The Implementation of Ishmael Quite possibly the easiest metaphor within Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael to relate to the everyday lives of mankind is that of the airplane quickly plummeting to its own destruction. Mankind may very well be constructing a civilization that could go nowhere but into oblivion. In fact, given the realization of global warming, species extinction, and well documented levels of pollution it is common knowledge that the current path being traveled by civilization is doomed to smash into the earth much the same way a defunct airplane would do. The difficulty beset humans is not that of realizing what the problems of Environmental degradation are, but in implementing a sustainable solution that people can and will utilize. Does the pilot of the proverbial airplane simply need to pedal harder or does an entirely new airplane need to be built? An underlying theme in Ishmael’s dialogue is that of the example set up by the gorilla himself. The implication is to return to the life of a wild animal.
Ideally, humans would return to a state that predates that of the Leavers, at least culturally. Modern Western culture actually echoes this in its own Kitsch. Fern Gully, Lion King, even parts of James Cameron’s Avatar all encourage mankind to rescind all material objects and live in the wild, either as animals or as a native population with an instinctual understanding of their habitat. Obviously, convincing 6 billion to give up their Ipods, microwaves and daytime soap operas is about as likely as time travel at this point. The concept need not be polarized, though. There is a kernel of truth in the idea of returning to the Leaver lifestyle. A complete cultural reversal may not be possible but it may be possible to convince people to lose a portion of their materialism.
Another wildly controversial topic is that of population reduction. In order to achieve the idealistic Leaver lifestyle a severe reduction of population is necessary. Without technology, especially agricultural technology, the number of humans that can be sustained by the land is directly determined by the amount of food immediately available. An elimination of a huge portion of the population would be necessary to allow people to accomplish this. Again, obviously out of the question. Technology is indispensable at this point of Mother Culture’s evolution.
Otherwise there would be famine on a scale even higher than already exists. The thinking here is that human lives i.e. Takers, are more important than the Leavers lives.
No in-depth debate is required here. One need only look at the rapid rate of deforestation for farm land to see the level of priority given to feeding the masses of humans. To be more realistic about the issue a cliché word needs to be used, research. Seemingly, research is proposed by all those in the intellectual world as a solution to the world’s problems. In this case there is no other obvious solution.
Should a new plane be built or is modern civilization going to finally pedal hard enough to fly? The recent debate on the very existence of global warming is utter proof to the fact that despite our modern technology man does not know the answer to many of the questions regarding the Earth. Research into the effects of deforestation as well as possible alternate means of agriculture, along with numerous other key points, are crucial to the future survival of mankind. Research may be the answer to the problem, but education is the only way to implement that solution. Mother Culture must be met head-on and either converted in a frustratingly drawn out Socratic method or shown by example of those that already understand the delicate ecological balance in which they live. Whatever the method, education is the only way people are to be convinced of the impact they are having and how to fix it.
The very beginning of Ishmael starts as an ad seeking a pupil. Perhaps by this example, all humans should be pupils and learn the proper methods by which to live sustainably in their environment.