I’M CONTINUALLY stunned by how many seemingly sane people believe you can have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Perpetual economic growth and its cousin, limitless technological expansion, are beliefs so deeply held by so many in this culture that they often go entirely unquestioned. Even more disturbing is the fact that these beliefs are somehow seen as the ultimate definition of what it is to be human: perpetual economic growth and limitless technological expansion are what we do.
Some of those who believe in perpetual growth are out-and-out nut jobs, like the economist and former White House advisor Julian Simon, who said, “We have in our hands now — actually in our libraries- — the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years.” And showing that, when it comes to U.S. economic policies, insanity is never out of season, are yet more nut jobs, like Lawrence Summers, who has served as chief economist at the World Bank, U.S. secretary of the treasury, president of Harvard, and as President Obama’s director of the National Economic Council, and who said, “There are no . . . limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind at any time in the foreseeable future. . . . The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.”
Others are a bit more nuanced in their nut-jobbery. They may acknowledge that, yes, physical limits might possibly exist, but they also believe that if you just slap the word sustainable in front of the phrase “economic growth,” then you can still somehow have continued growth on a finite planet, perhaps through so-called “soft” or “service” or “high-tech” economies, or through nifty “green” innovations like a really neat nanotech gizmo that can be woven into your clothes and when you dance it generates enough electricity to power your iPod, ignoring the facts that people still need to eat, that humans have overshot carrying capacity and are systematically destroying the natural world, and that even something as groovy as an iPod requires mining, industrial, and energy infrastructures, all of which are functionally unsustainable.
Alongside the nut jobs, there are an awful lot of people who probably just don’t think about it: they simply absorb the perspective of the newscasters who say, “Economic growth, good; economic stagnation, bad.” And of course if you care more about the economic system than life on the planet, this is true. If, however, you care more about life than the economic system, it is not quite so true, because this economic system must constantly increase production to grow, and what, after all, is production? It is the conversion of the living to the dead, the conversion of living forests into two-by-fours, living rivers into stagnant pools for generating hydroelectricity, living fish into fish sticks, and ultimately all of these into money. And what, then, is gross national product? It is a measure of this conversion of the living to the dead. The more quickly the living world is converted into dead products, the higher the GNP. These simple equations are complicated by the fact that when GNP goes down, people often lose jobs. No wonder the world is getting killed.
Once a people have committed (or enslaved) themselves to a growth economy, they’ve pretty much committed themselves to a perpetual war economy, because in order to maintain this growth, they will have to continue to colonize an ever-wider swath of the planet and exploit its inhabitants. I’m sure you can see the problem this presents on a finite planet. But in the short run, there is good news for those committed to a growth economy (and bad news for everyone else), which is that by converting your landbase into weapons (for example, cutting down trees to build warships), you gain a short-term competitive advantage over those peoples who live sustainably, and you can steal their land and overuse it to fuel your perpetual-growth economy. As for those whose land you’ve stolen, well, you can either massacre these newly conquered peoples, enslave them, or (most often forcibly) assimilate them into your growth economy. Usually it’s some combination of all three. The massacre of the bison, to present just one example, was necessary to destroy the Plains Indians’ traditional way of life and force them to at least somewhat assimilate (and become dependent upon the growth economy instead of the land for their very lives). The bad news for those committed to a growth economy is that it’s essentially a dead-end street: once you’ve overshot your home’s carrying capacity, you have only two choices: keep living beyond the means of the planet until your culture collapses; or proactively elect to give up the benefits you gained from the conquest in order to save your culture.
A perpetual-growth economy is not only insane (and impossible), it is also by its very essence abusive, by which I mean that it’s based on the same conceit as more personal forms of abuse. It is, in fact, the macroeconomic enshrinement of abusive behavior. The guiding principle of abusive behavior is that the abuser refuses to respect or abide by limits or boundaries put up by the victim. As Lundy Bancroft, former codirector of Emerge, the nation’s first therapeutic program for abusive men, writes, “Entitlement is the abuser’s belief that he has a special status and that it provides him with exclusive rights and privileges that do not apply to his partner. The attitudes that drive abuse can largely be summarized by this one word.”
The relevance of this word applies on the larger social scale. Of course humans are a special species to whom a wise and omnipotent God has granted the exclusive rights and privileges of dominion over this planet that is here for us to use. And of course even if you subscribe to the religion of Science instead of Christianity, humans possess special intelligence and abilities that grant us exclusive rights and privileges to work our will on the world that is still here for us to use. Growth economies are essentially unchecked and will push past any boundaries set up by anyone other than the perpetrators: certainly the fact that indigenous cultures already are living on this or that piece of ground has never stopped those in power from expanding their economy; nor is the death of the oceans stopping their exploitation; nor is the heating of the planet stopping the exploitation; nor is the grinding poverty of the dispossessed.
And the truth is, you cannot talk abusers out of their behavior. Perpetrators of domestic violence are among the most intractable of all who commit violence, so intractable, in fact, that in 2000 the United Kingdom removed funding for therapy sessions designed to treat men guilty of domestic violence (putting the money instead into shelters and other means of keeping women safe from their attackers). Lundy Bancroft also says this: “An abuser doesn’t change because he feels guilty or gets sober or finds God. He doesn’t change after seeing the fear in his children’s eyes or feeling them drift away from him. It doesn’t suddenly dawn on him that his partner deserves better treatment. Because of his self-focus, combined with the many rewards he gets from controlling you, an abuser changes only when he feels he has to, so the most important element in creating a context for change in an abuser is placing him in a situation where he has no other choice.”
How do we stop the abusers who perpetrate a perpetual-growth economy? Seeing oiled pelicans and burned sea turtles won’t move them to stop. Nor will hundred-degree days in Moscow. We can’t stop them by making them feel guilty. We can’t stop them by appealing to them to do the right thing. The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.
The Singularity will give us no choice. Humans will no longer be the dominant species on earth. AI won’t love us or hate us; superhuman intelligence may have goals that are inconsistent with human survival and prosperity. We will become the pests…enjoy the life you have while you can.
I see lots of humans trying to live a healthy and happy life.They are doing their best to teach their children, to love and to pass on a legacy to future generations. You seem to suggest that we should just crawl into a cave and die. I am very glad that I don’t look at life through your depressing set of lenses and am sorry for you that you do.
Lafarge wants to put up a hazardous/toxic incinerator not far from Tulsa.I was trying to think of what I could say that would make the Dept of Environmental quality tell them “NO”…Maybe I will just read this to them and see if they catch on.
An arrow right to the bullseye. @tahoe165, I saw no such suggestion. Jensen writes a very uncomfortable truth in the hope of inspiring humankind NOT to give up, but rather to wise up.
Producing the documentary
GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth
Thank you for clarity with a very difficult subject. Americaâ€™s, and maybe the worldâ€™s guiding light is capitalism and growth. Both are powerful beasts that have consumed much of the Earthâ€™s resources in one century. The allure of growth and capitalism could be likened to a very additive drug. The overwhelming power of entitlement and addiction does make for a formidable force, and maybe inevitable.
The article ends with the comment that the abuser will stop because he has to. That is true of our materialistic civilization and its human population. It operates by irreversibly using limited natural capital at a high rate. That capital is now becoming scarce so the unsustainable ravishing cannot continue. Natural forces will ensure the abuser will stop. It matters not one iota that many humans have a belief in the possibility of continuing economic growth. Reality will dictate the irrevocable devastation of our life support system and the associated senescence of our civilization.
Very lazy argumentation. Summers may be wrong, but you need to actually care about the details. I think a lot of us are counting on “natural consequences” to force our economy to become sustainable- i.e. we’ll run out of oil and coal before we really remake the earth. I think it’s quite possible that economic growth could continue well beyond the point that my aesthetics would prefer, and that if we want to preserve a natural world, we’re going to have to convince a large majority that it’s worth preserving, and that a steady-state economy is preferable to the loss of the natural world. Because we may not bump up against hard limits that stop our expansion any time soon.
I totally agree with the writer. The idea of growth is so ingrained in our culture that most people will think of this article as hogwash.
What is wrong with things just settling down? Companies do not have to get bigger to succeed. It used to be ok to just maintain a steady profit margin but those days are gone.
To Dan, we may never run out of coal but as we proceed to use it up, the mountains of Virginia will disappear and the environment will continue to degrade to the point that, who will want to live here anymore?
“The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”
Yes Derrick… that is the big question… how to funnel the decisionmaking down to one, and only one, point – so that there are no other options. I personally don’t think it is achievable.
Jensen makes a powerful argument against the â€œnut jobsâ€ who advocate unlimited growth, and concludes that the only way to change them is to force them to change by removing their options. Closer to home are those of us choosing to read his article, many of whom agree that unlimited economic growth spells disaster. Despite our protest, we continue to participate in a system of material production, consumption and waste. Simon and Summers command respect because they express sentiments that square with what many humans wish were true. Rather than think of a scheme â€œto stop themâ€ by making it â€œso they have no other choiceâ€ shouldnâ€™t we instead contribute to a movement of modeling the change right now? What if we became the change we want to see in the world, paraphrasing Gandhi? What would it look like for you and me to live a stable state economy? If Jensenâ€™s analogy holds, and I believe it does, then we should do as the British government has done, and set up shelters to protect and care for the abused. We should model lifestyles that are not dependent on and addicted to fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources. Assuming Jensen to be correct, the natural world will impose limits on the followers of Simon and Summers. Meanwhile, we should change our own ways, wean ourselves from our addictions and our abusive behaviors, declare ourselves to be in recovery, form a local support group â€“ perhaps call it â€œtakers anonymousâ€, and begin the difficult but rewarding task of living a different, more respectful, reality.
We spend too much time worrying about how to convince the nut jobs of the impossibility and undesirability of growth. We spend too little time thinking about what kinds of collective action the rest of us need. I say collective because individual acts have relatively small, local impact, particularly on the forces arrayed against us. While the nut jobs are implacable, we have many doubters in the progressive community who are loath to indict the whole system, including the Democratic Party; many of these are dependent on the system and resist the ugly truth in front of their faces, trusting to “sustainability”, renewable energy and other liberal homilies of little import. What we need is a movement or third party that will take aim at the jugular of the whole consumer society by replacing anyone and everyone in public office who votes or works for a continuation of the growth status quo. Ironically the deficit-busters may be our best friends as they dismantle bloated government projects and spending. Let’s hope the recession continues long enough until the peak oil/climate change apocalypse happens, at which time growth will finally end. It won’t be a happy time; no one likes suffering. But unfortunately I see this as the only scenario, barring a massive citizen mobilization against consumption and growth. And don’t count on unions or liberals. We are on our own. Are we ready to get our act together?
“The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”
This is referring to the abusive family member, a simplified analogy. Fortunately, we are all a part of this culture. I see innovative legislation as a way to move forward. I feel that teaching everyone strong critical thinking skills is the best possible offense here.
In Zen Buddhism, a Koan is a seemingly impossible problem used to daunt the mind of a student or seeker of Enlightenment. The difficulty is that these riddles cannot be solved by the usual operations of mind. The solution can only be realized on a higher, transcendent level of knowing.
Derrick Jensen confronts us with a vexing dilemma of the Zen type: â€œWe canâ€™t stop them by appealing to them to do the right thing. The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.â€
DJâ€™s formulation of the problem brings us to a dead end. Those we wish to stop are by nature (according to the essay) impervious to reason and appeal to conscience or compassion. The only means to stop them would seem to be coercive force. Since the abusive use of force is what we are seeking to eliminate or go beyond, it would seem this puts us in a no-win situation, a total impasse.
At this point, let me quote AJW: â€œMeanwhile, we should change our own ways, wean ourselves from our addictions and our abusive behaviors, declare ourselves to be in recovery, form a local support group â€“ perhaps call it â€œtakers anonymousâ€, and begin the difficult but rewarding task of living a different, more respectful, reality.â€
When I read this, it kinda took my breath away, it was so close to what I have been suggesting in these pages for several months now.
The examples of this approach that inspire me are the early â€œQuakersâ€, and AA. These are both examples of what started as small groups, and grew to sizable movements having significant impacts on our culture. AA is about growing beyond addictions, and the Friends are about living more simply. These are both fundamental spiritual ideals that have great relevance for our current global crises. How to live better with less â€œstuffâ€. A movement growing out of ecological and peaceful egalitarian concerns could have major impact on our world. As Margaret Mead said, â€œNever doubt that a small group of commited people can change the World; nothing else ever has.â€ (Probably not an exact quote.)
â€œThe only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.â€
Derrick is correct. If each of us becomes a true conservative (a person who embraces the Conservation Principle of Energy and conserves resources) then the rabid destroyers of resources will find it increasingly difficult to continue their destructive activities. Note I am not employing the Anglo-American Industrial Revolution use of the resource symbol (1779) but rather its original meaning of a form rising again as in re-source.
It would have been helpful if Derrick had better conserved the potential of the science, Christianity and dominion symbols. Each was stripped of its associations of personal stewardship, reflecting and enabling the excesses of the Industrial Revolution too. By failing to care for these symbols he has supported the non-conservatives he rails against.
We can only stop them if each of us stops using cars, jets and other wasteful uses of minerals; limits our procreation to one or no children; invests in democratic community media; and refuses to engage in usury. This is not easy but countless millions of people have proved with their joyful lives that it is possible.
Perhaps Derrick will write essay on how the evils of usury drives our most unsustainable behaviour and language sometime. Meanwhile you may find this website helpful http://www.thesustainabilityprinciple.org. At least we can enjoy hope in speaking a more sustainable language together.
“The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”
Derrick, once again, stops just short of what he is truly saying: that we must stop these “nut jobs” by any means necessary. Of course, as Mike K points out, this puts us into a no-win or dead-end situation because we are forced to take on the worst qualities of the “enemy”.
Mike K and AJW are far more perceptive than Jensen (probably because they are not trapped, like DJ, in their own unresolved cycle of personal violence).
Just as the simplistic (and ultimately counter-productive) response to domestic violence is to put all the perpetrators behind bars and expand the world’s largest prison/industrial complex – isolating or eliminating the “nut jobs” (doesn’t that mean most of modern society?) is about as foolish and insane as the idea of perpetual growth.
The problem in this analysis is that there is nothing insane about our current paradigm (though it may appear so to those who have at least partially transcended it). The Earth-Mother, Father-God, and Techno-Science paradigms were natural progressions as human ability to manipulate the environment grew.
While each successive paradigm won out to some extent by expansion, conquest and coercion, they became dominant mostly by gradually becoming perceived as more relevant to human society. An old paradigm rarely gets obliterated but is rather co-opted and superceded by what appears to be a “better” one.
If we perceive the proponents of the current dysfunctional paradigm (which includes, to some extent, all of us) as insane or evil then we leave ourselves no choice but to confront, challenge, isolate or eliminate them. We imprison ourselves into a box with one exit and we become the next conquerors.
But if we understand the current paradigm as a necessary but no longer functional part of human evolution, then the sane solution is to create another, more functional, paradigm. Only when it becomes widely perceived as “better”, because we are joyfully living it while others suffer, will it become the next dominant paradigm and the previous one will fall away.
This is the higher solution to the Zen koan and requires transcending current paradigmatic adversarial, either-or thinking. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
We, the people… the people of this world, who have ‘had it’ with the injustice, the killing, the lies, the abuse, the hunger….are in the majority. Soon we will use new yardsticks to live by. We will provide no choice for the promoters of the ‘old style’, by refusing to participate in the old paradigm. Then they will have no markets, ergo no profits. Therefore they have no choice: Change, or die off. But WE have to do it. The changing, the refusing to play, the acting from the heart, not from fear – we can do MUCH more with a sharing attitude ( as the ‘barbarians’ of the old North America have long practiced: ‘All my relations’…) It is amazing how flexible humans are, when they want it bad enough. Life can be joyful without many things we now THINK we need. Take the advice of America’s greatest bumper sticker: ‘Live simply – so others can simply live.’ That can be the beginning of worldwide change. Do it.
It is fascinating that all this discussion is anthropocentric. It conveys the impression that humans are in control of what happens. That is a delusion that has been handed down for generations. The fact of the matter is that humans only make decisions about which of the possible materialistic operations are activated. Humans decided to make use of fossil fuels but natural forces governed the release of the energy to power industrial machinery and to release the greenhouse gases that have instigated rapid climate change. Humans cannot decide to stop climate change because there is no geophysical means they can call upon the augment what occurs naturally at an evolutionary rate. We made the decisions to let the fossil fuel genie out of its bottle yet there are no means we can call upon to put it back in!
The huge level of commenting on Jensen’s other fabulous columns has dissuaded me in the past, but after world events in the past month or so, I finally have something to say:
WIKILEAKS may have something to do with the answer.
Its ability to topple governments and institutions is unmatched in history. I’ve followed it with vigor, so if anyone wants to converse with me about how to move forward, please email.
What does not engender optimism in the outflowering of a new paradigm is the endearing naivitÃ© of those who suggest a third political party or “innovative” legislation, or those who overestimate the power of the internet in such manifestations as Wikileaks.
Wikileaks has helped reveal some of the secrets of the power structure but the result is mostly embarrassment. For all his entertainment value, Julian Assange has not toppled one government or any mainstream institution, nor is he likely to.
Faith in the transformative power of the internet is just the latest version of our idolatry of technology.
Riversong is right on the tech fix; but I also believe Jensen is not suggesting..”any means possible.” I think his position is more nuanced than that, but perhaps I am mistaken
Every Jensen article in Orion stops just short of the message he’s repeated in all his books and interviews:
“I want to bring down civilizationâ€¦I will do whatever it takes to get there.”
Interview with No Compromise, 2005
“Before we can speak of peace, we have to speak honestly of stopping, by any and all means possible, those who have declared war on the world and on us. Those who destroy wont stop because we ask nicely. There is only one language that they understand, and everyone here knows what it is. Yet we don’t speak of it openly.”
– A Language Older than Words
Zoe Blunt, referring to Jensen’s book Endgame: the Problem of Civilization:
“In his most recent book, deep ecology author Derrick Jensen compares western civilization to an abusive family, where violence is a constant threat and the victims feel helpless and dependent on the abuser. He urges his readers to bring down this culture by any means necessary. His ideas are controversial, and Jensen confesses he gets ‘hate mail from pacifists’.”
I’m one of those “pacifists” who Jensen believes, in his distorted version of reality, hates him when all I’ve ever done is point to his dysfunctional personality and dangerous ideas. For speaking the truth about Jensen, however, I’ve been repeatedly savaged by his acolytes, including here on these Orion dialogs.
“When my books first hit the market, my first thought was: ‘Good. Now these gullible youth will see the true light, the primeval way – and the world will cower in awe of my intellectual abilities.’ My second thought was: ‘Oh, crap…if this book rockets to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, untold trees will be mercilessly slaughtered for printing purposes.’ As it turns out, I had little to worry about. Nobody bought my books. Apparently the world just isn’t ready for my genius & guile, my brilliant banter.”
Love the article.
Inspiring as always.
When your loved ones, your land, your way of life and your own life are being attacked and raped, I see no other option than to defend yourself.
OK Robert! He does say s you point out. But he really does nothing to carry out that call. So, perhaps we need to look at a different way to understand it. Or, alternatively, just call him confused or a pussy!
“But he really does nothing to carry out that call.”
Which makes Jensen a self-righteous hypocrite. He publicly supports eco-activist groups like ELF and ALF, and says he wakes up every morning wondering whether he should blow up a dam and that the only book worth sending to a politician is one that explodes – yet he never acts on his professed beliefs. He hopes that others might be inspired to do what he doesn’t have the courage to do himself (or is smart enough to avoid doing).
Jensen says “Books are part of the problem: this strange belief that a tree has nothing to say until it is murdered, its flesh pulped, and then people stain this flesh with words.” – interview from the Ecologist, March 2004
And yet he makes his living writing and selling books and flying around the country talking about how we should be destroying the transportation infrastructure.
Jensen is a self-confessed victim of abusive family violence and has grown into a man who sees the entire world through the lens of the child he once was – as fundamentally and irredeemably abusive and dysfunctional and allowing no response but self-defense “by any means necessary”.
Look at his face. Derrick Jensen is a tortured soul who has never done the hard work necessary to recover his humanity, and he projects his own insanity and pain out into the world.
He’s also perceptive and articulate and clever enough to maintain his publishing contracts and to create himself as the Pied Piper of disaffected youth. He is Ted Kaczynski with a publicist and smart enough to not blow (pun intended) his chance for fame and fortune.
Derrick Jensen, in other words, is a fraud and Orion (as I’ve stated before) should not be giving him a bully pulpit.
Robert, maybe a more compassionate description would just calling him “conflicted.” I mean that would be the more forgiving thing to do… although I have been known myself not to be very forgiving in this forum.
Certainly, he is able to galvanize opinion… that must be worth something, don’t you think?
I feel I need to expand on my last assertion: that Derrick Jensen is a fraud. I don’t mean to say merely that he is a hypocrite who fails to act out what he professes and profits from what despises. It is far more pernicious and dangerous than that.
By trying to convince us that the world is irredeemably dysfunctional, that humanity is inherently abusive and violent, and that Nature is helpless before our onslaught, Derrick Jensen narrows the available recourse to the one he professes: to defend ourselves and the natural world by any means necessary. In other words, Jensen’s mission is to make us believe in his narrow world in which nothing exists but abuser and victim so that we might do what he demands of us: to fight back with every weapon at our disposal.
The absurdity, if not insanity, of his vision and prescription is this: 1) Nature is not impotent and we are not omnipotent, and 2) Using force to fight force can only perpetuate the destructive paradigm of force.
While ostensibly putting the natural non-human world above our manufactured one, Jensen suggests that only we have the power to “save” nature, delegating Nature herself to the status of impotent victim who needs a human savior. And, while decrying the Newtonian materialistic universe that has given humanity the false belief that nothing happens except by exerting force on matter, Jensen demands that we exert physical force to alter our make-believe world.
In contrast to the dismal and destructive Jensen mythology, I would recommend two of the most perceptive thinkers of our time: Charles Eisenstein, author of The Ascent of Humanity (Civilization and the Human Sense of Self â€“ the Age of Separation, the Age of Reunion, and the Convergence of Crises that is Birthing the Transition); and David Abrams, author of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World and Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology.
Eisenstein offers a much more intelligent, relevant and hopeful story of civilization’s ‘ascent’. “Once upon a time, the tribe of humanity embarked upon a long journey called Separation. It was not a blunder as some – seeing its ravages upon the planet – might think. Nor was it a fall, nor an expression of some innate evil peculiar to the human species. It was a journey with a purpose: to experience the extremes of Separation, to develop the gifts that come in response to it, and to integrate all of that in a new age of Reunion.”
The essence of his thinking is expressed in his essay The Three Seeds http://www.realitysandwich.com/three_seeds, or read his latest article Elephants: Please Don’t Go http://www.realitysandwich.com/elephants_please_dont_go, in which he shares the voice of Elephant: “Don’t imagine that we are helpless to save ourselves. We can manipulate reality in ways you cannot begin to imagine. We are leaving because the way you treat us says that you don’t want us. If our gifts are not welcome to you, we will bow out.”
Abrams, a magician who has learned from indigenous shamans and sorcerers, eloquently describes the path we have taken away from our indigenous roots and guides us back to our animal bodies and our fundamentally reciprocal relationship to the world we inhabit and are about to destroy. Eisenstein points to the returning gift economy which is restoring our lost interrelationships with each other and all other beings. Each of them offers a restorative vision and a trailmap to guide us gently back to our forgotten selves.
Jensen lures us into a self-defeating rat’s maze with one only way out.
Jensen’s article is a call to wake up from our entrancement with technology and the industrial growth paradigm. Through technological advances we humans have assumed powers once only given to nature and the divine. Waking up from an addictive trance isn’t easy, but voices like Jensen’s help to break up the spell. We also need voices that can reveal the joy and beauty possible when we return to a view of the human as an integral part of an intimate earth community — containing all beings–not lord over an enslaved planet and people.
Jensenâ€™s looking at our current problems through the lens of what has been learned about the psychology of bullies, abusers, and psychopaths is particularly informative in the attempt to understand how the power elites operate, and what we can do to deal with their destructive activities. The fact is that these â€œelitesâ€ (only first in power, not virtue) bear an inordinate share of the responsibility for the world disaster unfolding for all of us. To say that we all bear some responsibility for our dilemma is correct in a narrow sense, but should not obscure the fact that the rich and powerful are primarily responsible for our widespread devolution.
We live here in America in the most abusive country on earth. If there is an â€œEvil Empireâ€ we are it. Genocide and oppression have characterized our history from our arrival on this continent, and continues to this day. Those who are blind to this reality, need folks like Jensen to wake them up to it. To imagine that those who are primarily responsible for perpetrating these ongoing atrocities of the madness of power and greed is to live in dangerous and futile fantasies. For Godâ€™s sake folks, read Orwellâ€™s 1984, and put the template on America today. There is not a single feature of that prophetic novel that is not being fully enacted as we speak.
The power of the few to exploit, enslave, and destroy the many is the sick theme that runs through the history of civilization. Throwing off this yoke has been what the great Liberators (like Jesus) have been about from the beginning. When will we get the power mad few off our back? And how? That is the basic Koan of human history. If we do not solve it, they will destroy the Earth and most or all life on it.
Everything is cyclical.
What goes up (empires)
must come down (same empires)
It seems to be unfolding, unraveling now.
Piece by piece. Brick by brick.
Our town is offering emergency preparedness classes for its citizens in the upcoming months.
2 hour classes each week for 9 weeks.
Posted on our town’s website:
“Citizen Emergency Readiness Training (CERT) emphasizes the importance of helping yourself, your family, and neighbors immediately after a disaster strikes. It takes time for emergency response agencies to respond during disaster situations, and damaged roads and disrupted communication systems may restrict their accesses into critically affected areas and hinder response capabilities. Thus, during the initial period immediately following a disaster, for hours or longer, individuals, households and neighborhoods may need to rely on their own resources for food, water, first aid, and shelter.”
I have to say, I like our mayor. he is down-to-earth and I like the fact this course is offered to us at this point and time. It will be interesting to see just how many people sign up for this. I have a feeling they will have to turn some folks away.
Denis Frith (17) writes: â€œIt is fascinating that all this discussion is anthropocentric.â€
Not true. I pointed to the Sustainability Principle of Energy, which is derived from the Conservation Principle of Energy. It enables us to transcend our ego and reminds us in the fundamentals of physics: we exist only while we live in harmony with the universal balances and flows that sustain us. We ignore those balances and flows at our peril.
Brandon Smith (18) writes: â€œWIKILEAKS may have something to do with the answer.â€
Correct. The state of science involves sharing, trust and peer review while copyright is profoundly hostile to this state of being. If the USA, already imploding in debt and inequity, further implodes into warfare on scale, then a prime reason will be its flawed notion of science with the associated belief that copyright is sustaining and brings long-term wealth. The reality is this flawed notion destroys sustaining options and precludes people from living in harmony with the universal flows and balances. The popular idea that the state of science and copyright are compatible is very dangerous nonsense.
To the extent Derrick propagates this flawed notion of science he is the violence he decries and he calls for his own demise.
So yes, to the extent it promotes the expression of the truth and accountability then WikiLeaks has something to do with the answer.
It’s going to be a painful period in our evolution.
Denouncing economic growth while ignoring population growth is pathetic.
Tragically, political correctness forbids confronting overbreeding, doesn’t it?
Well guess what? Overbreeding IS overconsuming!
Excellent article! That you for clarity!!! It is staggering how inane the world has become seemingly governed by a moronic few. What we need is a people’s uprising! We need a movement to create a world governing body of scientists and ecologists who together determine what big industry can and cannot do around the world. It is ridiculous that so few have a say about the state of the air we breath, the water we drink and least of all the food we eat purely for profit. While we may be able to feed more people, more are also getting cancer and living miserable lives. And what happened to quality of life? We cant even drink the water… This week alone 3,000 dead birds fell out of the sky, more dead doves along with millions of dead crabs washed on a beach and fish. What more evidence do we need that something is terribly wrong!!!
Yes, things are terribly wrong, Effaris. And the converging crises clearly show the trajectory. However, Robert Riversong, I don’t think that Derrick says “that humanity is inherently abusive and violent.” He says that civilization is that way. I don’t think he would disagree with your reading list either. After all, he did write an early, positive review of Abrams book, Becoming Animal. I do agree with your apparent concept of forgetfulness.. in terms of recovering what was lost… however I despair that recovery, as you imagine it, is feasible. BTW, forgetfulness was one of the five rivers of the Underworld in Greek mythology (Lethe). Heidegger found his concept of truth by excavating that concept… (aletheia), to not forget, disclose or uncover what was previous hidden or forgotten.
Interesting thought, particularly when you look at Heidegger’s concept of openness (Galassenheit), which defines a condition of dwelling for him, further excavated by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, when he speaks about human dwelling in terms of the body-subject and the world as lived by the body (my flesh is the flesh of the world). Here is the linkage, the intertwining that we have lost sight of in our narrow pursuit of individuality and personal progress. And as you may know, David Abrams was heavily influenced in his reflections by the work of Merleau-Ponty.
Just some thoughts!
There is yet more that needs to be said regarding Jensen’s dysfunctional perspective and counter-productive prescription, because it’s an unrecognized shadow that lurks in many parts of our culture.
When one divides the world into victims and victimizers, the oppressed and the oppressors, the vanquished and the victors (or even the peasants and the elites or the workers and the owners), one narrows the realm of available responses to a single one: overpowering the abuser, whether by greater force (unlikely) or more surreptitious violence (the usual choice), which could manifest as self-defense, sabotage or revolution.
A victim is, by definition, disempowered and powerless. And the reason that abused women, for instance, tend to become involved in serial abusive relationships is that, by defining themselves as victim, they cannot help but attract a partner to manifest that self-definition. They are helpless to do otherwise because they perceive themselves as helpless. A self-secure woman doesn’t attract abusive partners. Once ensnared in the trap of helplessness or victimhood, there are but two possibilities of redress: to leave the relationship (which is often perceived as impossible, and in the broader social divisions is impossible) or to reverse the roles and hurt the abuser, whether in the heat of conflict or during a time of quiescence. In fact, women have been acquitted of premeditated murder with the “battered woman defense”.
This return of violence for violence is, of course, the “moral” justification for the often religious people who believe they are defending the rights of the defenseless unborn to achieve personhood. This rationalization is commonly used to justify even killing with premeditation the doctors who perform abortions. Whatever you may think of such people, is not this thinking precisely the same as that of protectors of “defenseless” nature who respond by “any means necessary” (which, of course, includes the full spectrum of violence) against the perceived perpetrators?
While it may not be consistent with a truly non-violent philosophy, few people would judge someone harshly who uses deadly force to protect themselves or their loved ones at the moment they are threatened. But very few people would think well of someone who methodically planned an act of revenge on their attacker, even if it was rationalized as a preventive to the next attack. This, of course, is the “justification” for pre-emptive warfare and for imprisonment without trial for “preventive detention” in violation of habeas corpus and the laws of justice.
And this eye-for-an-eye strategy is precisely the rationalization for terrorism: to make the perceived abuser feel at least a little of the same pain that is inflicted on the abused. Contrary to G.W. Bush’s absurd assertion that they do this because “they hate our freedom”, intelligent and aware people understand that they do this because of what we’ve done to them with our freedom. In the geo-political context, however, many understand that returning violence for violence solves nothing but only increases the insecurity of life for everyone.
There is, in truth, only one way out of victimhood â€“ and that is by rising above it, by transcending one’s self-definition and self-deprecation, by recovering one’s dignity and self-worth. And this is one of the foundations of the Gandhian non-violence of which Jensen is contemptuous. While being acerbically critical of most of Gandhi’s writings and example, Jensen praises one of the Mahatma’s teachings: that it is better to defend oneself and loved ones with violence than to cowardly submit. What Jensen fails to realize (or acknowledge) is that this was an allowance for those who have not spiritually matured enough to face an attacker armed only with dignity and compassion.
To prevent harm to oneself by the use of violence solves an immediate problem but perpetuates the paradigm of power-over, force or violence. The most that can be said for this tactic is that it leaves you another day to outgrow the need for violent recourse. But to die with dignity and compassion is to bring closure to a life that was meaningful. One should never fear death, as it is an inevitable part of living. But one should fear dying without having lived meaningfully and well, with dignity and an open heart.
Ultimately, none of us has the wisdom to judge who should live and who should die â€“ this was always understood to be the prerogative of the gods, and our sin in the Garden was to pluck that prerogative from the Tree of Knowledge. Defending the defenseless by “any means necessary” is morally identical whether you’re a “pro-life” Christian, an Islamic fundamentalist, or a self-proclaimed defender of wildlife â€“ or a global empire spreading “democracy and freedom” to the unenlightened world.
John Perkins (Confessions of and Economic Hitman), who knows the corporate and government elites as intimately as he does the Ecuadorian peasants and shamans with whom he now works, understands that the former are not evil people but rather trapped in a dehumanizing and often destructive corporate culture by their own investments of time, career and self-definition. The Neo-Cons who ran the Bush administration considered themselves idealists and passionately believed in an ideology to which they had committed their life’s work. Derrick Jensen, though I believe he has the intelligence, perception and heart to outgrow his own sense of victimhood, is trapped by his years of public investment in the ideology of abuse – by the many books, articles, speeches which endorse this perspective, as well as by a small but extremely loyal following which he would not want to disappoint (or lose) â€“ that it’s likely impossible for him to abandon it like clothes that no longer fit but that everyone expects you to wear.
Just as a battered spouse demeans herself (or himself, since domestic violence is a 50/50 affair) by believing that she is a helpless victim, defenders of wildlife demean Nature herself by the assumption that She is defenseless and requires their protection. In both cases, the paradigm of victimhood and violence is reinforced and perpetuated, when what is needed is to outgrow and transcend that archaic and dysfunctional paradigm into a more expansive, inclusive and compassionate one. In other words, it’s past time for humanity to evolve to a more mature spiritual state of being. Or, as Swami Beyondanama puts it, it’s time we stop being children of God and start being adults of God.
Many of us are on that path to paradigmatic transformation and are trying on new clothes with excitement and joy. Don’t expect Derrick Jensen to lead us there, as he’s spun a garment of recycled cloth that smells of death and decay and which clings so tenaciously to his skin that he would not know how to remove it even if he wanted.
Great article. I await his forthcoming book, Deep Green Resistance, with bated breath..
“In other words, itâ€™s past time for humanity to evolve to a more mature spiritual state of being. Or, as Swami Beyondanama puts it, itâ€™s time we stop being children of God and start being adults of God.”
Robert – you’ve got to be kidding. This is as pathological a statement as anything I have heard. And while the precise metaphor “adults of God” is a bit difficult to dissect, I would simply say that any discussion of God is delusional, and feeds the same imperialist (patriarchal) hierarchy that has led us to this point facing the abyss.
[Surely you jest (Beyond-anama)… is that a new flavor of ice cream?]
I am sure you can understand that the same thinking which brought us the technological mastery over nature, brought us God… as well. And that those who are with this God are sleeping with the politicians (of whatever stripe), because they are all focused on one thing only…CONTROL!!
Come on now..
“…few people would judge someone harshly who uses deadly force to protect themselves or their loved ones at the moment they are threatened.”
Don’t you think that we and our loved ones are immediately threatened and endangered by those driving this caravan?
Hello Sandy — How’s the weather up your way? Brrrrrr?
“any discussion of God is delusional” That depends what one means by “God”. Besides, discussion is always good, even if the result is sometimes to thoroughly refute an idea.
â€œDonâ€™t you think that we and our loved ones are immediately threatened and endangered by those driving this caravan?â€
I agree completely. At what point does your oppression become so obvious and unbearable that you take up arms against it? When does the frog jump as the water heats? When did some citizens of Germany realize it was time to stop Hitler â€œby any means necessary? Or the US Government decide it was time to go to war against the Nazis?
For more on how my perspective differs from Robertâ€™s see comment #28.
“while the precise metaphor â€œadults of Godâ€ is a bit difficult to dissect, I would simply say that any discussion of God is delusional”
I almost left out that loaded word because it incites knee-jerk reactions from people who hold a narrow image of divinity which, in the broader sense, has been central to all human culture since the first cave paintings. Let’s not confuse divinity or the locus of the sacred (god/goddess/gaia) with the abuse of institutionalized religious authority. That’s literally throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
And there is no misunderstanding of the Swami’s play on words. It simply says that it’s time we grow up as individuals and as a human culture â€“ and that such maturity must be on the spiritual level.
“Donâ€™t you think that we and our loved ones are immediately threatened and endangered by those driving this caravan?”
Sandy and Mike, that you would even ask or agree with this question indicates your willingness, along with Jensen, to engage in pre-emptive warfare and puts you on the same moral plain as abortion clinic bombers and Ted Kaczynski .
Nobody has to have explained to them the difference between authentic self-defense and either revenge or pre-emption, because we all understand that intuitively. If we respond with force to stop an immediate threat at the moment that our life is threatened because there is no time to even consider any other recourse, it is universally understood as self-defense. Anything else is rationalization.
And the convenient illusion that Mike K and Jensen profess is that “they” are responsible (or predominantly so) for our crisis. No one has power over us that we don’t in some way give away by our complicity, our consent or our apathy. And this dysfunctional culture is fed and sustained by the subconscious consent of every one of us. To believe that we have power over “them”, even if just the power to “neutralize” them, is to perpetuate the power-over paradigm.
The only power each of us has is the power to imagine, manifest and live out a different paradigm. The only way â€“ and the power effective way â€“ to change the world is to change our minds. That is the nature of spiritual maturation. Blaming others is the game of adolescence.
Wow. Robert, you say: To believe that we have power over â€œthemâ€, even if just the power to â€œneutralizeâ€ them, is to perpetuate the power-over paradigm.
That is the kind of talk that the politicos, corporatists, and despoilers of our world just love to hear. â€œDonâ€™t blames us, and please donâ€™t do anything to directly oppose us. You new age kids go off and live in wigwams or whatever, just leave us responsible (and blameless!) adults in charge of your world, so we can suck it dry, and leave you with a corpse.â€
If Exxon and the military complex get wind of your thoughts, you may have a lush PR job waiting for you.
Lakota Aloysius Weasel Bear once asked his grandfather, “Grandpa, the White Man is destroying everything, shouldn’t we try to stop him?”
His grandfather replied, “No, it isn’t necessary. We will stand by. He will outsmart himself.”
Who was it that said â€œThe only thing necessary for the
triumph of evil, is for good people to stand by and do nothing”? Elie Wiesel?
And what of all those millions who have struggled and given their lives to end the rule of evil persons throughout history? Are they merely “perpetuating the paradigm of power over”? I guess we are to treat their sacrifices with contempt? New age thinking can sure lead to some bizarre conclusions.
Weasel Bearâ€™s Grandfather reminds me of others who think somebody else, or Nature, or God, or technology will take care of things by and by. That should be really tasty along with that pie in the sky. The great thing about that attitude is that you donâ€™t have to do a damn thing about the problems yourself — just sit back and sound wise.
I think it can de easy to think you can just sit there and let abusers do all they want when you no longer are part of a landbase, and part of a closeknit community, but when you and your loved ones are part of a landbase with “resources” that abusers want, things are different. You don’t have the option of not defending yourself and your loved ones and your land and your culture.
Think of those people who are still living their ancient ways of living in harmony with the land and their people, right now, who are being attacked and invaded by the civilized and their chainsaws, bulldozers and machine guns. They know they have to stop the civilized from destroying them, their land and their culture.
Re Sandy (35) Does Derrick really say that â€œcivilisationâ€ is â€œinherently abusive and violentâ€? To associate civilisation with barbarism is truly perverted.
Re Mike K (39) â€œWhen did some citizens of Germany realize it was time to stop Hitler â€œby any means necessary? Or the US Government decide it was time to go to war against the Nazis?â€
Elements of the US Government, which is dominated by private corporations, never did go to war against the Nazis. They profiteered from trading arms and other materials to the Nazis throughout and profiteered by ensuring Fascists, whether in Germany, Italy or Japan, remained after the war. These profiteers included Jews, similar folk to Bernard Madoff. Millions died, including many good US people.
In many ways each of us who drives a car and flies in jets continues to profiteer from Fascism.
My point is there are psychopathic and psychotic elements in Governments, in communities and in every individual. It is civilisation, a state born of compassion, that enables us to acknowledge these flaws and transcend them. All is connected.
Hi, Dave McArthur,
Here are a couple quotes from Derrick Jensen about civilization, that can be read here,
– “Our way of livingâ€”industrial civilizationâ€”is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.”
– “Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resourcesâ€”gold, oil, and so onâ€”can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.”
– “The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they controlâ€”in everyday language, to make moneyâ€”by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.”
– “From the beginning, this cultureâ€”civilizationâ€”has been a culture of occupation.”
Also, I’d say that if one would define barbarism as an act, or custom that is brutal, cruel, and/or vulgar, then I’d say that civilization is indeed barbaric. From what I read, many indigenous people defined civilized people as barbaric.
Sorry, Mike K, but the author of that quote was Edmund Burke, member of Parliament and the Whig Party and considered the founder of modern conservatism.
And Elie Wiesel, who says “the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference” is an unwavering Zionist who is utterly indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians. Hardly an exemplar of morality.
New Age thinking, is it? The why is it that not a single indigenous wisdom keeper anywhere in the world is advocating a violent response to the despoiling of the earth?
And why is it that those who are, sit comfortably in their middle-class homes feeding the beast they pretend to abhor?
Dave — You of all people should be aware that each of us has her/his own understanding of the word â€œcivilizationâ€. For some it conjures all the wonderful achievements of the best minds and hearts among us. Others focus on the dreadful developments associates with civ, such as wars, enslavement, genocide, nuclear devastation, etc.
The truth is that civ brings both blessings and curses. A one-sided view only leads to misunderstanding. To feel that my version is the only true one generates a arrogant fundamentalism, with all its undesirable consequences.
To expand on my last point – if you are an American and not homeless or destitute, then everything you do perpetuates the problem.
So, for starters, the most effective thing you can do is DO NOTHING.
Stop buying consumer goods and agribusiness food, stop driving and flying, stop any employment that contributes to the Gross National Product, stop paying taxes – and most importantly, stop being an armchair revolutionary.
How many Derrick Jensen fans and acolytes actually walk their talk? Sounds to me like “all hat and no cattle”.
Heard on a local (Wacko, TX)radio show: “The Enviros see resources as a pie. There’s only so many pieces of the pie. What they forget is that God’s Pie has an infinite number of pieces!”
A triumph of reasoning. . .and I also heard a White House spokesman say few days ago on NPR, “We need to expand the pie. . . .”
Poor pie has to serve many masters.
I don’t believe there is a positive correlation between “economic growth” and happiness–so in my mind there is no need to terrify the horses and ladies with visions of “sacrifice” and “cutting back.” Is it truly cutting back when one rejects the hydrocarbon plastic world and turns to those ancient plastics such as clay, wood, and reeds, which we may mold with our own hands, in our own time–recalling that we are Homo Ludens, and acting accordingly–is where real growth lies.
Yawn… another typical eco-weenie bickerfest.
Denouncing overconsumption while studiously ignoring overbreeding is what passes for “intelligent debate.”
Another tedious eco-weenie bickerfest, fearlessly denouncing overconsuming while fastiously ignoring overbreeding.
As if overbreeding isn’t the very foundation of overconsuming.
Heard on a local (Wacko, TX)radio show: “The Enviros see resources as a pie. There’s only so many pieces of the pie. What they forget is that God’s Pie has an infinite number of pieces!”
A triumph of reasoning. . .and I also heard a White House spokesman say few days ago on NPR, “We need to expand the pie. . . .”
Poor pie has to serve many masters.
I don’t believe there is a positive correlation between “economic growth” and happiness–so in my mind there is no need to terrify the horses and ladies with visions of “sacrifice” and “cutting back.” Is it truly cutting back when one rejects the hydrocarbon plastic world and turns to those ancient plastics such as clay, wood, and reeds, which we may mold with our own hands, in our own time.
Recalling that we are Homo Ludens, and acting accordingly–is where real growth lies.
His grandfather replied, â€œNo, it isnâ€™t necessary. We will stand by. He will outsmart himself.â€
Unfortunately, Robert, Weasel Bear was outsmarted, and still awaits, but there might not be many of his tribe left.
Mike… on the other hand, Robert is not wrong… there is no good result from power overing power… it is just a cycle, likethe French, Russian or US revolutions… just replaces one power grid with another
And Misko is correct, there are many indigenous tribes under direct threat of extinction; not to mention the other parts and creatures of the planet
“It is civilisation, a state born of compassion, that enables us to acknowledge these flaws and transcend them. All is connected”
Dave McArthur – I am sorry, but you are truly on another planet.
“And why is it that those who are, sit comfortably in their middle-class homes feeding the beast they pretend to abhor?
Robert, I neither advocate violence, not do I sit comfortably in my Middle Class home…
So then, you sit uncomfortably in your middle-class home?
mike k – definitions are important, sometimes!
Sandy — We don’t live our lives out of dictionaries. We each fill in the meanings of words with the richness or poverty of our lives, our imaginations, our illusions and delusions, our ignorance and misconceptions. All language is poetry, waiting to be interpreted by each for deeper meanings. Socrates had endless fun with folks naive faith in their “definitions” of terms like beauty, or justice, or love.
Sorry Robert, I live in an apartment in Siberia…
Riversong #47 — Are you aware that in responding to the quote about evil and complacency, you simply responded with an ad hominem against Burke and Wiesel? Also the quote said nothing about violence, which you gratuitously brought into your attempted rebuttal, perhaps due to your obsession with it. To try to discuss with you is to be exposed to volleys of these crude rhetorical devices.
Why not just be clear and straight forward in making your points? If you think the quote is invalid, just make your point directly, rather than attacking the supposed speakers of it, or pretending to refute something it did not say.
An apex predator (particularly a techno-apex predator!), by definition, must maintain a small population to be sustainable.
Sadly, few “environmentalists” confront ecological limits with any more integrity than… Rush Limbaugh.
Focused solely on SYMPTOMS of humanoid overbreeding; forever consigned to fanciful ruminations over their inevitable losses.
mike – how can you say definitions are relative; and then demand clarity and directness from Robert?
In a nuclear explosion there are people in close proximity who vanish into thin air. Solid matter one second, scattered gas molecules the next. A little farther away others are consumed in the 200-mph winds of the nuclear firestorm. Like the vaporized they too never really knew what hit them. Those on the periphery will be sparred a violent death. They will die but more slowly, a little time to feel death and to contemplate the end.
Don’t know who first said it, but it amounts to that rarest of circumstances when, “the living will envy the dead”.
The world we live in is on the cusp of a nuclear holocaust, whether it be figurative or the real deal. The figurative bomb is the one Karl Marx warned was endemic to capitalism. Marx called the bomb the system’s internal contradictions. Capitalism has now heated to the point it’s ready to blow. We are sitting on a powder keg.
Capitalism has lived out its destiny to occupy every corner of the globe. So it now stares down the barrel of its most explosive internal contradiction. There is nowhere left to grow and it must grow or die. There are no untapped markets left and every human being, outside of a tiny parasitic ruling clique, has been enslaved. Some are chattel, the rest are slaves to debt.
The system has not been stayed by the world’s working people as Marx hoped and multitudes have dreamed as they laid down their lives for socialism. In its death throes capitalism will launch a killing spree of historic proportions. Millions will be murdered, poisoned, and deprived of lives by way of neglect, deprivation and torture. It will strip the planet of its eons-old carbon layer, burn that carbon layer for fuel and quarterly profits, warm the planet and acidify the oceans until the Earth is uninhabitable.
But because there are divisions in that tiny capitalist ruling clique, humanity may never get to the famines, diseases, floods, droughts, storms, plagues, fires and gulags on the horizon. At some point the US corporate-state directed by Goldman Sachs and the other big banks, or the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party’s state-capitalist apparatus, or Vladimir Putin and the newly minted Russian oligarchs, or the European Union, India, Pakistan or Israel will give in to the panic. That one desperate urge to go it alone, to survive, will take over in one place.
And the nuclear missiles will leave their silos and submarines.
Paul A. Moore,
Khrushchev’s warning (“the living will envy the dead”) remains ominously inspirational.
As for Marx, he launched an endless-growth industrial paradigm and was openly contemptuous of nature — he dismissed the pristine wilderness of the Lousiana Purchase as a “wasteland” awaiting human development.
And Marx, like any endless-growth capitalist, rejected the dire arithmetic of his contemporary, Malthus.
As they say, the rest is history.
Paul#63 — Welcome. Thanks for stating clearly what many of us fear may be a possible outcome of the madness afoot on our precious Earth. Consciously acknowledged, this not at all unlikely scenario should give us an urgent incentive to do â€œeverything we canâ€ as Derrick puts it to avert this ultimate tragedy. Some wise Greeks, and others throughout history have warned us where our growing hubris may ultimately take us. Will we heed them in time? Stay tuned. And by all means wake up fully to the deadly peril we face. Only by fearlessly facing the awful realities of our situation is there any chance of averting the worst outcomes. This is the crucial first step in our possible recovery process. Mad Max, The Road, 1984 — are all desperate attempts to awaken the sleepers on an otherwise runaway train to Hell.
Sandy — A useful definition is like well cooked hash brown potatoes: not to too crispy, and not to mushy. We donâ€™t break our teeth on its unchewable rigidity, but neither do we simply loose the delightful crunchiness in an amorphous mess.
The â€œmiracle of weâ€ as Ken Wilber characterizes it is that we can come to understand each other at all, and truly feel we are together in our mutual perception of anything whatever. A real meeting of minds requires dialogue. This is the only way we can arrive at an assurance that you and I really agree on anything. I need your feedback, and you need mine.
So, I am not foreclosing dialogue with Robert, I am inviting it. I am not feeling safe in my own private set of definitions set in stone. My stance is: letâ€™s explore the possibility of our understanding each other and possibly learning from each other together? I may be wrong or one-sided in my positions, and I need you to help me see if that is the case. In a nutshellâ€ definitions can be very helpful or very deluding, depending on how tightly we hold them. This is why fundamentalism is the death of dialogue.
I will begin by saying that this was a very powerful article. As a psychotherapist I have found that when people, abusers or not, break through what they have been socialized to be to their authentic self change happens.
So, I question Jensen’s ending statement: “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.” If this means what I think it does namely, putting people in some kind of prison, are we not ourselves perpetuating violence?
Sad to say Jensen’s desire to give these people no choice might actually come from the earth herself. Because the pollution that has been created, such as the microwaves used to power the never-ending technology that people seem to think they need, knows no economic or social boundaries, everyone, including the abusers will get to participate in the resulting illness and death.
This is exactly what I have been discussing with others! I am so glad Lundy Bancroft was mentioned. He is fantastic! And the USA is a major abuser. Being a survivor of domestic abuse, I can see the similarities & it disgusts me at how patriarchal & blind the justice system is in benefit of the abuser! Claiming that Corporations are now officially a Person tops off the insanity of this country & its never- ending quest for the destruction of our planet for a dollar.
VestaSue — Thanks for your input. I have briefly checked out Lundy Bancroftâ€™s website, and am in strong agreement with his viewpoint. Perhaps you are familiar with the work of Alice Miller dealing with the pervasive denial in our culture of the widespread violence being perpetrated against children, women, and men in our culture. People have hundreds of ways to avoid, justify, and deny this deep seated feature of our social reality.
Comments on this blog that gloss over or seek to minimize or explain this fatal cultural flaw show that many in our society prefer to live in spiritual daydreams rather than face these disturbing realities. Derrick Jensen kind of sticks our noses in this vile stuff, and many react by trying to evade what he is at pains to show us. Blaming the victims takes many forms, and I have seen a wide selection of these here and elsewhere. Shooting (or abusing verbally) the victims who dare to be messengers to the world of this sickness, is one of the more disheartening forms this ignorant denial takes. One poster recently informed us that victims are, â€œself-chosenâ€. This is on a par with saying rape victims â€œprobably asked for itâ€!
#66 mike k: “I am not foreclosing dialogue with Robert, I am inviting it”
You asked “Are you aware that in responding to the quote about evil and complacency, you simply responded with an ad hominem against Burke and Wiesel?”
In fact, my statements about those two authors were factual and logically appropriate (based on Wikileaks and other reputable sources).
“you gratuitously brought [violence] into your attempted rebuttal”
There is nothing “gratuitous” about discussing the issue that Jensen repeatedly suggests without saying, disguised in his mantra “by any means necessary”.
It was, in fact, a perfect rebuttal to the claim (by Misko) that native communities understand the need for a violent response, to your claim that the universal position of indigenous wisdom keepers (and all spiritual leaders) is “New Age thinking” as you dismissively stated, and to the hypocrisy of those who advocate or defend “any means necessary” from the comfort of their middle-class lives (a la Jensen).
It is you have have been distorting my statements, ignoring my arguments, and attacking my style rather than the substance of my positions or the validity of my logic (“volleys of these crude rhetorical devices”).You are hardly “inviting” dialog, but rather avoiding it. You claim to be open to learning, but fail to even hear arguments which challenge you.
Instead of trying to understand my cogent (hardly “rhetorical”) arguments, you trivialize them into “blaming the victim”. There is a fundamental difference between blaming and not allowing self-professed victims to sidestep their responsibility when they simplify the complexities and subtleties of the world and do that in order to advocate violence.
And there is a world of difference between legitimate self-defense (an argument I’ve made repeatedly, and that no one will dare refute) in a one-to-one situation and using the projection of that mindset onto the whole of society as an excuse for a premeditated campaign of “any means necessary” to bring down the edifice of “the enemy”, the alleged abusing class of people.
You used the term “evil persons”, which also paints the world with the same simplistic brushstroke of “us good guys vs them irredeemable bad guys” which is the black-and-white absurdity of all forms of fundamentalism, and which leads ineluctably toward gratuitous violence. Every perpetrator of violence (outside of a few psychopaths and mercenaries) believes that they are in the right and the other side is dead wrong. There is nothing more dangerous than a zero-sum game.
You claim I am “Shooting (or abusing verbally) the victims who dare to be messengers to the world of this sickness.”
What I have been clearly saying throughout is that Derrick Jensen is a victim only by his own self-definition (victimhood is a mindset â€“ that’s a psychological truism) and his message is a protection of his own inner sickness onto the world around him (this is what all psychologically unbalanced people do who have not healed their own trauma). I am not abusing Jensen, but simply pointing out the foundational sickness of his message, its source and its danger.
Robert — Once again I am going to sign off from trying to respond to your strange ideas. There are no real victims of the world wide violence we are experiencing. Likewise, there are no blameworthy perpetrators of these crimes. And the overall solution to our problems is to do nothing. Got it. Now I know all I need to know. No need to ask any more questions. I am now willing to dwell in the category of those who do not buy your unusual worldview. Over and Out. (Gasp! â€¦It feels so good to be free of this insidious web. How did I let myself be drawn into it again??)
Re Sandy Krolick 54
I am born and bred a resident of Earth, in particular an Anglo-American colony called New Zealand. Cultural reforms of the last two decades mean my country has been reshaped in unsustainable ways to reflect the essence of corporate America. I am increasingly an alien in my own land as it becomes one of the most unsustaining nations on the planet. On the positive side ours is a small country (4 million people) and I have been able to study first hand the psychology of the transformation. In the process I became very aware of the potency of symbols: their power to reflect and generate our state of being; their power to sustain and to destroy us; and their power to enable us to transcend the limitations of our ego and thought processes.
In particular I noted how our symbol use reflects/generates our incredible capacity for self-deceit so we can say one thing and do the opposite or we can deny the change we call for. (This is very common in the so-called Green Movement.)
A brief example of this transformation: the energy symbol. Fifty years ago as a child I was taught energy was the stuff that made the universe work. Children nowadays are taught energy is Bulk-generated electrical products and minerals (oil, gas and coal) that are provided by â€œenergyâ€ corporations. In other words these products are the ultimate vitality and we can use these products as though they are as bounteous as the universe. Also because they are energy we can burn these minerals as we please because the atmosphere is now excluded from the combustion equation. If our use outstrips supply it is not our fault but rather it is an â€œenergy crisisâ€ â€“ energy is the problem.
I watched as the likes of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group dismantled our community structures that owned our freehold local electrical grids (municipal electricity departments and power boards) and replaced them with highly leveraged private corporation structures. These institutions no longer sell electrical products but energy products. We no longer have customer numbers but are energy numbers. We no longer have electricity or mineral departments but companies with arcane names like Genesis Energy, Origin Energy, Contact Energy, Meridian Energy, Solid Energy (coal), Mercury Energy, Top Energy etc.
In doing so we commit the most fatal error possible, which is to confuse energy with a form it may take.
The Electricity Market was â€œderegulatedâ€ and we were given â€œfreedom of choiceâ€. Before these reforms every citizen had a democratic say in how their local electrical grid was used and every community participated in the national Electricity Market. Now not one community in New Zealand owns the intelligence of their local grid or is allowed to participate in the Electricity Market. A handful of private corporations own that intelligence and control the Market.
We see a similar abuse of the science and civilisation symbols. Science and civilisation is blamed for our problems when it is our lack of science and our lack of civilisation or, if you prefer, our barbarism, which is the cause of our problems.
Perhaps you can see a pattern of unsustainable behaviour emerging. Wise folk like the Buddha and Confucius understood and articulated this psychology well thousands of years ago. Combine their insights with those from modern quantum physics and neuropsychology and apply them to our Anglo-American language. A profound malaise becomes obvious, as you can see from this list of symbol uses at http://tinyurl.com/35yytfb And the best cure for the malaise is compassion, especially when we identify it in ourselves.
Riversong, that’s enough.
I’ve never posted on the Orion Magazine website, but I’ve been following your responses since you first posted on The World Gone Mad.
Your responses to mike k have been nothing but ad nauseum repetitions of “I’m cogent, I’m perfectly clear, you just can’t handle me, your criticisms are all wrong, I’m right and you’re wrong.”
“My arguments are cogent.” “My arguments are sound.” “You’re all just trying to justify yourselves.”
That is what you have been repeating, EVERY SINGLE TIME, someone even REMOTELY disagrees with you.
Yes, I’ve actually gone back and counted and read every one of your posts. Every single time, you never admit any fundamental flaw in your own point of view.
It’s dick-comparing and peacock behavior on your part.
mike k has been reaching out to you, and he did in fact attack your arguments, despite your accusations that he’s being emotional. YOU, on the other hand, are attacking his CONCLUSIONS.
mike k has repeatedly admittedly to the possibility that he might be wrong, and said that sometimes both sides might be right.
YOU, on the other hand, argue for the “complexity of the world,” and that there’s no such thing as “good guys” and “bad guys,” but every one of your arguments has been an attempt to paint either Derrick Jensen or mike k or the earlier poster “vera” as a “bad guy!”
You’re doing exactly what you accuse everybody else of doing. I think maybe YOU’RE the one projecting.
Don’t you see the hypocrisy of what you’re doing? You say that mike k is refusing to look in the mirror, but so far he’s been nice to you and YOU have never looked in the mirror, from what I can see, because you think you’re never wrong, ever.
mike k did not say the world was not complex. You are incorrectly summarizing his position.
He said that the responsibility for rape lies with the rapist, not with the woman being raped.
Do you agree with that assertion or do you not?
Do you agree, or do you not agree, that the responsibility for committing an unethical act such as abuse, or rape, or what-have-you, lies with the person who committed an unethical act?
Do you agree or do you not agree that the people responsible for unethical actions are the ones committing the actions? Because if you think that anyone is to blame for rape but the rapist, then you’re not really a believer in personal responsibility at all. You believe in responsibility for those kicked in the face, but not for the ones doing the kicking. That is a bizarre, utterly backwards moral system.
You may be citing a “psychological truism,” but it’s a truism you have uncritically accepted. Did it occur to you that sometimes the field of psychology, or individual psychologists, might be wrong?
Even Judge Judy, a firm right-wing believer in personal responsibility, recognizes where personal responsibility REALLY lies, and she screams at the right people on her show, i.e., the ones actually COMMITTING the crimes, not the ones the crimes affect.
But that notion of personal responsibility seems to have escaped you.
You haven’t contributed anything useful to this discussion since your very first post. All you’ve done is list all the myriad reasons why you’re right and everyone else is wrong, but you offer nothing better.
Do you even WANT to slow down the spread of industrial civilization? If you do not, why are you even here? Why are you posting on Derrick Jensen’s forum if you’re not? If you think Jensen’s course of action is wrong, what COURSE OF ACTION, not TRUISMS, do you support?
You say that Jensen is a victim in his own mind. Let’s assume you’re right, just for the sake of argument. Are you saying that Jensen was never raped as a child? That all of his claims about his father’s behavior are false?
If that’s what you’re claiming, then have the guts to say so. Instead of hiding behind “psychological truisms,” why don’t you just come right out and say, “Jensen is lying, he was never raped, he was never abused, his father is a saint.” If that’s what you think, say so. If you think Jensen is lying about having been raped, say so. Do not use vague generalizations about responsibility, just be courageous and come right out and call Jensen a liar. At least we can have a fruitful discussion that way.
Do not hijack discussions. If you’re going to join a discussion, contribute. If you think everyone on this board is wrong, offer another way! Another course of ACTION, that is. Your vague speeches of where responsibility lies do not move ANY course of action forward. Nothing is being done, and I’m not sure you really want anything to be done.
Because at the moment, Riversong, I think you’re an “agent provocateur.”
You probably don’t know what that means. I’ll explain it.
An “agent provocateur” is even worse than an “enemy.” Because an “agent provocateur” infiltrates a group pretending to be sympathetic, but derails the group’s actions until they can’t accomplish anything.
That seems to be what you’re doing. You knew full well what Jensen’s position was when you posted in response to his articles, but you don’t even bother to argue a better course of action than he is.
You seem to just be happy posting invectives and epithets on the sidelines.
Jensen is willing to be knee-deep in water to save the animals there, according to his last article.
What about you? Either propose to do something, or be quiet.
Oh, and for the record, Riversong, I’m not 100% in agreement with Jensen either. Neither am I 100% in disagreement.
It’s just that I’m taking a different course of action than he is. I’ve attempting to become a librarian, so I can give the population the tools they need to rid themselves of their ignorance.
I don’t believe violence will work either, just like you actually, but since my course of action might take much longer, I won’t be standing in Jensen’s way.
I’m not sure whether or not my way is better than Jensen’s, so I won’t attack him until I find out.
So I’m a disinterested party. I’m not one of his supporters, nor am I one of his detractors.
And from a third-party perspective, you’re the one being unreasonable, not mike k, because you’ve discarded all norms of ethics and decency, you don’t believe responsibility for unethical acts lies with the one committing unethical acts, and you make no commitment to actual discussion, or even CRITICAL THINKING, with anyone, constantly assuming that “you’re being clear and everyone else on this board is just being unreasonable.”
From an outside perspective, Riversong, you behave like a peacock, constantly looking down on everyone but not willing to get your own hands dirty by actually offering an idea.
You wasted a great number of words attacking me rather than arguing my points or positions, and you did so with the same type of intellectual dishonesty that others here are prone to: creating a straw dog in order to serve as a punching bag for your animosity.
Not a single line of your rant accurately reflected any of my statements, and you accuse me of unreasonableness.
If you “don’t believe violence will work” but “won’t be standing in Jensen’s way”, then you are at least tolerant of, if not an enabler, of violence.
We are each and every one responsible for the world we inhabit. No one here has been more assertive than I about personal responsibility, which is denied and avoided by the casting of blame on others, by painting the world with a Manichean brush that knows only black and white, evil and good. That is the technique of the terrorist, not the social change activist.
And I suspect that few here have more of an activist history than I, so for one whose “doing something” manifests as being a librarian to accuse me of inaction is more than a little hypocritical.
Yet it remains true that, for those who are living in the belly of the beast, the first and most important thing to do is a form of “nothing” – as I clearly stated before, it is to stop contributing to what you claim to abhor.
Beyond that, no constructive course of action can be taken until one first sees the world for what it is. And that requires the hard inner work of disempowering one’s own demons so that they are not projected outward.
Jensen clearly has not done that work. I suspect that those of you who are challenged by my words have not done that work either.
As the ancient wisdom goes, “healer, heal thyself”. None can contribute to a better paradigm who has not first healed their own traumas.
If you refuse to recognize or acknowledge your shadows, at least have the decency to not project them onto others.
But, since you and mike and others insist on shadow-boxing, there is nothing more I can say to awaken you.
This seems an appropriate time to quote a passage from Veraâ€™s blog about â€œtrollsâ€ :
Trolls relish sowing chaos, deception and confusion within human communities, and have been known to paralyze them. They generate emotions in others while not investing any of their own. Trolls love to yank peopleâ€™s chains! They feed on the chaotic emotional energy they stir up, and on the attention paid them.
What all trolls have in common is bait: messages intended solely to upset or insult. If people â€œbiteâ€ by getting riled, the troll proceeds to â€œreel them inâ€ and does his best to wreck the conversation and damage the good will within that community. To this end, trolls apply a wide range of havoc wreaking, noise generating methods with great success. Spurious accusations, previous statements twisted into meanings never intended, demands for proof for any and all statements made, requests for information already provided, willful contradictions, off-topic bunny trails, arbitrary word usage redefinitions, or seizing upon small mistakes to subvert the thrust of the main argument; these are just a sample of the rich trollish repertoire. They cultivate the fine art of missing the point, never answer inconvenient questions, and set people up to argue with each other by using subtly invidious language.
If one tack does not produce the desired discord, the creature will switch to another. When an otherwise peaceable community starts fighting, look for a troll loitering nearby. Still, trolls are not all bad; they can liven up a moribund discussion and interrupt groupthink. And dealing with them can foster a communityâ€™s spirit of self-governance. Unfortunately, their positive contributions are far outweighed by the pointless conflict they generate. The trollâ€™s goal is not to win an argument but rather to provoke a futile one that runs forever.
This is from: http://leavingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/disruptors/
Pulling out the “troll” tag is the ultimate ad hominem retort, and the last resort of those who either cannot or will not respond with intellectual honesty.
If I am a “troll” then why did Scott Walker of Orion personally invite me into these discussions? And why does he think my posts are worth sharing with other members of the Orion staff?
And why do you continue to do nothing more than attack my credibility rather than the validity of my statements and arguments?
GoldenRadiance — What a beautiful name. Was it based on some inner experience? Thank you for your support. I do get knocked off center by Robertâ€™s sallies. In spite of knowing better, I repeatedly forget Veraâ€™s admonition to â€œnot feed the trollsâ€. Maybe we can salvage some sanity and civility on this blog if we ignore disruptive comments. On a prior Jensen comments thread we were visited by several Sci-Fi gamers and their weird ideas for a time, but when folks stopped responding to them, they went away.
Thanks again for your support. A group is like a living cell, it must protect itself from disruption in order to grow and thrive.
To Mr. Jensen:
Wow. Excellent writing and zeroing in on the exact attitude at the core of our current destruction of the planet and all life, including our own, that depends on it for survival. As a long time worker in the Domestic Violence movement I can tell you that entitlement by the abuser is THE root cause of family violence and I believe it is the fundamental cause of our abuse of our living systems too. I made this connection in my mind ages ago but could never have put it so well. Thanks.
Iris — Thank you for your excellent comment. I agree with you totally. Who do we Americans think we are? Gods? Overweening pride leads to destruction.