Endgame

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Derrick Jensen’s newest book, Endgame, is a raucous, polemical, rambling, articulate, angry, relentless, radical, poetic, fearless and brilliantly-argued tirade against civilization, its excesses and its unsustainability. The first volume reiterates arguments from Jensen’s earlier work (notably A Language Older Than Words) why civilization cannot be reformed and must end, while the second volume presents a sort of blueprint for bringing it down.

Jensen is through talking and arguing, and the purpose of this book is to recruit those who are ready to fight civilization to its knees. In the process, he goes over all the arguments one more time, raising the arguments of deniers, apologists, “addictive copers”, pacifists and defeatists who say civilization is doing fine, doing its best, the only game in town and/or impossible to defeat in any case, and deconstructing these arguments. He argues that while civilization is toxic and irredeemable, humanity is not. He argues, taking a surprisingly catholic view, that we are too kind to abusers, from polluters to CEO fraud artists to factory farmers to rapists to strip miners to animal experimenters to clear-cutters to dam builders to psychopathic warmongers, that that kindness merely feeds these abusers’ sense of entitlement to continue their abuse, and that the only solution for them is to give them no other choice but to radically change their ways.

He calls upon each of us to exercise outrage, understanding and personal responsibility and join him:

I consider myself answerable to — responsible to — the humans who will come after, who will inherit the wreckage our generation is leaving to them…I can sometimes lie to myself…But to them, to all of those to whom I hold myself responsible — I could never lie. To them, and for them, I give my brightest, deepest truth.

So how do you know if you’re ready to join him? Jensen lays out 20 premises, which are well-defended at length in the book’s two volumes. If you buy these premises, without even having to read the book, you’re probably ready. If you think you could be convinced, buy the book(s) and find out. Here are the 20 premises:

Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

Premise Two: 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 resourcesógold, oil, and so onócan be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

Premise Three: Our way of livingóindustrial civilizationóis based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Premise Five: 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 controlóin everyday language, to make moneyóby 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.

Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilization to crashóor the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it downóthe messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.

Premise Eight: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system.

Another way to put premise Eight: Any economic or social system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) requires the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it from damaging your landbase.

Premise Nine: Although there will clearly some day be far fewer humans than there are at present, there are many ways this reduction in population could occur (or be achieved, depending on the passivity or activity with which we choose to approach this transformation). Some of these ways would be characterized by extreme violence and privation: nuclear armageddon, for example, would reduce both population and consumption, yet do so horrifically; the same would be true for a continuation of overshoot, followed by crash. Other ways could be characterized by less violence. Given the current levels of violence by this culture against both humans and the natural world, however, itís not possible to speak of reductions in population and consumption that do not involve violence and privation, not because the reductions themselves would necessarily involve violence, but because violence and privation have become the default. Yet some ways of reducing population and consumption, while still violent, would consist of decreasing the current levels of violence required, and caused by, the (often forced) movement of resources from the poor to the rich, and would of course be marked by a reduction in current violence against the natural world. Personally and collectively we may be able to both reduce the amount and soften the character of violence that occurs during this ongoing and perhaps longterm shift. Or we may not. But this much is certain: if we do not approach it activelyóif we do not talk about our predicament and what we are going to do about itóthe violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.

Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.

Premise Eleven: From the beginning, this cultureócivilizationóhas been a culture of occupation.

Premise Twelve: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people. There are just people. The rich may have lots of pieces of green paper that many pretend are worth somethingóor their presumed riches may be even more abstract: numbers on hard drives at banksóand the poor may not. These ìrichî claim they own land, and the ìpoorî are often denied the right to make that same claim. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world.

Premise Thirteen: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.

Premise Fourteen: From birth onóand probably from conception, but Iím not sure how Iíd make the caseówe are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homesóand our bodiesóto be poisoned.

Premise Fifteen: Love does not imply pacifism.

Premise Sixteen: The material world is primary. This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences. It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of Godís eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves. It means that for the time we are here on Earthówhether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live hereóthe Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.

Premise Seventeen: It is a mistake (or more likely, denial) to base our decisions on whether actions arising from these will or wonít frighten fence-sitters, or the mass of Americans.

Premise Eighteen: Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.

Premise Nineteen: The cultureís problem lies above all in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.

Premise Twenty: Within this culture, economicsónot community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itselfódrives social decisions.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: If you dig to the heart of itóif there were any heart leftóyou would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.

For those who are ready, but might think the task hopeless, the odds too overwhelming and the opposition too powerful, Jensen argues that doing something meaningful and effective to undo the damage of civilization is remarkably easy, because civilization is so power-concentrated and overextended that it’s brittle, fragile and hugely vulnerable, constantly fighting an endless battle against the very laws of nature and of thermodynamics. “There is no fighting force in the world that can survive the death by a thousand cuts of a dedicated partisan movement”, he quotes one expert in guerrilla warfare as saying.

Undoing dams, blocking deforestation, hacking systems, interrupting distribution and power generation systems, “breaking the people’s faith” in the reliability and viability of the entire economic and political system, undermining leveraged and overextended corporations, and wearing down imperialist, corporatist infrastructure by strategic and repeated industrial sabotage — all of these are activist tools to take down civilization, and the longer we wait to start this action in earnest, the more horrific the inevitable collapse of civilization will be. And these offensives together are just one of six simultaneous thrusts that we must undertake, in small, loosely knit, locally focused groups, to mitigate the terrible and unavoidable fallout of civilization’s collapse. The other five are:

  • changing ourselves (eerily similar to what I called Let-Self-Change in my post earlier this week) to be informed and ready to do what we must
  • healing and relieving the pain inflicted by civilization
  • defending against the incessant attacks of civilization on our land, resources and persons
  • restoring and remediating the damage that civilization has already wrought
  • preparing to resist future attacks, planning additional offensives, and getting ready for the collapse and life after it

So we have six roles to choose from, depending on our competencies and passions. And throughout the world, especially in some struggling nations, the resistance has already begun in earnest and its champions have a great deal to teach us about how to fight the dragons of civilization and win.

So where do I stand on all this? I admire Jensen’s bluntness, and his courage (he suffers from Crohn’s disease, the more sinister sister disease to my ulcerative colitis, so he’d have some easy excuses for staying on the sidelines of the war against civilization if he wanted to take them, and he doesn’t). I love his 20 premises and find their logic compelling, even unassailable.

Am I ready to join him? Depending on the role, yes and no. I am not yet ready to be a radical activist, to take what would be perceived as violent steps to counter the outrages of civilization. I am not sure why not. I would certainly rejoice to see the end of dams and factory farms and imperialist wars and megapolluters and corporatism and animal testing and other monstrous abuses of power and wealth. I would celebrate and support those who took offensive action to bring such ends, provided the violence was measured, not gratuitous, and not disproportionate to the violence it was countering. But I suspect that, at heart, and despite my outrage, I am no warrior myself. And I am not by nature an enforcer.

I am going through a huge self-change process right now, as regular readers are aware. I suspect it will leave me just as radical in my beliefs but more modest in my self-expectations, more focused on what I can do that will make a real difference now and for future generations within my own communities. I think it will leave me better able to coach others who are changing themselves to be ready for the struggle and collapse ahead, and to help develop models that will help future generations cope with the aftermath of that collapse.

Perhaps that means I won’t be on the front lines of Jensen’s war. But I wouldn’t count me out yet. We do what we must, and my guess would be that as the bankruptcy of our culture becomes more apparent to millions and then billions, and the army that is prepared to bring it down before it brings us all down swells, I won’t be able to resist being in the middle of things. My gift is imaging possibilities, and my purpose is provoking change. I’mgoing to be needed. So are you.

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40 Responses to Endgame

  1. Florid says:

    I the fan of beautiful photos. It is very beautiful photo with the nature!

  2. Karen M says:

    I’m afraid I can’t argue with any of his points, either. But think of the loss of the internet… it’s had a huge impact on my lie.Without it, none of us would likely be reading your words so easily. Nor Jensen’s, either, I guess. A strange notion, to use the distributive power of the internet (and of publishing) to facilitate the crash of civilization.

  3. Raging Bee says:

    Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means, given that “civilization” — another nebulous and abstract concept which you seem unwilling to define, BTW — has done a pretty good job of sustaining itself for lo these many centuries.Premise Three: Our way of living

  4. Shannon F. says:

    I have to agree with some of the points raised in the comments above by Raging Bee. I think Jensen has some cogent arguments, but he is in danger of fighting fire with fire, becoming the enemy he fears. The way to create new systems is to CREATE, not randomly destroy. And while I wholeheartedly admire the (mostly) young ecowarriers who camped out in trees to save them from being cut, I think the sabotage called on to destroy human technology and infrastructure is just a kind of civil war. I am for peace, not war. We need to be making our cities bike-friendly, teaching people how to grow and cook whole foods, ensuring that our water sources stay clean and safe, allowing children time to connect with the nature that is still left, etc. There are so many things to do that will support life, even in the midst of coming catastrophes. I do not believe in Jensen’s basic premise that there is a fundamental, black & white dichotomy between “civilization” and “traditional.” Neither has all the answers. Trying to put 6+ billion people into brand new traditional communities – I don’t think so. What I do think is that we should constantly be reading, thinking, talking, meditating on ways to combine the best of both of these ways of life. All or nothing is too simplistic.I am the mother of a small child and I am trying to teach her to love life, even as she is learning to participate in society as we know it. I know the challenges she faces in her life will be awesome and perhaps awful. I think she will be better served acting out of love than out of anger.

  5. Siona says:

    Shannon, I wholeheartedly agree.I have tremendous respect for Jensen, but I’m wary of the way he sets up civilization as something external to us. Civilization is not something out there; rather, it is just us, and doing battle with it makes as much sense as declaring war on our own minds. We are the system; the system is not other, and it’s through the ownership and recognition and responsiblity this entails that peace will come. Fostering respect and love and community, and learning how to connect deeply with those around us, and to recognize that the systems of our own human bodies are not separate from the systems of the environment (from the institutions and cities we live in to the biosphere as whole), is, to my mind, a far better path than Jensen’s angry reactivity.It give me hope that others feel the same.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Karen: Yeah, I think it’s a have your cake and eat it too issue. My sense is that the Internet will not, alas, survive the crash anyway, so might as well use it as a method to mitigate some of the crash’s horrors.Shannon: I recommend you read the book, or the earlier A Language Older Than Words. Jensen addresses your concerns in painstaking detail. I originally thought as you did, and he changed my mind.RB: Geez, can’t you come up with anything new? You’ve made these same points ad nauseum, and you’re once again getting offensive and personal in your comments. You should call yourself Raging Drone.

  7. Everyone keeps telling us that the collapse is coming. It is like telling us that Armageddon is coming. I agree with Angry Bees and I think Jensen is just using the same mentality of violence to change the systems in place. It is like the slave who become free then becomes a slave owner. There need a consciousness shift and we need to work together to come up solutions of change. The Internet can bring us together to do this. MIT is starting the distribution of the $100 dollar laptop and we are going have a huge explosion in creativity to our problems.

  8. scruff says:

    Raging Bee; your displeasure with the vagueness of the premises is understandable, but what you’re responding to is not the entireity of Jensen’s work, Endgame. The premises are almost like chapter headings, and in the two volumes he expands upon each point at an exhausting length. If you were to take a look at the books, I think you’d find that your objections are all addressed within. Shannon; we are already at war. You seem to value whole foods, but the reality of civilization is that topsoil-destroying monocrop agriculture using tons of oil/gas derived fertilizers and chemicals is necessary to support the system in which we currently live. You seem to value clean water, but the reality of our technology is that our industries produce pollution in vast quantities, and it has to go somewhere. You seem to want your child to grow up with access to the natural world, but the reality of the trends we see is that the natural ecosystems are being destroyed every day. Ocean dead zones, overfishing, global warming, deforestation… the destruction must be stopped or there will be nothing left for her to connect to. Siona; the path you believe to be better than Jensen’s angry reactivity is in fact a part of Jensen’s path. You say we should recognize that the systems of our own human bodies are not separate from the systems of the environment and Jensen devotes large chunks of writing to saying exactly that. But however much an individual becomes – for want of a better word – enlightened, that doesn’t stop the destructiveness civilization brings. For all the good ideas Dave and everyone in this comment thread may have, brown people are still being blown up by cluster bombs, forests are still being clearcut, the air is still being filled with chemicals, the rivers are still being polluted, people are still being tortured, women and children are still being raped, still being enslaved, mountaintops are still being razed, wetlands drained, you name it it’s being destroyed. What Jensen’s book Endgame asks is, what are you going to do about it?

  9. Karen M says:

    Ooops! I meant: “it’s had a huge impact on my life.”What’s interesting, Dave, even though it is such a small sample, is that both you and Jensen have similar diagnoses, whether his is worse or not. Although I don’t have a “formal” diagnosis (since I backed out of the system, somewhat), I was told I probably have some kind of IBS/IBD. Others have guessed celiac, but the “tests” said no. (I manage via diet, without drugs (exc BCP) to keep symptoms at bay or at least under control most of the time.)Sometimes I feel a bit like a canary in a coal mine, but instead of dangerous vapors, I have succumbed to the indigestibility of modern, industrialized food. No one who hasn’t experienced it can really understand how it feels when your body, and specifically, your gut, is constantly telling you no, no, no. No to what should be the most basic of human activities. Eating & digesting food. It’s modern, industrialized food that’ll kill us all eventually, just some faster than others. (My late grandmother, who died at 93, would say that we dig our graves with our teeth. Or maybe our forks.)Yet, without the internet, I’d never have found much of the information I needed to survive. I like your idea of trying to use it to mitigate whatever might be coming our way. Humanity has survived dark ages before, and those Irish monks kept a lot of culture from being completely lost. Perhaps the internet is something like that for now. Maybe I should use a printer more often, though. ;~) (I saw Al Gore’s movie, and it looks as if our house, which currently is on pretty high ground, might become waterfront property sometime in the future, unless we can get some new political leadership. Bush will do nothing, as will the current, and (he hopes) future minority leader of the House, Blunt, who says the whole climate issue is just a scam. Gore is optimistic that with proper leadership, it isn’t too late to turn things around. I would like to believe that, too, but… )

  10. scruff says:

    I’m sorry about that unreadable lump of text. I didn’t realize I’d have to put paragraph breaks in manually. I’ll try to do better next time.

  11. Karen M says:

    I only saw scruff’s post afterwards. However, what he highlighted from Siona’s: recognize that the systems of our own human bodies are not separate from the systems of the environment is, in a sense, what I was just saying. For some of us, our bodies are telling us just how sick the whole system is. We can’t ignore it, or deny it, or even drug or wish it away. It’s just there. Period. And the things he (?) mentions at the end, only turn the already distressed stomach even more.

  12. scruff says:

    Sorry about your stomach, Karen. For me, it’s been something resembling “chronic fatigue syndrome” which I haven’t had any particular treatment for since I’m one of the unlucky ones with no health insurance. Don’t know if you’re interested, but I can point you to an interesting article on this subject by Jason Godesky – on how civilization makes us sick .

  13. Siona says:

    Karen: I have celiac disease, and I’ve used that coal mine analogy frequently. Current ‘treatments’ merely amount to putting an oxygen mask on the poor bird. The creature might survive a bit longer, but this just means the real issue gets worse. We need out of the mine.Scruff: What am I going to do about it? I wrote a very short response to an earlier post that Dave had written about Endgame here.I know that this attitude doesn’t come with the militant immediacy of Jensen’s plan, but I’m quite confident that it’s the more sustainable route, and that it will propogate the mentality essential to future generations. Instigating revolts will only lead to more reactions further down the line, as people fight to ‘reclaim’ what was ‘torn from them’ from enviromentalists. Wasn’t it Dave who wrote here that “You can’t jam the culture”? We can’t jam the culture because we are the culture, and transformation must come from within.

  14. Mariella says:

    My take is that the modern system, (including whatever), is much too big, complex and complicated, to be defeated confronting it and trying to destroy it

  15. Karen M says:

    Wow, thanks, everyone. I was thinking about my last comment (written just before running out the door to catch a train) while running an errand and the co-incidences in this thread (not surprising at this site), and how it (for me) really ties together Dave’s notion of “let-self-change” and the title of his blog, “How to save the world,” that we must each start with ourself. Some more concretely than others. Still, it’s really interesting how many of Dave’s readers’ bodies are telling them “enough is enough.” Thanks for all of the links to follow up on.Scruff, sorry about your lack of insurance. To be honest, though, it’s the “treatment” that I pay for out of pocket that mostly makes a difference in my life. Perhaps there’s some way you can still get some kind of holistic therapy… not “cheap,” they are still less expensive than MSM. Siona, I took a quick peek at your post, but not at the longer comment. I will later. Right now, I have to take a walk and then eat something!!!How to save the world? Start with yourself!

  16. zach says:

    I am not sure why not.Quite seriously, would you be alive today if not for this evil civilization? I doubt it. Why? Pre-1900 average life expectancy in N.A. was 47.3 years. You’re past that already. How about if you took no drugs for your U.C.? No modern medical treatment? And you certainly wouldn’t be posting this nonsense on the internet. And not one ounce of gratitude. How is spreading this anger good for you? Do you enjoy it? Why are you doing this? …You never talk about your father Dave.

  17. Siona says:

    Zach. I see a great deal of gratitude in Dave’s posts. I see a suffering and sweetness and soulfulness and love for this planet, and the people on it, that’s deep and beautiful and strong. I do like your observation about spreading anger; I’m not inclined to see much value in propogating vitriol or in attempting to externalize something that’s deeply in us. Still, I think it’s unfair to make accusations of ungratefulness, and I’m not sure what is gained by making a jab at Dave’s family history.

  18. Anna Other says:

    Sonia, saying that “We are the system; the system is not other, and i’t’s through the ownership and recognition and responsiblity this entails that peace will come.” is great in theory, but who is this ‘we’ anyway ? If you can prove you are part of this powerful ‘we’ by cancelling the wars in Iraq, Lebannon, Afghanistan etc for all the rest of us (just as a starter) I will be very impressed and join your ‘we’. If writing nice letters to your democratic representitive and voting for the right people and signing petitions doesn’t work what are you going to do then ? It seems like an argument leading to total abdication of personal responsibilityThanksAO

  19. Anna Other says:

    ZachA quick comment on your post to Dave. If you were an animal kept trapped in artificial surroundings or a prisoner in a cell, fed and doctored but not free, maybe you might have some gratitude to your captors that things were not worse, but to accept your inprisonment with nothing but gratitude (and to exhort your fellow prisoners to do the same) seems wanting in courage. It is true that life expectancy has increased (for a tiny priveliged minority of the human population) over the last couple of hundred years but it is generally acknowleged that these life expectancies are only just reaching the pre civilization (pre-agricultural) levels. Furthermore, life expectancy is declining now as cancer and other diseases attributable to industrialization are becoming more widespread which is a trend which will continue as the total toxixity of the environment increases.

  20. Anna Other says:

    Sonia, sorry if I sounded harsh but it seemed that by identifying yourself with the system you might in some way be setting yourself up to take blame for its actions. I believe you are well intentioned but I suggest that illusion of “democracy” that surrounds us is nowadays little more than a ploy to distract us from examining a de-facto autocracy and that a vote for the republicrats or the democans will change nothing.

  21. Anna Other says:

    Please accept my re-post with line breaks added !! Raging Bee, I would like to answer a few of your points.Far from being a ‘nebulous and abstract concept’a quick google reveals Mr Jensen’s working definition as being “I would define a civilization much more precisely, and I believe more usefully, as a culture-that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts-that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from latin civitatis, meaning state or city), with cities being defined-so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on-as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.” I do not believe “persistent and widespread” require any special definitions. “The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system” is NOT an nebulous abstraction, it is just obvious. The economic system exists by taking raw materials from the natural world surrounding it. A trashed planet incapable of providing useful raw materials cannot support ANY form of economic system. “they don’t have to keep using force against everyone 24/7” True, but the THREAT of force is always there. As a simple example, if taxation were purely voluntary and not backed up with any threats of force I predict that available tax revenues would drop to a fraction of a percent of what they are now. If shops stopped prosecuting shoplifters and laid off all their gaurds and relied only on customers goodwill to make them pay then levels of stealing would skyrocket. Industrial civ has NOT done a “pretty good job of sustaining itself for lo these many centuries” Say rather that in an incredibly short space of evolutionary time civilisation (and especially industrial civilisation) has brought the natural world to the brink of ruin. How much more damage do you think the natural world can sustain, considering economies (earth cancers) are still growing ? This is a genuine question Raging Bee, not rhetorical. How mich more damage do you think the earth can sustain ? “The system” won’t really collapse on its own, like we say it will” Well, I am personally certain that the system WILL collapse. Climate change, oil depletion and ecosystem collapse are happening right now. I believe that the reason Mr Jensen proposes hastening that collapse is to allow the earth a chance to heal. The longer the collapse is delayed the worse shape the planet will be in afterwards.

  22. Siona says:

    Anna!No offense taken! I wholeheartedly agree with your views on democracy, and you in fact came close to putting your finger on exactly what I was trying to say.It’s not that I wish to take blame for the system, it’s that I want to take responsibility for it. There’s a difference. While I’m able to say I live a lifestyle that’s far more low-impact than most, I do, nonetheless, live in the US. The food I buy is transported using oil that’s come at the cost of the situation in the middle east. The mere fact of my posting online, here, means that tremendous areas of the global south continue to be raped for the resources to maintain the computers on which the Internet depends. My taxes go toward supporting the largest military-industrial complex in the world.Who is this we? Every single human being on the entire planet, or at least every one who engages, in however minute a fashion, with whatever it is you consider civilization.When I say that we are the system, I don’t mean in some shallow democratic or “American” sense. I mean it literally; that the system is the product of our collective thoughts and beliefs and the actions that arise from those thoughts. It’s painful to accept this — to look at what really amounts to one’s darkest shadow and to look at the abuses wreaked on the world and to admit my own complicity — but accepting it and grieving it has made me so, so much more committed to reducing that harm and to supporting the generation of as much love and understanding and compassion as I can. The more we all recognize this interconnectivity, the more we’ll act in concert – as a system – to do less harm to our collective selves.You know, it occurs to me that the best way to hasten the collapse is not by undoing dams and blowing up power plants, but by singlemindedly using all the power and resources we can. Our electrical plants are already overtaxed; ditto the situation with gas; ditto our food sources, etc. If we all really commit to living lives of gross excess, we’ll have Jensen’s hoped-for collapse in no time — and there’s be no way any objectors could possibly try to re-implement what was lost! (Um. Tongue in cheek. I am – mostly – kidding.)

  23. Dave Pollard says:

    Really interesting thread, thanks, everyone. Interesting how an article on civilization ended up focused a lot on personal illness and environmental diseases. Complexity has a way of converging a lot of not-yet-accepted ideas from many different areas of impact. Thanks especially to those who have replied to Jensen’s critics — you’ve done a good job. I strongly recommend that those who are so quick to criticize Jensen’s radicalism and willingness to consider violence in certain circumstances would read his books, rather than basing their comments on my reviews and synopses. You especially Zach — you really don’t get it at all. Pre-civilization humans lived a happier, more leisurely, and much healthier life than at any point of civilization. And although median life expectancy of pre-civilization humans was only 40 years, the half that lived longer (the ones that weren’t eaten) lived largely disease-free lives (no tooth decay, no diabetes, no heart disease, no cancer, no back pain) until they died. The average life expectancy in civilized Rome was 17. So we should be grateful for what civilization has given us?

  24. Jakob says:

    When reading the Jensen quotes I instinctively feel angry – prepostorous claims with little or no backup, merely based on gut-feelings and a world outlook where everyting is either black or white, for or against. Just try replacing civilization/culture with ‘Islam’ and suddenly his rethoric feels rotten (I have never understood the point of religion myself or why it deserves any respect – this was just an example). But maybe – as has been written in earlier comments – I just don’t get it. Civilization is the only thing I know. But I am sensible and human enough to question my own belief system every once in a while. Therefore I will endavour to read some of Jensen’s work even if I my own views and beliefs on the methods are diametrically opposed to his – as we seem to have a similar idea as to what the end result should be: A happy, healthy population living in perfect harmony with its ecosystems.I think the claim that Pre-civilization humans lived a happier, more leisurely, and much healthier life than at any point of civilization is a naive and romanticised idea at best. How could we possibly know? And Anna Other, were are the figures to back up your claim that life expectancy is declining?On the notes of IBS and related disease – with all due respect Dave, I’ve read some old posts and I cannot believe the crap you eat and the irregularity of meals. I haven’t followed your blog for a while now, but I sincerely hope you’ve sorted out your diet.

  25. Raging Bee says:

    The economic system exists by taking raw materials from the natural world surrounding it.ALL living things exist by this means, “system” or no “system.” Hunter-gatherers ate berries and animal-flesh and excreted stuff that had to be dumped somewhere because it was useless, foul-smelling, and disease-ridden. Primitive agrarian tribes farmed one bit of land to exhaustion and moved on to find other land. The “economic system” is merely the modern means of doing what living things always do.Pre-civilization humans lived a happier, more leisurely, and much healthier life than at any point of civilization.And their happiness is reliably measured and reported…how? Would YOU be happy doing nothing but hunting and gathering all your life? How was the night-life? And if they were so happy, why did they take up technology and become civilized?And although median life expectancy of pre-civilization humans was only 40 years, the half that lived longer (the ones that weren’t eaten) lived largely disease-free lives (no tooth decay, no diabetes, no heart disease, no cancer, no back pain) until they died.Where do you get the documentation to prove any of that? If their lives were so clean and disease-free, why didn’t they live longer? And if they were so happy, why aren’t more people emulating their lifestyle today?BTW, the examples you cite (tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, back pain) tend to afflict older people. Not living long enough to get an old person’s disease is not my idea of a better quality of life.Let’s face it: the “system” won’t collapse altogether, for the simple reason that too many people depend on it to let it go down. The sooner we get over these escapist apocalyptic fantasies, the sooner we can get down to some real solutions. We need to improve our technology in order to meet our needs without robbing our neighbors or destroying our ecosystem (wind power, solar power, safer nuclear power, cleaner engines, better recycling of waste-matter, soil conservation, etc.). And we also need to change our own behavior (eating better, and more reproductive/sexual freedom, which is known to reduce birthrates).And if that’s not enough, there’s a few uninhabited planets nearby to take our excess population and provide more raw materials…

  26. Karen M says:

    Hey, Dave: I just found something hopeful for you… Here’s an ordinary news story, from an ordinary MSM paper, which is on its own just one reason to feel some hope. These kinds of initiatives are how changes get made. (Think about no-smoking rules & regs, for example. I can remember when it felt hopeless to be almost the only non-smoker!)By itself it’s not enough, but it’s still a good thing.On the other hand… if not enough of this kind of thing happens to keep prevent our reaching the tipping point… I do agree with Anna about the collapse:

    “The system” won’t really collapse on its own, like we say it will” Well, I am personally certain that the system WILL collapse. Climate change, oil depletion and ecosystem collapse are happening right now. I believe that the reason Mr Jensen proposes hastening that collapse is to allow the earth a chance to heal. The longer the collapse is delayed the worse shape the planet will be in afterwards.

  27. zach says:

    Pre-civilization humans lived a happier, more leisurely, and much healthier life Really? Where is your proof? I don’t believe this claim is based in reality at all. But the grass is always greener… You seem to want everyone to believe the world sucks, i.e. people suck, and there is some place where life is not suffering. As for freedom, I think I am probably more free than any humans ever have been. It is my choice, mine, as to what I do and how I live. There is nothing to struggle against, you are free. I don’t know how to show people this…

  28. Anna Other says:

    Hi All, thanks Siona.Raging BeeYou said ALL living things exist by this means, “system” or no “system.”……The “economic system” is merely the modern means of doing what living things always do.This is not quite true because BEFORE agriculture soil fertility was being naturally built up year after year. Agrigulture is a set of techniques to tap into and plunder thet stored fertility. Forests are cut to make agricultural land. After a few hundred years intensivly farmed agricultural land becomes exhausted and turns to desert because all the stored fertility is used up. Sure, everything eats, but in a natural system everything returns to the soil (rather than to landfill via the economy). Shit is NOT waste it is fertilizer. Any farmer of gardener will tell you that. It is part of the cycling that makes nature work.And you never answered my question. How much more damage do you think the earth can sustain ?? well ??I have not got any links primary sources to hand to show that pre agricultural societies were healthier and more long lived but I will search and post them. (Unless anyone else can oblige).RB said Would YOU be happy doing nothing but hunting and gathering all your life? How was the night-life? And if they were so happy, why did they take up technology and become civilized? And if they were so happy, why aren’t more people emulating their lifestyle today? I would be happy if I thought my kids had as much chance of growing old as my great-grandparents did, without the extreme threats of nuclear war, climate change, total ecological collapse etc etc that around just now.If you consider “good night life” more important that the survival of the species and the planet I dont think I need comment much on that.As with the european takeover of what is now the US the original inhabitants are subjected to genocide, all the land is parceled up and privatised and fenced off leaving little room for the original cultures, who continue to be persecuted. Property based cultures cannot peecefully coexist with nomadic cultures in the same land.RB said Let’s face it: the “system” won’t collapse altogether, for the simple reason that too many people depend on it to let it go down.Those in charge only really care about themselves. They will let the rest perish (see new orleans, iraq, africa) Other nearby planets are uninhabitable, and are unreachable (for more than one or two people perhaps) with current or forseeable technology. Saying that the system won’t collapse because so many people depend on it is magical thinking, it is very like saying that your car can keep going with no petrol because you are depending on it to get somewhere.I think that covers most of the points. I will look for information on pre agricultural life expectancies

  29. Anna Other says:

    ZachYou are free to conform however you choose. What if you wanted to to live without a job, without having to use money ? What if you wanted to be free to homeschool your kids without interference ? What if you wanted to be free to drive over the speed limit on state highways or to smoke grass ? What if you wanted to be free to abstain from joining the military if there were a draft ? What if you want to be free form climate change or pollution or GM crops ? The only freedon left in the usa is consumer choice, and that is a pretty hollow freedom. AO

  30. Anna Other says:

    Raging Bee,BTW, I hope you dont mind me commenting that talking of colonising other planets but criticising others for “escapist fantasy” in the same post is pretty funny. Your points about population and energy (wind power, solar power, safer nuclear power, cleaner engines, better recycling of waste-matter, soil conservation, etc.) are reasonable and would have been even better if they had been put at the top of the political agenda about 50 years ago. Also, both nuclear power (especially nuclear power) and solar industries require sone pretty dirty industry and large enery inputs to impliment them and that uranium too is a dwindling resource. Cleaner engines might postpone the end for a handful of years but what of all the incredible industrial inputs it will take to make all these new cars and trucks ? With technologies such as vehicles, solar cells, or nuke plants, however clean and efficient they might be IN USE one still has to condider the impact their manufacture and disposal will have, a total environmental cost of owenrship calculation. 50 years into the nuclear age there are STILL no good ideas about what to do with all the nuclear waste (beyond dumping it on the iraqis as depleted uranium, which is another issue and an indescribably BAD idea). The permanent government of the unelected surer-rich (whom elected goverments serve by distracting the public’s attention)are a fairly small percentage of the population who, when the chips are down do not give a shit about anything beyond their own power and survival. Their strategy, as far as I can see is to have all the legal and physical apparatus in place to turn the US into a prison camp when the shit starts hitting the fan big time, so they can continue their own privileged lifestyles(even if the entire surface of the planet is laid waste and they have to do it underground). They don’t give a shit about starving children in Africa. They don’t give a shit about babies born with cancer or deformities in Iraq or Vietnam of Afghanistan resulting from toxic weaponry. They don’t give a shit about people made homeless in New Orleans. They don’t give a shit about kids in sweatshops in Bangladesh. They don’t give a shit about worker’s safety or minority rights. They don’t give a shit about your social security or medicare or pensions. Whatever makes anyone think they are going to act in the public interest during the later stages of the ongoing collapse ? If things carry on the way they are going the US is going to make nazi germany look like a holiday camp in 10 years time. We HEAR vague talk about investment in alternative energy and technological solutions but we SEE the middle east being decimated to get the last oil reserves. We HEAR that american ‘freedoms’ and way of life are non negotiable but we SEE FEMA building tens or hundreds of empty prison camps all over the nation.

  31. Anna Other says:

    OK Here are some quotes and links to stuff on prehistoric diets.http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/inside.asp?AID=651&UIDHistorical and archaeological evidence shows hunter-gatherers generally to be lean, fit, and largely free from signs and symptoms of chronic diseases. When hunter-gatherer societies transitioned to an agricultural grain-based diet, their general health deteriorated. Average adult height was substantially shorter for both men and women who consumed cereals and starches compared with their hunter-gatherer ancestors who consumed lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. Furthermore, studies of bones and teeth reveal that populations who changed to a grain-based diet had shorter life spans, higher childhood mortality, and a higher incidence of osteoporosis, rickets, and various other mineral- and vitamin-deficiency diseases.When former hunter-gatherers adopt Western lifestyles, obesity, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other diseases of civilization become commonplace.http://anthropik.com/2006/01/thesis-21-civilization-makes-us-sick/One straight forward example of what paleopathologists have learned from skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5

  32. Anna Other says:

    And a couple morehttp://www.grist.org/advice/books/2004/05/27/Nijhuis-agriculture/Although the spread of domesticated grains and other crops created a wealthy upper class, Manning points out that it also created an underclass. Most members of early agricultural societies suffered from physical deformities caused by backbreaking labor, chronic malnutrition, disease, and often enslavement. “We have no clear examples of colonized hunter-gatherers who willingly, peacefully converted to farming,” Manning writes. “Most went as slaves; most were dragged kicking and screaming, or just plain died.”http://www.newdawnmagazine.com/Article/Before_the_Fall_Evidence_for_a_Golden_Age.htmlIf you asked them what life was like in prehistoric times, most people would conjure up an image like the famous opening scenes of 2001: Space Odyssey

  33. Brutus says:

    Back to the germ of the post and Dave Pollard’s implicit challenge: no, I’m not ready to go to war with the system or with civilization. I haven’t (yet) read Jensen’s books but am inclined to believe many of his assertions. At least up until the point where he apparently advocates violence to break the cycle of violence and oppression that civilization represents, perpetuates, and exacerbates.I regard modern cultures (there are many) and civilization (there is one) as dominated by power. To bring down the system through the exercise of power, whether it be a death by a thousand cuts or otherwise, is thinking within the same psychological power bubble. I sense that the tone and ambitions underlying most of the comments are a desire to achieve a balance or equilibrium between the benefits the culture of power has provided us and a idealized state of connectedness with our environment — a new way of life, in short — that no longer requires the exercise of power (and its attendant nastiness) to maintain. Jensen’s solution, ironically, is to evoke more power, to overwhelm. Most of us don’t have the stomach for it (pun intended).Myself? I’m resigned to either riding or living out the storm, which will inevitably come. In the meantime, I’m not willing to transform myself into an ecowarrior or agitator for a cause as grandiose as transformer of the planet. I lack the wisdom to know best how to engineer so complex a system. But I am willing to experience, and more importantly, create, as much beauty (a word sorely lacking in this discussion) as is within my ability. And I’ll try to live lightly, even as I communicate my disapprovals (and there are many) of so many aspect of our culture and civiliation.In truth, we probably need the discordant voices to give the picture the sort of relief necessary to crystalize the image. But while I recognize and agree that the picture depicts a world of suffering, I’m not willing to inflict more suffering, albeit with the best intention of forestalling even greater suffering. The system is too complex for that. And besides, in the larger scheme of things, we really can’t help ourselves. It’s simply not in our nature.

  34. Dave Pollard says:

    Anna, Karen, Siona: Thanks for your erudite points — you’ve made Jensen’s arguments better than I could. Jakob: Jensen does support his premises in great detail in the book — give it a read and you may find you’re less in disagreement with his anger than you think. Brutus, I’m with you at this point, but I am fundamentally in agreement with Jensen’s premises and it wouldn’t take much at this point to tip me over to a more aggressive and activist role — the outrages perpetrated by Bush’s buddies at Koch Industries, for example, the largest ‘private’ company in the US now and one of the world’s worst and most flagrant megapolluters, they just buy their way out of jail with massive campaign contributions and out-of-court settlements for actions that are absolutely obscene. If I had Koch in my back yard, I’d be ready to use violence against their violence, because these guys will respond to nothing else. And I agree with you that it is not in our nature to do what Jensen wants us to do — at least now. But when it gets personal, and more obviously deadly, and the reasonable alternatives have been exhausted, we just may find that human nature is capable of a level of activism that will surprise us all. We do what we must.

  35. Anna Other says:

    Hi Brutus,Thanks for a mindful post. At bottom I too am rather “resigned to either riding or living out the storm, which will inevitably come.” but I don’t see why I shouldn’t throw what sand I can into the wheels of the machine as I go along. I would like to recommend that you read sone of Mr Jensens works to avoid oversimplifying his position and charactarising him as solely an advocate of ‘violence’. What IS violence anyway ? In endgame he explores this theme well. There is an activist called Jeff Luers currently doing 20 years in jail for setting fire to 2 SUV’s as a protest. Jeff took great care to injure no-one but got a sentence which might have better befitted a serial killer. Was his action violent ? Or was the state response violent ? Or if someone were to (for example) sabotage a traffic control system and bring traffic in a city grinding to a halt for a day, would that be violence ? How about throwing rotten tomatoes at the CEO of a polluting company ? is that violent ? Clearly, advocating a straightforward armed uprising would be pretty dim because the state specializes in armed violence and they are efective at it. Such an uprising would be outnumbered and outgunned and such action would be engaging an enemy on their own ground. That is not on the agenda. So what is on the agenda ? Read endgame and find out ! Mr jensen’s earlier works such as Language Older Than Words and Culture of Make Believe do not carry a strong agenda for action as Endgame does but make excellent reading anyway.

  36. Karen M says:

    Well, now, I really do have to read some of Jensen’s work. I was going to look for Endgame, anyway, after Dave’s post, but this discussion has really intrigued me.I’m not exactly sure where I come down on this argument, yet, but wonder if there is another alternative: where one tries to encourage efforts that could change things for the better, but without trying to “save” what isn’t working, i.e., no more enabling. (And now, I have to go write a short post on why my boyfriend at first thought a radio commercial for Al-anon was really a political commercial against Bush.)Brutus, I’ve just re-read your insightful comment after visiting your blog, and I give you the highest of marks for everything related to grammar, punctuation, syntax, etc. (This from someone who is meticulous about her emails.) I wonder, though, if you know that this blog software requires us to insert code for line and paragraph breaks — (>br< or >P<, respectively) — but reverse the greater and lesser thans. Dave, you do get some passionate posters here. I mean that in a good way.

  37. sushil yadav says:

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues. The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature. Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment. Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct. Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel. Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet. Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist. Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking. If there are no gaps there is no emotion. Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion. When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing. There comes a time when there are almost no gaps. People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps. Emotion ends. Man becomes machine. A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety. A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety. A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety. FAST VISUALS /WORDS MAKE SLOW EMOTIONS EXTINCT. SCIENTIFIC /INDUSTRIAL /FINANCIAL THINKING DESTROYS EMOTIONAL CIRCUITS. A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY CANNOT FEEL PAIN / REMORSE / EMPATHY. A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY WILL ALWAYS BE CRUEL TO ANIMALS/ TREES/ AIR/ WATER/ LAND AND TO ITSELF.To read the complete article please follow either of these links : http://www.planetsave.com/ps_mambo/index.php?option=com_simpleboard&Itemid=75&func=view&id=68&catid=6 http://www.earthnewswire.com/index.php?option=com_forum&Itemid=89&page=viewtopic&t=11 sushil_yadav

  38. Paul York says:

    Whether or not you ageee with his premises, no one can reasonably disagree that Jensen has initiated an important discussion, one that calls into question the pathology of anthropocentrism and the hatred of life that industrial civilization is built on.Eco-psychologists have performed a similar good by pointing out the psychological harm that this civilization causes. Long before, Nietzche noted that our way of life is built on incredible violence, and Freud spoke about Thanatos, the death instinct.I hope that we can overcome this — we certainly have the capacity. What this requires is that we work constantly, relentlessly, toward the end of life-affirmation and justice. If we do not, we are guilty of allowing mass murder to be done in our names. I appreciate Jensen for pointing out the obvious: that we are at an incredible impasse and that a great deal of activism is necessary — both in terms of creating alternative communities and dismantling the violence civilization that we are surrounded by.The alternative — business-as-usual — is resulting in global warming, the end of the oil age, the destruction of the natural world, and great psychic harm to us. We do have to do our part by letting go of this way of life and stopping others from continuing to rape and pillage the Earth in a criminal fashion. This civilization is the enemy of all life on Earth – we have to get rid of it immediately.Jensen is to be commended as a voice of reason in a world built on insanity and lies – the world of western industrial civilization. As E. O. Wilson says, “future generations will never forgive us for having destroyed biodiversity.” And Gandhi says “what we do to the forest of the world is reflection of what we do to ourselves.”

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