One reader who stumbled across this site advised me
to read a book called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. He said my philosophy site would not
be complete if I did not read that book.
Ishmael, is a Socratic journey that explores the problem of how to save the world from ourselves. In it assumptions people make about themselves and their purpose are exposed and questioned. The harm that result from these assumptions are exposed.
I have several problems with the book. The book seems to suggest that man's growth is unnatural and not part of the well balanced laws of nature. I think man is a product of nature and that nature is not necessarily an ideal state. A swarm of locusts is part of a nature and if a swarm of locusts can eat up everything they will. Ultimately the locusts will run out of food and besides killing everything else off they will die.
I agree with the book's thesis that the assumption man makes, that the world is his for the taking may ultimately lead to his destruction. It's true that man has a tendency to take as much as he can from nature and without thinking of the long term consequences. An example are the deserts in Israel which resulted from overgrazing of the land there by the Bedouin. On the other hand man sometimes helps restore nature as well. Israel made the desert the Bedouin had created bloom again.
Man is a wishful thinker. He often believes what he wants to believe. The belief that the universe was created so he could exist, and that it is his purpose to conquer and rule the world are assumptions exposed in Ishmael and are the result of wishful thinking and rationalizations.
Man has rationalized his right to conquer for
probably as long as he has been on this earth. In 1845 in America, a rationalization
for conquering lands from others was formulated, the rationalization of Manifest Destiny.
In 1845, a democratic leader and influential editor by the name of John L. O'Sullivan wrote:
".... the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federative development of self government entrusted to us. It is right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth."
This idea contributed to several wars including the war against Mexico in 1846.
The Nazis justified their expansion into Europe in a similar way. They said they needed lebensraum (living space). They also justified it with the belief that those they were conquering were inferior to them.
Another example of harmful assumptions people make because they want to believe them are the assumptions that justify appeasement. A classic example of such wishful thinking was that of Prime Minister Chamberlain of England. He believed if Czechoslovakia would just give the Sudetenland to the Germans there would be peace in Europe. He gave Czechoslovakia an ultimatum. Either they turn over the Sudetenland to the Germans or England would not come to their aid against a German invasion. This was a violation of the alliance England had made with Czechoslovakia. The Czechs gave up the valuable defenses of the Sudetenland to Hitler. Chamberlain came back to England calling his accomplishments "Peace in our Time". Hitler invaded. This led to the fall of Czechoslovakia. The Germans caused a lot more devastation as a result of the appeasement policies of Neville Chamberlain.
Currently (1998) Israel is giving land to the Arabs in the hope that peace will result. One web site that makes clear that this is folly is called Shockers.
It is my opinion that the world would be a much better place if people would face reality instead of believing what they want to believe.
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