Friday, December 10, 2010


I was watching a sort of reality TV video series on Victorian farming (link is to the first one), and what struck me about the whole process was 1) how much personal growth these people went through and 2) how each one commented on how much work it was to live this way.

The personal growth part I think came about from spending so much time doing things they had no clue as to how to do before, btw, but what I want to focus on is the work involved.

All the innovations of the past 150 years or so since the days this series tried to emulate make perfect sense to me now. If people believe that civilization and agriculture and all is the way humans were meant to live (as Takers do), then labor-saving devices are the natural progression to a life of ease, very much like the life of ease we used to live before all this work became the cool thing to do (about 10,000 years ago).

Used to be that labor-saving was only for the rich, and slaves were your way to lounge about. In every era, the desire to not have to work all day all your life seems to be the norm. I think people naturally have it deep in their hearts that the way we live is unnatural, which is why they try constantly to improve upon it. The issue is that "ease" (as in walk a bit and your food is there) and "comfort" (where you are wrapped in cocoons of clothing and house and car) have been conflated to the point where we don't know how to live in the very way we were designed to live, like the Leavers do.

It occurs to me that like the butterfly in its cocoon, a period of struggle awaits us in order to get to the life that we're intended to live, but not a struggle to dominate all life but a struggle to finally grow up and leave the swaddling behind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Still not so sure

I sort of disagree that B was the Antichrist. To me, it shows that DQ has a fundamental misunderstanding of what Jesus actually taught. For example, Matthew 6:

24"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
 25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The whole Bible is an exhortation to reject the events leading to the Fall and trust God again with the knowledge of good and evil, instead of taking it for ourselves. But Mother Culture has twisted this, as usual, and now Christianity has basically nothing to do with Jesus.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why improve ourselves?

It seems as if a huge part of Taker culture involves "getting ahead", aka getting more money for the most part. But it also seems to be that we never are happy with what we have, do, or are. We always have to be messing with it, trying to improve on things somehow.

If things were working, would we continually do that?

Monday, September 13, 2010

I read this yesterday:

Roadmap to Sustainability: Interpreting Daniel Quinn, by Doug Brown (free pdf download or you can buy it at that site)

Overall, a good critique of Daniel Quinn's works (some of which I haven't read yet). It definitely has an academic tone to it, which makes it hard to read at times. The author gets a bit leftist and twee for my tastes at the end, as he seems to think all we need to do is tweak a few things and we'll all turn into a Leaver utopia. But it's nice to see that someone has a vision at least for returning to our roots that doesn't involve Stone Age technology.

One of the best things about this book was a diagram which he uses to discuss some insights that Quinn hinted at but never fully fleshed out. It's worth reading just for that.

You really have to read the text for the explanation to the "second aberration", because the diagram is a bit simplistic and I don't think capitalism per se is the actual problem. But I think the author is on to something here.

In any case, if you have an interest in DQ's work you'll find this book interesting.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


This morning I thought about a book I read long ago called "Blood Music". It's a story about a man who develops a way to make the individual cells in the body sentient.

Now, this might sound like a good idea at the face of it. I mean, if you could tell blood cells to go after cancer, or where to fight an infection, that might be cool, right? But the guy decides to inject himself with this stuff, and of course these newly sentient blood cells have their own agenda.

(Here's where I put the spoiler alert -- if you should have a desire to read the book, which was pretty good, you might want to skip the rest of this post.)

Basically what happens is that the cells in the man's body, after getting him to go through an all-night marathon with his girlfriend, disintegrate her down the shower drain and merrily go off into the world, turning it into an individual-cell paradise, with our civilizations and biosphere sacrificed in the end.

Today I thought how well this applies to our Taker culture.

We have used our Fertile Crescent (which is now a desert wasteland), then spread out into the world, merrily turning the whole world into our little paradise, slaughtering thousands of other civilizations and cultures, as well as pretty much destroying our own ecosystem.

Just as the man in the story never thought about the consequences to creating cell sentience, neither did our ancestors think of the end result to developing totalitarian agriculture. And here we are, as the last man on Earth did, staring at the results of this folly, wondering if anything will survive as we know it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The new hunter-gatherers

I've been pondering as to why Americans have lost the desire to store up food for hard times the way their grandparents did (for example), and I realized that just like the modern hunter-gatherers, food here is plentiful, available, and easy to obtain (if you have money).

And like the hunter-gatherer, the most common reply to why they have no food in the house (you know how many people go to the store daily?) is: why should I? The food is right there!

Of course, the day when food isn't "right there" will be a shock, but I think most people will adapt, moving on to better areas.

To me this proves how much we are really meant to live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, even though most people would fight tooth and nail not to admit it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I read "My Ishmael" a couple of weeks ago, just because I couldn't get hold of "The Story of B" right off. I actually liked "My Ishmael" better than "Ishmael", mainly because I liked the main character better. But I read "The Story of B" this week, and this one I think affected me most of all.

I feel like I need to read it again, but I have to ask myself, "Am I B?" If not, what am I still missing?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


When I first posted how I felt about Ishmael and started writing here, I got some interesting reactions.

I was told by really good friends that they had read the book and thought it was boring. How could I possibly like it? was the implication.

Hmm. Not upset about it ... I came to the conclusion that you had to be in the right place to get anything out of it. Like the teacher was there but the student wasn't ready yet.

Another woman who has a popular blog wanted me to write a review.

I told her no, that it was the sort of book you had to read for yourself.

That was a couple of weeks ago. I don't think she's read it for herself.

This lady is pleasant enough, but her attitude is very common among Takers -- instead of living life, you delegate someone to live it for you.

Here's what I mean: the ideal life to a Taker is to have someone else do your work for you. We have people haul our trash to the dump, have people process our feces and urine, have people grow and pick and package and cook our food. We go to people -- religious and secular -- who will (for a price) give us the secrets to having a happy life instead of us figuring it out ourselves. We have people teach our children, tend our yards, make our clothes, take care of our problems with others via the police and courts ... if we're really rich, we even have people clean our homes for us!

Our ideal life is one where we don't have to live life, just "relax" and "play" in manicured golf courses, sit around pools of artificially-cleansed water taken care of by others, be fed by someone else, be driven around by someone else ... you get the picture.

I'm not offended at all by her request for a review -- most people would be flattered. She has way more readers than I do. But it set a light bulb off in my face, because how in the world would you really explain the book?

Maybe I should have her direct her readers over here. ;)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We all like to have control over our lives.

We control as much as we can, down to the temperature of our houses. Some of us want to control other people too: our children, our neighbors (just let your grass grow long and see what I mean), our friends. We don't like it when people think differently or act differently or worship differently. You don't have to go further than a newspaper or news website to see it. People rant about how the Muslims are going to take over the US, or how gays are destroying marriage, or how liberals/atheists/Republicans/socialists are the cause of everyone's problems.

If only everyone was like me (we tend to think) then everything would be perfect. There was a Twilight Zone episode like that.

I'm not sure if it's just human nature (as Mother Culture tells us), because it feels like a reaction to fear to me.

If we knew we were perfectly safe, would we still have to control everything and everyone around us?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I was outside this morning pulling weeds and had some thoughts about us Takers.

We love "order", as in everything just as we want it. More to the point, just as our society tells us it "should" be, because to be honest I just pull weeds to feed my rabbits and to get my neighbors (and the city) off my back. I've always been a bit chaotic, as much as I've fought against that tendency.

Nature, however, couldn't care less about "order". Or perhaps everything already is where it's supposed to be, who knows? In any case, if you go to a field or a forest or a desert, things aren't growing in nice lines with one kind of plant -- all kinds of plants grow together, some tall, some short, some creeping along.

But we love order, so much that people order their homes in various configurations, order their yards, order their neighborhoods and cities and nations, and everyone has to conform to the socially-correct state of order.

I'm not saying anything anyone doesn't already know, because this is a feature of Taker culture. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that every Taker culture has this ordering, this arranging, going on.

I don't know enough about Leaver cultures to know if they do this too, but what I do know of the ones I've read about is that they don't tend to arrange or take control of their natural surroundings so much but rather work with them.

And since I'm a huge Lord of the Rings geek, inevitably I thought about the books, and of course the movie.

I think that Tolkien was trying to say much the same things as Ishmael did, only he did it in a much grander story. It's well known that Tolkien loved nature and trees, and saw the coming of industrialization as one of the greatest evils man had ever thought up.

Take a look at his view of evil. Sauron had one eye. He made one ring to dominate and control everyone else. His creations, the orcs, were all very similar, and although there were different kinds, their differences ended up dividing them. The Uruk-hai vs the Moria orcs vs the Morgul orcs ... you get the picture.

Sauron's goal was to "cover the lands in a second darkness", where he would have ultimate dominion over all life, turning everything into Mordor.

Seems to me that's very much like what we're up to these days.

So who were the Leavers in this story? They were pretty much everyone else. You didn't see the realms of Men trying to enslave everyone, destroy the other cultures, wipe out anyone who wasn't them or disagreed with them. The Hobbits and Dwarves didn't do that either.

But to me, the ones who epitomize the Leaver spirit in this story are the Elves.

They worked with nature rather than fought against it. Their goal was to live in peace with the other races in Middle Earth.

I think Professor Tolkien would have liked what Ishmael was saying very much.

Monday, July 19, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about fear lately. I said in my last post that our entire culture it based on fear, and that might have startled some people, assuming anyone is reading (I know two people at least read that post, because they commented on it in other places, but anyone else? Who knows.)

Why do we overeat? Think about it for a bit.

Because it just tastes so good we have to eat? Most people, if they sit down and think about it, will tell you that the last bite they eat doesn't really taste as good as the first one they eat when they're really truly hungry.

Because we're bored/tired/angry/whatever? Here we're talking about habitual eating. Where would we get the idea that eating more would solve those problems? Could it be that we were taught these habits early on, by people whose first thought when they heard us cry was that we must be hungry? Why would they jump to that conclusion first, out of all the things that could be wrong?

"Let's see, Darla, we fed little Timmy not ten minutes ago and he's howling, must be he's hungry again." It couldn't be he's wet, or has a pin stuck in him, or his big brother is pinching him to see him howl, or anything else. It has to be that he's hungry.

Does this make any kind of sense?

It sort of reminds me of the "clean your plate" scenario that gets blamed for overeating, the last holdover from the last famine, where children who didn't finish their food ended up dying of malnutrition, a common symptom being refusal to eat in its latter stages.

Ah, fear. Not our lived fear, but fear passed down through generations so urgently that it persists almost 100 years later. No one is starving to death in America, yet people still make their kids "clean" their plates.

The thing is, no one is starving to death in the last surviving Leaver tribes either, and they don't have any fat people.

Well, you might say, it's because food is sooooo hard to get. Of course they aren't fat.

From what I've read, though, Leavers don't understand why we go to so much trouble to get food in the first place. "It's all around us," they say. Why bother planting or keeping animals when the food is right there for the taking?

I think the answer is fear. Fear of hunger, fear of danger, fear of things as silly as getting dirty or being thought weird for not participating in the Taker lifestyle.

I'm not sure how to get past that. It may take a cataclysm to make people give up the Taker mindset, but even that's uncertain. Remember, all it took was one person to get it started, and all it takes is one person to get it all going again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How it all happened, IMO

The one question I had after reading Ishmael wasn't "what can I do?" (which I guess from reading a bit about people's reactions to the book is the number one question) but "how did this mess get started?".

To me, figuring out how something started helps me understand where it is now and where it might go in the future. I guess that's just how my mind works. It took me a long time of pondering to come up with the answer, but I think I know how the cult of the Takers started.

They say that if a man, a woman and a child are in danger of sudden death, the man will save his woman, but the woman will save her child. Genesis has Adam blaming Eve for the Fall, and this gave me the clue.

I've read that people got the idea that if you plant seeds then things will grow, and that's how agriculture (or at least horticulture) got started. Ishmael argues that agriculture isn't the problem in and of itself; people can plant and harvest and still be a Leaver.

But something terrible happened about 10,000 years ago: a horrifically unusual flood, drought, famine, etc, and a Leaver child died who wouldn't have if there had been enough food.

And someone cracked.

The reason I say this is that Taker values are based on fear. Fear of starving makes us hoard, makes us eat all we can (usually way more than we need to) and take the rest "just in case". Fear of resource scarcity (whether it's oil, money, arable land, or whatever) makes us aggressive, taking everything for ourselves because "they" might take everything for themselves and leave us with not enough.

Our whole society, our whole civilization, is based on fear.

One woman is all it would take. I think it was a woman, or perhaps a distraught man who lost his wife, who knows. But I'm a woman, and so let's say she's a woman. I can relate to the feelings she must have had, the fear that drove her.

Others in her Leaver camp would think it odd that after surviving whatever starved her child she would start stockpiling food instead of trusting it would be there.

"As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again!"

Perhaps her man thought she was odd too, but he let her stash food away. But she taught her children to put food away, to plant more than they needed, to keep some animals nearby "just in case", to get more wood for the fire than they needed, to hide the rest so no one could take it. And her children picked up on her fear, and perhaps assumed her husband's acquiescence to this odd behavior meant the rest of the Leaver tribe was wrong and she was right, and when her children married, they quietly passed these habits on to their children as well.

And in the next famine, when the rest of their tribe moved on to better areas, the Taker families stayed. They couldn't very well leave all this food they had collected, their plantings, the animals they had domesticated! There might not be enough somewhere else!

So the Taker family became a Taker clan. They scoured the countryside for "enough" food, but there's never enough to take away fear. They needed more. The Leaver tribes around them were willing to trade, if they would let them alone, but the Takers needed more land to farm, more trees to cut, more food to store for their growing crowd of children.

So the Leavers turned their backs on these odd people and moved on, or when the Takers tried to take land, food, trees, or wives for their sons by force, they fought back.

And the Taker clan became a state, a nation, a civilization, a world of fearful humans, taking from everyone they could, forcing all other Leavers to comply (fear leads to the rigidity of having to have the one true way) and killing anyone who opposed them, including those few Leavers that still remain ...

... and so here we are today.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The beginning, and how I got here

I've been thinking for a long time about civilization, and money, and what things might be like if things were done differently.

I read Snow Crash (way back in the 90's I think) and pondered the long middle section about myths and language and why we think so differently than people long ago.

I ran across articles about people who do without money at all, and about the last remnants of the "uncivilized", who see us as slaves.

And today I read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn for the first time. I sit here and regard Ishmael and what he tells me and it all falls into place.

I feel like there's enough I want to say that a blog might be the place to say it. So here I am.