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Derrick Jensen: Consumer Culture Is Killing the Planet -- We Need to Build a Culture of Resistance

Derrick Jensen on why a society built on non-renewable resources cannot last.

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AMY GOODMAN: Derrick Jensen, deep green resistance, what form should it take?

DERRICK JENSEN: Sometimes I get accused of being the violence guy, because I talk about the capital of fighting back. But I don’t ever think that’s really fair, because I really consider myself the everything guy, that I want to put everything on the table and talk about, you know, all forms of resistance, and decide whether they’re appropriate or inappropriate for use. I don’t want to go in prejudging.

I think, for example, one man, all by himself, almost stopped World War II: Georg Elser. He was a trade unionist who didn’t like what Hitler was doing to the trade unions. So he got a job in a mine, stole some explosives, and he knew every year, on the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, that Hitler would give a speech, and from 7:30 to 8:30, so he set a bomb to go off at 8:20, 1939. And unfortunately, because of the weather, Hitler gave his speech from 7:00 to 8:00 and left 20 minutes early. You know, and we can certainly parse out cases where we think it’s appropriate to have militant response or non-militant response, but something I want to say about all that is that that’s not the real question for me. The real question is the distinction between those people who do something and those people who do nothing.

And I want to emphasize, too, that, for example, even the IRA at its strongest, or the U.S. military, for that matter, only about two percent of the people ever pick up weapons. Most of the people are doing support work. I mean, Maud Gonne was central to the Gaelic literature revival. She wrote plays, and she sang. And her son became the chief of staff of the IRA and later formed Amnesty International. I guess all I’m trying to say is that we need to ask ourselves, what do we want, and then to ask ourselves, how are we going to get there? And those are not rhetorical questions.

AMY GOODMAN: But it's easy resorting to violence. It comes from the model of the establishment. They like to say war is the last resort, but so often it is the first approach that the establishment takes, led by the military—and sometimes not led by. They’re the ones that know the suffering the most, so it’ll just be the civilian government. But do you want to take that model of violence as a way—even a way to deal? I mean, imagine if you took violence off the table, you didn’t answer by saying they’re doing violence, so it has to be met with violence. I mean, from your life, you talk a great deal about your own growing up and the role that violence played and how incredibly destructive it was. Why don’t we go there? Why don’t you talk about how you came to be Derrick Jensen? What has shaped you, influenced you, both negatively and positively? But this issue of violence that is so real, unfortunately is not a metaphor in your life.

DERRICK JENSEN: Well, yeah. My father’s extremely violent—was, presumably still is. I haven’t talked to him for years. And he broke my sister’s arm. My brother has epilepsy from blows to the head. He raped my mother, my sister and me. And we can talk about the negative effects of that. You know, many years of therapy. And we can talk about, you know, the years of insomnia and the night terrors and all that. There are a few people—I know you’re not saying this—but there are a few people who say, "Gosh, he just wants to fight back because he’s projecting his own, you know, helplessness as a child onto larger culture. You know, he hates the big daddy now, the Uncle Sam daddy." And once again, I’m not suggesting you were suggesting that—and that’s always been sort of a kind of a ridiculous critique, I’ve thought, because if my father would have been perfect, 90 percent of the large fish in the oceans would still be gone, and Coca-Cola would still be destroying aquifers in India, and 25 percent of all women in this culture would still be getting raped. And, you know, we could go all down the list.

 
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