"My Ishmael, A Sequel" by Daniel Quinn
1997, Bantam Books, New York.
Ishmael acquires a new student to learn about the cultural heritage of the Takers, the 10,000 year old, but very young culture that now pervades the world.
Ishmael, the teacher, identifies two rules of thumb by which the people of that culture can be identified.
Firstly, ".. the food is all owned, if it's all under lock and key"
Ishmael contends that the real innovation of the so-called agricultural revolution wasn't the growing of food, it was locking it up.
Secondly, "they perceive themselves to be members of a race that is fundmentally flawed and inherently doomed to suffering and misery. Because they're fundamentally flawed they expect wisdom to be a rare commodity, difficult to acquire. Because they're inherently doomed, they're not surprised to be living in the midst of poverty, injustice, and crime, not surprised that their rulers are self-serving and corrupt, not surprised to be rendering the world uninhabitable for themselves. They may be indignant about these things, but they're not surprised by them, because this is how they expect things to be. This makes as much sense to them as having their food under lock and key."
He goes on to explain how this single culture lost the secret that is known to every other species on the planet, humanity wasn't born deficient, it was something that happened uniquely among the people of the Taker culture. It was not lost either by the tribal cultures.
He examines the concepts that were, and are, gradually being overthrown by the Taker culture, tribal concepts which pre-date the Taker culture by a hundred thousand years.
"This was the tremendous success of the tribal way, that its success didn't depend on people being better. It worked for people the way they are - unimproved, unenlightened, troublesome, disruptive, selfish, mean, cruel, greedy, and violent. And that triumph the Takers [post-tribal society] have never come close to matching. In fact, they never even made the attempt. Instead, they counted on being able to improve people, as if they were badly designed products. They counted on being able to punish them into being better, on being able to inspire them into being better, on being able to educate them into being better. And after ten thousand years of trying to improve people - without a trace of success - they wouldn't dream of turning their attention elsewhere."
Most of the book is a penetrating analysis of the subsequent effects of the Taker culture. It analyses the education system, economics, and other social issues against the premises of this culture, and comes up with many startling insights about its future on Earth.
"What you're experiencing is tantamount to cultural collapse. For ten thousand years you've believed that you have the one right way for people to live. But for the last three decades or so, that belief has become more and more untenable with every passing year. You may think it odd that this is so, but it's the men of your culture who are being hit the hardest by the failure of your cultural mythology. They have (and have always had) a much greater investment in the righteousness of your revolution. In coming years, as the signs of collapse become more and more unmistakeable, you'll see them withdraw ever more completely into the surrogate world of male success, the world of sports. And, much worse, you'll see them taking ever more violent revenge for their disappointment on the world around them - and particularly on the women around them."
The storyline in this novel is interesting, but serves only to pass on the teachings of Daniel Quinn. The teachings alone are well worth the visit to his wananga.