[ I think that D. Jensens use of the term civilization in this interview is overbroad and vague. To some people civilization means conquering, domination and classism. To others it means living in a community and having access to basic human necessities like food, water, and shelter. To me, wether your water comes from a tap or straight from a mountain spring is not so much the issue. To me the issue is the lack of education and respect for the sources of our life sustaining elements.]
from: Derrick Jensen on Saving the Planet
by Zoe Blunt complete interview here
In his most recent book Endgame: The Problem of Civilization, deep ecology author Derrick Jensen compares western civilization to an abusive family, where violence is a constant threat and the victims feel helpless and dependent on the abuser. He urges his readers to bring down this culture by any means necessary. His ideas are controversial, and Jensen confesses he gets “hate mail from pacifists.” I spoke by phone with Jensen in Crescent City, California in April.
Zoe Blunt: Your book Endgame has been getting a lot of attention. You write that “civilization and the civilized continue to create a world of wounds.”
Derrick Jensen: Yeah, where do you want to start? Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. The passenger pigeons are gone. The great auks are gone. The oceans are being murdered. There’s dioxin in every mother’s breast milk. Indigenous people have been dispossessed, had their land stolen and forced to enter this economy, forced to enter this system. People all around the world have been enslaved. So, what wounds would you like to talk about?
Lets talk about — Mary Daly said there’s only one religion in the world, which is patriarchy. Robin Morgan wrote about something she calls “the democracy of fear,” which is that everywhere in the world, any woman could be walking alone at night and if she hears footsteps behind her she has reason to be afraid. So there’s a huge wound right there.
We could talk about the wage economy. We could talk about the fact that there are more slaves on the planet right now than came across on the middle passage, using a tight definition of slavery. That’s not even including wage slaves or anything else.
ZB: You’ve been getting a lot of response to your book, and not all of it positive. Why is it so difficult for some people to contemplate the end of civilization?
DJ: I think that one of the reasons is we identify more closely with being civilized beings than we do with being animals who need habitat. Another way to talk about that is if your experience is that your food comes from the grocery store and your water comes from the tap, you’ll defend to the death the system that brings those to you because your life depends on it. If, on the other hand, your food comes from a landbase and your water comes from a river, then you’ll defend to the death that landbase and that river, because your life depends on them.
Like any good abusive system, this system has made us dependent upon it. And another important thing about the whole question of abuse is that one of the things that happens within any abusive dynamic, and that’s true whether we’re talking about an abusive family or an abusive culture, is that everything — and I mean everything — in this dynamic is set up to protect the abuser. And so every member of an abusive family comes to identify more closely with the abuser’s feelings than they do their own.
If you look at all the “solutions” proposed for global warming — anywhere, all of them — what do they take as a given? They take as a given industrial capitalism. That’s the baseline. The baseline is not the real world, the physical world, which must be the baseline for all of our decisions because without a world, we don’t have anything.
Most of the complaints about Endgame, and most of the hate mail I’ve gotten about Endgame, frankly, has not come from people who think that civilization will go on forever. Most of it’s come from pacifists and lifestyle activists, and one of the jokes I’ve started making is that I should write a version of Endgame called “Endgame for Pacifists,” which would be a thousand blank pages with one in the middle that says “sometimes it’s okay to fight back.” Because it’s the only thing they’re hearing in the entire book, or the only thing they’re reading in the entire book. All the other analysis goes by the wayside. They see that, it triggers them, and they can’t think about anything. And I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail from both pacifists and also from lifestyle activists who get very upset when I suggest they have to do more than just live simply.
ZB: You’ve written about hope in regard to reforming civilization, and you said hope is harmful …
DJ: I don’t want to reform civilization, by the way.
ZB: No. So you’re saying hope is harmful, when it comes to our goals.
DJ: Okay, let’s back up a second. What are our goals? What are your goals? What do you want?
ZB: You’ve talked about — and I agree with this — a world where every year there are more salmon, where there is more old-growth forest, where there are more spotted owls, for example. We’re about to lose the last of our spotted owls in Canada. If we want to stop that, what do we do?
DJ: Okay, that’s great. The first thing we have to do is figure out what we want. And the next thing we have to do, I think, is figure out what it takes for those creatures to survive. And it’s pretty fundamental. I mean, what they need is habitat. Okay, end of conversation, talk to you later!
What do salmon need? They need for dams to be removed. They need for industrial logging to stop. They need for industrial fishing to stop. (I’m not saying they need for fishing to stop; they need for industrial fishing to stop.) They need for industrial agriculture to stop, because of runoff. They need for global warming to stop, which means they need for the industrial economy to stop. They need for the oceans not to be murdered. And each of those is pretty straightforward.
The problem is that so often, when people say, “What will it take for salmon to survive?” what they mean is, “What will it take for salmon to survive, given that we’re not going to remove dams, we’re not going to stop industrial logging, we’re not going to stop industrial fishing?” It’s the same. What do spotted owls need to survive, given that we’re going to allow all of their habitat to be clearcut?
It’s like, once again, what is primary and what is secondary? And what’s always considered primary is this culture and this culture’s exploitation.
And now, at long last, to your question of hope. One of the things we need to do first is — there’s false hope. I think it needs to be eradicated. False hope is one of the things that binds us to unlivable situations. That’s one of the reasons why, like I mentioned earlier, that at every step of the way it was in the Jews’ rational best interest to not resist [the Nazis]. There’s a false hope that if they just go along, they won’t get killed. And my mother — one of the reasons she stayed with my father is because of the false hope that he would change.
And what are the false hopes that bind us to this system? I mean, does anyone really think that Mac-Blo is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone think that Monsanto is going to stop Monsanto-ing because we ask nicely? Oh, if we could just get a Democrat in the White House, things would be okay!
I was bashing hope at a talk I did a couple years ago, and someone in the audience interrupted to shout out, “What is your definition of hope?” I didn’t have one, so I asked them to define it. And the definition they came up with was that hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency.
But I’m not interested in hope. I’m interested in agency. I’m interested in us finding what we love, and figuring out what it will take to defend our beloved, and doing it.