The Ishmael Paradigm

a critique of —
by Daniel Quinn

Review Essay by
Gennady Stolyarov II

Bantam: New York, 1992

266 pages October 2003


A single piece of literature, taught in classrooms across the country, has become one of the leftist oligarchy's most potent utensils for molding the minds of students. It is a fictional novel written by one Daniel Quinn, and it shrouds with pretense of virtue a majority of the collectivist, antiprogressive doctrines spread by the establishment. The book correctly describes a rivalry between modern "intellectual" trends (beginning with the hippie movements of the 1960s, which it praises without restraint) and the values of Western culture and human civilization.

In this novel, Ishmael, a gorilla capable of telepathic communication, transmits a truly animal ideology to a narrator who absorbs it as would a sponge, without logical analysis or an evaluation of the premises his "mentor" presents. The story of their meetings, as presented in the book, is merely the background for a delusional system admittedly in support of stagnation and opposed to human intervention with and mastery of the world. The gorilla divides the cultural perspectives of humans into two opposing camps, that of the Takers, i.e. the creators of technological civilization from the dawn of agriculture on, and that of the Leavers, i.e. the undeveloped hunter-gatherer tribes who utilize natural resources only to an extent which would permit them subsistence. Shockingly enough, the gorilla and its creator write in favor of the latter group.

Mr. Quinn is an adherent of the Malthusian blunder that food growth and population growth occur at varying rates and the former will never reach a level sufficient for the latter. He states that the world is to become increasingly plagued with famine as man's capacity to produce food is amplified. He does not, however, present a valid empirical correlation to draw such a conclusion from. The theoretical hypotheses of Thomas Malthus bear no validity in a condition where the countries in which starvation is rampant are the ones least industrially developed, located in regions of Africa and some parts of Southeast Asia (the only reasons for the despicable states of which can be drawn from the dictatorial regimes, restricting free enterprise, which had formed there following the withdrawal of imperialistic European powers whose presence had caused living standards to surge dramatically during the late 19th, early 20th centuries). The United States, the most capitalistic and technically prominent nation in the world produces a sufficient quantity of food in its central regions (i.e. in the so-called Midwest, the "breadbasket" of the country) to support a third of the world's population! The remainder is produced by other First World nations with superb agricultural capacities. The tyrants of backward, non-Western orders of chaos, however, willfully withhold supplies from their populace, as corresponds to the typical behavior of creatures who seek power as an end-in-itself (outlined in 1984 by Mr. Orwell), in order to inflict suffering upon the people and cause them to crawl before the despots on their bellies begging for a bite. This was precisely the strategy of Somali warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid whose hoarding of grain resulted in a famine costing 700,000 lives and served as cause for a humanitarian relief effort on the behalf of the United Nations in 1992-1993. Should the free nations of the world collaborate with the oppressed citizens of Third World regimes to unseat such despots and institute free-market economies, over a continent of arable territory shall become available to development by prodigious capitalistic interests. It is a lack of liberty, not a deficiency in resources that had resulted in famines throughout the most bloody and primitive places of the world.

Even in the United States, however, one-half of the land is not merely untouched by human hands but designated by bureaucratic restrictions on human progress (which will be discussed further) as "wilderness preserves." Should they be rendered available for refinement, the world's carrying capacity would soar into the tens of billions, yielding ever greater numbers of resolute, creative individuals, who will from sheer aspiration become a new generation of scientists, technicians, engineers, and businessmen, fighting to colonize mankind's newest frontier, space, to realize the noble dream of human settlement on other worlds and the terraforming technology necessary for such an accomplishment.

Overpopulation and a lack of material means are ludicrous myths invented by the antiprogressives in order to stall such a glorious ascent. Ishmael exploits such rubbish to the fullest extent possible, concocting from it the "Parable of the Taker Thunderbolt" a metaphorical airplane, designed by trial and error, said to embody Western culture. This contraption, supposedly launched from an extraordinarily tall precipice, continues to plummet while its pilot misinterprets this condition as one of flight. The fitting response to such an analogy is that it possesses no concrete facts to justify that this is indeed the situation of civilized man. Had he lived on the verge of the 20th century, Mr. Quinn would have been one of the fear-driven pundits who proclaimed that powered flight was an impossible fantasy. He foolishly neglects the fact that modern airplanes are designed not through arbitrary trials but with extensive knowledge of aerodynamics, gravity, Newton's third law (to achieve propulsion through the burning of fuel in the opposite direction to that of the vehicle's flight), and other physical principles, that millions of successful flights have already enabled a more prosperous economy, greater convenience for individuals, and the strengthening of the military arsenal of the free world. Similarly, True Western culture, i.e. the functional and enduring aspects of civilization, is based upon science, upon the study of the Absolute Reality in order to become the master of Nature instead of its slave. Technology is not a haphazard buildup of materials without assurance of functionality. It is a deliberate, consciously planned endeavor which takes into full account an accordance with facts of reality that Mr. Quinn claims to support. Mr. Quinn, unlike the typical Witch Doctor, recognizes that man, in order to survive, must seek to fathom an objective reality and an objective morality. His conclusions concerning the identity of those could not, however, have been more flawed.

Ishmael employs other myths such as global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer (the absolute lies contained in which shall be discussed in an essay where they are more pertinent) in order to instill the impression that mankind on its present path (or the path undertaken in an ideally capitalist and technology-valuing society, of which the present path is but a shadow) is destined to destroy itself and the world. The premises from which he draws such a scenario are, however, opposed to the very Absolute Reality man must utilize for his survival. The remedy he offers is a state of living as animals, without attempting to seize control of one's environment. He is deluded to think that the lack of surplus, the condition of hunter-gatherer tribes, is the key to preventing massive famine and "overpopulation." He concedes, however, that this implies the return of man to the quagmire of the ecosystem, where a slight shift in the quantities of a species on any level could bring about catastrophic consequences for the rest. The Leavers, he states, will accept a circumstantial famine and the deaths of their fellow tribesmen as routine, because they do not believe that man should possess the power of life and death, to determine whether they as individuals are worthy of survival. This is, then, an ideology of submission to a mystical "higher" force known as the status quo, the stagnation of the Wilderness, which spells only lifelong suffering during a pitifully short individual life span. Mr. Quinn does not grant the individual objective value as an end in himself (unlike the philosophies of Mr. Locke, Monsieur de Voltaire, and Ms. Rand, the implementation of which has resulted in the superb living standards enjoyed by many residents of First World countries, who recognize their own value and the necessity of productive and willful genius to emerge unhampered and elevate the human condition). It is, in effect, a collectivist dogma preaching obsequy to the arbitrarily designated whole which includes all but man's deliberate influence. Mr. Quinn's vision is one of natural evolution resulting in improved sentience and complexity in organisms over millions of years. But that is not going to ameliorate conditions for any one existing at present. His vague scheme, if somehow materialized, would slash two-thirds off of men's lives and hurl them into a situation where creative independence is no longer a possibility, as it is not in animals.

It is this relinquishing of self-sufficiency which causes within the brain to surface a replacement, the whimsical dictates of "instinct", which are the root of collectivist obedience. This is precisely the reason why hunter-gatherer tribes, glorified by Mr. Quinn, exist in communistic tribal systems, where private property is impossible, where status distinctions are repressed, where merit and, hence, an unregulated meritocratic hierarchy, are unattainable. A Leaver tribe and an animal herd exist on the same level of pure Wilderness. A single member is considered expendable and will be sacrificed for the sake of a vague and therefore persisting "whole". Mr. Quinn seeks species preservation, yet he neglects to realize that in a pristinely natural state, 99% of all species ever in existence have disappeared into the abyss of the extinct, eradicated either by a cataclysm such as an asteroid or a volcanic eruption, or by small events offsetting the balance of "ecosystems" and triggering their destruction.

A toleration of ecosystems implies, of course, the continued existence and proliferation of various insects, pests, bacteria, and viruses, which are "links in a natural chain". It condones massive infestation of complex organisms by parasitic creatures not worthy of existence because they possess naught but a built-in scheme for destruction. The natural "balance" is itself a myth. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the decay of complex forms of energy into primitive ones, suggests that the Wilderness is a setting of turbulent motion toward the simplest stage of them all, pure heat. Nature's evolution, eventually, is destined toward not the creation of ever more complex organisms, but their elimination. Only man and his technologies, converting simple forms of energy, such as the heat from steam, into intricate ones, such as the mechanical energy of an engine, are able to preclude such a dreary destruction of the entire universe, of existence as can be possibly fathomed. The trend of entropy can be reversed only through the advancement and proliferation of humankind in an unchecked manner. Yet this can only be founded upon an individualist moral framework where the creativity of greatness is permitted to devise solutions to the obstacles erected by the source of all evil, the Wilderness, whence both natural calamity and the whimsical arbitrariness of irrational men are derived. Hence the reason for the Witch Doctors' opposition to such a struggle and for their support of Ishmael.

That Mr. Quinn cloaks his writings in pseudo-objective reality only further fuels the deception, hoping to draw devoted absolutists into the relativist camp. Through its unquestioning belief in unreal phenomena such as overpopulation and global warming, Ishmael encourages the passive acceptance of information as presented by the dominant clique of academic experts, i.e. from precisely the persons who, through their altruist/collectivist-inspired adherence to the willful institution of human suffering, have invented apocalyptic scenarios in order to deceive persons into identifying a virtuous motive behind their agenda. It is relativism with pretense to knowledge of actuality. After all, evil as such cannot be voluntarily embraced by a decent human being, especially by a resident of the West, and thus must remain masked so that it is granted moral sanction. Mr. Quinn pretends to be a rebel against the so-called Mother Culture, that of the Takers. But he preaches a deeper submission, a greater obsequy which seeks to imprison man within the dismal chasm of oblivion.

The "wisdom" and "accuracy" of Ishmael is not questioned within the classrooms. It is viewed as a sacred canon. The author himself had witnessed its teaching. Those opposed to the dogma possess such ample means of refutation in terms of argument, but nothing in terms of time allotted to them by the instructors to present their case. Students report with exhilaration that this book is "a life-changing experience". Editorial comments upon the book's back cover have prompted them to declare this while continually sinking into the suicidal depression brought about by allegiance to the book's true statement on a global scale, that of the self's worthlessness, that of the individual's expendability. Ishmael is a collectivist's dream world, a means to the wanton infliction of suffering Mr. Orwell and Ms. Rand had warned us about.


© 2003 The Rational Argumentator

First appeared at
Gennady Stolyarov II's site
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