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.