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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

Questions and More Questions...

    Your request found 170 questions.
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  • The Question (ID Number 612): What do you think of Robert Carniero's theory of environmental circumscription? This seems to be the most widely accepted theory on why tribal societies become state societies. He does, of course, speak from a background influenced by Mother Culture, and seems to think that population automatically expands and food production must be expanded to accommodate it, but would you say that his theory holds true if the societies he studied were already in the food race? He studied South American societies but applied his theory to the Western one as well. He begins with agricultural tribes and doesn't address hunter-gatherers or semi-agricultural peoples. Would you agree that circumscription was a catalyst for abandoning tribalism in the cases Carniero studied, but that he simply hasn't gone back far enough in their history to pinpoint the adoption of totalitarian agriculture as the real reason? What do you believe IS the reason that people abandoned tribalism? It begins with complete dependance agriculture, doesn't it?

  • The Question (ID Number 609): I'm 18, a senior in high school and ready to conquer what my parents refer to as the "real world.' After discovering Daniel Quinn's books my sophomore year i have worked hard at what his message to me specifically is. This leads me to my question: I'm planning on going to college and studying philosophy and psychology. The question of where still remains. I have been drawn to a small Great Books college named St. John's, but can't quite figure out if the things that it teaches are consistent with the values upheld in Ishmael, My Ishmael, and The Story of B. The thing is, it teaches everyone the same things through seminar classes and the "Greatest minds" of Western culture. I only hesitate because there is more out there than simply Plato, Aristotle, Freud, and Wagner, and I'm afraid that I'll become ignorant to everything else. What is your opinion?

  • The Question (ID Number 603): Regarding the "lies" of Mother Culture, there is one lie (actually it's just a widely held misconception) that I'd appreciate hearing your take on... A pervasive belief of our culture is the belief in (and reliance on) the Rule of Law. Most people will concede that we need rules in order to have an orderly society, and that without rules there would be chaos. It was precisely a hundred years ago that the French mathematician, PoincarĂ©, first discovered that even very simple rule-based systems were chaotic. Today, most well educated people have at least heard of Chaos Theory (Edward Lorentz, James Gleick), Fractals (Benoit Mandelbrot), and Cellular Automata (Stephen Wolfram). It is not exactly a secret that rule-driven systems are now known to generate chaos rather than order. But it occurs to me that most people don't fully appreciate the significance of those esoteric mathematical diversions. For some 3500 years, Western Civilization has operated under the unexamined and unchallenged belief that rule-based systems are inherently orderly. Now we discover that this foundation belief is an astonishing misconception. Have you spent any time regarding this observation? How might it be possible to reveal this (perhaps disturbing) finding to the lay public, along with some insights on how we might craft and introduce into our culture a more highly evolved and enlightened regulatory mechanism capable of delivering the 'divine order' it promises?

  • The Question (ID Number 602): I'm currently reading 'The story of B' whereby you distinguish between our singular culture (Us or takers) and 10,000 other cultures (leavers). You include both Eastern and Western peoples as 'us' based on the similarities in the way we procure food. Why then do you keep refering to the leavers as '10,000 other cultures'? Using the same logic, shouldn't we refer to all hunters and gatherers as a singular culture rather than a collection of cultures?

  • The Question (ID Number 600): I'm a senior at a Catholic highschool (a particularly uncomfortable situation since reading many of the Ishmael books), and in my religion class we have been discussing multiculturalism vs. objectivity. My teacher argues that without God or objective truth then anything is morally permissable and therefore Nazi Germany etc would have to be considered just fine. I replied that in tribal culture that there is/was no salvationist religions and therefore there are/were no "thou shalt not.." laws, and they live/lived much more in peace with themselves and the world than our culture does. My teacher refuses to believe this, so I decided to research it and see what I could find. Do you have any suggestions as to where I can find resources that describe tribal law as constructive as opposed to oppressive (thou shalt not...)?

  • The Question (ID Number 597): I noticed you have a short story in one of Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's modern fantasy collections. I'm an avid follower or your's and of modern fantasy. I would love to know how deeply involved you are with this genre. Charles de Lint seems to share some of your world views. It would be absolutley beautiful to see you two take on a project together, or even for your works to influence one another's.

  • The Question (ID Number 592): I was surprised to see your answer to Question 502, that you consider a vote for Nader to be throwing a vote away. It seems like that would be inconsistent with your arguments that a short term focus in government is a bad thing and that changed minds have to spread slowly one person at a time. I consider your works to be the authoritative guides on finding a better way to live, so please know I don't mean this adversarially. But I was just curious if you would be inclined to reconsider this stance?

  • The Question (ID Number 589): I read as many Q&A's on the website as I could stand and did not find my question or answer, so here goes...

    What works is what has been tested over Time....the big Time, not just little time. I agree with what I understood from The Story of B, that a person of one culture can't just "become" a member of an existing tribe or culture or adopt their laws and customs and expect it to work for them. We don't really know what the original laws and customs of the Tak were to be able to draw from them now. So, aren't we (the "world-savers") in just as much danger of creating/inventing laws and customs that are equally unworkable because they are untested?

  • The Question (ID Number 587): I was interested in your response to Question No. 579, in which you say that the subculture of Taker culture is growing explosively and could be as large as 2-3 million in 2002, from something like twenty thousand in 1992. If I quote this to someone and they ask where it came from and I say, "from Daniel Quinn", the answer is going to be "Oh, he would say that". So where do your estimates come from? From sales of Ishmael? From a gut feeling? Or where? Just for interest, are you able to reveal the global sales figures for Ishmael? At least I could quote that to people with some sense of satisfaction.

  • The Question (ID Number 584): You say the only thing we can do to save the world is to change our way of thinking, and pass it on to others. I understand and agree with your view of our culture and the state of the world in Ishmael, but I'm so afraid that in a week or two I'll have read another book, (and though I can't stop thinking about Ishmael) soon enough I will forget about it and have done nothing to help change the minds of those around me, other than asking my friends and family to read your book. I'm just afraid that soon after we all read it, we'll say, "yes hmm that's very sad but I can't do anything" and just forget about it. Even if I change my way of thinking, how will that help stop something like the explosive population expansion, or the way in which farmers destroy so many species to grow our food? And I know you think that if we all change our way of thinking, we will stop destroying the planet, but what can I personally do to help?

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