- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Seven Stories Press; Seven Stories Press edition (June 6, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158322730X
- ISBN-13: 978-1583227305
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization Paperback – June 6, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The author, who in earlier books like The Culture of Make Believe discussed his experience of violence and abuse as a child, calls now for determined and even violent resistance to environmental degradation. Jensen comes across in volume I as a provocative but personable philosopher-activist who in lyrical and witty writing bemoans species extinction, sullied air quality, shrinking icecaps, expanding deserts and vanishing forests wrought by humans. But Jensen believes "this culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living." Civilization, he says in volume II, is killing the planet, so "[c]ivilization needs to be brought down now." Jensen dwells through several chapters on the need to destroy tens of thousands of river dams, whether with pickax-wielding citizen armies or through the use of well-placed explosive charges; other chapters consider how simple it would be to paralyze the American capitalist system if small activist cells were to disrupt railway, highway, pipeline and other elements of commercial infrastructure. Jensen clearly feels a close connection to nature, writes movingly about the hoped-for return of the salmon, the trees, the grizzly bears. But he has become so disgusted with what he calls "civiluzation" that he has more compassion for the salmon than for his fellow humans. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Jensen, author of A Language Older than Words (2000) and The Culture of Make Believe (2002), has a deserved reputation as a writer of consequence and conscience who has pursued an environmentalist message with great fervor. In his latest work, however, a two-volume manifesto, he argues for the necessary destruction of civilization to save the world. Jensen posits his case against industrial development through discussion of everything from dams to the use of torture by the U.S. military. Endgame touches on numerous valid and necessary subjects, but Jensen's strident tone and heavy reliance on sources that fully support his message weaken his presentation. And when he offers solutions for the problems we face, he preaches violence. Clearly he is passionate, but apparently the success of his earlier books has led to his writing only for those who already agree with him, rather than crafting a balanced discussion that allows readers to come to their own conclusions. Jensen has become an extremist, and he may have done his cause the worst possible service by alienating the readers he most needs to inspire. Colleen Mondor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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"END:CIV examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations. Based in part on Endgame, the best-selling book by Derrick Jensen, END:CIV asks: “If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air, and contaminated the food supply, would you resist?”"
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?