Martin Torres-Leguizamon Jennifer Matteson ENGL-1A 01 November, 2018 Ishmael: Man’s Utopia; World’s Dystopia Ever since the start of the agricultural revolution, man had one goal: to have civilization that greatly surpassed that of their animal ancestors. They used to be grouped as just one community of life, but as labels grew more and more common, the want of being “better” came along during this time. These new human cultures saw the civilizations of animals as barbaric, for it reminded them of a time where both of them were looked at as equals.
Man saw their past as a struggle for survival before the agricultural revolution, when in fact, most organisms lived in harmony. However, man did not wish to live like animals, for they thought themselves to be superior, and wanted to control every aspect of this world.
In the Daniel Quinn’s novel, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, Ishmael believes that man will find a reason why other civilizations are imperfect and savage, and why they need to be corrected.
As Ishmael said, man differs from nature because they go against the peace-keeping law; “We’re destroying the world because we are, in a very literal and deliberate way, at war with it” (Quinn 130), referring to man try to eradicate those who compete with them, which in this case is the whole world. Because of humanity defying laws and customs that the rest of the world follows, the civilization of man has embarked on a trail that will lead to their extinction, that of others, and eventually, the planet itself.
As Ishmael stated before, man thought themselves to be more important than any other organism on the planet; anthropocentrism, if you will. They are only concerned with the advancement of their own civilization, not paying mind to those other civilizations and the planet itself affected by the very expansion they are pursuing. One example is human involvement in Antarctica, where the activity of man disrupts local wildlife: “…the so-called ‘Heroic Age’ of exploration…with the development of whaling started a new era of sustained human presence, as well as a legacy of environmental pollution” (qtd. in Tin et al.).
Man has directly involved themselves in ecosystems, such as the one in Antarctica, for their own benefit, leaving behind a mess that wasn’t originally present when they arrived. Their “divine” intervention has pushed the end of mankind closer in our calendars, like the metaphor Ishmael about civilization’s aircraft (Quinn 107). Man will not be concerned with the wellbeing of another species unless it concerns human interests; and if it interferes with it, then it might as well be dead. This Manifest Destiny-type of ordeal will never cease, for man will always seek places to expand their influence; they believe they know the difference between right and wrong, and will eradicate those who say otherwise, even if it is their fellow man. Although man can kill directly, he can also kill indirectly with what he leaves behind. It is as Ishmael stated in the novel, man considers the planet to be their life support system, however, they don’t treat like it is (Quinn 59). The pollution that “man’s quest for civilization” leaves behind not only can affect biodiversity, but a well as the planet itself, which in turn affects its entire population. Climate change is one of those factors that affect the entire population: “Habitat loss and fragmentation currently affect most species, and they are projected to increase with continued human population growth” (qtd. in McLaughlin et al.). As man continues to advance their civilization, they will harm others and the planet in their journey of “controlling” the world. Earth and its animals are like fuel with this type of civilization, and once they run out, there is a probable chance it won’t succeed as it has been throughout its existence. Mother culture will sway the majority in her favor, and man will continue to exhaust resources that pollute our planet’s atmosphere; when man is the only one left in the world, they will realize what had happened. As Ishmael said, the more population there is, the less available food there will be (Quinn 132); man will continue to expand to meet that quota, at the expense of Earth’s wellbeing. Man can fix what he had eliminated, but because of inconsistency and conflicting views with man’s common interest, trying to give life support to our plane is a goal a minority supports. Why would man give up what he had worked for? To lay waste to all the things he stepped on?
It is because of what Mother Culture promises. From man’s point of view, civilization is flying on the aircraft. Man might think “Sure, the ground is getting closer and closer, but if we work hard enough, we can fly forever!”. Man is so focused on what’s ahead, he does not pay mind to what happening behind him. Weather fluctuates, animals become extinct, and they seem to be running out fuel. That is what this civilization represents; it is unsustainable, and it is not meant to last. A civilization focused on nothing but gaining will ironically end up losing everything. Man focuses on what they could get and ignores what the consequences are. He has achieved so much in so little time, and yet the same could be said about what he destroyed. But as always, history repeats itself: “…that the survivors, if there are any, will immediately set about doing it all over again, exactly the same way” (Quinn 109-110). Cited as “Takers” by Ishmael, man has always wanted more land for more expansion, at the cost of other species. This was not important to man, since they believed they were the most important species out there. Man needed to grow, and for man to grow, they needed land. For their species to thrive, others needed to fall, which happened ever since humans started to colonize continents: “…in the islands of tropical Oceania, up to 1800 bird species (most described in the last few decades from subfossil remains) are estimated to have gone extinct in the~200 years since human colonization” (qtd. in Ceballos et al.). Due to excessive poaching, hunting, and destruction of habitats, may species mad met their demise to make room for the success of humanity. It is because of man’s desire to expand that he has absorbed the life out of other species around them to nurture their own. Man does not think of what will become of the animal’s future, but rather if man will eat tonight. The extinction of species has a chain reaction to it: If one species of animals die, then so will another because they are all connected in a food web. Like Ishmael said, man has behaviors that are foreign in the wild, such controlling food supply and killing off competitors, which in this case is this planet’s biodiversity. Even though some in humanity tried to undo the extinction it had caused through scientific breakthrough, but the path of extinction is irreversible. Civilization has taken far too long to respond against their transgressions of nature, and the interest to act is far too minimal to make any real changes. They are optimists in the area of hoping for the future, yet ignorant of what happening around them.
Through our civilization’s eyes, the “Taker Thunderbolt” was still in the air, and we needn’t worry about how fast we were approaching the ground; and according to Ishmael, the time where the Takers would approach the ground was soon (Quinn 108). Man will not become extinct naturally, as do many other species; However, it is plausible to infer that man will become extinct because of themselves. If the planet won’t cut off man, then man will do it themselves. It is exactly how Ishmael divided our civilization, into the Takers and the Leavers (Quinn 38-39). The Leavers, being the minority and the folks from third-world countries, will eventually be absorbed into Taker territory. It is seen many times throughout history, such as the European colonizers driving out Native American, and the Spanish Inquisition demolishing the Aztec Empire. They saw the Leavers and saw savagery in need of “saving”; though, the real purpose was clear after the indigenous people nearly ceased to exist. Once the Leavers are no more, the Takers will have not to take except each other. Different Taker cultures will clash against each other with different ideologies, and much different from animals, they will exhaust their resources to prove themselves right. They exterminate their competitors, destroy their competitors’ food, and they will deny access to that food (Quinn 127). With him wanting to be the god he thinks he is, the extinction is inevitable and could spring out in any given moment. If the Taker civilization we live in today continues the path of expansion, the “Taker Thunderbolt” that carries us will hit the ground, and everything will stop. Unhealthy human involvement in ecosystems will render them weak, which animals in response will start to die out.
Man will continue fighting a war with the planet, pushing everything away to win. At the start of Ishmael, the narrator found a quote with the following: “With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?” (Quinn 9). That gives the point of view of man, who would certainly agree with that question. If humanity continues to believe that they rule this world, then mass extinction will happen. Only when everything is gone will they see the truth: “With gorilla gone, will there be hope for man?” (Quinn 263). The fate of Ishmael represented what occurs all around the world. We take advantage of those we think are beneath us, without fully understanding their significance. I do think that if humanity continues the path it is currently on, then we are only speeding up our expected demise. We are already facing extinctions that we had caused due to our desire to advance our civilization to that of a paradise. If we think that paradise is achievable, then what is its cost? At this rate, the cost seems to be the world. A war with the world means no victor. This civilization can fly for a long time, but it won’t stop it from reaching the ground. For now, man is on a trail that will lead themselves and the planet to extinction.