Ishmael

Daniel Quinn

Page 87

“If you go among the various peoples of your culture—if you go to China and Japan and Russia and England and India—each people will give you a completely different account of themselves, but they are nonetheless all enacting a single basic story, which is the story of the Takers. The same is true of the Leavers. The Bushmen of Africa, the Alawa of Australia, the Kreen–Akrore of Brazil, and the Navajo of the United States would each give you a different account of themselves, but they too are all enacting one basic story, which is the story of the Leavers.”

“I see what you’re getting at. It isn’t the tale you tell that counts, it’s the way you actually live.”

“That’s correct. The story the Takers have been enacting here for the past ten thousand years is not only disastrous for mankind and for the world, it’s fundamentally unhealthy and unsatisfying. It’s a megalomaniac’s fantasy, and enacting it has given the Takers a culture riddled with greed, cruelty, mental illness, crime, and drug addiction.”

“Yes, that seems to be so.”

“The story the Leavers have been enacting here for the past three million years isn’t a story of conquest and rule. Enacting it doesn’t give them power. Enacting it gives them lives that are satisfying and meaningful to them. This is what you’ll find if you go among them. They’re not seething with discontent and rebellion, not incessantly wrangling over what should be allowed and what forbidden, not forever accusing each other of not living the right way, not living in terror of each other, not going crazy because their lives seem empty and pointless, not having to stupefy themselves with drugs to get through the days, not inventing a new religion every week to give them something to hold on to, not forever searching for something to do or something to believe in that will make their lives worth living. And—I repeat—this is not because they live close to nature or have no formal government or because they’re innately noble. This is simply because they’re enacting a story that works well for people—a story that worked well for three million years and that still works well where the Takers haven’t yet managed to stamp it out.”