planet down with us.

Fertile Crescent – The Beginning of the End

So, to simplify, let’s look at it this way; Takers are what we consider “civilized man.” (That’s us. We’ve been civilized.) Leavers are the hunter gatherer cultures that we consider “primitives.” (Think Amazonian tribes.) Early in human history, before man learned to farm, all people were Leavers. Today, Leavers are almost extinct and our overpopulated planet is swarming with Takers. But how and where did the change begin? It all started in the Fertile Crescent.

The Fertile Crescent is the region in the Middle East which curves, like a quarter-moon shape, from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt. …the Fertile Crescent is regarded as the birthplace of agriculture, urbanization, writing, trade, science, history and organized religion and was first populated c.10,000 BCE when agriculture and the domestication of animals began in the region. – Ancient History Encyclopedia

Ishmael carefully points out that, back in the day, when the Leaver way of life was the only way of life, there was balance in this world. People, animals, and the Earth that provided for them were all in harmony. Leavers took only what they needed. Without waste or damage or pollution. Without overpopulation. Without consequential extinction of species.

But then change happened. Someone figured out how to farm, which reduced the need to wander and allowed people to settle in one place. But farming also meant a need for cleared land for cultivation. And as the ability to grow food led to a growing population, more and more farm land was required to feed those extra mouths–which meant displacing other peoples in order to obtain more land for more farming to feed more people. And so began the Taker culture.

Ishmael’s argument is that Takers are destroying the planet. He argues that back when Leaver culture was prevalent Mother Culture kept the planet systems in balance. The hunter/gatherer lifestyle involved killing only when hungry. You didn’t gather or kill more than you could consume. If there was drought, people would die. Just like the animals of the world. This was population control, the natural way.

But when the Takers settled down in one place, agriculture and the domestication of animals allowed populations to swell. Every year more and more land was set aside to grow crops for the rising population, displacing nomadic peoples and destroying the habitats of animals. Mother nature lost control of the planet, and balance went with it. Now man controls — or at the very least interferes with — Mother Nature. And no one is making sure that man does a good job of it. Governments and religions are not set up to make sure that it is done right. Organizations pop up to try to raise awareness of our wrongdoing, and providing options to live more in sync with Mother Nature. But no one cares. Well, I should say that not enough people care. The “treehuggers” that talk about change are largely ignored and even ridiculed. Not because they are wrong, but because their message is complicated, and inconvenient, and people don’t want to hear it. People don’t want to change.

Is the Leaver Life Possible Anymore?

The sad part is that it is almost impossible to revert to a Hunter/Gatherer way of life without significant, perhaps catastrophic societal collapse and rebuilding. It might be possible in remote parts of Africa, Alaska, outback Australia, or the Amazon jungle. But our world is just not set up for that way of life anymore. There are too many people to feed. We NEED agriculture to survive. Without it, our planet’s natural food resources would be stripped so thoroughly that natural recovery before human extinction would be next to impossible.

Overpopulation is the Underlying Problem

There are a lot of problems in our world today. But the one problem that outshadows them all is overpopulation. We have more people on this planet than Mother Nature can really handle. We have destroyed the forests and jungles of the planet so that we can grow more crops. So we can feed more people. Our need for technology and transportation is polluting the planet. Hell in some of the large cities in Asia the air quality is so bad that they wear masks to filter out the poisoned air that blankets the city. Every year more animal species than we can account for are eradicated. Extinct from the world forever. Mostly because they have no place to live anymore.

What can we do?

Now it won’t happen in our lifetime, but at some point in the future our planet will be completely covered with cities. The population will grow to the point that there will be no room for the woods and wildlife. No room for natural habitats. That might sound silly, and you can deny it as much as you want. But that is the direction we are headed. That’s not science fiction. It’s an eventuality. If we keep destroying natural habitats to turn them into areas for food production so that we can continue accelerated rates of population increase then we will… run… out… of… room.

Ishmael’s answer to this problem is education. But I think it needs to be more than that.

Question is what can the human race do to slow down or reverse the eventual destruction of our planet?

  • We could stop using fossil fuels. Right now we are making the Middle East rich by buying their oil because it is convenient and easy. We need to rebuild our electrical grid so that it is modern, and can utilize a solar infrastructure. Then we need to work hard to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy technology.
  • We could work toward establishing a societal norm that calls for smaller families. Gone are the days of high infant mortality rates and family farms that require many hands to operate. Families no longer need more children than parents. Two children in a family is enough.
  • We could make electric cars the standard instead of the exception. At one time California required all manufacturers that sold cars in the state to have at least one electric car. It brought about some great innovations and vehicles. But the oil industry squashed this. Companies like Tesla are producing amazing cars that will lead to more manufacturers doing the same.
  • Americans could eat less. We are a society of overweight and out of shape individuals. Our society pushes large portions and we feel that we need to eat it all and more.
  • We could change our work life mentality. Is working a typical 8 to 5 job really worth it? Can we do better with a non-traditional life focused on happiness instead of material “success?”

Wrap it up!

So what do you think? What can we do to save ourselves? Are we screwed? Ishmaelwas a real eye opener to me, and it made me think on a different level from my typical Prepper Fiction reading. Here is an amazon link to the buy the book. Ordinarily I am a huge audio book fan, but the audio book associated with this title is abridged and not nearly as powerful as the unabridged version of the book.

 

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