'Taker' and 'Leaver' Survivalists

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For fans of Ishmael, here's an interesting discussion on survivalism from Ishmael & Survivalism:

Lisa Wilcox writes:

theres more to survival skills than mere weaponry, which I gather is the big area of sensitivity. Familiarity with the night sky, learning to identify local edible plants (and when and how to harvest them), medicinal uses of herbs, simple gardening techniques, leather tanning and working, spinning and weaving, massage techniques, food preservation (even Leavers hoarded for the winter), and so on, are all skills whose acquisition can help change your personal vision now, and be useful to you and/or your community post-crash.

Lisa makes a very important point here. In my experience, there are two basic types of survivalists. I refer to them as the Taker survivalists and the Leaver survivalists, and we really should not confuse them.

The Taker survivalists are motivated by a survive-at-all-costs mentality and are epitomized by the right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, white supremacist, militia model. They essentially take the worst of the Taker mentality, backed up by AK-47s and huge ammo stashes, into the wilderness with them. These are the "theyll take my gun away when they pry my cold, dead fingers from it" folks. They build bunkers (how appropriate for a bunker mentality!) and store huge amounts of MREs, love to play war games, and for the most part are totally unable to live in balance with the land, even if they know something about edible plants, etc. Like most Takers, they are as afraid of the wilderness as they are of black helicopters, the UN, the "New World Order," and non-anglo immigrants taking over the country. As putative "Bs," this is obviously not the way we want to go.

The Leaver survivalists are motivated by a fundamentally different vision than that of the Takers. The Leaver survivalist vision is that of small hunter/gatherer tribes living in modest harmony and balance with the land and the laws of the Creator (gods), seeking the riches of a spirit-based life as opposed to a things-based life. IMHO, the best of the Leaver survivalists learn the old physical skills - tracking, trapping, hunting and gathering, making cordage, clothing, and blankets from natural fibers and other resources, fire starting with a bow-drill, building earth shelters, etc. - *and* the old spiritual skills that are our natural birthright - free communication with the spirit world and all of the other beings living on Mother Earth, etc. (Yes, it is possible to (re)learn how to talk with animals, the plant people, rocks, waterfalls, etc. Many of us could do it as young children, until the adults in our lives told us to stop making up stories and we killed that part of ourselves so we could fit into Taker culture.)

Why should we, as wannabe saviors of the world, be interested in Leaver survivalism? Isnt it just giving up and running away from the problem, admitting defeat before weve even begun to try? I dont think so. A return to Leaver survivalism is the only possible end to the story chronicled by Quinn. There is really no other way for us two-leggeds to proceed. We are either Takers or Leavers, there is no middle ground, no possible compromise, no possible Leaver/Taker hybrid that is ultimately sustainable.

Lets take as a simple example your copy of _Ishmael_. The process starts with the cutting down of trees (or hemp, for the "sustainable use" people). You can approach the cutting down of trees for human use in two ways. One is the Taker way - the tree is just a resource, the ultimate imperatives of cost-effectiveness compel the use of the most "efficient" harvesting methods. The other is the Leaver way. You understand youre taking another life, so you pray and fast to demonstrate respect for the life youre about to take. You look deep into your heart to see if its really necessary to take this life for your own survival. You carefully survey the area around you, looking for a tree you can take without damaging the area. Perhaps the tree you select is a young sapling in a crowded grove, so that by your removal of the sapling you are actually benefiting the health of the remaining trees. You talk with the tree and explain why you are about to kill it and offer it tokens of your respect and appreciation. Then and only then do you cut it down in a respectful manner. You carefully and mindfully carry it home, where you make sure you use every part of it, for to waste even a little is to disrespect the life you have taken.

Lets stop here for a moment. What do you think your copy of Ishmael would cost if every tree that went into it was harvested in a sacred manner? Then continue on and consider - how do we make the paper? Does the person who cut down the tree then make the paper? How much will your book cost now? Or are the trees collected in a central place? If so, how do they get there? Trucks, trains, horse-drawn cart? If by cart, now how much does your book cost? If by truck or train, consider the ore that must be ripped from the Earth (by hand or machine?), the smelting foundries that must be built and powered, and so on down the line. How much would it cost to do all this in a sacred manner? Then think of printing the book and finally distributing it around the world.

Well, you say, what about recycled paper? Oh, so youre going to recyle your copy of _Ishmael_? If not, realize that another tree will have to be sacrificed to make the next book you read. Anyway, continue this exercise by looking at everything (I mean everything) in your home. Be thorough. Trace everything back through each step to its origins. Imagine, too, how it would be produced in a sacred, Leaver manner. After an hour or two, please email me and tell me how we can reform (scale down? limit?) Taker society.

I will stop here, although obviously there is lots more to say. If all this has been discussed before, my apologies, as there are no archives to review.

This being such a bright and contrary group, I suppose there will be plenty of objections - Is everyone supposed to swarm out of the cities and into the wilderness? Its sheer romanticism to think we can go back, etc. Thats fine and good. Maybe Im right, maybe Im wrong. One way or another well thrash about and find the right path.

For resources in learning Leaver survivalism, see my "Into the Forest - Resources" posted concurrently.

Walk in balance, SheTracker

-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), February 11, 1999


er, RC, if you want my honest reaction, this whole piece appears, IMHO, to be an attempt to excuse faulty planning and lack of prior preparation by claiming that someone is simply attempting to live in some nonexistant balance.

thanks, but no thanks - this is exactly why the majority of new age types wont survive anything beyond about a 5 or 6...

just my 2 cents' worth, Arlin

-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), February 11, 1999.

Yes, Arlin, I believe so also. The characterization of "Taker" survivalists appears to mirror the shallow mainstream media characterization. As for the "Leaver" survivalists, I wonder whether this vision is realistic. It might be, the writings and work of Tom Brown Tracker come to mind... Posting just meant to stimulate discussion. I wonder about this term 'survivalist' anyway. Anybody who's alive is a survivalist. But this article shows that stereotypes can come from any direction. The whole thing is more comprehensible if you've read and 'believe in' Ishmael. (I have, and don't)


-- Runway Cat (runway_cat@hotmail.com), February 11, 1999.

Hi, RC --

I came across that same discussion a few days ago. I had just finished reading "Into the Forest" by Jean Hegland and found that site when I did a search to learn more about the author. I was pretty much going along with She Tracker, but thought I'd read the response from someone named Tom, and it made a lot of sense too. I especially appreciated his observation that a lot of people aren't necessarily into surviving at all costs -- they're into protecting their children at all costs. While I didn't agree with everything Tom said, I could certainly relate to the universal instinct to do whatever is necessary to protect one's child. Anyhow, for what it's worth, cut and pasted below is Tom's response to She Tracker.

"Lisa makes a very important point here. In my experience, there are two basic types of survivalists. I refer to them as the Taker survivalists and the Leaver survivalists, and we really should not confuse them.

Yes, I agree we should not confuse them.. However, I am about to disagree with your next paragraph, and I will try to do so in the least fractious, least harsh way possible. Just as some of us long-timers on the list have warned not to "romanticize" or "angelicize" Leaver cultures, we might want to consider the mirror image. It is also not helpful to villanize or stereotype parts of Taker culture as well. It leads to false conclusions. In this case I think you have.

While I am not part of a survivalist group, (and dont wanna be) I know a bunch of them, a) because I met them in my camping and hiking activities here in the Southwest, b) because I wrote some articles about them, and c) because I live near some, and even have a friend or two among them.

You write:

The Taker survivalists are motivated by a survive-at-all-costs mentality

Perhaps. most of them are motivated by a protect our children at all costs mentality.


are epitomized by the right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, white supremacist, militia model.

This however, is a stereotype, and not true. It shows that you do not know many survivalists, particularly those of the LDS (Mormon) faith. The radical skinhead movement and white supremacist movement are a totally different thing, and while there might be some "overlap", survivalists are often stereotyped as you have done here, unfortunately lumping them in with those other groups. Survivalists are about a whole different thing than right-wing thugs. Most of them are religious, and many have that millenium-ist viewpoint consistent with their view of Revelations and the Apocalypse and other doctrines. But they are not rabid, foaming at the mouth fundamentalists or McVeigh-like terrorists. Some are African-American, and among the groups I know, they are much more environmentally active than I amin the sense of putting their time, money, and beliefs where their mouths are. It may surprise you to know they lead a significant fraction of the anti-nuclear-waste dump activists here in Nevada, as well as being vitally concerned with environmental issues. Yes, there is a love of weapons and things that go boom among most of them, but "militia" would be furtherest from their minds. Many of the women, however, have so much in common with the women I read on the list that you would consider them sisters, I bet. Laurels kitchen, a love of things herbal and spiritual, and a growing self-reliance come to mind.

They have one thing in common with us on the list: they too, think the Taker Thunderbolt is gonna crash.(They just think its going to happen any minute now. ;-) and they would like to be prepared. They have, I think, a more sober, realistic vision of the chances of averting or mitigating the disaster than we do. (The women also have this infuriating smug little smile when I rant on about a "soft landing". The words "fat chance" seem to form on their lips...)

They essentially take the worst of the Taker mentality, backed up by AK-47s and huge ammo stashes, into the wilderness with them.

The weapon of choice is a .7mm Remington BDL with a vari-power scope. It has advantages that AK47s lack when one is contemplating survival and not infantry assault. All of them have handguns which their children know how to shoot (horrors!) and how to transport safely. These folks love their children very much, and I have never seen one of those kids use a weapon in a dangerous way. They know the power, and the ways to handle the tool. They are taught so they dont pick up daddys H&K and blow a hole in baby sister. Have you taught similar safety skills to your children, should they encounter a strange handgun?

These are the "theyll take my gun away when they pry my cold, dead fingers from it" folks.

Yes. I used to see that bumper sticker lots, along with the "God guns and guts" one. The one I saw yesterday (right after reading one of our elders favorite bumper stickers) was "Never Never Never Never Shake a Baby". As for the sentiment behind that other bumper sticker, I would invite you to be tolerant of folks who are exercising their 2nd amendment (and First Amendment) liberties, even if you disagree. I know for a fact that they would defend YOUR first amendment rights to disagree with them, the bumper sticker says so.

They build bunkers (how appropriate for a bunker mentality!)

This is projection, I guess. They build cabins up by Cedar City and park their bass boats next to them. Their bunker mentality usually extends to offering a poor footsore hiker barbequed ribs, a cold root beer, and some advice on trailheads up toward Zion.

and store huge amounts of MREs,

I cant argue with this. for example, The LDS faith requires some food storage, and they sometimes do have MREs in the stores I have seen. (I have tried to explain to them that those things taste like shit, but they just grin.) You will also find a lot of home-canned goodies the women are quite adept at "putting up." (and sharing, if you ask nice.)

love to play war games,

Well the closest I came to seeing that was something I wrote about on the list a while ago. One of the crazier UFO alien-hunters in the group built a homemade LAWS rocket out of stuff from a book, and about 30 of them (and yrs trly) gathered one morning to watch him blow the HELL out of an old VW with it. (we all hid behind a rock while he pulled the trigger.) It was a big boom, wicked good fun, and probably anathema to your sensitivities. (And illegal as well) It didnt have anything to do with their survivalist interests at all.

and for the most part are totally unable to live in balance with the land, even if they know something about edible plants, etc.

Yeah, they are Takers alright, but they have also a tradition of living on the land in the Southwest for about 150 years now, plus a lot of acquired wisdom from the Native American culture. (acquired in nice ways, surprisingly) They understand the balance, and try to mitigate the destruction other folks like the BLM and corporations do in their areas, but they do drive 4 wheelers and make big fires in the woods.

Like most Takers, they are as afraid of the wilderness

No, this is pure fiction. They know more about the wilderness than most of us on the list ever will. They love the wilderness and understand it, but yes it IS subordinate to their Taker notion of surviving.

as they are of black helicopters,

You know not what you speak. Folks laugh about black helicopters until they see one or two hovering overhead. I can send you a picture of a tie-down pad full of them I took near Area 51. They scare me real good.

the UN, the "New World Order," and non-anglo immigrants taking over the country.

I dunno about all this, we never discussed it.

As putative "Bs," this is obviously not the way we want to go.

Yeah, they came to the same conclusion. The ones who had read Ishmael and "B" from my loan-out copies understood and agreed with Quinn and nodded their heads alot when they read him, the scenario was already familiar to them. The last one to be on the Ish-list that I know of unsubscribed about Christmas because he found it was boring and he couldnt take Roger.

Anyway, those are the survivalists I know. I guess the ones you know are from Idaho or Vermont or somewhere. I hear those northerns are some mean sunsabitches.


"Look at that man behind the curtain! Pay no attention to the Great Oz!" --me"

-- Pam G. (Pam95818@aol.com), February 11, 1999.

Thanks Pam, that completes the set.

My only issue with the 'Ish' Leaver societies is that I don't see how you get from here (back to) there. The problems are in 2 areas: high population and the idea of political/cultural 'freedom'.

The first is just a tragic fact, enough said. The second consists of ideas released from a Pandora's box that the Leavers never opened, and I don't see how you stuff that stuff back in there.


-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), February 11, 1999.

Pam -

Many thanks for publishing Tom's comments re Lisa's posting. I must admit that I was very irritated by her "Us and Them" categories and by her lumping all the various (to her) "Them" groups into one neat little "Other". It all smacked of a false dichotomy and essentially of a view that "Taker, bad; Leaver, good". Many thanks for providing us with this balancing commentary from someone who demonstrates much wisdom.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), February 11, 1999.

As Runway Cat points out, population is a critical element. Population of humans (H) and edible animals including fish (A). Before the Europeans landed in North America the ratio H/A was under 1. Now it's well over 1. All the bear, deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, and catfish in Georgia wouldn't feed the population of Atlanta more than a few days at best. After which there would be none. Throw in hogs, cattle, chickens, snakes, dogs and cats and you get a few days more.

The "Leaver" way as it may once have existed can't be retrieved. The "Taker" way as we know it now is unsustainable -- primarily (I think) because its waste products are killing the oceans and the forests and poisoning our waterways. Continued on its present course, after a bit 20 billion people will have a diet of cultivated algae.

In case anyone's wondering, no, I don't have a solution.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), February 11, 1999.

I think most people feel the same frustration after reading "Ishmael." The problem and the way that things came to be this way are suddenly crystal clear, but it is also very clear that there is no way to reverse the damage, and we may be too far gone to halt our own extinction. It seems as though sheer momentum and a belief that one person can't do anything significant to make things better cause people to continue traveling down an ultimately fatal path, even when they know better. Probably only a major calamity (y2k?) or sudden serious shortages of necessary resources will make people stop and look for ways to live life differently and less destructively.

-- Pam G. (Pam95818@aol.com), February 11, 1999.

RC, thanks for recommending Ishmael. Checked it out, read it, enjoyed it. Fortunately for me, I've spent enough time in the wild to know that I would not survive very long outside in January if left to my own devices . . . I don't care how many "Ever Eat a Pine Tree?" books I read. Therefore I have two cords of old growth hardwood split and in the shed along with a sufficient quantity of refined petroleum product not to mention a smorgasbord of 12 and 20 GA. shells, .22 Long Rifle, .45 ACP, .38 Special cartridges and a nice bin of highly fertilized hybrid grain products preserved with the finest manufacture of solid CO2. (By the way, just threw that "old growth" part in for the humor, any way there is no old growth left in this part of the country.) Thanks for recommending Ishmael.

-- Puddintame (dit@dot.com), February 11, 1999.

Tom C., I don't think any of us has a solution. I think that nature will provide the solution. Unfortunately, it may be a harsh one for those who are in the wrong place. If the "Taker Thunderbolt" is about to crash on the valley floor, the few who manage to parachute to safety, and their progeny, will be in a postition to rethink the human relationship to nature. It's likely, however, that the Taker approach is just too ingrained, and the same mistakes will be made over again.

There are modern examples of people adopting or attempting to adopt a Leaver lifestyle. Findhorn, for example. (A scottish commune where they grew the most incredible fruits and vegetables with the help of "the little people.) Other communes in this country include Arcosanti in Arizona, who are taking an architectural approach to "Building a Prototype Arcology." Most people, however, have no awareness or interest in the fact that there are indeed (a very tiny number) of people who are trying to get off the "Taker Thunderbolt" before it hits bottom.

For more info on current communes (Intentional Communities) around the world, check out http://www.ic.org/, the website for the Fellowship for Intentional Community. If nothing else, it's fun to check out the IC List to see just how many there are and where they're located.

(BTW - I lived in two urban communes - Kerista in S.F. and Ganas in NYC for about four years each. More Taker than Leaver, but more gentle to the earth than the average consumerist lifestyle)

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), February 11, 1999.

Perhaps you are now beginning to understand why I consider most Y2K-concerned individuals to be "newbies" when it comes to this so-called survivalism issue. Many of us who have been into ecological awareness for years (even decades) have long understood the quandaries and cunundra of surviving in a world of depleted resources, filled-beyond-capacity waste-sinks and an attitude among the majority culture that this is the way things should be.

What Daniel Quinn has tried to point out is why and how we got into this mess in the first place. In keeping with his philosophy of telling and living a new story, he has (for better or worse) couched his lesson in a new vocabulary---his way of stepping outside the box. This makes him simultaneously clear and obtuse, depending on the background and sensibilities of the reader. (Knowing why "Ishmael" was presented in this fashion might help the understanding, but I don't have time now.)

This discussion, begun by Lisa Wilcox, was clipped from the archives of the ISHlist, a forum for the discussion of Quinn's writing and philosophy. It took place in the summer of 1997. The major portion of the Post was the work of Shetracker, a Native American individual, not to be confused with some "new-ager." The follow-up post was by my close friend, Tom Warren, a very aware and sensitive individual who likes to say, "We are Takers and we must save the world." He understands, as you do, RC, that there's no way we can go back to a Leaver culture. But, along with Shetracker and me, he also holds out the hope that we can learn the Leaver "story" or "worldview" sufficiently well to avoid going over the cliff toward which we're headed.

Shetracker fully understands her stereotyping of Taker (militant) survivalists and justifies her presentation thusly: (edited for brevity by Hallyx. Original at: http://www.seanet.com/~camw/Ishmael/Coolthreads/Survival/shetrack.htm

[Shetracker] "Thank you Tom for your gracious :-) clarification about the types of survivalists out there.

1. We're definitely hiking in different mountains. Where I hike, on several occasions in the past few years I've run across some very scary, extremely well-armed folks in full military regalia, face paint, etc., who were conducting manuevers and refused to let me pass even though it was public forest land.

2. As I wrote the post, I considered including as a third type of survivalist the folks you describe as I know all the Taker survivalists are not Darth Vader types. My main goal was to make the point that there is another approach to survivalism besides running around with guns.

3. There *are* bunkers out there, some of these folks are preparing for war and they definitely won't see us B types as friends. [the reference is to "The Story of B" by Daniel Quinn]

4. I also confess that I suppose I was trying to be somewhat provocative - I wanted to help nudge people back onto the issues facing us and less on people's perceived personality defects, so I probably drew some lines sharper than they deserved.

Walk in balance, SheTracker"

Tom Carey correctly points out, "The "Leaver" way as it may once have existed can't be retrieved. The "Taker" way as we know it now is unsustainable." Quinn has no suggestions either; I'm sure he considered it beyond his purview. Y2K has just come along recently to throw shit in the game. If I could snap my fingers and fix all the computers tomorrow, we'd still be in a world of hurt.

One of my great delights in participating in this NG is the relatively large number of individuals who understand this perspective.


"We are Takers and we must save the world." --- Tom V. Warren

-- Hallyx (Hallyx@aol.com), February 11, 1999.


Earlier on this thread, you said, "My only issue with the 'Ish' Leaver societies is that I don't see how you get from here (back to) there. The problems are in 2 areas: high population and the idea of political/cultural 'freedom'.

The first is just a tragic fact, enough said. The second consists of ideas released from a Pandora's box that the Leavers never opened, and I don't see how you stuff that stuff back in there."

Your saying this greatly surprised me until I took cognizance of the fact that the unique life experiences which make these questions seem so clear to me, are ones that you may not have had.

Let me explain.

As an undergraduate History major, I was required to take a certain number of Life Science units to fulfill requirements. As I had determined to make my formal educational experience a thing of my own making rather than an externally directed "molding" of myself, I decided to enroll in a course in Molecular Genetics. Of course I didn't have the catalog pre-reqs, but the out was, ". . .or approval of the instructor." When I asked such approval, the professor asked what made me think that I was capable of "handling" the course. I replied that I diagnosed and repaired malfunctioning mainframe computers for a living, and that I saw an attempt to imitate nature in the design of computers which I wanted to investigate at the same time that I fulfilled my Life Sciences requirement. He allowed me in and that course is one of two experiences that allows me to envision the answers to your questions as stated above.

The other experience is a Windows based screen saver called, "Hungry Bugs" or something like that. It is based on the old "Game of Life", in which the survival and/or reproduction of any given cell in a matrix is determined by various algorithms relating to the cells which surround it.

In the genetics course, we cultured microbes in petri dishes and generated gene maps. Since the culture medium (food) was never applied exactly evenly, the germ colony never grew quite evenly and when a part of the colony outstripped its food supply, it died off. This left a random pattern of "mini-colonies", if you will, scattered across the petri dish where the culture medium had not been exhausted. Sometimes outside factors were introduced, either intentionally or accidentally which had much the same effect. The point here is that "something" always happened to drastically reduce the population when it became too large for the situation.

pshannon has nailed it here with, "I don't think any of us has a solution. I think that nature will provide the solution. Unfortunately, it may be a harsh one for those who are in the wrong place." There will be "something" that will drastically reduce the population so that the Leaver culture(s) may survive and prosper (this "something" will be the crash of the Taker Thunderbolt). The analogy is not exact, in that the culture medium was not renewable such as many of the life forms necessary to Homo Sapiens' survival are, but the point is illustrated. I see the planet sparsely populated with small, widely separated "mini-colonies" of humans, with little or no communication with each other for an indeterminate period of time. In this situation, your, "political/cultural 'freedom'" will not be "allowed", it will be imposed by circumstance.

The problem of putting anything back into Pandora's box is, I submit, a false dilemma. Nothing will be put back into a "box", but it will nevertheless go away. It will simply evaporate with the passing of each generation and go wherever data goes when you turn the power off of a non-retentive memory array. It will dissolve into myth and legend or, perhaps, simply be forgotten, maybe to be re-discovered in some possible future, maybe not.

Now the possibility exists certainly, that some, or even all, of these "mini-colonies" will re-create Taker culture. If so, the cycle will simply repeat, with the time parameters determined by factors not particularly relevant to this discussion.

"But what about the screen saver?", I hear you ask. My Windows' wallpaper is an orthographic projection of the planet on a black screen. The "Hungry Bugs" provide an animated representation of the above described process.

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), February 11, 1999.

That's interesting Hardliner..., yes, viewed that way, that can come about as you described. I guess I was (pessimistically) wondering whether there were a more intentional way of doing it, you know, kinda "Diane"-style. But I just don't see it happening, and seems as though most here agree on this point. Sorry, I guess we keep getting back to that. Robert Monroe (yeah I know some of you think he's just another nut, so ?) had an interesting vision of a future world configured more or less as you described, Hardliner.

I just get sad looking at little kids and ladies reading Bridal magazines, and that kind of stuff. I know we're just a weed species, but the whole thing makes me a little sad. I'll get over it.

Anybody remember the fragment from Dostoyevsky:

See that nice old man in the cafe over there, drinking tea with his granddaughter, he's teasing her, she's laughing...
And then some Napoleon comes along and says "The city must be destroyed..."

Anyway, I'm a researcher using genetic algorithms and other optimizing search methods through large combinatoric solution spaces, a problem related to the game of life and the other things you brought up.


-- Runway Cat (runway_cat@hotmail.com), February 11, 1999.

It seems that Hallyx and I posted simultaneously and when I went back to check whether I'd left italics on or something equally embarassing, I found that I'd apparently missed the perspective that both she and RC (and indeed most of the rest of you as well) seem to have spoken from; that of a member of Taker culture.

I must confess, I feel no such membership and never have. My entire life has been one of entrapment by the culture I find myself in. I just didn't know what to call it before I read Ishmael. As a small boy, I learned from my grandfather that the stars had looked just the same a thousand years ago and that they would still look so in another thousand years and further, that no one in either time would or did, know my name. I've grown into a being who looks into the night sky and, envisioning the requisite geometry of the sun, moon and earth to make a crescent moon appear so, realizes the utter immensity of the cosmos and my own relative (un)importance to it.

With the understanding that he spoke from such a perspective, I see now what RC meant and I agree that an "intentional way of doing it" is not possible. As I understand Quinn, the essential difference in Taker and Leaver culture is intention. For the Takers, it was their own intentions and for the Leavers, it was the intentions of the "gods" that were the essence of their culture. That being the case, a Taker intention to change the culture is self defeating by definition.

Reading Quinn leaves no doubt (in my mind at least) that the Taker Thunderbolt will crash. I find nothing in his work though that says that individuals may not "bail out" of one culture and assimilate into another nor does anything he writes indicate to me that creation of a new culture is impossible. I plan on "escaping" this mess when Y2K allows (and I believe it will) and intend on being a part of the construction of a Leaver culture that will build on the mistakes of the Takers and leave our own intentions out of it.

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), February 11, 1999.

Holy cow, Hardliner. This is the deepest answer yet. I should probably think about that one more before replying.... By the way, I'm no cheerleader for Ishmael, I have serious reservations about the analysis. And nothing below is intended to disparage Harliner, I respect military people, for example, my stepfather, who was a key player in both D-day and the Allied bombing campaigns over Berlin.
Anyway, back to Hardliner's point:

My sense is that all of us who have participated to any substantial degree in any Western culture, have any position, status or material standing therein, who have benefited or reaped any rewards, tangible or psychic therefrom, are members of the so-called Taker culture. This perspective operates in our psyches whether we wish it our not. If anyone is truly a Leaver at heart, they'd have "bailed out" long before y2k hits. Leaver is as Leaver does - now. Possibly somebody like Tom Brown could qualify, though I doubt it.

I doubt the truth of the Taker/Leaver dichotomy anyway. I think those Leaver cultures would have become Takers, given time and world enough.The Aztecs and their bloody, oppressive Empire - Takers or Leavers ? Sure, they were easier on the ecology than today's Takers, but that probably would have changed with time.

This world is fundamentally predatory. Any species would become a Taker species anytime it mastered the means of doing so.

I'll close with this line adapted from Solokov's Quiet Flows the Don

The line that divides Leavers and Takers runs not between societies, cultures, nations, tribes, or species, but down the middle of every human heart.

-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), February 11, 1999.

RC.. and others. Some wonderful sentiments ,ideas and logic. Few realistic solutions to the delemia, however ! One thought you had all better consider, before another month goes by. 98% of ALL seeds planted in U.S.A. are hybrid. You WILL STARVE in a year if you plant these. You MUST order NON hybrid seeds now, as ...1. Supply is limited; 2. More people are hearing this every day (may be too late already ?) 3.You should plant a small garden THIS YEAR to check ... growing time; gardening abilities; what your soil will/will not support; bugs and rusts, etc. that may "eat" more than you get;how much water is needed besides what He sends; what does it take to preserve these foods by canning,drying, or via proper storage. Been experimenting for years ( comes natural .. country boy, raised in depression, slopped the hogs and feed the chickens/ducks before school and after checking my trap lines; who, became a science teacher, eventually .) Does anyone realize that without auto, bus, train, etc. you will wear out a HEAVY pair of work shoes/boot in three months ? Then what ? 'Barefoot in the SNOW' ??? Eagle

-- Harold Walker (e999eagle@freewwweb.com), February 11, 1999.

Good stuff here...

I just read "Ishmael" this weekend, and it struck a number of chords. A symphony, in fact.

Hardliner - I know what you mean about membership in "Taker" culture and feeling stuck in this culture.

I remember a dinnertime conversation with the family when I was a child. Someone asked, if each of us could live at any time and place in history, when and where would it be? I think Dad wanted to live in Platonic Greece because of the flowering intellectualism of the time. Mom wanted to live during the Renaissance because of the art and literature. I think my older sister wanted to be the Queen of England or something. I said I wanted to be an American Indian maybe on the plains or in the Pacific Northwest. They were shocked. I said because it was a more natural and simpler lifestyle. I think they tried to talk me out of it. (now I live in NYC and spend the majority of my waking hours in front of a computer)

As an adult, I've lived in a couple of hippie communes. This was, for me, a way a embracing a different culture, out of the mainstream. (and how!) Like I said earlier, it was still "Taker," but a gentler version.

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), February 11, 1999.

Good point about the non-hybrid seeds. I've got several hundred bags of them stored. Stored food would also make that first year easier. But if we are talking about people having to feed themselves by what they themselves grow, we've written off 90% of the population of this country. The living may well envy the dead.

-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), February 11, 1999.

Thanks for the story, Harold; keep 'em coming, it's really helpful, and inspirational, too. Will you start a thread for us, containing more of that hard-won experience? I'm going to pick up 2 more pairs of boots this weekend.


-- E. Coli (nunyo@beeswax.com), February 11, 1999.

I regretably agree, RC. It was Quinn's best attempt (and better than many)at differentiating between those who believe the world was made for man and those, mostly indigenous cultures, who believed that man, as well as every other essence, was made for the world. In fact, extrapolations from and implications of the Taker/Leaver dichotomy were, as I recall, one of the more hotly-argued and vitriolic of the ISHlist NG threads.

>I doubt the truth of the Taker/Leaver dichotomy anyway. I think those Leaver cultures would have become Takers, given time and world enough.The Aztecs and their bloody, oppressive Empire - Takers or Leavers?<

As was the Iroquois Nation well on it's way; so, too, the plains tribes once they tamed horses (much to the dismay of their elders). The Natives of the Pacific Northwest were only able to indulge in the potlatch because of the natural abundance of the region. And even before that, when the paleolithic hunters caused or exacerbated the extinction of the native megafauna.

Even Quinn was not entirely happy with his distinction, as evidenced by his responses to questions at his website: ( http://www.ishmael.com/welcome2.cfm ).

Others of his allegories speak more cogently to our dilemma. The Law of Limited Competiton, Taker Thunderbolt, The Great Forgetting Totalitarian Agriculture, etc. all relate more directly to those questions of how we got into this mess and, by inference, the next step in social/spiritual evolution. It has much to recommend it as a guide to a sustainable worldview. In other words: stop doing THIS.

I find the most worrisome thing about Capitalism, Christianity, Democracy, NWO, or any other of these new-fangled social constucts, is the quintessential Taker attitude that the world was made for man. As long as this attitude predominates, Y2K or it's equivalent will recur continually until.....


"What if from the beginning of life, nature were perceived as teacher, guide, source; as important to us as our families? How differently would we live?"---Anita Barrows

-- Hallyx (Hallyx@aol.com), February 12, 1999.

A third opinion:

The world was made for nobody. Man was made for nobody. But man, or should I say men, as individuals, saw the world and began to change it for their own ends. To make life easier, and more effective. Some people decided that they would only go so far, that there was no need to push harder. (These are the people that you would call Leavers.) Others decided to push what they had, and themselves, to capacity. To go for bigger ships and better machines and whatever. These are, I assume, the people you would call Takers.

I do not believe I was made for anything in particular. I do not believe anything was made for me. That's because I intend to make things. And change things. Why should we be restricted only to this one world? Why should we not be on the Moon, be on Mars -and I'm not talking some theoretical "200 years from now" thing, I'm talking within the space of OUR lifetimes, I'm talking within the space of the next twenty, thirty years. Ten, even.

Our world has become too small. It's time to go out, to seek our destiny in new worlds in much the same way the Europeans of 500 years ago sought their destiny in the New World. I do not believe in "destiny". We make our own destinies. One man can stand against a tide.

Hardliner, you said:

As a small boy, I learned from my grandfather that the stars had looked just the same a thousand years ago and that they would still look so in another thousand years and further, that no one in either time would or did, know my name.

Pericles. Caesar. Pompey. Cicero. Alexander, Xerxes, Sun Tzu, Homer.

If you make sufficient a mark that will stand for ten thousand years, then ten thousand years from now, people will remember your name. We create our own destiny.

-- Leo (lchampion@ozemail.com.au), February 12, 1999.


You've surprised me again. I too, have some reservations about Quinn's arguments. After all, I only recently became aware of them and they certainly are deserving of more thought than I could possibly give them in a few weeks. That is not to say that I disagree with him. I don't--yet. And, certain of his ideas appear to me as so obvious that they require no further thought.

One of those is the description of the caged tiger who obsesses with the question, "Why?". Having been once caged myself, I can assure you with both intellectual honesty and emotional revelation that Quinn's supposition is likely correct. Not being a tiger myself, I can add that other questions impose themselves on the mind of Homo Sapiens. Some of those questions are: How do I get out? Where will I go when, and or if I do? What will I do once I get there? These questions are also obsessive in nature.

Now your description of a member of Taker culture strikes me as a description of a beneficiary rather than a member, but perhaps the two are the same. I do not think so, but I am hardly the final authority if indeed such authority exists. I agree with you that anyone who meets your criteria must be able to view things from the Taker perspective, but that is not the same as membership which I take as including the requirement of allegiance.

But, when you say, "If anyone is truly a Leaver at heart, they'd have "bailed out" long before. . .", I must strongly disagree. In the same way that the tiger is not "a prisoner at heart" simply because he is imprisoned, a man may not be a Taker at heart simply by virtue of the fact that he is either unable to get out or is unaware that there is an out. I must confess to more than a little naiveti here, and that is why Ishmael struck me with such force. I have already told you that I have felt "trapped" all my life, but I did not tell you (although it is true) that I have been searching for a way out for my entire life. My pseudonym on this forum is indicative of that search. I've still not discovered the "Way Out", as they say in Britain, but Quinn has convinced me that such a way is possible and not simply a wishful illusion of my own creation.

Although it is something of an oversimplification, we could consider a person living in one of the old Soviet states as representative of the problem. Until he became aware of the existence of the West and the supposedly superior culture, he would only be miserable and, as the tiger did, simply ask, "Why?" Given awareness, he might then become obsessed with escape and yet spend the rest of his life attempting such with no success. It was, after all, not as simple as saying, "Well, I really don't like this society! I think I'll stroll over to the US of A and see how that one is!"

Dichotomies are always dangerous to trust because they are too simplistic at most levels. One must focus on the most minute details for such reasoning to be anything like accurate. A simple dichotomy between Leavers and Takers is a good example of that (the Solokov quote strikes me as such a dichotomy, BTW). I do not see the Aztecs or the Incas as Leavers either. The North American Plains Indians seem to fill the bill however.

One of the basic tenets of my own understanding of things in general is this: Time, is a factor in all formulae and equations. That having been said, I must add that it is seldom the only>/i> factor. I suspect that you're correct that the Aztecs would have eventually become a full blown Taker culture, as, I think, would the Incas. The Sioux? I don't think so. From what I know of the Aztecs and Incas, they were both growing cultures that created empires as a matter of course. The American Plains Indians however, existed largely unchanged culturally, for perhaps the better part of 40,000 years. It was the introduction of the White, European culture, horses and the technology of gunpowder (the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge) that doomed them. It changed a few of them and I have lived among their pitifully few descendants. The rest of them are as gone as the wind when it isn't blowing.

I agree that the "world is fundamentally predatory" (as if it would change if I did not) and would extend the statement to all of Creation. I have said before that It is obvious to me that Creation is designed in such a manner that the big fish eat the little fish as a matter of course.

Your statement that, "Any species would become a Taker species anytime it mastered the means of doing so.", however, raises a red flag to me. You use absolute terms twice and I suspect that you view this as an apparent fact of life, yet I must confess that it does not appear so to me. If you would be so kind as to humor my lack and explain why it appears so to you, I would thank you.


All of those guys were Takers and I wouldn't change places with any of them. I have always believed that Life is best when you spend it slippping between the raindrops and no one knows your name.

And, unless I've missed something, no one has made a name for himself that has lasted 10,000 years. . . At least not yet.

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), February 12, 1999.

Hardliner, you have more going on than can be revealed to our textual eye in this NG. I would say about the 'any species will become a taker, given time and world enough' well, YOU answered this one with your Petri dish narrative above. That's all it is. We got opposable thumbs or whatever, and we used them to beat down the opposition.

My view that this earth world is ineluctably predatory is, or should be, a commonplace. The more interesting question is whether the spirt world that surrounds and sustains this one is predatory. As a Cartesian mind/body (really soul/body) dualist, I'm certain of the existence of a spirit world. But my experience there is too limited to reveal: is IT also fundamentally predatory ? The predation there would take the form of draining emotional energy or coercing the mental energies of attention and belief, with the ultimate goal of absorbing and extinguishing invidual consciousness, as in a totalitarian state here below. Or is there a deeper harmony... Well, religion is now proscribed on the NG, so I won't go any further with this.

Also interesting you brought up the Soviet Union. As an example of what an individual can survive, we need look no further than Solzhenitsyn: WWII front lines, German POW, Stalin prison camps, cancer. Should be an inspiration. Some people are tough!!


-- Runway Cat (runway_cat@hotmail.com), February 12, 1999.

oh boy,

er, Hal, folks, the approach advocated by the woman in RC's original post is nonsurvivable. I mean I hate to be a wet blanket on a philosophical discussion, but the simple fact of the matter is that the lifestyle described is, as has been stated, eliminated as a possibility. too many people, not enough food...anything beyond a 5 and people will starve. Those who have stored up and prepared will have a better chance of not starving than those who have not. Carrying capacity will be initially *diminished* as limited resources (deer, etc) are culled by those attempting to survive...thus knocking survival levels down even lower. There is no 'balance' for the woman to walk in.

Even if such idealized balance could be achieved -something which did NOT happen historically, as infant mortality rates were high and longevity fairly low in those sorts of cultures - it would require some sort of artificial bounding and support to overcome natural disasters...in other words her ideal culture is nonsustainable in the warm fuzzy context suggested.

Moreover for many of us it's not even open to consideration due to theological factors (I'm NOT trying to start another theological debate here - merely stating that what is being suggested is to some of us unacceptable). In other words there are large numbers of us who will not play that game simply because it would be immoral for us to do so.

I truly fear for people who prepare for disasters from the perspective of the original post - they are setting themselves and their loved ones up for immense physical AND psychological suffering.


-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), February 12, 1999.


Thank you for your response, and thank you for correcting my finger check with the italics. That response, though. . .

My Petri dish narrative is, as I pointed out, incomplete as an analogy because the culture medium is not renewable and also because there was only a single species in that "world". It does not satisfactorily answer the question for the same reason that your assertion that "opposable thumbs or whatever" allowed us to "beat down the opposition." Both attempt to define the general case by citing the existence of a specific instance.

There are plenty of other species about that have not beaten down their competition. It seems to be your contention that they simply haven't found their "whatever" yet and that given enough time and space that they would. Why should (or must) that be so?

I have nowhere near the certainty of the existence of a spirit world as you. I do not deny such, but only proclaim my own near total ignorance regarding it. I did find once, what I am sure was an entrance to "somewhere else", but I did not enter and I have been unable to find it again. That too, is beyond the purview of this forum.

Finally, your notation that people are tough is, in my experience, an understatement.


My perspective on the original post is quite different than yours, yet you and I (and I would think most of those posting here) are in agreement that conversion to a Leaver culture is not a viable option for 6 billion souls (at least on this planet!). I'm certainly not suggesting that, and neither do I perceive anyone else to be. The "balance" that SheTracker walks in is individual. As you so rightly point out, 6 billion people preclude such a balance on a cultural basis (for this culture on this planet).

I submit that "such idealized balance" was achieved, because "infant mortality rates were high and longevity fairly low in those sorts of cultures" and further that those cultures did not "overcome natural disasters" which contributed to the balance. It seems to me to be a matter of viewpoint.

As for the theology and morality of one versus the other, that has to be an argument which cannot be resolved since one's theology defines one's morality.

Lastly, I'm not sure that you meant it this way, but I don't see anyone suggesting that we all abandon the common sense preparations we've discussed for survival. I think that this discussion is in reference to TBOTWAWBI rather than how we get to that point.

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), February 12, 1999.

I think the essence of the whole thread has been identified:

I submit that "such idealized balance" was achieved, because "infant mortality rates were high and longevity fairly low in those sorts of cultures" and further that those cultures did not "overcome natural disasters" which contributed to the balance. It seems to me to be a matter of viewpoint.

-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), February 12, 1999.

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