Not Ready to Do What’s Needed

direct action

forms of activism, adapted from the book Deep Green Resistance

There is a period in most relationships when one or more of the members knows in their heart that the relationship is not sustainable and something very difficult must be done, but they aren’t yet ready to do it. Most likely they are hoping that someone else will acknowledge it as well, and maybe even do it for them, save them the trouble. This period of awkwardness, tension, partial denial, suffering and unspoken grief, can last a long time.

I think we, the human species, in our astonishing relationship with each other, in this contract we call “civilization”, are now in such a period, and we have been for some time. We don’t want to give up on the relationship — it has given us a lot, we are used to it, and we can make ourselves believe it still has promise, that what is broken can be mended, but in our hearts we know it cannot. It is time to give up on it, to let it go; time to say goodbye.

There is evidence that many, perhaps most, previous civilizations (like the Anasazi) ended when they ceased to be able to provide what was needed and valued by their citizens, who then simply walked away from them, and returned to simpler ‘uncivilized’ ways of living. That’s not to say ‘walking away’ was easy — it must have been excruciating and terrifying to give up on the wealth of such civilizations, and to learn to become self-sufficient again, no longer dependent on the systems of the culture, the only way of living they had ever known. Only those with the knowledge, capacities and social networks to create a new way of life from scratch in the resource-depleted environs of the old civilization would have been able to make the transition; the rest would die trying. Not surprising then that so many still cling to the romantic dream of escaping to some other planet where, somehow, the failings and limits of our civilization would not apply, where the empire would expand forever.

Many of those who have moved beyond the first denial (that our industrial growth culture cannot continue the way it currently operates) and then beyond the second denial (that this culture cannot be ‘saved’, and that it will collapse no matter what we do), have started to think about what is needed now.

There are I think three main schools of thought on what we should do now:

  1. We should do what we can to enjoy life for what it is now, and work peacefully to reduce our personal contribution to the damage and to reduce the current suffering of others during the collapse (a responsible pacifist approach),
  2. We should work to try to reform the existing systems through non-violent social, political and economic means to make them less destructive and reduce the suffering they cause (a reformist approach), and
  3. We should work aggressively to undermine and dismantle civilization now, even if this requires the use of force and violence, to minimize the total damage and suffering it will cause and hence make it easier for the survivors (a resistance approach).

These approaches are not mutually exclusive, but each requires a significant commitment of time and energy, so pursuing more than one diligently is difficult. All three approaches require the learning or re-learning of skills, knowledge and capacities to live more lightly on the land, increase our local self-sufficiency and reduce our dependence on our culture’s rapacious and teetering industrial growth systems. In our terribly busy modern lives, few have the time, the opportunity and the dedication to do more than pay lip service to this re-learning need. For most, it’s one more important-not-urgent “should” that never gets to the top of our “to do” lists.

And therein lies the challenge. Most of us are not ready to do what we think we “should” do to relearn essential skills and be responsible pacifists, reformists or resisters.

The reasons we are not ready are:

  1. Too busy: We are too busy looking after the needs of the moment (ours and our loved ones’), after which we are too exhausted to do anything else (except reward ourselves with easy, fun activities, and recharge for tomorrow’s work and struggle — Pollard’s Law);
  2. Hopeful it won’t actually be needed: We are (and this is human nature) hopeful that perhaps it isn’t as bad as we thought and something or someone will come along to make all this effort unnecessary;
  3. Afraid of the risks: We are afraid of being wrong, or ridiculed, or ostracized, or hurt, or arrested or worse, if we try to be reformists or resisters (“can’t you ever say anything positive; I don’t want to hear about bad things I can’t change”);
  4. Doubtful of its effectiveness: We are pessimistic that our efforts at reform or resistance will actually achieve any real, sustained results (“we though having a Democrat in the White House would change everything”);
  5. Afraid to know how bad it really is: We are afraid of not being able to handle knowing the truth of how awful things really are if we become front-line reformers or resisters (“I visited a factory farm and now I’m a basket case — we have to change this, but we can’t”);
  6. Too dependent on existing systems: We and our loved ones are so enmeshed in the existing systems that even tiny responsible pacifist actions seem impossibly difficult (“the other kids are all going to McDonalds after the game; can you drive some of us?”).

The current debate in the Occupy movement is instructive in this regard. Some pacifists have vilified the so-called “black bloc” (masked demonstrators who make media displays of seemingly mindless destruction of public and private property). The truth is that many of these “black bloc” people are undercover police and security plants staging these displays to justify police brutality and discredit the Occupy movement. And some are (not surprisingly) just angry young people filled with anomie and hopelessness. (None of them are “anarchists” in any sense of the word, and journalists of all stripes using this vacuous, inflammatory label are irresponsible.) Many in the Occupy movement are now attempting to re-brand it as a pacifist, non-violent movement that will as a matter of principle never use force or violence in pursuit of its goal to reduce inequality of wealth and power (and the abuses that inequality brings with it) in our society.

But as Derrick Jensen and others in the resistance movement have made clear, taking the use of force or violence off the table weakens the movement and emboldens its opponents to continue their abuses. Here’s a partial transcript of a section (49:30 through 1:02:00) of the new movie End:Civ based on Jensen’s books Endgame and Deep Green Resistance:

Civilization is going to crash, whether or not we help bring this about. This crash will be messy. Since industrial civilization is systematically dismantling the ecological infrastructure of the planet, the sooner civilization comes down, whether or not we help it crash, the more life will remain afterwards to support both human and non-humans.

I did some talks around the possibility of fighting back. If it was an audience made up of mostly environmentalists and peace and social justice activists, often they would put up what I’ve taken to calling The Gandhi Shield: They would say the names Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama and Gandhi again and again as fast as they can to keep all thoughts [of using force or violence] at bay.

Pacifists and non-violence activists have had a defining and even a censoring role in determining what other people’s participation can be, in a whole range of social struggles that has made it very much easier for the state to control those social struggles. Non-violence has debilitated social struggles, taken out their teeth, rendered them harmless.

We’ve got a couple of myths on the Left we have to get over. The first is that social change happens by moral suasion. It doesn’t. It happens by force. The problem with persuasion as a strategy is that it only works on people who can be relied upon to act from their position after their minds have been changed. The problem is that we’re not dealing with individuals who can be convinced or persuaded. We’re dealing mostly with large abstract social organizations and corporations which are basically sociopaths. You can’t argue with sociopaths, with those who are benefiting from the economic system. You have to stop them through some form of force, violent or non-violent.

The left subconsciously has as its goal to make resistance harmless. States have recognized that resistance will never disappear and in the past they tried repressing struggles the first time they arose. That proved ineffective. So now states rule by accepting the inevitability of conflict and resistance and trying to ‘manage’ it permanently.

Social movements in North America are locked into this pacifist doctrine that is imposed by the middle-class reformists who want to control the movement and dictate how it conducts itself.

Advocates of non-violence frequently say that non-violence works [best] and the principal examples they use of that are Gandhi and Martin Luther King. This constitutes a great historical whitewashing. The resistance in India was diverse and by no means pacifist in its entirety. Gandhi gets used as a way to shut down conversation. His name is used to discredit anything that isn’t a peaceful means of resistance. In India Gandhi is not deified and many there despised him as a collaborator. Gandhi got negotiating power from the British because there were other elements in the Indian struggle that were far more threatening to British dominance, so the British chose to dialogue with Gandhi, someone they could work with. They knew revolution was coming and they wanted to blunt it as best as they could. As a result of Gandhi’s influence, India went from being a colony to a neo-colony. The British were still able to maintain their influence.

My problem isn’t with people doing non-violent actions. We need it all. My problem is that so many pacifists don’t support more radical or militant work. You can’t assume that people who are using radical means of resistance haven’t thought about what they are doing. When some people decide their marches aren’t enough, those that toe the Gandhi line tend to believe they just aren’t thinking about it. [They are just as capable of critical thinking as pacifists.]

What most states try to do in these circumstances is define the elements of the opposing movement that are most easy to control and co-opt, and negotiate with and hand over some power to them in order to continue the existing system [and alienate more radical elements].

The same thing the states did with Gandhi and King they have done with the environmental movement. They’ve invited moderate elements [Greenpeace et al] into inquiries and government commissions and debates, and recognized them as the ‘legitimate’ leaders of the movement. They don’t want the movement to adopt more militant resistance tactics [which they label as “terrorism” and ruthlessly repress]. The powerful do not ever give up without a struggle, said Frederick Douglass. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has, and it never will.

The things that so-called solutions to global warming all have in common is that they take industrial civilization as a given and the natural world as the dependent variable. It’s all about saving civilization. That’s entirely backwards. What it should be is: We need to do whatever it takes to save life on the planet. In the next 40-50 years we’re going to see the extinction of more species than we’ve seen in the past 65 million years. We have to do today the things we would be proud to tell our descendants about.

If we are serious about saving life on Earth, we’ve got to start fighting back. The big problem is power, something liberals have trouble wrapping their heads around. This culture has clearly-defined hierarchies, those with power and those who benefit from power and benefit from destroying the planet and exploiting other people. They’ve been doing that for a long time. Power is more important to them than anything else.

There is no personal consumer choice that is going to dismantle the systems of power that are behind the destruction of our planet. The politicians are servants of the system. It’s their job to keep it going, to keep the profits rolling in for the ruling class. They will never act in the people’s interest or the interest of the planet. It doesn’t matter what we say. The only thing they will respond to is force and the threat of disruption. And if we allow them to stay in power they will always take back any temporary advantage we get from them.

He is right, I think. But rather than being moved to join him, to become a resister, or at least someone who works with and supports resisters, I am left feeling torn, angry, helpless and perhaps a bit ashamed that I’m not ready to do so.

And until this internal struggle between those on the left, between responsible pacifists and reformists on the one hand, who refuse to sanction the use of force or violence, and resisters on the other, who dismiss pacifism and reform as useless and co-opted, we won’t even be able to agree on what’s needed and how to make it happen. Let alone be ready psychologically to do it.

If we really want to be ready to do what’s needed we have to get rid of each of the six impediments to action listed in green above. We are urged by our fellow responsible pacifists, reformists and resisters to do things like the following:

  1. Too busy? Free up time for what’s important (by living simpler).
  2. Hopeful it won’t actually be needed? Move beyond hope for ‘salvation’ of the way we now live.
  3. Afraid of the risks? Overcome the fear of danger or retribution for doing what we know is right and what is needed.
  4. Doubtful of its effectiveness? Persevere and keep fighting and believe we can win, and keep winning.
  5. Afraid to know how bad it really is? Help each other find the courage to face and cope with hard truths.
  6. Too dependent on existing systems? Create and embody compelling alternative models of less dependent ways to live.

Easy to say. If it were easy to do we would all be doing it. As I get older I’m learning that, rather than glibly prescribe answers like the six above, it makes more sense, if we really want to bring about change, to try to understand why things are the way they are (that’s the Corollary to Pollard’s Law). To ask someone to overcome, through sheer force of will, any of the six obstacles to readiness listed above, is, I think, asking the nearly impossible. It’s asking people to be who they are not.

I have had the good fortune to be able to retire with a (until financial markets collapse anyway) reasonable pension, so I’m no longer too busy to do what’s needed. I have learned enough (also through good fortune) to be able to move past the first and second denial, so I’m no longer hopeful that radical change won’t be needed. And because I live alone and can pretty much decide what I want to do each day, I’m no longer so heavily dependent on the existing systems I’m ill-disposed to undermine them.

Still, for reasons 3, 4 and 5, I am not ready to do what’s needed. Worse, I am increasingly tempted to give up on all attempts to become a reformist or resister, because being a responsible pacifist is just being who I am. I have never been a fighter, never been one to persevere or exhibit courage (in fact I am one of the most fearful people I know). And I suspect I’m in very good company in this.

So while I can agree with Derrick Jensen on what is needed, and how, and want to help somehow, I’m just not ready to do it, and I may never be. Derrick keeps saying that most people will never be deep-green resisters, but I get the sense he thinks that’s because their ignorance or ideology gets in the way. For most of us, I think, it’s just not in our nature. That may be a tragedy for the Earth, but it’s an honest reason, and part of the reason, I think, why things have become as bad, and hopeless, as they have. It explains why the corporatists have met so little resistance even as knowledge of their destruction has grown, and why the right wing, which lacks the pacifist sensitivities of the left and has no qualms about killing or smearing those who don’t agree with them, have held power disproportionate to their numbers for decades.

I’m weary of feeling bad about my inaction, my unreadiness to do what’s needed. Many of us know what should be done now, and the risks and sacrifices that will entail, but for some combination of the six reasons above, are not doing it, and won’t, probably, until it is too late. I acknowledge and applaud and thank those who are not held back by these six very human ‘excuses’, who are activists — either reformists or resistance fighters — doing what must be done, what I should be doing. Doing what we all should be doing, but aren’t ready to.

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24 Responses to Not Ready to Do What’s Needed

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks, Dave. You always break these things down so well and I love that fresh breath of air your clarity brings. You are in good company about not being a fighter!

    I watched the film End:Civ further on from the bit you mention and the bit that hit me in the gut was the Nazi strategy of giving people “a rational choice” that they should e.g. move to the ghetto or resist and die. The Nazis kept pushing to the point where it was take a shower (sic) or resist and die. Then he asks “where is your tipping point?” “Where is the point where you step up and protest, violently if you have to?”

    (The film points out that groups who resisted had a better survival rate than those who did not.)

    Of course, I am past my tipping point, so I am already on the slippery slope. Actually, it might be fruitful for everyone to explore, for each of your six reasons above, where our tipping points are, and when we actually passed them.

    What sickens me is the amount of research that has gone into studying the human psyche and how to jump over that natural tipping point – from the experiments with men in white coats getting students to administer electric shocks to “learners” to the gigantic, annually updated, databases of deep human values mapped against political messages (and brand messages). (Not to mention the trick of implanting mental “slides” that immediately discount an opposing viewpoint) And the lack of research that has gone into -well, – peace and happiness -and how to NOT go past tipping points.

    The other thing that got me from the movie was the guy saying “I want to be able to answer my children when they ask what I did in the eco-wars”. But I have to remind myself that being a human being is a gift, and brings with it intrinsically the ability to experience peace. This is maybe at the heart of the Transition movement’s Inner transition. The message to ourselves, to our children is the same: life is an amazing gift, whilst bringing to attention of other what is wrong is a good thing, and opposing what is wrong is also good and a part of being human, so is feeling peace and appreciating every moment you get. I just saw this video clip from an inspirational speaker that is so apt for this: we have an abundance of the possibility to feel that gift. Here’s the clip I found

  2. Amy Lenzo says:

    Wow! Your courage and clarity always astound me. What a bright light you wield – thank you for shining it so generously and illuminating the truth of our situation & the paths in front of us.

    I think my own approach to the challenge lies somewhere between the “responsible pacifist” and “reformist” models you describe, since acting out the aggression and dismantling of the “resistance” approach (as described in your summary) would negatively effect my personal sense of joy in life and appreciation for what is good. But I appreciate the tactic when applied consciously and I respect that choice in others.

    My main interest is in the re-imagination of culture; in inhabiting a life worth living- now. Surrounding myself with others, like you, who are feeling their way into a different way of being & living & doing, and creating the alternative infrastructures that will sustain a better life for us all – now and as “civilization” changes over the next years. It’s a great pleasure to have intelligent thoughtful, dare I say wise?, companionship such as yours along the way.

  3. robert says:

    Hey Dave,

    I’m really getting a lot from your posts, thanks much. A couple of things keep coming up for me though as I read, that I think is well summarized by this quote from your final ‘graph.

    I’m weary of feeling bad about my inaction, my unreadiness to do what’s needed. Many of us know what should be done now, and the risks and sacrifices that will entail, but for some combination of the six reasons above, are not doing it, and won’t, probably, until it is too late.

    (emphasis mine) So what should be done now? I think that there is an overly romantic tendency toward the “active resistance” path and that it’s not getting the same scrutiny as the others. I think that if one spent the time looking at it that one would find that the use of violent tactics leads to co-option and corruption much more so then the alternatives. You point this out here about how the black block is so easily infiltrated, but beyond that I have read many stories of from the environmental movement and other more direction action focused groups of similar co-option. If one is already using violence it isn’t that hard to push them just a step further. And then where is the effectiveness? Peaceful movements, for all their faults, and pyrrhic victories and so on can still point to the civil rights movement, the Vietnam era protests, the anti-nuclear movement, the anti-whaling efforts and countless other smaller victories. What successes have we seen from the use of violent tactics?

    Most troubling to me is anything that comes from certainty. Collapse may be a certainty but no one knows how it is going to play out. It is incredible hubris to be so sure of how things are going to occur and that one thinks there are actions that will influence that in a way one thinks is for the best. Hubris upon hubris. Taking action out of certainty of how things are going to end up just seems fraught with peril, that way lies suicide cults on one end and Aum Shinrikyo style attacks on the other.

    I don’t really have any answer myself and I suppose ultimately the struggles of those “know what should be done now” won’t have any impact either. I personally don’t wish to add to the suffering though and that I think is a useful starting place.

  4. skholiast says:

    Eloquently and movingly said. I would add a seventh reason to the six you list: we are just so damn uncomfortable with feeling guilty that we avoid even asking ourselves why we don’t act. And thus, we often do not even get to the six reasons you detail. Your example here is chastening and empowering. Asking these questions is frightening, and no matter how impatient this acknowledgment makes the resisters (who may be rightly brusque with my I-feel-bad-about-it hand-wringing while the Pacific garbage patch grows and the Colorado River can’t even reach the sea), it must be faced one way or another.

    I feel very ambivalent about Jensen. “Every morning when I awake I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam.” Really? If he believes everything he writes, then what the hell is he doing NOT blowing up dams? Sometimes I want to say, Well, Derek, I’m waiting…

    On the other hand, the line that “You can’t assume that people who are using radical means of resistance haven’t thought about what they are doing,” does not really work; for the question is not, Have they thought about it? The question is, Are they right? Will their proposed action get them what they want? And is it morally just? The Bolshevik secret police who murdered the royal family during the Russian Revolution may or may not have thought about it, but there was certainly a theoretical apparatus which could justify what they did. And weighed against the human misery of the Russian masses, it might be hard to even muster a tear for the Romanovs. Doubtless somebody had “thought about” the costs and benefits of killing them or not killing them, and a decision had been made. It isn’t presumption to question that thinking.

    As Robert’s comment above rightly points out, there is a kind of aura around “resistance;” the word conjures the Free French movement, or Che’s last stand. I dare not reduce anyone’s decision to thrown a Molotov cocktail to their being seduced by a glamorous image; but if we are going to debunk the myth of Gandhi or King and of nonviolence in general, it seems only fair to point out that the militant is also a figure of myth, and that myth is not always conducive to realistic decision making. “I want to be able to answer my children when they ask what I did in the eco-wars”, is a mythic criterion. That doesn’t make it wrong; it may be exactly the spur to right action, and in any case it is human. But so are all the fears and reasons you enumerate.

    Thank you for articulating some of the slow steps needed to face the scary side.

  5. forrest curo says:

    What would really “weaken” the movement would be anything (ie actual violence) that got too many people really afraid of it.

    What worked for Gandhi & King (until they were recognized as truly irreplaceable, & therefore shot) is not at all guaranteed to work in substantially different times and situations.

    What is going to work, with or without the occupy folks, is the fact that “The System is going down now!!!” (Such movements are going to continue to gather recruits because the authorities, in their efforts to stop them, are not willing to actually give a crumb to keep the cake. Without those crumbs, people are going to keep on getting increasingly alienated.)

    How will it all work out? Don’t we all want to stick around, and find out?

  6. Andrew says:

    This is great, Dave! Thanks for taking so much time and effort to discuss this.

    Deep Green Resistance is on the move this winter and spring, with the Occupy the Machine Speaking Tour. Please try to make one of these events:
    March 3 – Eugene, OR
    March 9 – Columbus, OH
    March 10-12 – Southern Coal Fields, WV
    March 16-18 – New York, NY
    March 23 – Storrs, CT
    March 25 – Syracuse, NY
    April 9 – Iowa City, IA

  7. Thanks Dave, appreciated. Just a note that a taster to Generation Alpha has started on Facebook. very much linked with this discussion and the Deep Green movement. Check it out at

    Thanks again.

  8. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks for all the comments and links, everyone.

    Robert, when I say we ‘know what needs to be done’ I don’t mean we’re certain exactly what to do, just that in our hearts we know there are very difficult things that we ‘should’ be doing that we aren’t. As to the ‘successes’ of violent tactics, the point of the film is that the real threat of force changes the alternatives in the minds of those in power from (a) between the status quo and modest reform, to (b) between peaceful significant reform and violent, wrenching disruptive power shift. That is what happened in almost all social justice ‘successes’; those in power bargained and ceded some power to ‘moderate’ opponents because they feared that if they didn’t they would face violent opponents and potentially lose much more. That’s why those of us using reform tactics and those of us using forceful resistance tactics should be collaborating and presenting a united front, even if we may disagree on the ‘best’ tactics.

    Skholiast, the only way we will understand why radicals are employing forceful resistance tactics is by sitting down with them, respectfully, and talking with them. We might well find that they’re driven not by the myth of freedom-fighters but by well-reasoned arguments e.g. about how forceful actions not only yield better and more enduring results (there is considerable data to support this) but also push the power elite to cede some ground where they wouldn’t otherwise, for fear of losing much more. (BTW, if I’m not mistaken I believe Derek really has blown up a few dams — some small, antiquated, no longer used dams the loss of which posed no threat to human safety.)

    Andrew, I hope OTM makes it up to Canada. Even more than Americans, Canadians are pacifists to the core, and it will be even harder to persuade them (us) that all of us — responsible pacifists, and activists of both the reformist and resistance variety — must work together, appreciate each other, and support each other in the struggle to save our planet.

  9. Paul Heft says:

    Dave, the issues you’re raising are good ones. Clearly (from the comments above) these are things that the rest of us are thinking about (or the thoughts are just below the surface).

    I am increasingly suspicious of any claims about what we “should be doing”. As if we really understand the way the world works, and it’s obvious what utopia to aim for. I admire the Russians for rebelling against the czar, yet look at the totalitarian state they created. I admire the Jews for resisting the Nazis, and yet look at the insecure, belligerent state of Israel they created. I admire the Indians for rebelling against the British, yet look at the very flawed nations of India and Pakistan that they created. Let’s face it, humans are not very good at organizing themselves in large numbers without tremendous coercion, exploitation, inequality, and habitat destruction. We just haven’t figured out what makes us tick, or maybe we just can’t play together well except in small tribes with static cultures.

    Reform has little chance of working, but by what calculus do we decide that it’s better to bring down civilization quickly? (Do we have any idea what that would look like? Will that make the animals and remaining humans happier, or will Gaia breathe a sigh of relief?)

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  11. mwiik says:

    So I watched the END:CIV film and then immediately afterwards my S.O. switched to the Gold Diggers series where we see guys in bulldozers tear up forests and push the tree limbs and other debris down a cliff into a river and hear ‘this is their last chance to extract value from their land’. Gah.

  12. GreatBlue says:

    “…and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” I think I don’t act to change things because the evils are still sufferable. Perhaps you don’t get mass movements until people are truly desperate but still fed well enough that they have the energy to fight.

  13. yellowcardman says:

    Thanks Dave for the outstanding essay.

    Our own personal nature is critical. The meek shall inherit the earth, but only after the not-so-meek do the “dirty work” so to speak.

    Much depends on the environment you are in – are you comfortable, and your children and grandkids, wife, etc – are they comfortable and well-cared for now? If so, you will likely remain in the “doubtful-afraid-too dependent” etc catagories until you are not “comfortable.”

    Hopefully, there are still some comrades remaining when you are no longer comfortable.

  14. robert says:

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for the reply. Immediately after posting that I felt I wasn’t very clear – It was getting too long and I edited it down and it sort of seemed a bit of mess in the end. I think the other commentators here got to what I was trying to say better then I did (also some of the comments on your Google+ link to here as well).

    I don’t mean we’re certain exactly what to do, just that in our hearts we know there are very difficult things that we ‘should’ be doing that we aren’t.

    This I think is right on and I definitely emphasize with this perspective. To me the danger arises when you don’t feel this way. I think we should always feel we should do more, help more, be more involved. Those that are certain they know where to go, where to try to take things and how everything is going to end up are the dangerous ones. Paul Heft above, put it very well – all of these attempts at engineered change are certain to not come out as predicted. There are just too many variables. The idea’s most fraught with peril I think are these huge scale ones that have countless variables. For instance nothing seems more insane to me then the geoengineering “solutions” to climate change. To mess with such a massive system, that is inherently unpredictable, that we are so dependent upon is quite possibly the greatest risk imaginable. On the societal level I think attempting to “engineer” the collapse is the equivalent (or perhaps, there is an argument to make that our attempts at this will have as much impact as it is always pointed out to us that personal change will. That’d be a notion, I’d love to see someone really delve into). There is no way it’ll come out as one expects or predicts and since this isn’t an experiment we can run over and over again (like the atmosphere) we never can know if it’ll be worse or better had we not taken such action.

    I don’t think this means we should do nothing for fear of making it worse. I guess I’m just more in the responsible pacifist camp; I’m pretty inline with your Framework for Personal Action. I do agree with your overall point that it would be a lot better if we could present a united front and that infighting certainly doesn’t help. But I don’t really think the way the criticism is being done (by either “side) is really working toward that. It always seems to be pretty heavy-handed from either end. That is to say there appears to be demonization, or even an “othering” of the other camp (for instance: “The Gandhi Shield” bit is pretty much a classic straw man, which of course is easy to knock down but isn’t much of an attempt at uniting). It may be an old saw that “change begins within” but it seems more true than ever.

    Anyway, thanks again for all the great stuff here Dave and all the other commenters too. Vital stuff here and much to get people thinking.

  15. vera says:

    I would like to add point 8 — we are not doing any of the three because none of them are ultimately very satisfactory at this point in time. I am working on option #4… anyone else? :-)

  16. skholiast says:


    Thank you for the response. (And for the education on Jensen’s less writerly actions, which I really am glad to know of, and was something I had tried to research myself before, perhaps not very thoroughly.) I could not agree more: the only way to understand each other is to talk and listen and mean it.

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  18. Philip says:

    Language is the briefist defintion of civilisation. Action is a consolation to thought, even if it does stem from a sense of responsiblity. You talk about those who have moved beyond the second denial. If you are at the acceptance part what are you struggling to find a sense of salvation in? Maybe you missed my similar comments on your post regarding fear 6 weeks or so back. Post humanists still need laungage to communicate. Civilisation will not collaspe fast enough to keep something alive as long as humans keep communicating. And yet I’m like you Dave and the others that read your blog- I keep trying. A salavge operation for some part of this matrix……words for the feeling of desperation.

  19. vera says:

    Hey Dave, why dontcha slap on Akismet and get rid of all these sales trolls? WordPress provides it as a widget and in my experience, it catches the vast majority of them. The few it does not catch go in the spam folder.


  20. Mandy Meikle says:

    Hi Dave – a Transition blog linked to your excellent post. I’ve just finished reading both volumes of Jensen’s Endgame & have written on my blog about him a couple of times ( and So amazing (for me, at least!) as it pulled together so many of my weirder thoughts. The bit which struck me most personally was the idea not of just loving nature, but of being ‘in love with’ nature. I think part of the problem is isolation. It’s why we get such a buzz when we meet like-minded people, even if that is just through the internet. Another part, as you say, is our fundamental disagreements over the problem. You are totally right that we have to ask why we are destroying ecosystems in the first place. That could be a long debate!

    Best wishes from Scotland


  21. Winston Smith says:

    “The truth is that many of these ‘black bloc’ people are undercover police and security plants staging these displays to justify police brutality and discredit the Occupy movement. And some are (not surprisingly) just angry young people filled with anomie and hopelessness. (None of them are ‘anarchists’ in any sense of the word…)”

    and you know this “truth” how, exactly?

    for a retired, parasitic capitalist living in the lap of irredeemable, unconscionable, oversized luxury you claim to know a lot about stuff you are light years distant from and with which you have nothing in common.

    as for discrediting the Occupy movement, it doesn’t need help in that department.

    it does a bang up job discrediting itself by definition, as Morris Berman recently astutely observed:

    “The crux of the problem remains the American Dream: even ‘progressives’ see it as the solution — including, I have the impression, the Wall Street protesters — when it’s actually the problem.”
    – Why the American Empire Was Destined to Collapse (alternet – 3/7/2012)

    being that you are a text book manifestation of the amerikan dream, Mr. Pollard, you might wanna tone down “the truth” sophistry.

    and you should be many orders of magnitude more than, “a bit ashamed”.

    i gotta tell ya, living on the razor’s edge of homelessness as i do, i get more than a little angry when folks like Pollard—who are absurdly and offensively divorced, disconnected and distanced from those of us at the bottom of the amerikan pyramid-and-Ponzi scheme—spew this kind of nonsense.

    The poor are not those who have been left behind, they are the ones who have been robbed.

    i don’t want a job, a car and a house
    i don’t want to Occupy the past
    i want a Revolution
    a new way of being

  22. JDY Edgerider says:

    Well, count me in Leavergirl’s general camp (see comment 15)…in practice of a “Point #8” and “Option # 4″…after all, why the heck is, what to call it?…’Giving up the old game, hitting “re-set” and care-fully starting a truly new one’ so weakly represented and widely ignored so nearly universally still, even among fundamental change agents who cherish peace and balance? (Actually a rhetorical question to me, but worth asking deeply and often if it’s not the same for you…and, warning!, not as easily dismissed as it may seem.)

    Winston Smith’s comment is, well, hard and probably unfair to try to label. I know what is spoken of from both sides, and certainly can understand the harsh bitter tone that can result. Thanks for the reminder. In Dave’s defense, i think it’s a bit of a big stretch to call him ‘a textbook manifestation of the Amerikan Dream”, but i get the point and can share in the dark chuckle of irony. But i like to say “Sorry, i don’t see a case against compassion” for ANYone who sincerely struggles with their lot in this world; caring that can be so hard to come by when the living conditions differ much. Dave clearly struggles in his own way and he doesn’t even pretend to “have it together”…well, beyond the material prosperity and relative security anyway, which can be seductively hard not to envy on some levels, eh? And very hard to voluntarily shed our long-wired-in Comfort Zones…In all honesty, i think the main crisis is more about how we nearly ALL are so out of touch with what each other actually go through in this Amazing Movie call Life…not to mention all the other species doing their best to cope…

    I did cringe at the absolutism of the claim and appreciate Winston’s challenge, that the Black Bloc-ers include ‘no “anarchists” in any sense of the word’…because, for one thing, according to the way self-described anarchists define it, and my extrapolation from the composition of local examples i’ve seen and what i’ve read and heard and such, and seeing as how it’s a definition many of us “non-anarchists” can respect as a more ideal way to live (i.e., with minimal laws and other imposed controls), even if we don’t so much respect the ways the Black Bloc gets attention, come now, and how can ya’ know who all’s behind the masks?…Methinks safe to say that “anarchists”, in both senses of the word, are also represented in the mix, though (yes, most important to note) probably much in the minority and way misunderstood.

  23. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone — Great comment thread. A couple of additional thoughts/clarifications:
    1. Winston — how do I know the black bloc are often/usually police infiltrators? I read a lot, from writers who cite their sources, and I do a lot of research. The evidence, at least in the case of the G20 incidents in Quebec City and Toronto (the ones I have studied most) is so overwhelming that even the authorities won’t deny the charges. Look at the photos (where police, ubiquitous in substantially all other G20 street photos, are totally missing in almost every shot of ‘black bloc’ vandalism), the police-issue footwear the ‘black bloc’ window-smashers have been caught wearing, the absence of arrests of people admitting to being black bloc members or caught while wearing masks etc. etc. As for the rest of what you say, minus the accusations, I’m pretty much in full agreement.
    2. Edgerider — Thanks. Didn’t mean to get into the whole “what is an anarchist” debate here but I asked for it, so: I am an anarchist. I believe that in a functional society (which our ‘civilized’ society is not) the best form of government is no government (that’s what anarchy means). In other words we govern ourselves, without hierarchy, by consensus, not voting. What the ‘black bloc’ is doing is mostly mindless destruction. It does not represent anarchism and does not advance the anarchist cause (it has the opposite effect, in fact, of increasing fear that we somehow need to be ‘kept in order’ by a central authority).

  24. JDY Edgerider says:

    Nice to see you address the anarchic elephant, Dave. Agreed that they certainly do not represent anarchism (except in the minds of most mainstreamers feebly trying to make sense of the so-called Black Bloc presence given what the news is feeding them and failing to, including the meaning of “anarchy”). And granted the vast majority are not ‘practicing anarchists’, nor would they probably even identify with the term in its pure sense. But a few do. The end of your last sentence above is extra appreciated, because it exemplifies the main weakness of the whole “take it down” strategy as well. If anyone has seen a scenario written out or spoken that actually demonstrates how this strategy is not half-baked and fatally flawed and as such doomed to fail, please provide links. Jensen et al essentially say we don’t have time to not go that route, but through a fuller-spectrum lens, don’t we see that we don’t have time to waste in helping to polarize the process further?

    Re: my comment #22 amplifying Leavergirl’s #15, i should make it clearer that “hitting re-set” isn’t about physically hitting anything, but rather a true turning away from the whole spectrum of violence, whether against people or property or, as far as i’m concerned, animals ground up enmasse to feed our comfort zones while we lay waste to the land and our own hearts…keep following the implications of this and you see how deep that rabbit hole goes… We all need to see working examples of ways to live that are truly minimally dependent on the current System (even turning from actively “opposing” it, which is not to say “re-set” doesn’t “resist” on a deeper level); the meta-machine which Dave has shown us here to be completely corrupted by sick, imbalanced ways of perceiving and treating things. Admittedly, few folks will be able to even consider this without dismissal, and thus the various strategies outlined above must be accepted on some level, since they mean well and are clearly gonna continue to be deployed as long as there is “hope”. But i wonder who else is “ready to do what’s needed” and turn their liberated imaginations, intellects, and loving energies to getting on with creating a world that works (and Dave’s blog readers should be savvy to most of what that would mean and not mean), instead of fueling the Machine’s further oppression of all of us in the alleged cause of “deeply resisting” it. Friends, please come around to ever-more-inclusive views of reality, for is it not truly later than it seems?

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