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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Culture of Make Believe
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...
Published on May 16, 2002 by J. Ewry

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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read John Rawls
An immense concatenation of horror story after horror story about how humans have treated one another and the world to include holocaust, racism, capitalism, war, etc. (Imagine using etc. here.) The goal seems to be a searching for a more natural way, perhaps an avoidance of the falsifying categorizations imposed to avoid thinking of one another as emphatically as we...
Published on June 7, 2009 by W. Jamison


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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Culture of Make Believe, May 16, 2002
By 
J. Ewry "TreeGirl" (Santa Rosa, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (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.
Jensen continues relentlessly to confront capitalism as The System of exploitation -- the conversion of humans into machines and ecosystems into waste -- questioning the basis for the objectification of all Life forms -- human and non-human. He asks passionately, how have we come to value economic production over the process of living, and of Life itself? And who is benefiting? Jensen continues on by exposing the U.S. military system and the war at hand. He asks, who is profiting from these economic wars (hate crimes) of past and present, resulting in our civilization's continued legacy of genocide?
After chapters and chapters of unquestionable and painful evidence, Jensen asks the reader to question Western Industrial Civilization itself and our own participation in it. He asks us boldly to confront these painful truths of how and why have we as a civilization have come to conquer the world, and how we can stop wanting it.
The power of this book is not in the facts themselves (as convincing and important as they are), but rather, in Jensen's courage to not be afraid to point out the obviously insane state of the world that we continually deny: that Western Industrial Civilization is causing the greatest mass extinction in the history of the planet. He reminds us that the Holocaust by the Nazis in the last century was not the only holocaust; we must wake up to the current holocausts against the forests, the salmon, the soil, the water, the Earth -- of Life itself.
But most poignantly and effectively, what Jensen emphasizes is the meaning of Ecocide -- that this hatred and distruction, this ongoing Holocaust, this annihilation of Life itself, is ultimately against ourselves. And the question is: whether the cultural urge to convert living things to dollars is stronger than the will to survive. This question dangles precariously over our conscience like a rope left tied for hanging ourselves, as we blindly and deafly go about our daily lives of consumption and alienation from the Other.
Ultimately, Jensen asks us to question our own obedience to this cultural dysfunctionality, to speak out vehemently against it. And the reader cannot ignore this call. By the end, at the thirty-first chapter, we sit convinced, exhausted, and yet, motivated to stand up and revolt.
What solution does he offer us? Caught up in a tangled web of our own enslavement of a system that rewards the conversion of the living to the dead, our only hope, he implores, is a return to our humanity. He asks us to bravely tell our own stories, to simply tell the truth, and simply not to fight the reality of the despair. We must question, question, question; we must dismantle this civilization and rebuild one based on the power of interconnectedness, not alienation.
Jensen's passionate words are powerful weapons themselves, and it is about time that they were fired. He is not afraid to speak the truth; this book is a brilliantly articulate incantation of revolution of not only thought but action that is so desperately needed in this time of wasted power, fear, illusion, fascist censorship and paramount distruction. The audience of this book is not just historians, economists or sociologists of slavery and racism, war and politics. Neither is it just for social and environmental activists, but rather it is for all of us, because ultimately, we are all interconnected partners (knowingly or unknowingly) in this hate crime of Ecocide.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Most Important Books Ever Written!, January 17, 2003
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This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (Paperback)
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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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eyes Wide Open, May 12, 2002
By 
Barry Pineo (Austin, TX USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (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. Frogs and snakes and minnows and, sometimes, tiny trout could be found in abundance in the clean, sparkling water. Just beneath the bridge, on the downstream side, the brook formed a small pond -- small in name only because, during the winter, it formed a sheet of ice large enough to skate upon. Beyond were huge fields that stretched for acres, one of them containing a steep hill that, during the winter, was perfect for sledding.
A couple of years ago, I returned to that town. The bridge is still there, but no water runs beneath it. None. Not a trace. No frogs, no snakes, no trout. The hills I played on are filled with houses, large ones, owned by the conspicuously wealthy.
And the birds -- well, just look in the sky. Look for a long, long time. Or don't. Perhaps you can recall without looking the last time you saw a flock of a hundred, or even a few dozen.
My point -- and I do have one -- is this: We all know these problems exist. We see them every day. We may not acknowledge them, but we see them. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are aware of their existence, but we don't see them, or at least don't acknowledge them. Perhaps it would be even more accurate to say that to acknowledge them, to see them, to open our eyes truly and comprehend precisely what is happening to our world -- not to us, to our world, of which we are only a small, some would say insignificant, part -- is simply too painful, too horrible. So we turn away. We close our eyes.
Derrick Jensen doesn't. In this, his newest book, he opens his eyes wide and takes a good look around. He sees clearly, more clearly than anyone I have ever encountered, so much so that I am afraid nothing I might write could do justice to what he has written, to the sacrifice he has made to create this powerful, all-encompassing treatise on the horror of western culture. Certain books should be required reading for the human race. Derrick Jensen writes these kinds of books.
This might not be enough for you. After all, a review is supposed to be a summation, a critique, not a story. Perhaps my approach is too personal. Perhaps I sound like a spoiled child who has become disillusioned. This is not the case. I still see magic in the night. I still see beauty in the wind moving the trees. The problem is I see less of this beauty every day. Tears fill my eyes as I write this. I wish I could say the solution was as simple as loving each other, loving the planet, but it isn't because the problems go much deeper than that. Or perhaps I should say the problem goes much deeper -- that we value production over all else. That the myriad, overwhelming issues from which we all turn away every day stem from the way we have been trained to see the world and everything in it, as objects for our use. Not subjects that are interconnected and interdependent, but living objects to be exploited and discarded. That every day we strive for nothing more than to turn the living, be it minerals, trees, animals, or human beings, into the dead.
If you read this book, I can't say you'll like it. If you read this book, I certainly can't say you'll agree with it. But read it. You must. If you profess to care about our children, read it. If you profess to care about your fellow beings, read it. If you profess to care about the environment, about the future, about history, wild things, the poor, the aged, the homeless, education, spirituality, the world -- if you profess to care about the multitude of problems facing the planet, read this book. For me -- I feel like I was blind, and now I can see.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Are All Good Germans, December 7, 2002
By 
J.W.K (Nagano, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (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. Upon finishing, you will feel as if you had a full-frontal lobotomy, or as though you just swallowed a gallon of hydrochloric acid. That's the aftertaste of Western Civilization - no frappacino.Sounds ambitious, most people would agree. I imagine submitting Jensen's thesis to Ph.D. advisors. "What's your topic?" they'd ask. "I want to write a critique of Western Civ." After a giggle, they would reply with something like, "Sorry, it's too broad. Narrow it." Well, if you count A Language Older Than Words (the thematically congruent if discontinuous part I of this book), Jensen foots the bill in a mere 984 pages, which, although placing it somewhere on par with War and Peace, nonetheless forms a tight, if unusually bulky critique of this 3,000-year institution. Altogether or taken separately, the two books provide one hell of a tour I highly recommend. Jensen's authenticity bleeds off the page.

Essential reading.

j.w.k.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you read this book?, May 11, 2002
By 
This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (Paperback)
Can you read this book and not cry? Can you read it and not feel the smoke coming out your ears? Can you read it and not look up gaping in awe as Jensen forces you to see things you've never looked at (or turned your eyes away from)?
That's what THE CULTURE OF MAKE BELIEVE is all about-- seeing. Most of the time all we let ourselves see is our make believe fairy tale. Jensen digs up the fairy tale and exposes it as the fraud that it is. If we're to turn away from our world-devouring, life degrading culture, we first have to see it for what it is. This book is the definitive tale of our culture's steady progression towards the creation of hell on earth. It goes through detail after detail of the insanity that pervades the past and present of our civilization. But, it's also the first step to a new direction. You can't begin walking another way until you see another way is possible. And you won't have the motivation to change if you think there's nothing wrong with the path you're on. This book accomplishes both tasks. And it makes you ache to get up and do something. It makes you ache to get out there and get active. It makes you want to save the world!
So read this book and tell me, can you read it without crying, without steaming? Can you read it without running outside and saying, ENOUGH, we need new directions and we need them now?!!
This book is a must read. You can't afford NOT to read it. It's a 700 page horror story. But it's not fiction. Neither is it fun. But it's amazing. And it helps you realize you're not alone. And you're not crazy. You're not crazy for thinking things around you are awful. You're not crazy for wanting something different. Even though this book is full of horrors, Jensen gives hope and inspiration. We cannot ever have a real hope and a real future if we continue to ignore reality. We can't get back to the heaven that is our natural birthright as living members of the earth until we look at the hell that we've forced upon ourselves and our neighbors. Let's leave hell behind and rediscover heaven.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe you should just watch some television instead..., August 26, 2005
By 
Eric Krupin (Salt Lake City, UT) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
You probably saw "The Matrix". Entertaining, wasn't it? But what if you actually experienced what "Mr. Anderson" did? If, after years of nagging anxiety and discontent, someone offered you a red pill with the promise that it would show you the truth? And after you swallowed it, what you learned about yourself and the world you've always known was sickeningly horrible?

Since you are reading this review, you have probably felt that anxiety and discontent. Well, make no mistake. This book is the red pill. After it has shown you how deep the rabbit hole goes, there is no going back.

In order to persuade the reader of that which will be fearfully denounced by every fiber of their being, Jensen is obliged to build his argument slowly. For hundreds of quietly riveting pages, he calmly tells stories... makes connections... offers a crumb of food for thought. The effect is cumulative. Things start to make an awful kind of sense.

Then on page 592 [talk about burying the lead!] Jensen almost offhandedly fuses it all into a single 19-word sentence that should change your perception forever. Partly because you won't believe the truth of that sentence without all the advance preparation - and partly because I want to lure you into reading the book - I'm not going to quote it. Suffice it to say that I feel I have finally seen things as they are.

Intrigued? Well, before you add it to your Amazon Cart, just remember what Morpheus said: "I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it would be the truth."
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, March 2, 2003
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (Paperback)
I read this book after completing Derrick's excellent book, A Language Older Than Words, and was again astounded by the wonderful prose and well-researched facts that were prevalent thoughout The Culture of Make Believe. I recommend this to anybody who wants a better view of how things really are. It certainly changed my mind about a lot of things, even though I normally take such books with a grain of salt.
When I had finished the book, I passed it around to several of my friends, friends whom I thought wouldn't be so receptive to anti-culture themes present in the book, and each thanked me afterwards. Anybody claiming that this book preaches to the choir is obviously full of themselves from assuming anything that will help get their arguement across.
Though this book is much longer than his first, it didn't carry much unneeded baggage, and I easily finished it within a few days. If anything, I wished that it had gone deeper into exploring the 'Dark Heart of Civilization', but after finishing, my mind was satisfied.
Again, I say read this book, it will certainly change your viewpoint, unless your viewpoint is already beyond saving.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book that is so very Dangerous to the American Mind, December 12, 2008
In many ways this book is "political incorrectness" at its level best (or worst, depending on where one sits on the bifurcated American political spectrum). It is about what lies hidden: on the substrate of most societies, but most especially on the substrate of American society. It is a kind of psychosocial history of the tectonic forces that lay just beneath our feet that animate and move the collective national mind. It is thus about the dynamics of the social and economics rules of societies that shape the everyday characters of most nation states. And although it uses the U.S. as exhibit number one, its larger frame is what we have come to understand to be "Western Civilization."

Also, it is a fact that the revelations here are no more an indictment of American society than the relics found in an archaeological dig are an indictment of the societies from whence they have come. What Mr. Jensen reveals here is what already exists, what is already there. He does not create anything new, nor does he "fiddle" with his "finds." This is not the "low road" that always goes through normal polemics; it is not about "slamming" the U.S. for its past. It is simply a revelation of what lies beneath the surface of the Western mind, told sensitively, carefully, deeply, personally, and with great care and nuance. It is as much a personal story as it is a story about political theory and about the psychohistory of Western Civilization.

As was the case with Mr. Jensen's earlier book, "A Language Older than Words," This one too is about the origin and propagation of violence, hatred and how societies come to justify them, and then (as is the also the case with the individual mind), how it comes to bury them beneath the nation's own collective psyche. It is thus also, and inevitably, about a very, very touchy subject carefully shielded from the American mind: It is about the origins of, propagation of, and meaning of racial and sexual hatred and violence in American culture. In short, it is about the psychosocial dynamics of racial and sexual hatred and violence as they set the initial conditions and parameters for American humanity.

Obviously the book is not an easy read (nor was it an easy one to organize) for it deals with the most complex of complex subjects. However, if the reader hears the author out, and read the book to the bitter end (all 608 pages), he will be justly rewarded. It is the kind of much needed collective introspection that could eventually lead our nation to the kind of psychological renewal it has sorely needed for most of its history, but has not had the courage to face up to.

This is both a brave and carefully written book, but the reader should be warned that it pulls no punches. It is a dangerous book. It is one that "calls a timeout" on all of the normal and conventional thinking (i.e., BS), and asks the reader to look deeply into America's heart and into the Western soul at what our societies have come to mean. It is thus the ultimate mirror into the author's, and into our own collective humanity.

1000 Stars.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Discover a better way to live, November 2, 2003
This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (Paperback)
I have always wondered why our society and its leaders seem a bit "off" when making decisions about the policies and the direction of America. This book opened my eyes to the underlying motivations of our society and helped me understand why truly beneficial agendas rarely come to fruition.
It is not a book that provided many answers. Rather, it is a book that raised many questions by shedding a sobering light on past and current events. The answers, I am discovering, slowly come when I decide to change the way I live so it is more in harmony with nature and more beneficial to our society.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Work of Passion and Reason..., July 14, 2002
This review is from: The Culture of Make Believe (Paperback)
The book opens with some simple questions: Is our society one founded on hate? If so, what kind of hate are we talking about? In what ways is it manifested? Jensen starts with these basic compelling questions and as he searches, he finds himself more and more deeply immersed in the actual motivations of our entire culture. No sooner does he tease out an answer to one question when he finds himself holding the thread of another, and pulling upon it, he begins to unravel answers that have been lying in wait, not only for centuries but, for thousands of years.
As he points out, even the bible states that "by their works shall ye know them." Not by words or indeed even by actions, but by the fruits of their labor, and Jensen stares unabashedly and painfully at the fruits of ours: how our ever-widening "circle of liberty" is actually an ever-expanding circle of slavery and dehumanizing economic despair; how what we value, which is production and capitalism far above life and human fulfillment, is manifest in our governments, corporations, and indeed the entire societal system in which we live; how we actually invest more in our system than it returns; and how any system wholly driven on consumption and eradication plays a "zero-sum" game, for we live in world of finiteness, and one day there will be no more to consume.
The journey upon which he takes us is uncomfortable, distressing, and necessary. As with his previous book, A LANGUAGE OLDER THAN WORDS, Jensen writes passionately and poetically, and yet again, he gives us a book I wish I had the ability and bravery to write myself. This is a "must-read," and a book that has the ability to change the reader for life. Perhaps in that change lies the hope of no longer having to live in a "Culture of Make Believe," where the rules are bent and living as part of the world is not tolerated. At least, I like to think so.
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The Culture of Make Believe
The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen (Paperback - May 2002)
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