Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Derrick Jensen | Endgame: The Problem of Civilization



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S y n o p s i s 

This is an interview for our time. It is an important contribution to radial environmentalism, direct action and understanding the underlying subterranean currents that transpire to make up western culture as we know it today.

Endgame asks the question and then attempts to solve it: Do you believe that our culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living? If the answer is no what then is to be done about it?

Willing or not, ready or not the human species is involved in an all-out, no holds barred war against the dominant culture, western culture. Most people are not competitors, they are the stakes. The spoils, no less, is every living, beating heart and every soul of sentient life upon the planet. The effects of the dominant culture are obvious in every polluted river, the devastation of wildlife, destruction of habitat, the loss of the Coho salmon, dioxin in every mother's breast milk and the habitat of great grizzly bear to name but a few examples from the book. Derrick Jensen wants that turned around. No one can be exempted from the dominant cultures effects. No sector of our lives remains untouched. No sector of any non-humans life remains untouched. Endgame invites us to fight back.

Sure, Jensen recognizes that to ensure the bone and marrow of the dominant cultures value system, the central mechanism must exclusively fixate on human worth and human values exclusively and to achieve this end, indoctrination or "education" from womb to tomb is mandatory. On one hand there must be a constant reinforcement of the dominant cultures ideals with an emphasis on each individuals total dependence on a system that has a death urge and is killing us, the land, the non-human animal kingdom and sentient life all at once.

Endgame's piece de resistance is in exploring this death urge and then finding ways to resist it. Jensen has gone there before us and saw that mid-wifed by the entrepreneur, the banker, the technocrat, the scientists and ultimately the lawyer of the dominant culture, this sane and sustainable way of living can not, will not, be born from between the printed sheets of pacts and agreements; joint ventures and mergers; contracts and covenants and international treatises signed and countersigned by the political bureaucrat.

Endgame neither lacks cultural resonance or political closure. It engulfs both.

Jensen's genius is such that he is capable of providing a spiritual dimension to the ecological project. The Machine's lifeblood sets anonymous abstractions like `productivity' and `efficiency' far above human, non-human and planetary needs and it's this the kind of culture Jensen seeks not to reform but to demolish.

Endgame identifies vested interests which survive by controlling the state, the western "productive" apparatus and the institutions of "civilized" life that are by their very nature parasitic and predatory. This in turn plays upon the consciousness of the individual that sets up expectations with strategies of repressive normalization that imposes false needs on individuals. True needs are clean water, air, food and lodgings at some ecologically sustainable level of culture.

The world is on the brink of a human catastrophe of unprecedented proportions and the critical mass, the western intellectuals, along with activists working within the system have fallen prey to malaise and inaction. An unspoken theme running throughout Derrick Jensen's work is how to connect the microcosm with the macrocosm. In this he articulates a type of spirituality that is not transcendent as such, but is based squarely on our connection with the land and defending that same land-base and the ones we love. His work fosters biodiversity, respect and responsibility for the land and for indigenous people. He knows that indigenous peoples demands for rights to their biodiverse environments are direct challenges to the way in which hegemonic political discourse of the Machine and traditional critiques of capitalism are framed today.

Endgame recognizes the living force of new ideas or a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living incarnated into political culture, as it now stands, is impossible. What Endgame proposes is the antithesis of the dominant cultures political structure and therefore has to be worked at from outside the system.

In fact an influx of living ideas, such as Endgame has produced, into the existing political structure is a direct threat to that structure. Derrick Jensen has said that what he wants is the fall of civilization and he's not kidding. He's not interested in "democratic egalitarianism" or a style of "liberal democracy". He's called for a revolution but who, the next question is asked, has heard the call?

Endgame knows that the dominant culture has no moral base and never did have, as a mooring point for any system of government, because it does not require it for its specific functioning. What currently passes for a moral base is nothing more than pressing needs calling for immediate action that are responded to on a situation by situation basis. Jensen makes a convincing case for its opposite - a relationship that is symbiotic, constant and intimate with the earth, others and living nature.

The dominant culture is a malignancy that will keep devouring new resources even if that means undermining the very body - nature herself - upon which it depends. How are the specifics of that to be best understood?

B i o 

Derrick Jensen is an activist, philosopher, teacher, author, and leading voice of uncompromising dissent, who holds degrees in creative writing and mineral engineering physics. In 2008, he was named one of the Utne Reader's "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World," and in 2006 he was named Press Action's Person of the Year for his work on the book Endgame.

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