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  Ishmael Community: Transcript of Lycos Live Chat With Dan Quinn

Transcript of Lycos Live Chat With Daniel Quinn: 11/21/01

Moderator: Howdy folks. For those of you just joining us...tonight we will be chatting with Mr. Controversy himself, author Daniel Quinn. Hi Daniel, welcome to Lycos Live Events! How's it going?

Quinn: Oh, it's going very well!

seigelord: Mr. Quinn, in The Story of B, you say that the world will be saved by new minds with no concrete plans at all. What do you mean by this, and how can we save this planet if we don't have a plan for doing so?

Quinn: What I said was that if the world is saved, it will be saved not by old minds with new programs, but by new minds with no programs at all. An example of a great world change that took place is the Renaissance. The Renaissance transformed Europe, but there was absolutely no plan there, no program. This was the beginning of the scientific revolution, for example. The industrial revolution has virtually taken over the world, and it too came about without any plan. If the world is saved, it will be saved because people begin to think in a different way about the world and humanity's place in it. No one has EVER been able to make long-terms plans on a global scale. Even the Soviet "five-year plans" were a joke.

zpiel: Are homeless people really beyond civilization if they still depend on civilization's spillover for their survival?

Quinn: They're beyond civilization in the sense that they've been pushed out. Many of them would very much like to get back in. But at the moment, there's just no place for them in the system.

vilovian: How easy or difficult do you think it would be to implement a mass change of culture in the west?

Quinn: Changing minds is something that happens basically without effort. Unless minds change, change in general will be not difficult, but impossible. One of the chief programmatic approaches to change is to pass tens of thousands of new laws every year to try to stop people from doing things that are harmful to the world, but this doesn't work and doesn't produce any change. As I've pointed out in Ishmael, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was ultimately not difficult because people of the Soviet Union changed their minds about how they wanted to live, and they simply wouldn't put up with communist rule anymore.

Moderator: In case you missed it ...right now we are chatting with author Daniel Quinn. Over the years his books have brought much controversy. In "Ishmael" Quinn discusses mankind's mistreatment of the environment and the repercussions it will have on our future.

koska_1: Daniel, do you believe that the world is headed toward destruction because we, human beings, have not planned any new civilization development?

Quinn: Civilization has never been planned. History does not proceed by being planned. Hitler's vaunted Thousand Year Reich lasted about a decade, and he had all the resources of a very powerful nation at his disposal to implement his plans. Our civilization is headed for catastrophe because we simply keep on thinking the same way generation after generation, and therefore living the same way generation after generation. But, that can change! As I said earlier, the mind change that took place during the Renaissance completely revolutionized life in Europe.

shredhed17: Back to the homeless issue..., isnt it true however that most of them have pushed themselves out through drug/alcohol abuse?

Quinn: Yes. And so...? They have definitely marginalized themselves by choice. But it should be noted that I am not recommending homelessness as a way for people to go beyond civilization.

koska_1: Is not stumbling upon new ideas and implementing them part of the human condition how can we change this?

Quinn: I'm not sure I understand the question, because I've never said that this should be changed. Why would you want to change it? I certainly don't. Ishmael said, "You consider yourselves inventive, don't you? Well, be inventive."

zpiel: While I myself have a changed mind, and try to change the minds of others, I find it difficult to apply my attitudes to everyday life. How did your everyday actions change after you realized the things you have written about?

Quinn: The changes that are going to be critical for us in the next fifty years can't begin to be made until people stop thinking that humans belong to an order of being that is separate from and higher than the rest of the living community. This prevents us, for example, from facing the reality of the impact we're having on the world. To go back to my example of the Renaissance, the Renaissance didn't come about because people made adjustments to their daily lives, and so that's not quite the way to measure it. Having lived through the 60s, and seeing the changes in attitudes that that brought about, I can see that those changes were not expressed in the way people conducted their lives on a daily basis, but the changes were nevertheless profound. A concrete example is the catastrophic race between food production and population growth. It's almost universally believed that food production can "win" this race, but that's nonsense, because every "win" on the side of food production stimulates a "win" on the side of population growth. It's just like the Cold War arms race in this respect: every "win" on our side stimulated a "win" on the Soviet side. There was no way to achieve a FINAL win, but luckily for the world, the Soviets finally just walked away from the race. There's no adjustment we can make in our daily lives that will end the food race. The food race will not be ended until people IN GENERAL finally understand that it's a race that CAN'T BE WON. But this is not to say that there are no useful changes people can make in their own lives on a daily basis. Those must be chosen on an individual basis. I've never offered a list of changes people SHOULD make (and I never will).

dark_angel_0000: Do you believe in evolution?

Quinn: I don't think of evolution as a subject for "belief." Anymore than, let's say, the fact that the sun is the center of the solar system is a subject for belief. The reality of evolution has been established to the satisfaction of 99% of the scientific community--and to my own satisfaction. I don't "believe" in it. I'm as confident that it occurred as I am that the sun is the center of the solar system.

henriquevedana: How do you relate Buddhist ideas to your own?

Quinn: I don't see any relation between Buddhist ideas and my own, I'm afraid, but you may have something specific in mind. If so, please tell me what it is. :)

dark_angel_0000: Mr.Quinn do you believe in God?

Quinn: To me, this is a bit like asking if I believe that there's an old Model T Ford, complete down to the last nut and bolt, sitting in the very deepest part of the Marianas Trench. It's possible, it's thinkable, but I just don't see the point in believing such a thing. It's either there or it isn't, but I have no way of finding out. But the fact that I can't find out, doesn't mean I have to choose between believing it or disbelieving it. It's just a fact I don't have and probably never will have. Another fact I don't have is whether God exists. Either he does or he doesn't, but, like the Ford in the Marianas Trench, there's no way to find out. Maybe we'll find out about the Ford someday--and maybe we'll find out about God someday--but meanwhile, I'm not much interested in believing things that can't be established one way or the other.

vilovian: When people ask me why the population is growing at a slower rate in the first world than in the third-world, is it safe to say that it is because the social norm in our culture is to spend our money on things other than food? That is, we buy the new gadget or toy on the market instead of food.

Quinn: We certainly buy plenty of food, of course, but having large families is not as attractive to first-world peoples as it once was--and as it still is in second- and third-world countries.

seigelord: Part of the problem in today's society is that Mother Culture's voice is hideously strong. Being a student, I want to make my peers aware of the issue, but how can I do that? And what do you see as being the ideal way to do that?

Quinn: If you yourself are seeing things a different way, this will affect the people around you. And it'll affect them without their even realizing it. Teachers have told me, for example, that even though they're not using my books in their classrooms, their WAY OF TEACHING has changed. And this is really almost beyond their control, because once you're thinking differently, you must speak differently and teach differently and relate to the people around you differently.

seigelord: In light of recent political events, how much do you feel that "revealed" religions have played a role in today's society?

Quinn: Well, revealed religions have had a tremendously important role in the history of our culture for the last 3000 years, and people have been killing each other over these religions for nearly this long. So what's happening right now is not something new.

hdelbruk: What do the current events in Afghanistan say about our ability to change the way humans behave?

Quinn: We have no such thing as an ability to change the way humans behave, and we never have. We have NEVER succeeded in changing the way people behave. We've reasoned with them, we've inspired, we've educated, we've pleaded, we've exhorted, we've passed a million laws, we've punished billions of lawbreakers, but none of these things has changed the way humans behave. People's behavior DOES change, however, when they begin to think a different way, as they did during the Renaissance. But you can't MAKE people change the way they think. When powerful new ideas present themselves and begin to spread, people begin to think a different way--and to make changes in what they DO. Unfortunately, no one can predict what people who think a different way will DO. For example, one result of the Renaissance was ultimately the Industrial Revolution--but none of the foundation thinkers of the Renaissance could have predicted that. Moderator: I hate to say it, but we have to wrap this up in a few minutes. We'll take a few more questions & comments.

shredhed17: Back to evolution... 99% of the scientific community may agree with evolution, but Im sure that at least 80% haven't bothered to question it. Did you come make this decision by choice or by simply "stumbling" onto it as many as the others have?

Quinn: I never made a "decision" about it. I've always assumed that life evolved on this planet. There's really nothing else that makes sense to me.

waltriddle: Why do you think that dialogues with God or gods continue to figure so prominently in our thinking?

Quinn: If you go among aboriginal tribal peoples, you will find that they're completely confident about the way they live. This is because their tribal law goes back to the beginning of time for them, and it WORKS for them, generation after generation. They KNOW how to live, and we're painfully aware that we DON'T know how to live--and that things are constantly going badly for us. And so we're constantly looking for someone to TELL us how to live. This is either a god or a prophet in communication with a god. Or it might be an angel or perhaps a kind hearted alien from outer space. But no matter how many messages we get from the sky, we STILL feel that we don't know how to live. And this is why this dialogue with the gods never stops. crow365: With all of the things you sell at New Tribal Ventures, would you ever consider producing those "Ten Thousand Year Reich" bumper stickers from the alternate end to Ishmael? Cuz' that'd be really cool...:)

Quinn: {laughs} Oh, my goodness! We have given thought from time to time to producing bumper stickers, and certainly this would be a candidate for one. But it seems to me that, with the disappearance of bumpers, bumper stickers are soon going to become extinct!

Moderator: Well folks, it time to wrap up the chat. Thanks Daniel we had a really good time chatting with you!! We'll have to do this again sometime.

Quinn: Yes, I'd be glad to do it again, and I have to say that this has been the best chat I have ever been a part of! Excellent questions, all. Thank you very much!


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