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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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But one of the things that he did do is he helped me get a framework on which I could start to understand the larger movements of power in the culture and also the larger ways that discourse supports power. And one of my favorite examples of this is the psychiatrist R.D. Laing came up with the three rules of a dysfunctional family, which are also three rules of a dysfunctional culture. And Rule A is don’t. Rule A-1 is Rule A does not exist. And Rule A-2 is never discuss the existence or nonexistence of Rules A, A-1 or A-2. So what this means, you know, within the sort of corporate news media, is you can talk forever about Dancing with the Stars or, whatever spectacle we want to talk about, but talking about the things that really matter, as in the real physical world, or as in stopping atrocities, against women, and so, that’s one of the things I got from my childhood or that I was able to sift out from my childhood or refine from my childhood is that understanding of how abusive dynamics work.

AMY GOODMAN: Derrick, what is the influence of Native Americans in your writing, in your work, in your activism?

DERRICK JENSEN: It’s another great question. And I have tried not to romanticize them, which is another form of objectification. And what I do know is I know that the Tolowa Indians, on whose land I now live up in way northern California, they lived there for at least 12,500 years, if you believe the myths of science. And if you believe the myths of the Tolowa, they lived there since the beginning of time, using a myth as stories that we tell ourselves that make the world fit together. So, in any case, the Tolowa lived there for at least 12,500 years. And when the dominant culture got there 180 years ago, the place was a paradise. I mean, salmon runs so thick that you could hear them for miles before you’d see them. I learned this recently, that up in Canada, one of the things that people would do for fun when the salmon runs came in is they would throw a little pebble into the water, and they would see how long it would float on the backs of fish before it would hit the ground, because there were so many fish that the rock couldn’t make its way down. And I’m lucky if I see a half-dozen salmon in a year at this point.

One of the things that abusers constantly want us to do is to believe that there is only one way to be, which is theirs. And this is true—you know, there’s the great line—I think it was Václav Havel—the struggle against oppression is a struggle of memory against forgetting. And one of the things we need to remember is that there have been other ways of living that have been sustainable. The Tolowa lived there for 12,500 years, which is sustainable by any realistic measurement. And they didn’t do it because they were too stupid to invent backhoes. You know, why? Why? How did they look at the world differently that allowed them to live? It wasn’t because they were primitives. It wasn’t because they were savages. What did they have? They had social strictures in place.

AMY GOODMAN: Derrick, you’ve written, "Civilization is not and can never be sustainable."

DERRICK JENSEN: Yeah. Several years ago, I was riding around in a car with a friend of mine, George Draffan, with whom I’ve written a couple books. And I was just making conversation. I said, "So, George, if you could live at any level of technology that you want to, what would it be?" And he was not in a very good mood that day, and he said, "That’s a really stupid question, Derrick, because we can fantasize whatever we want, but the truth is there’s only one level of technology that’s sustainable. And that’s the Stone Age. And we’ll be there again some day. And the only question really is, what’s left of the world when we get there?"

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