on July 4, 2006
It's a great book. Read it and think and then "do" something if you feel the urge.
But just one thing I really would like to understand better (even if attempts to understand things, as opposed to blowing them up, are just so much mental masturbation) is how phrases like "crash of civilization" and "civilization has to go" and such are thrown about with abandon.
I want to know what would constitute truly uncivilized (and therefore presumably preferable) conditions. Not by genuflection to the idyllic American Indian past, but with reference to our own future when, by hypothesis, civilization will either have crashed on its own or will have been elbowed off the pavement by readers of this book.
I would like specifics about what level or rate or manner of technology, mobility, consumption, and reproduction would qualify as "uncivilized" and pass muster with Derrick? I am not trying to be trollish here, I really want to know. Because if we don't know, we'll just start the whole thing up again unconsciously.
Is it that all food I eat should originate less than N miles from where I eat it or what? What is that number of miles? What kinds of tools, if any, are sufficiently uncivilized? Is any division of labor acceptable? And so on. I know, I know, the answer would be something like "Why ask me? Those answers will be organically emergent from the community, will define themselves aright, once civilization is gone for good! Single-source-point answers are just playing the civlizers' own game!" Yet still I wonder...
In these books, Derrick includes conversations with software and hardware hackers who talk about hacking down agricultural and industrial civilization, but meanwhile with such a boyish gleam in their eye about high-tech and such a hard-on for it in their tone of voice that their words somehow aren't really convincing. They love the stuff! Presumably high-tech is civilization and must go? Yet they really seem to love their toys, if only such could be used aright - to "liberate" people and such. Still, those toys are products of the entire industrial infrastructure.
What about weapons? Who would defend the revolution and how? Remember that "one sinner destroyeth much good" (cf. also 'The Parable of the Tribes') Maybe I am just nit-picking, but I feel there is a slippery slope that needs to be addressed, and possibly, ugh, enforced. Or maybe somehow, with "civilization" gone, everybody would be nice enough from then on not to make trouble, or maybe the nasty ones can all be killed in the revolution.
Derrick's main thing is to be hard-headed and real, not a starry-eyed pacifist New-Ager building castles in the air. Therefore, in that spirit, I think these questions should be addressed. If civilization were to "crash" tomorrow (whatever that means) then wouldn't the first order of business, as Derrick himself states, be to secure food, water, shelter, etc. as quickly and effectively as possible? But isn't that process likely to eventually replicate something resembling a form of civilization?
So there needs to be enforcement of um ... guidelines, unless the landbases everywhere are so depleted that nothing remotely resembling "civilization" (whatever that is) can ever be replicated (Fred Hoyle's point). However, according to Derrick, we need to take it all down well before things reach that point of final depletion, so I think my questions will become issues.
Maybe I am just nuts, or seeking only to avoid the actual hard work of blowing up a dam.
on February 24, 2007
Derrick Jensen is one of those authors that people love or hate. As for myself, I have mixed feelings about the guy and his message. Despite these mixed feelings, though, I never fail to read his books when they come out - and Endgame was by far an away the most anticipated and climactic one yet due to its highly controversial subject: taking down civilization. That's right, taking down civilization.
But why would anyone want to take down civilization, you might ask? At this point, I should say that if you have not already had the pleasure of receiving a formal introduction to the man and his work, you might want to start with one of his earlier publications, such as Listening to the Land, A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, Strangely Like War and Welcome or the Machine. In fact, I would recommend reading them all. They lay the groundwork from which Endgame both springs and builds upon: specifically, that civilization is F-U-B-A-R and doomed to collapse in the near but not too distant future, if not from climate change, then from resource depletion, soil erosion, toxic buildup or any other of the common environmental factors outlined in Jared Diamond's Collapse or the Worldwatch Institute's annual State of the World reports.
Or you might want to just dive right in, since in Volume I of Endgame Jensen outlines many of the fundamental flaws of our cherished civilization. And although each page reads with the power and relevance of an anarcho-primitiveist manifesto, Endgame, the two-volume summation of Jensen's writing career, amounts to nearly 1,000 pages in total - a lot of lumber for a strident call to arms. In fact, under the right circumstances, the book itself is large enough to be used as a blunt instrument to aid the deconstruction of civilization. All jokes aside, though, the net result is a rather awkward flow: a seemingly never-ending concatenation of ideas that, although related by theme, often contradict each other - by the author's own admission:
"Why do you think I laid out the premises explicitly for you, put you in a position of actively choosing to agree or disagree with them? Whey do you think I've approached this form so many directions? Why do you think I've expressed my own fears, expressed my own confusion? Why do you think I've made points, undercut or contradicted them, and then made them again? ... The point is the process I am trying to model. The point is that you puzzle your own way through, and figure out for yourself what, if anything, you need to do." (p 886)
Although I enjoyed the book thoroughly, and often recommend it to friends, Jensen does not come off as being genuine here. By this, I don't mean that he is purposefully deceiving the readers so much as himself. Along with all the interesting environmental science, psychology and poetry the book contains, the underlying current of rage and despair that makes his writing so profound reaches an all time high in Endgame - to the point where he calls upon the reader to "go on the offensive," imploring us to blow up dams, tear up concrete and knock down cell phone towers. Just "don't get sloppy," he advises. "Don't tell anyone who doesn't need to know. Don't get caught" (Dams: Part IV).
Of course, the minute some 16-year-old kid is locked up for taking Jensen's advice and demolishing a dam - or worse - I am sure Jensen will quote something from the 2-page chapter entitled "Responsibility" in his defense - a chapter which, remarkably enough, is little more than an apology for doing such things as blowing up dams to protect your "land base". Or perhaps he will quote one of the many disclaimers ("but don't listen to me, follow your heart") he so sparingly peppers throughout a book predominately dedicated to inspiring illegal activities. Considering the average age of his readership is probably around twenty-four, devoting only two pages to responsibility in a book of this nature is, in my opinion, an abominable abrogation of balance. But, hey, like most geniuses, Jensen is not known for his emotional balance.
All books have weaknesses, just as all authors have weaknesses, and having met Jensen on more than one occasion and sat in on many of his lectures around the country, I am very much aware that the overall importance of his thought far outweighs the single-minded, dam-demolition-obsessed demagogic carelessness of his presentation. In conclusion, I highly recommend that you read this book - but be careful not to leave it lying around where one of your curious, trigger-happy kids might find it unattended. The content is dangerous enough to require parental discretion - which I advise.
Some books you might also want to check out of a similar theme: Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism, Against Civilization, My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization, and Igniting a Revolution.
on November 21, 2006
If you are new to Jensen, this book and its companion volume make for an excellent place to start. In these two books, Jenses rehashes the (I feel) very convincing arguments he made about the corrupt and destructive nature of modern western civilization in his older works like A Language Older than Words, and Culture of Make Believe.
If you are simply a Jensen junkie, and love his voice and his ideas, then of course you won't be disappointed by these books. More of what you've come to expect from DJ. No disrespect intended, because this was why I bought them. To this crowd, I recommend these books without reservation.
If you liked what you read in his older books, and are contemplating a purchase of these works, hoping for a further development of his ideas, you may be disappointed. Much of what is said here has been said in his other books. Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization condenses the material from both Language and Culture, and adds some new anecdotal evidence. It's done well, of course, but offers very little genuinely new material for thought, I'm afraid. Volume 2: Resistance, is horribly mistitled. It offers absolutely no ideas or suggestions about how to resist. It merely says we must. It's essentially the same as all the other books, with a touch more pleading tacked on.
Jensen is, in my opinion, among the very small handful of most important writers working today. His is a voice of sanity in an insane world. For that, you really owe it to yourself to at least pick him up and read SOMETHING that he's written. However, I have trouble recommending these books simply for their own independent value. If you already know Jensen's message, these will feel eerily like reruns.
on December 10, 2006
Civilization is killing the planet. I can see you rolling your eyeballs, but wait: what does "civilization" mean? Derrick Jensen defines civilization as (abbreviated): "...a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts - that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities,...with cities being defined...as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life." (Endgame Vol 1, p. 17)
This civilization goes way beyond even food and other necessities. Look around you: just about everything in sight is a human artifact. Where did those artifacts come from? If you start to investigate and realize how many species are wiped out (hundreds of species per day, as opposed to a natural extinction rate of one species every 5 years), how many indigenous people are ousted from their own land (where they were subsisting by growing or gathering food on that land) in order to support our lifestyles (for instance, raising cattle on land that traditionally belonged to the indigenous people of Mexico and sending nearly all of that beef to the US and the UK), you will find out just how bloody our hands are. There's something terribly wrong with this picture and no matter how loud environmentalists yell, no matter how many people start recycling and replacing their lightbulbs with more "environmentally-friendly" ones, it's not looking any rosier.
And think about this: if the previous paragraph took you 2 minutes and 33 seconds to read (you probably read faster than that), one more Rainforest species went extinct - to support our lifestyles.
In Endgame Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization, Derrick Jensen gives case after case showing how the dominant culture is killing the planet. Endgame picks up where the last chapter of his previous work, The Culture of Make Believe, leaves off. In that chapter he dared to speak what few are willing to hear: "...the next step is to get rid of our whole inhumane system, to quit valuing production over life, and to physically stop those who do. The next step is to bring down that which originated in conquest abroad and repression at home. The next step is a planet liberated from the destruction; the next step is the end of civilization." (Culture, p. 602) In Endgame Volume 1 he honestly examines, without flinching, the morality and feasibility of doing just that. He challenges us to get past the belief that what we're doing currently is enough. It's not enough, and we're running out of time. He challenges us to get off our butts and do whatever it takes, and that's not one thing, that's many things. He states over and over that, "We need it all."
People, human and non-human, will defend and fight for who and what they love. If you love this planet, you will read this book and answer the challenge. Civilization is killing the planet. What are you going to do about it? In Endgame Volume 2: Resistance he explores just what that might take.
I want to like Derrick Jensen, I really do. I like where he's coming from. I'd probably like to be his neighbor. But, oh, are these books frustrating. (I should note that I'm reviewing both books together, which is how they should be reviewed.)
His book jacket describes Jensen as "author, teacher, activist, small farmer, and leading voice of uncompromising dissent, he regularly stirs auditoriums across the country with revolutionary spirit." I'll have more to say about his "uncompromising dissent" and "revolutionary spirit" later on, but just ponder those phrases for a moment. Think too about how much time he has for each of those activities, if he's serious about any of them. This matters here because a lack of editing mars these books.
These books consist of a bunch of essays, though they're presented as something more. After a while, they read like second drafts of what Jensen writes in his daily journal. As you'd expect in a journal, they often revisits themes, adding a new perspective on old themes or tying together two or more themes that were treated separately before. That's all fine, up to a point, but it ultimately becomes repetitive. Repetition is deadly in a book of 891 pages of text, or 929 pages including end matter.
In the end, Jensen needed to rework this material more extensively than he did. He's a brilliant writer, and it's oh-so-easy to let him take you along on a ride. He is passionate about the environment and provides trenchant criticisms of economic development, civilization, and other matters. But the lack of editing means that he doesn't really have a strong argument overall, and in fact he shrunk back from where I thought he was going. Indeed, he never came back to a number of issues that he had promised earlier that he would return to. These issues, unfortunately, are the hard issues that I really wanted him to address.
Another measure of the unnecessary repetition in these volumes is, I think, the fact that there are a lot more Amazon reviews of Volume I than Volume II - - apparently a lot of people don't feel they need to read the second book even if they liked the first one.
What do his essays concern? Well, Jensen is particularly impassioned about dams and salmon runs. Many (most?) dams are completely uneconomic and survive only because of large government subsidies to the businesses that build them and maintain them. Yet these dams destroy rivers and riparian habitats, and have devastated salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest (where Jensen lives).
Jensen is also a strong critic of civilization. He's right that civilization is ultimately unsustainable. Though it's not often recognized, Jensen *has* to be right that economic growth is unsustainable because we will ultimately run up against the energy constraints provided by the sunlight hitting the earth's surface. Technology cannot escape those constraints, though it can postpone the day of reckoning.
Though Jensen is right about the ultimate problem, he wrongly sees things changing now. For example, he predicts a violent revolution, leading to a new, localized form of human living within our generation. That's not right. Why not? Jensen is a neo-Malthusian but doesn't consider critiques of original Malthusians, in particular the role of technology. He doesn't consider that a post-industrial civilization might still use technology to increase living standards and carrying capacity. For good or ill, technology will postpone the revolution for a long time.
After the revolution, would small-scale communities living off the land make the world a better place? Think of the small-scale communities in farming and ranching that you may know. Are these the leftists utopias that Jensen would like, or are they deeply conservative places? Be careful what you wish for, Derrick Jensen.
There are various other problems with his overall themes. Jensen romanticizes indigenous peoples, and treats them as an undifferentiated whole, and "Good," while civilized peoples are similarly undifferentiated and "Bad." This doesn't treat indigenous peoples as real people with both virtues and faults, but as cardboard cutouts. Indeed, this romanticization of the indigenous is every bit as racist as the mainstream colonial/imperialist perspective.
Jensen is highly critical of trade because he dislikes globalization. However, he hasn't thought through the issues - - he accepts the notion of a division of labor between writers such as himself and small farmers, artisans, and other people. Presumably these people live by trading things. Even the indigenous peoples whom Jensen so loves traded, often at long distance - - trade between coastal peoples and inland peoples being an obvious example. The logic of this trade is no different at the global level, and by improving efficiency trade can *lower* our impact on the environment. It's possible to argue that trade can be bad for the environment too, but Jensen doesn't want to address these questions with his head, preferring an emotional reaction against excesses of development.
His heart also makes Jensen come across as intolerant, not only of his enemies but of his potential allies. For example, he provides superficial but biting criticisms of Krech's _Myth of the Ecological Indian_ and Mann's _1491_, both of which I've reviewed on Amazon if you're interested. Taken as a whole, these are both *pro*-indigenous books (indeed, I criticized Mann for being a bit too uncritically supportive). Both are politically on the Left, like Jensen. But Jensen dismisses them in offensive terms, apparently because they are not as uncritically pro-indigenous as he is.
Finally, it must be said that, by the end of the book, Jensen comes across as possibly hypocritical. He advocates violence but doesn't put himself on the line. He advocates blowing up dams but doesn't do it himself. In fairness, he's honest about being a coward. He also believes that he can do more good as a writer, and he may be right. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Whew! My overly-long review probably also needs editing, but it reflects the fact that Jensen is nothing if not thought-provoking. I'll give the first volume four stars for the ideas and the writing, and the second volume only three stars because the lack of editing wears the reader down by then. Save a tree and borrow it from the library.
on January 13, 2014
I love this kind of stuff. I'm Jensen's ideal audience, 24, green, revolutionary minded, not a pacifist, I am genuinely concerned about the direction in which this culture is moving. I read his premises and thought, "Okay, I can get on board with this." After the first 100 pages I had to put it down. I felt like I was being taken for a ride.
The experience was a bit like reading "Look Homeward, Angel" - pages of long, wordy, complex, seemingly never-ending stream of consciousness narratives describing things that could have been summed up in a single paragraph. The only difference is Thomas Wolfe was a genius, Derrick Jensen is not. It wasn't all bad, I actually did enjoy the "Five Stories" - 9/11 seen through the eyes of five different cultures - but as the book went on, I got more and more tired of it.
His footnotes cite a lot of websites, one of them came up with a 404 error and one of the citations for his diatribe against Flouride is from a sub-page called "eco-quotes" which is part of the online shopping website "EcoMall"...
If I was 19 and had discovered this book before anything else, I may have been taken in. But I don't even think Jensen himself knows what he is talking about. I agree, western civilization is killing both us and the planet and needs to be brought down. Terence McKenna has some really cool books and lectures on the "archaic revival"; the idea that we need to get back to primitive ways of life and that culture is not your friend. Yes, McKenna was totally off the deep end in a lot of ways, but when it comes to our culture and what to do about it, his ideas were spot on - and far more elegantly developed than Jensen's.
People like Bill Mollison and the Permaculture community have tried to create a workable method to actually build civilizations that DO work with nature, not against it. They are just one piece of a large tapestry of people working really hard to provide us with actual solutions to the immense and complex problems we face as a society and a civilization. Jensen does them all a disservice with his indignant rambling and call-to-arms for naive liberal arts students to just start breaking s***. I felt like I was listening to a guy who got way too high and transcribed his rants while surfing fringe websites to impress his hippy friends. Sorry dude, this hippy was not impressed. I'm all about letting the world burn down, but unless you have a plan on what to do with the ashes you are not qualified to speak about the subject.
on May 21, 2016
This is one of the best books of cultural criticism I've read, although I fundamentally disagree with its proposed solutions. It contains an abundance of counterculture ideas, clothed in empassioned rhetoric, beautiful metaphors, and eye-opening facts, backed by good research. But it should be taken "cum grano salis" (with a grain of salt).
Nietzsche observes that, if you want to know why a philosopher thinks the way he does, you should look to his life story. The biographical influence on an individual's philosophy is nowhere more apparent than with Derrick Jensen. Jensen was physically abused by his father as a child, and now he's angry. Angry at the dominant, patriarchal incarnation of civilization. Seeking vengenace. Violently so.
I don't discount what Jensen says because of his backstory, but backstory has to be kept in mind while reading his work. Because his work is radical criticism, calling for widespread violence against those Jensen perceives as the oppressors. In essence, this means violence against anyone in power who happens to disagree with him. Yes, I realize the dominant culture is committing a great deal of violence against nature and its people. But I do not condone mass violence, and Jensen’s furious absolutism borders on insanity.
Jensen is an excellent writer. He helps the reader crash through the lies of civilization. He's highly perceptive and his commentary is always engaging. He has an unassuming, accessible, friendly style. He provides a powerful critique of civilization. He pulls back the curtains on what few of us can see or would dare to question. His indignance is an eloquent cry against our culture of death. He exposes the horrors of our modern era.
But, like Marx, his critique fails to provide a viable or inspiring vision for the human future. His solution--calling for the violent destruction of civilization and a return to nature--is regressive and denies humanity the privilege of using its creative and intellectual faculties to explore and progress. At stake with civilization and economy are the quality of the lives of the people of earth and the natural, living systems of earth. But at stake in all of this, too, is the future of our species.
I do not want us to regress and resign to a life of passive, primitive harmony with the land (whether this ever was or could be possible is another question). I want us to forge ahead to a new synthesis between man and earth, a mature state of development where we can live as conscious stewards of our planet. Jensen's black-and-white assessment of civilization denies humanity a possible future. The only way, for him, is to turn back to an innocent, Rousseau-esque state of nature.
Consider, also: Jensen's idyllic view of nature is only made possible by our conquering of it through technology. 10,000 years ago, before civilization, nature was a terrible force represented by wrathful gods. We may have sung hymns to the "redwoods, red and Port Orford cedars, alders, and cascara; the Del Norte, Olympic, slender, and Pacific giant salamanders; the Pacific tree and northern red-legged frogs," etc. But there were also plenty of things in nature to fear. Above all, nature was a cruel and indifferent force that we had to vigilantly pray to and battle with just to eke out a meager existence, before our lives were cruelly cut short by sicknesses we knew nothing about. Nature as the Arcadian paradise of Jensen's imagination is pure fantasy.
Jensen's criticisms are excellent in a myopic way--but rather than panicking and reacting quickly with violence, maybe it's better to keep things in perspective and try to understand where the human spirit is moving.
Yes, there's a great deal of injustice in the system, but that doesn't mean we should blow it all up and throw away all of our achievements in the process. Maybe a healthier, more mature view recognizes that human civilization is a living process--that the Earth is trying to give birth to something through us. That we are growing through a phase of injustice and only starting to become aware of how our way of life taxes the Earth's systems--and that we can grow beyond injustice and develop a more sustainable, supportive, compassionate way of life.
Rather than simplistic, black-and-white views: civilization is not sustainable; technology is bad; nature is good--what if we considered how civilization could be sustainable? Because we have progressed to a point where destroying everything would not only involve a great deal of suffering and would also be a great loss to conscious evolution on our planet--not to mention it being nearly impossible to stop the juggernaut of mass society--why not ask how we could transform the world for the better without completely dismantling it?
Jensen seems to be fixated on violence and destruction and its rational justification. His solutions are a juvenile and regressive "Hulk Smash" approach that lack imagination, sophistication, or subtlety. Destroying everything is not the answer.
Jensen says he's not writing for those who disagree with him, and that he has no patience for disagreement. I tried to contact him via email and facebook regarding my criticisms of his work, and I got no response. This childish arrogance and inability to entertain alternatives suggests Jensen is not interested in reason, and it's a huge discredit to his writing.
Ultimately, the way forward for humanity comes down to a question of identity. How do we define humanity? If we're merely animals, condemned to die on this planet like monkeys and other beasts, then regressing to a pre-civilization state might make sense. But if we're something more--if we're an evolving consciousness capable of astonishing feats of genius that could transcend the injustices he speaks of and expand out into the universe--don't we have an obligation to strive toward that potential with all of our might?
on November 4, 2006
Do you lie awake at night wondering how it's possible that the people who control this society are knowingly destroying the planet, our home? More importantly, do you ever wonder how to stop them? Endgame offers a clear, well-researched analysis of industrial civilization's inherently unsustainable, destructive drive and a compelling argument for the urgent need to dismantle it before the entire planet is reduced to ashes. It's a passionate call to action that presents one stunning insight after another. Both volumes are essential for anyone who wants to understand the underlying mechanisms of the system's destructiveness and control, and to fight back.
on July 2, 2006
Endgame is a book for our time. It is an important contribution to radial environmentalism, direct action and understanding the underlying subterranean currents that transpire to make up western culture as we know it today.
Endgame asks the question and then attempts to solve it: Do you believe that our culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living? If the answer is no what then is to be done about it?
Willing or not, ready or not the human species is involved in an all-out, no holds barred war against the dominant culture, western culture. Most people are not competitors, they are the stakes. The spoils, no less, is every living, beating heart and every soul of sentient life upon the planet. The effects of the dominant culture are obvious in every polluted river, the devastation of wildlife, destruction of habitat, the loss of the Coho salmon, dioxin in every mother's breast milk and the habitat of great grizzly bear to name but a few examples from the book. Derrick Jensen wants that turned around. No one can be exempted from the dominant cultures effects. No sector of our lives remains untouched. No sector of any non-humans life remains untouched. Endgame invites us to fight back.
From the standpoint of the traditional left, the vices of contemporary culture - the Machine - what Derrick Jensen uncovers might be all too easily explained away to that old devil capitalism. Another mundane interpretation might centre around the evils stemming from the unrestricted pursuit of profit and the manipulative deceptions of the few profiteers as a major corrupting influence. Endgame isn't like that thankfully.
Sure, Jensen recognises that to ensure the bone and marrow of the dominant cultures value system, the central mechanism must exclusively fixate on human worth and human values exclusively and to achieve this end, indoctrination or "education" from womb to tomb is mandatory. On one hand there must be a constant reinforcement of the dominant cultures ideals with an emphasis on each individuals total dependence on a system that has a death urge and is killing us, the land, the non-human animal kingdom and sentient life all at once.
Endgame's piece de resistance is in exploring this death urge and then finding ways to resist it. The author has gone there before us and saw that mid-wifed by the entrepreneur, the banker, the technocrat, the scientists and ultimately the lawyer of the dominant culture, this sane and sustainable way of living can not, will not, be born from between the printed sheets of pacts and agreements; joint ventures and mergers; contracts and covenants and international treatises signed and countersigned by the political bureaucrat.
Endgame neither lacks cultural resonance or political closure. It engulfs both.
In the Abolitionist's interview with the author, Derrick Jensen notes that even when our best efforts are applied, both eco and animal activists always seem to lose. Although emancipatory promises are possible, they are not being realised by activists around the globe today and the problem is on this battleground, this landscape, the contenders are not prepared to fight the culture itself as a whole. Localised actions, no matter how noble and while still important, do not seek to address the power structures already in place from the dominant culture. The dominant culture itself knows as surely as any lethal cancer that to "win" all you need to do is plughole the power base, the essentials for life such as the utilities, electricity or oil for example, and then what is extraneous to that kind of control is allowed to wither and die or if resisted, is then politically sought out for extermination. In short, western culture's agenda is a ruthless form of materialist monopoly playing itself out.
Jensen's genius is such that he is capable of providing a spiritual dimension to the ecological project. The Machine's lifeblood sets anonymous abstractions like `productivity' and `efficiency' far above human, non-human and planetary needs and it's this the kind of culture Jensen seeks not to reform but to demolish.
Endgame identifies vested interests which survive by controlling the state, the western "productive" apparatus and the institutions of "civilized" life that are by their very nature parasitic and predatory. This in turn plays upon the consciousness of the individual that sets up expectations with strategies of repressive normalization that imposes false needs on individuals. True needs are clean water, air, food and lodgings at some ecologically sustainable level of culture.
The world is on the brink of a human catastrophe of unprecedented proportions and the critical mass, the western intellectuals, along with activists working within the system have fallen prey to malaise and inaction. An unspoken theme running throughout Derrick Jensen's work is how to connect the microcosm with the macrocosm. In this he articulates a type of spirituality that is not transcendent as such, but is based squarely on our connection with the land and defending that same land-base and the ones we love. His work fosters biodiversity, respect and responsibility for the land and for indigenous people. He knows that indigenous peoples demands for rights to their biodiverse environments are direct challenges to the way in which hegemonic political discourse of the Machine and traditional critiques of capitalism are framed today.
Endgame recognises the living force of new ideas or a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living incarnated into political culture, as it now stands, is impossible. What Endgame proposes is the antithesis of the dominant cultures political structure and therefore has to be worked at from outside the system.
In fact an influx of living ideas, such as Endgame has produced, into the existing political structure is a direct threat to that structure. Derrick Jensen has said that what he wants is the fall of civilization and he's not kidding. He's not interested in "democratic egalitarianism" or a style of "liberal democracy". He's called for a revolution but who, the next question is asked, has heard the call?
Endgame knows that the dominant culture has no moral base and never did have, as a mooring point for any system of government, because it does not require it for its specific functioning. What currently passes for a moral base is nothing more than pressing needs calling for immediate action that are responded to on a situation by situation basis. Jensen makes a convincing case for its opposite - a relationship that is symbiotic, constant and intimate with the earth, others and living nature.
If not we are left with competing systems and the inexorable paradox of humans deprived of an essential dimension of their being as market forces alone determine the price of what's good and what's valuable.
Nothing short of the rudest shock of ultimate reality - of life and death - will change the mindset. Jensen asks where is our wrath in all of this? Why ask for mercy on a system-the Machine- that shows no mercy? And then he offers us a robust challenge of our time.
Anarchists and existentialists both know that if the dominant culture has made the world confused, ambitious, greedy by seeking power, position and prestige and if the dominant culture is aggressive, brutal, competitive and has built a culture that is equally competitive, brutal and violent then our responsibility lies in understanding ourselves first and then to act dynamically from out of that knowledge source.
The dominant culture is a malignancy that will keep devouring new resources even if that means undermining the very body - nature herself - upon which it depends. How are the specifics of that to be best understood?
Endgame Volume 2 Resistance
Derrick Jensen wondered, "What resistance would look like and what it would accomplish - what the world would look like - if those of us who care about life on the planet leveled the playing field?"
He goes on to say, "What if we said, "In the war you are waging against the world, you will kill some of us, but mark my words, we shall destroy all of this civilization that is destroying the planet"".
I'll bet money on it that the author gets a lot of flak for that statement alone. Destroying civilization?
However, I'll also bet equal money that holocaust survivors and those who are living or have lived in the extreme know exactly what he is talking about. Docile acquiescence and abdication of will and judgment can be found well beyond the concentration camps; they are everyday behaviours. The young rabbinical student who stood at the door to an Auschwitz gas chamber and cried, "We must submit to the inevitable" did nothing shameful. Obviously today however, the radical eco-environmental and animal liberation movement has a choice to make. What side are you on?
This is an exceptional book that is potent enough to change lives and revolutionise within. Essential reading.
on March 29, 2014
Jensen tells it like it is. If you want the unvarnished truth about our world and our culture read this book. The truth is very rare in our world, this guy delivers. His own tragic abuse at the hands of his father gives Mr. Jensen an angle on the negatives of our culture that really resonates. Perhaps that is an understatement. I must admit, Mr. Jensen thinks so much like me it was amazing and it was very gratifying to discover others have these same ideas. Hold on tight, the truth is written here.