Daniel Quinn Critique

Normally counterarguments require quite a bit of justifying and explanation. In this case, I think a simple “no” suffices. That’s just bullshit. You’re basically saying that if we put our fingers in our ears, say “lalalalala” and pretend these problems don’t exist, they’ll go away.

[quote=“Raven, post:38, topic:1069”]I’m saying that there is no one right way of looking at something. Because a “dam” is an infinite possibility, everthing is. THAT I’m sure of. How to go about building one that lets salmon through is not something I’m interested in right now.
You’d have to know the area, community needs, purpose of such a dam etc. That can only be done on an individual basis.

Dams will continue to be built to block salmon, so long as we think of dams as “salmon-blockers”

So completely destroying dams would cause them to be hastily rebuilt in the same manner… as salmon-blockers.[/quote]

Dams are built to restrict water flow, not stop salmon. Specifically, they block it to create pressure on one side so the limited flow has more force, and therefore turns turbines faster. The salmon blocking/killing is a necessary byproduct of that effect. Both your analogy and point hold no water (har! I made a funny!). Kindly dispense with the useless pseudo-philosophical posturing, and perhaps make a real point.

Why not build dams that DONT kill salmon? (if a dam is needed)

Do Beaver dams kill Salmon?

Hmm, good question.

Beaver dams don’t kill salmon in Ohio :wink: but I don’t think that’s what you mean.

According to Wikipedia, beaver dams are a nursery for salmon…? But I can’t claim any particular knowledge or experience with that personally.

'Course, there’s a pretty big difference between a beaver dam and (most) man made dams. Toby Hemenway covered that pretty well with this quote

That is, quite possibly, the greatest quote ever. Or at least it made me laugh a whole lot.

Our reasons for building dams are very different from beavers. We build dams to generate electricity, store drinking water in a reservoir and to control flooding downstream. All these reasons require very high impassible dams. In the case of hydro-electricity you need a high dam to store the potential energy needed to generate the electricity. In the case of drinking water you need the dam high enough to store enough water for the population. And in the case of flood control you need the dam high enough to hold back the river during the wettest season, no matter what level the river is for the rest of the year.

All beavers want is a slow, shallow pool of water where they can build their underwater huts. This doesn’t require a huge dam and the salmon can just jump right over.

What about the classic grain mill? Yu know, the big, revolving spokes that looks like it could be on a steam boat? Thats not a damn for the river (heheh, pun), but you could generate electricity from it. Just not nearly as much as a damn. And it could get water from the river with buckets, but, again, not nearly as much.
There’s also a little thing called a check-dam that slows and spreads the water out, so the passing over of it is easier and so that the water infiltrates the soil more. Ai dont think that would adversely affect salmon, as with the beaver dam, they could just jump over (or even swim over).
But neither of those store water or generate electricity enough to sustain much of a town, much less a city. Nor do they help to control seasonal flooding (which is a stupid goal, anyway, imo).

Huby posted:

When it comes to understanding Daniel Quinn's and Derrick Jensen's work I have found this article useful.


And, specifically, this excerpt from the article has helped me understand to some degree where Derrick is coming from in Endgame.

From article: Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in “leverage points.” These are places within a complex system a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.

The systems community has a lot of lore about leverage points. Those of us who were trained by the great Jay Forrester at MIT have absorbed one of his favorite stories. “People know intuitively where leverage points are. Time after time I’ve done an analysis of a company, and I’ve figured out a leverage point. Then I’ve gone to the company and discovered that everyone is pushing it in the wrong direction!”

The classic example of that backward intuition was Forrester’s first world model. Asked by the Club of Rome to show how major global problems – poverty and hunger, environmental destruction, resource depletion, urban deterioration, unemployment – are related and how they might be solved, Forrester came out with a dear leverage point: Growth. Both population and economic growth. Growth has costs – among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction – the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth!

The world’s leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth as the answer to virtually all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction.


Wow, Huby, thanks for this article! It’s long but everyone should read it. Full of incredibly relevant insights.


Wow, Huby, thanks for this article!

You’re welcome! And thank you for letting me know that you found it useful, this makes me happy.

It's long but everyone should read it. Full of incredibly relevant insights.

Yes, it has helped me gain a better understanding of where DQ and DJ are coming from in their work.

Thank you,


To interpret Quinn’s metaphors a little more generously in this situation I’m going to suggest that when he suggests making the “Taker Thunderbolt” air worthy, that he is talking more about retrofitting it to be more like tribalism and less like civilization. Since Quinn has suggested before that the reason that the Taker Thunderbolt does not fly is because it doesn’t follow the laws that would allow it to fly, making it able to fly would bring it in line with those laws. In this case I’m going to guess that Quinn and Jensen are going in the same direction, but Quinn wants to slowly break down civilization through cultural change (his ‘changed minds’) where as Jensen wants to break down civilization by physically tearing it down.

I’ve been reading Jensen’s Endgame vol 1 and I’ve come up against the same question while reading it: what would keep people from starting a civilization again? While I agree with Jason’s idea that it will be impossible to rebuild a civilization like this one, its not entirely true that it will be impossible to rebuild a civilization in any form. Joseph Tainter touches on this idea in a recent article that looks at ecological collapse and suggests that where there was civilization collapse from ecological decline such as in Europe after the Romans, the Middle East after the Mesopotamians, and in South East Asia after Angkor Wat you have a long period of recovery. After this period civilizations can crop up again because the recovery period replaces some of the natural capital. In Europe I would even say that Greer’s catabolic collapse model comes into play and suggest that the civilization never really completely collapsed, it just dropped down to such a low energy state that it could survive for 400-600 years during the dark ages to spring to higher complexity in the ‘high middle ages’.

So, could a new civilization of some variety spring up after a crash of the modern global civilization? I think it could if there was a good enough recovery period and no social or historical checks to keep people from pursuing the dream of Empire.

So I find myself agreeing with both Quinn and Jensen on important points:

Jensen: The sooner civilization is stopped, the better it will be for the whole community of life.

Quinn: If there is not a cultural change that keeps people from desiring to pursue civilization, it will happen again.

I’m not sure if anyone has posted this idea on this forum before, and I don’t think it really answers Truly’s excellent questions about what would keep us from rebuilding civilization again. But there are many ancient histories that suggest that is exactly what has happened previously, and I’m not talking about ancient astronaut theories or anything.

The Vedic histories of India, Some ancient Bon/Tibetan beliefs, and Hopi histories suggest pretty directly that we have had civilizations before. Some of these, especially the Vedas, seem to describe technologically advanced civilizations that fell or were destroyed.

Perhaps, what we are facing now on the edge of collapse is not nearly as new as we think…

Perhaps, what we are facing now on the edge of collapse is not nearly as new as we think...

As I said above: this is -exactly- the case. We have precedent in the historical, archeological, and mythological record to say that civilizations have fallen and others have sprung up in their place.

The difference is that Derrick Jensen is concrete: The longer civilization exists at the current rate of growth & destruction, the less biodiversity there will be when it crashes.

Daniel Quinn is speculation; even if we “educate” everyone and their mother, who is to say that 1000 years from now they will all have “forgotten” and start civ again? No one can say that educating people now about civ will stop one from popping up again.

Joseph Campbell make the connection that mythology and perception come from the environment not from artificial social constructs (like civilization). Because I see things this way, I don’t see people changing until the environment does. Change the environment (i.e. make civilization impossible by disrupting it even more as it collapses) and people will have to change their minds and you’ll save billions of species along the way.

We have no control over whether a civilization comes back in the future. None. Whether we educate every last human living today, we have no control over what they do tomorrow. You could spend the rest of your life trying to educate people about civilization, and by then, billions more species will have gone extinct.

If an army is attacking your village, you don’t try to convince all the soldiers attacking you that you should be friends because you’re scared they might just attack you again if you defend yourself. You pick up a weapon and you defend yourself.

Yeah, same here Urban Scout. The priority, in my view, is to stop the psychopaths by all means and force necessary. Add education. And propose and/or present sensible and truly viable alternative society types. Why not tribal, as it seemed to have been going very well,
and for a LONG long time, before the psychopathic sociopaths “came along”…

I too, see the need to change the minds and hearts, and for the same reasons already mentioned here. But…I know that if some “civilized” rapist forced into my home, I’d rip the living shit out of “it”. I wouldn’t educate him. Priorities.

I’m not about to accept a lesser psychopath around my children, and my people in my tribe.

Same with civilization: Not lesser nor “improved”. NONE. AT ALL!

Time for Beauty Now.

Just my thoughts.

I thought of another analogy. If you have cancer in your body, you don’t spend your time learning about how to prevent cancer from coming back… You spend your time getting the cancer the hell out of your body! If you spent your time figuring out how to prevent cancer from coming back, you’d sooner or later end up dying of the cancer that you have.

I just heard about how cancer feeds off glucose, so if you cut off glucose (I.E. carbs) the cancer is a lot more likely to reduce.


so perhaps, if one instead of working at taking down civilization, which it may just grow back (unless already in a state of decline0, work on starving it instead. Like… I don’t know, agriculture and oil for instance, which fuels it.

I’m perceiving that some people think that ‘changing minds’ should not be a major tactic used in the effort to rewild. I need to disagree. Not because I think we should only sit around and pass out fliers on why we should stop being bad to the world while forests are clear cut, but because I think this issue is being framed poorly. I want to be clear that I agree with Jensen’s idea that Civilization needs to be stopped because it will not stop voluntarily.

The frame of the issue becomes problematic here though: will breaking down the infrastructure of civilization and killing its members be enough? Phrased another way: will simply cutting out the cancer cure it or will killing the army stop the killing of your people? As many cancer patients and many indigenous people around the world have found out: Not often.

Both Quinn and Jensen point out that Civilization is in the head and shared between people: its cultural. This means that even if you destroy the outward expressions of culture, it is naive to think that you have stopped the culture of civilization from continuing. When you stop having radiation or chemo, stop taking the drugs, that is when the cancer re-emerges; and when you let your guard down and go back to living with your group is when the next army comes to avenge their brothers’ deaths.

As many have pointed out though, using Quinn’s route of solely trying to change people’s minds is likely going to be ineffective at this point. The population is too big, there is too much destruction, and in many cases the only thing keeping us from total destruction is the power of oil.

I completely disagree that we have -no- control over whether civilization will rear its head again. We do not have a high degree of control, but we know elements that bring about civilization (agriculture, power hierarchies, dissolution of family bonds, etc) which we can guard against. History and archaeology have shown both that civilization can bounce back from ecological (Angkor Wat) and infrastructure (Rome) collapse, and in a protracted battle between civilizations and indigenous peoples that civ will win eventually.

The way I see it, once the initial problem is dealt with (cancer is cut out, army is killed) that is when you must press the fight forward with a different tactic to root out the cause of the problem. You need the go on the intensive lifestyle program to boost your immune system and you need to capture the soldiers and assimilate them into your clan so that when they escape they find the life they return to lackluster. The fight is not over until civilization is gone, which means that not only are its outward expressions destroyed but also the tails of the glory of ‘golden age’ must be subverted, the longing for the past must vanish, and all the people must learn to dance again.

There is no doubt that the problems we see now must be confronted, but if we do not continue to tell the stories and change people’s minds than one fight will lead to another and lead to another. Even if that war is fought first with stone spears, then with bronze swords, than with iron swords, then with cannons, than with muskets, than with rifles, than with assault rifles, and finally (after a collapse) with spears made from jagged pieces of tempered glass hafted to copper pipes.

I thought of another analogy. If you have cancer in your body, you don't spend your time learning about how to prevent cancer from coming back... You spend your time getting the cancer the hell out of your body! If you spent your time figuring out how to prevent cancer from coming back, you'd sooner or later end up dying of the cancer that you have.

Of the 5 people close to me that have had cancer 3 are surviving and 2 are dead. One is dead because they caught the cancer too late and it ate her alive. One is dead because even though he took radiation and had the cancer cut out, it came roaring back with a vengeance to eventually destroy him. One is still alive by freak chance, he did not seek treatment and the cancer went away. One is alive because she had conventional treatment and the cancer went away. The last one is still alive because when the cancer was first found he sought a very different type of treatment using a combination of drugs and intensive ‘life-therapy’ where they had him do all sorts of things to pump up his immune system such as eat well and exercise; things that would be paramount to ‘preventative measures’.

Clearly, results may vary.

Ai ditto both the sentiment that “preventative” measures can be used effectively as treatment (eg. as ai’m learning, garlic) and that indigenous americans have undergone civ collapse before. Ai personally live in a place once inhabited solely by Uto-Aztecan language speakers (related to both the Aztecs and the Hopi - reletively civilized peoples) who were strict hunter-gatherers and had origin stories mentioning ancestors who appear quite hierarchical and otherwise civilized. Specifically mentioned is an absolute ruler who conquered other tribes and assimilated them. Eventually, this leader was deposed and (ai think) noone took his place. Thus brings them to the state of egalitarianism that they retained until post-civ contact. They still retained a few unfortunate caryovers from their civilized past, like the hereditary shaman class that their related neighbors to the east (who are much more civilized - they have the traditional three sisters crops) also have.

[quote=“Raven, post:39, topic:1069”]Recognizing, as in understanding that they are just ideas, and hold no water. Warring against ideas perpetuates them, makes the SEEM like they hold water. This CAUSES the patterned behavior.
The result is not the idea. All of Sciences knowledge about the bee, is not the bee.[/quote]

OMG, you did not just say that fighting child abuse creates child abuse. No you did not.

studiously avoids the rest of Raven’s posts

OK, here’s my take on this. DQ has come out with this phenomenally stupid metaphor of trying to make a plane fly as it is crashing. Planes do not crash like in cartoons or in the movies where they take a gracefully long time to hit the ground and then maybe stop in mid-air cause they ran out of fuel. They fall fast and hard. No time for education or tinkering–get that 'chute on your back and get the hell out, or stick your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

But if you’re lucky enough to survive the crash–maybe the plane landed in a relatively soft area, or you weren’t real high up, or you landed in water and the body’s intact–then what you do is get out of the plane, go find the pilot and the engineer and drag them over to the wreckage and then yell at them one hell of a lot. SEE WHAT YOU DID? YOU DESIGNED A FLYING PAPERWEIGHT. YOU DAMN NEAR GOT US ALL KILLED. QUIT BUILDING THESE DAMN THINGS OR YOU ARE GONNA KILL MORE PEOPLE.

The time for talking’s after the crash if anybody is left. There simply isn’t time to get the message out to six billion people, at least half of whom are going to take it as spoiled-white-guy blathering anyway and tune it out because we’re just trying to keep them in poverty or whatever the rationalization will be.

We’re stuck, y’all. The plane is crashing. Maybe if we could have been around to get the message out 100 years ago… maybe. But it’s a bit late now.

Excellent point danaseilhan! The time for educating people about civilization is AFTER the work of stopping it is done. I agree 100%.

And this holds true in our current situation even more because the collective delusion is so vast and complete. The vast majority of people have never known any other way to live, have never even HEARD about any other way to live in fact (due to the overwhelmingly successful propaganda that “primitive” living = misery and poverty, and the complete lack of education about how people in other types of cultures actually lived).

This delusion is so complete that most people have completely identified themselves with civilization - so that they truly feel they would die without it. This even goes beyond the question of physical survival - because their fundamental worldviews are entirely based around the assumptions that underlie this delusion (like the ideas that humans are the only “people” who matter, and that the world is inanimate and full of “natural resources” that humans are completely entitled to “own” and extract, regardless of the damage to other life-forms), and therefore criticizing civilization criticizes these assumptions, which criticizes their worldview, which criticizes them.

So not only do the vast majority feel that anyone who questions civilization is either insane, utterly stupid, or a fanatical extremist (never realizing that they themselves are the fanatics), but they actually feel personally threatened by those who oppose civilization. As Derrick Jensen, the civilized will smile while they tear you limb from limb.

How many of you guys have experienced this (on a more subtle level, of course) - talking to someone who is very progressive, pro-environment, etc and seeing them suddenly turn defensive and shut down when you begin to talk about the evils of civilization?

So I think that waiting to act until the majority “get it” - break free from the most massive collective delusion in the history of mankind (by far!) - is quite possibly the biggest obstacle to real change there is. The fact is, as long as civilization exists, the vast majority will not only continue to participate, but will do everything they can to keep it going. It is completely self-defeating for those who want to stop it to make their action dependent on the understanding of the masses.

If we make this mistake, we will fail to take down civilization before we ever start.