» HELD HOSTAGE TO HOPE: Derrick Jensen on Civilization & Its Discontents

“It’s not just false hope that’s the problem, it’s hope itself…’Hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency.'”

A free-ranging interview with the author of A Language Older Than Words, Welcome to the Machine, and The Culture of Make Believe about civilization, violence, activism, pacifism, reasons for optimism, and why hope is a bad thing.

A counterpoint interview about Malthusian economics and cults of catastrophism is also offered, with social historian Iain Boal, “We’re Not Doomed; That’s the Problem.”:

Many people believe, at least a little, that the end of human beings–whether by ecological disaster, the collapse of the oil economy, or nuclear extinction–is inevitable. For some, this projected collapse represents a just termination for a species they consider parasitic and pathologically unable to establish an equilibrium with the natural world and the creatures who  depend upon it. Others laments the tragedy of our fate.

But what role do faith and belief play in all of this? What if the capitalist realities of scarcity and collapse have been mistakenly interpreted as natural inevitabilities?  


[From the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt.] 


2 thoughts on “» HELD HOSTAGE TO HOPE: Derrick Jensen on Civilization & Its Discontents

  1. Zygmunt Bauman says that rational people will go quietly, meekly, joyously into a gas chamber, if only they are allowed to believe it is a bathroom. And Ill say that rational people go quietly, meekly to the end of the world if only you’ll allow them to believe that buying energy saving bulbs is going to save the day.

    The fact is that 98% of the old growth forests are gone. 99% of of the prairies are gone. 80% of the rivers on this planet do not support life anymore. We are out of species, we are out soil, and we are out of time. And what we are being told by most of the environmental movement is that the way to stop all of this is through personal consumer choices. It’s time for a real strategy that can win.

    Where is your threshold? To take only one variable out of hundreds: Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are already gone. Is it 91 percent? 92? 93? 94? Would you wait till they had killed off 95 percent? 96? 97? 98? 99? How about 100 percent? Would you fight back then?

    How about this? If a foreign power were to do to us and our landbases what the dominant culture does – do their damnedest to turn the planet into a lifeless pile of carcinogenic wastes, and kill, incarcerate, or immiserate those who do not collaborate – we would each and every one of us – at least those of us with the slightest courage, dignity, or sense of self-preservation – fight them to the death, ours or far preferably theirs. But we don’t fight. For the most part we don’t even resist.

    There is a movement growing based on Derrick Jensen’s work. Deep Green Resistance is organizing the fight for a livable future. Now this war has two sides… Join the struggle before it is too late:

    • How do we convince people to radically de-industrialize and de-modernize their lives, give up cars, return to a life mostly spent feeding themselves and their families? I yearn for a global return to more balanced, indigenous ways of living.

      In 2010, I traveled to Mongolia for about three weeks after spending six months in China, and I went in part to see part of the herding life of nomads and some of the last free-ranging horses in the world. Unfortunately, many herding families have satellite dishes with zillions of global media channels, and it’s causing problems: many younger family members in Mongolia have seen Western ideals of wealth and comfort, and no longer wish to continue in their traditional lives. They’re flooding the capital city, UB, and living in slums, looking for mining work, rather than persisting in traditional, sustainable ways. The nomad family I stayed with spoke little English but knew all of the words to Lady Gaga’s songs and knew they wanted part of “the modern life.”

      A small percentage of those of us in highly developed consumer/industrial nations are aware of how potentially omnicidal and personally/spiritually empty this system of living is, but I found it almost impossible to convey this to people in East Asia. Structurally speaking, the US is still the per capita worst offender when it comes to denuding the planet’s resources, but the so-called “developing” nations are the ones that will exercise a far greater systemic impact in the coming years. We could de-industrialize the US completely, tomorrow, but if China, India, Brazil and other large countries continued on an industrial path, it would make no difference for the planet.

      To be clear, I’m not saying the goals of DGR aren’t admirable — it’s actually hard to argue with any of the underyling logic — I’m just curious what thought, if any, has been given to how to globalize DGR’s message.

      I’m also curious about two other things that seem common sense, re DGR. The first involves how to openly espouse revolution and the destruction of the current globocorp system without attracting infiltration and disruption by those who are, within this understanding, our real and actual enemies. The radical environmental movement, due in no small part to its effectiveness and POTENTIAL effectiveness, has been heavily targeted, infiltrated, and reclassified as terrorist. There are active, well-documented government entrapment programs in place to incite well-meaning activists to commit extreme acts. These cointelpro ops are particularly pronounced–and sophisticated–on the West Coast.

      I attended a DGR event in Austin — a medicinal and edible plant walk I was fairly keen to participate in — and I left early out of frustration. My main frustration was the guide’s up-front assumption that all who came were ignorant and in need of deep spiritual enlightenment: “We don’t see X around us, and we’ve forgotten Y,” etc — a blanket assumption of widespread ignorance that is alienating for anyone who’s not actually ignorant or sleepwalking. There was also very little information given on the walk itself — no more than I could have gotten with a cheap plant guide and a hour’s worth of time.

      BUT: My biggest frustration was that the DGR tour “leaders” and lots of other folks, after giving a pithy up-front presentation about being opposed to civilization itself and being committed to bringing about its end, simply could not stop from snapping pictures of everybody throughout the tour. I’m 40, so maybe it’s generational, but are younger people so very ignorant of the invasive, surveilled reality of the times we live in? You should not engage in frankly pre-revolutionary subversive activity while taking pictures of yourself and your comrades so you can post them on Facebook! This is just…stupid. Or intentional, for other, more odious possible reasons I won’t speculate on.

      This was just one DGR event, and I don’t hold that it’s emblematic of any others. But I *do* see a lot of Facebook DGR pages and lots of posting of pics and whatnot, and I can’t imagine a better research tool for our oppressors in law enforcement.

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