Do We Need a Militant Movement to Save the Planet (and Ourselves)?
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In a phone call with all three authors, I asked them more about whether or not they are advocating for militant action, what is involved in creating a culture of resistance, and what a post-industrial world would look like?
Tara Lohan: The book focuses on achieving a culture of resistance. What do you mean by that?
Lierre Keith: Right now on the Left what we have is an alternative culture, and I would say that is kind of a subculture where you can withdraw from the mainstream and hang out with people who think pretty much like you do and have a whole lot of alternative institutions, but none of your actions and none of your institutions pose a threat to the power structure. You can have a nice life that way and certainly keep your sanity by hanging out with people who agree with you. I think this is a place where a lot of political movements go to die. There are obvious reasons people do this — it is scary to fight back. It feels overwhelming, and I think most people just want comfort. But in the end, we are going to have to dismantle the power structure that is destroying the planet.
So what we have right now is the alternative culture, but what we need is a culture of resistance — we need a culture that is self-consciously oppositional to things like corporate power, capitalism, industrialization and ultimately civilization, because that is the arrangement of power on this planet right now.
Derrick Jensen: In addition, so much of the so-called opposition to the destruction is what I would really term a loyal opposition instead of a real resistance. A couple of ways to look at it — one of them is that what do all the so-called solutions to global warming have in common that are presented in the mainstream in the United States? What they all have in common is, they all take industrial capitalism as a given.
A really great example of this is, back in 1997, I interviewed members of MRTA, a rebel group who had taken over the Japanese ambassador's house in Peru. I was excited to write an article about it. I sent an email to a leading progressive magazine, saying that I was talking to this guy, and I got a call from the editor within a half hour, saying "Hey, this is great. We're really excited about it. What's the article going to be like?" I said it will be about what their demands are for Peru. What they wanted was very simple — to grow and distribute their own food. They already knew how to do that — they just wanted to be allowed to do it. I was talking about that, and she was very excited, and I said, "Also, the core of this is that to really stop empire, you can't just have people in the margins fighting empire, but we have to fight empire at home — we have to breakdown capitalism at its core." Hello? Hello? The response went from enthusiasm to "I need to talk to my editorial board." So I got an email a half hour later, saying "Thanks, but no thanks." There is all this really great talk about how it's important to resist some place else, but when one actually talks about resistance here in the United States, then stone-cold silence.
TL: What you're talking about is the end of life as we know it. This is the only civilization that we've known. In your minds, what does a post-industrial civilization look like? Where does food come from, energy?