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The Culture of Make Believe Paperback – March 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Writing with the same driven passion and intense intelligence as his critically acclaimed A Language Older Than Words, which examined the interconnections between personal and social violence, Jensen says this book "is more about racism and far more broadly hate as it manifests itself in our Western world." As in the earlier work, Jensen paints on a huge canvas he details American racism from the genocidal slave trade through lynchings to the 2000 murder of Amadou Diallo by NYC police, and covers a wide range of other cultural horrors as well: the massacres of Native American people, the Holocaust, the 8,000 deaths from the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in India, and the deaths of 500,000 children in Iraq. The book is packed full of startling details South African apartheid laws were enacted at the direct request of the De Beers diamond company to facilitate business; aspects of Christian doctrine supported slavery until about 100 years ago. But the uniqueness and enormous power of Jensen's work is his ability to forge these events into an emotionally compelling and devastating critique of the intellectual, psychological, emotional and social structures of Western culture. Along with greed and globalization he says that the valuing of production over life and the abstract over the particular have set Western culture on a course that will end "really, with the end of the planet." While some readers might take umbrage at his more unsettling associations he compares Hitler's political language to Teddy Roosevelt's Jensen's intricate weaving together of history, philosophy, environmentalism, economics, literature and psychology has produced a powerful argument that demands attention in the tradition of such important books as Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization and Brigid Brophy's Black Ship to Hell.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This passionate book chronicles the violent hatreds that have been overwhelming our planet, tracing them back through their sources in imperialism, slavery, the rise of global capitalism, and the ideologies of possessiveness and consumerism. Jensen's previous book, A Language Older Than Words, a reflection on family violence and childhood abuse, attracted a wide audience. Here he puts together statistics, bits of history, and reflective interviews with friends and acquaintances to examine a world in which hatred and destruction come all too easily. As in his previous book, his intent is to recall victims as individuals. His focus is on the dangers of abstraction and the economics that result from our viewing people and things as sources of profit and elements in systems. What he intends is not a systematic picture but a stunning collection of horrific close-ups. Africans and Indians are most often in view, and women are never far from his mind. Our disdain for the environment also intrudes frequently. Jensen's solution is a return to the simple life, perhaps much like that of the hunter-gatherers, yet he knows that such a turn must be "the end of civilization." Readers will be moved by his argument, though more likely they will be inspired to look for solutions that let us keep art, science, and the great treasures that go with complex communal life. Surely not all abstract thought is bad, but Jensen's aim is to shock us awake and let us stew in the world's injustices, and at that he duly succeeds. Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa, ON
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; Second Printing edition (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931498571
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931498579
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Derrick Jensen is the prize-winning author of A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, Listening to the Land, Strangely Like War, Welcome to the Machine, and Walking on Water. He was one of two finalists for the 2003 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, which cited The Culture of Make Believe as "a passionate and provocative meditation on the nexus of racism, genocide, environmental destruction and corporate malfeasance, where civilization meets its discontents." He is an environmental activist and lives on the coast of northern California.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By J. Ewry on May 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Derrick Jensen continues his deep examination of our dysfunctional civilization from his previous two beautifully powerful works, A Language Older Than Words and Listening to the Land, delving deeper still into the horror of man's (yes, gender specific) inhumanity to man. In this compelling mammoth volume, The Culture of Make Believe, Jensen bombards the reader with historical and contemporary accounts of atrocity after atrocity of our own destructive culture, until we can no longer look away with a blind eye or deaf ear. We can no longer "make believe" that the American Dream comes without cost to our own shared humanity and the planet.
Starting by exploring and defining the hate crimes of racism and rape, Jensen continues, chapter after chapter, to prove that the ultimate hate crime is towards ourselves. He successfully weaves meticulously-researched historical accounts, statistics and interviews, with his own personal deep ecological commentary. Jensen delves deeply, sociologically and psychologically, into the perpetuation of violence, hatred, exploitation and domination of non-white cultures from the beginnings of colonial America, through the slavery and genocide of African slaves, Native Americans and immigrants, to other crimes of power and exploitation by early American capitalists, and now, modern globalizing corporations.
He follows by lacing together the hate legacy of African slavery and the KKK with the modern capitalistic economics of the modern judicial and prison system. (and asks- aren't we incarcerating the wrong people?) In reflective commentary, Jensen consciously self-examines the abstract meaning of his own white privilege.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Barry Pineo on May 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you read your morning newspaper, if you watch the nightly news, if you cruise the Internet, or if you only see the world as you commute to work each morning, it's easy to see that we live in a world full of problems. Vehicles pack our streets. Smog hangs in a thick blanket over our cities. Wildlife is scarce and often is seen by the urban commuter only as roadkill. If you're happy in your job, you're the exception. Most of us change jobs as often as we change residences, restless, constantly moving, looking for -- something. Violence seems to be as American as a chicken in every pot. It dominates the headlines and insinuates itself into our entertainment. Often, it can be found in our homes, and it's easy enough to see it on the streets, in the apparel and, more tellingly, in the eyes of our homeless. We buy and discard aluminum, plastic, and cardboard products as though the sources from which they are derived will never dry up. The person who drinks water from the tap is rare. Most filter it or avoid it altogether, choosing to purchase water in large bottles or small because, quite simply, we can't trust the water that bubbles underground. Why should we? We cover the land with pesticides and exhaust and effluents. We hide our trash underground. The crimes committed in the name of nuclear energy -- well, let's not even go there.
When I was young -- and this was not so long ago, the early 1960s -- I lived in a suburban town in Connecticut. I remember lying on my lawn in the spring and fall and watching flocks of birds numbering in the hundreds fly over my house. Within a half block there was a tiny bridge, and under the bridge flowed a brook that could almost be called a stream, especially in certain seasons.
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Sal Paradise on January 17, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have purchased this book twice to give away as presents to people whom I believed would benefit from reading it. I plan to purchase a third copy just to have but I think everyone needs to read this book. This book changed my whole outlook on life but the information, truth and knowledge therein is emotionally hard to swallow. I mean to say that it's "deep" is the understatement of the year. Being in the military, I am doing my little part to keep this mad spectacle of civilization going. Jensen points out that it's kinda hopeless to change the world at this point. And I've tried my best even though I am cynical, to believe that we can still turn things around and save ourselves but it's pretty hopeless.
I would rate this book as being more important than the Bible. I say this not to be sacreligious or crass, but as an honest heartfelt statement. Jenson attempted to discover the origin of hate, to analyze the condition of hatred as manisfested throughout American History. I really can't describe the impact of this book. It's highly recommended.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J.W.K on December 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Had I grown up in Nazi Germany a soldier, would I have aided the genocide? I would like to think that I would have protested the slaughter by working underground with escapees. However, I might have been a totally different person. Perhaps the harsh SS training would have turned my heart into an icicle, filled my head full of propaganda, and habitualized my body to subordination. Perhaps I would have been a willing executioner. Perhaps it would have been impossible for me to lift my consciousness above the zeitgeist - not many did. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Understanding the present is much more difficult. Could it be that colonialism, imperialism, the KKK, and every other boot-licking, world-plundering, cold-blood-murdering institution somehow mutated and merged into one New World Order bent on killing the planet and everything/-one that stands in its way? Moreover, if one were raised inside such an institution, believing it completely natural, and even being rewarded for participation in its mundane work-a-day activities, would it be possible for that person to awake to the insanity of their culture? Along with all of us, Derrick Jensen grew up inside such a culture, realized what was happening, and wrote this book to tell other potential executioners what is going on. Reading The Culture of Make Believe is like looking into the mirror of our culture, and chances are you will not like what you see. I'm not saying this to rub it in your face, but to give a word of caution. Let me to be more explicit. If you are able to accept new information into the ken of your mind, this book will radically alter your perception of reality. You might not be able to live the same way there after. It's like having the psychological sanity rug pulled out from under you - or blasted to pieces.Read more ›
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