Friday, September 25, 2009

How Nothing Works

I've been reading Robert Bly's The Sibling Society and at the same time wondering why Ishmael had such an impact on me ten years ago. It always amazes how you can hold a question in your mind and answers to those questions pop out at you from all different kinds of sources. Take this quote out of TSS about breaking up tribal societies for instance:

"It's possible that American culture now exhibits many qualities we associate with a typical colonialist society. We now know from twentieth-century psychology, if from no other source, that, given the nature of human life, people and nations cannot practice destruction of tribal societies without having it come back on them.
When colonial administrators take over a tribal society, their first task is to prove to the indigenous people that nothing in their culture works. It is important also to prove that tribal ways, such as consensus, do not work, and the old ways of talking with the gods, the ways the shamans practice, do not work.
Ships, gunpowder, and armor overpowered the African tribes, and then Westerners, to secure the power, dismantled the elder system. Pg. 160

In Ishmael, and the rest of his work, Daniel Quinn simply pointed out ways that worked for human beings for hundreds of thousands of years. In other words, we dont have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to finding a better way to live, we have plenty of models to work off from.

That's one reason why I think Ishmael had such an impact on me at that time in my life. At 25 (Hell, at 7 or 8) I knew the world was messed up, and that's part of the reason I was feeling down all the time. Most of the advice and stories I was hearing from adults over the age of 50 wasn't wasn't enough for me, there were always a few missing pieces that I was looking for. Well, Quinn provided the missing pieces, atleast that's the way it looks so far.

Friday, September 18, 2009


After reading Erik's post about corporate personhood I had to post this quote out of Derrick Jensen's The Culture of Make Believe.

“Corporations are a legal device invented in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to deal with the myriad of limits exceeded by this culture’s social and economic system: the railroads and other early corporations were too big and too technological to be built or insured by the incorporator’s investments alone; when corporations failed or caused gross public damage, as they often did, the incorporators did not have the wealth to cover the damage for which they could be held liable. Because of limited liability, corporations have allowed several generations of owners to economically, psychologically, and legally ignore the limits of toxics, fisheries depletion, debt, and so on that have been transgressed by the workings of the economic system.

“By now we should have learned. To expect corporations to do differently than they do is to engage in magical thinking. We may as well expect a clock to cook, a car to give birth, or a gun to do other than that for which it was created. The specific and explicit function of for-profit corporations is to amass wealth. The function is not to guarantee that children are raised in environments free of toxic chemicals, nor to respect the autonomy or existence of indigenous peoples, nor to protect the vocational or personal integrity of workers, nor to design safe modes of transportation, nor to support life on this planet. Nor is the function to support communities. It never has been and never will be. To expect corporations to do other than to amass wealth at any (externalized) cost is to ignore the system of rewards that has been set up, to ignore everything we know about behavior modification: if you reward someone—those inventing in or running corporations, in this case—for doing something, you can expect them to do it again. To expect corporations to do other than they do is at the very least poor judgment, and the very worst delusional. Corporations are institutions created explicitly to separate humans from the effects of their actions, making them by definition inhuman and inhumane. To the degree that we desire to live in a human and humane world—and really, to the degree that we wish to survive—corporations need to be eliminated." pg. 441

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Twain on Recieved Wisdom

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other”--Mark Twain

Check out If They Give You Lined Paper Write Sideways if you want to examine the beliefs and convictions you've been given.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Machine Metaphors

I really like the machine metaphor. Here is a quote out of Derrick Jensen's What We Leave Behind that occasionally pops into my head.

"We live in a machine age. To maintain prosperity we must keep the machines working, for when machines are functioning men can labor and earn wages. The good citizen does not repair the old; he buys anew. The shoes that crack are to be thrown away. Don't patch them. When the car gets crotchety, haul it to the town's dump. Give to the ashman's oblivion the leaky pot, the broken umbrella, the clock that doesn't tick. To maintain prosperity we must keep the machines going."--Richardson Wright