Posts Tagged ‘derrick jensen’
by stuartbramhall in End of Capitalism, Sustainability
END:CIV Resist or Die
2011, directed by Franklin Lopez
Free (Creative Commons) download at: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/end-civ-resist-or-die/
END:CIV, according to the promo, “examines our culture’s systemic addiction to violence and environmental exploitation.” The title is drawn from Pac Man, an arcade came that first came out in 1980. In one of the world’s first video games, the player guides Pac Man, a small faceless mouth, through a maze while he devours Pac Dots and tries to escape blob monsters. The first three minutes of END:CIV superimpose a Pac Man game over images of old growth clear cuts, belching smokestacks, factory hog farms, wild fires, hurricanes and the US military’s ruthless killing machine. The sequence ends as a gigantic “GAME OVER” flashes across the screen.
The film is based on the Endgame, the best selling two volume book Derrick Jensen published in 2006. In Endgame, Jensen argues that mankind urgently needs to bring down “civilization” before it destroys the planet. He bases his case on twenty basic premises he lists at the beginning of both volumes. The film END:CIV examines four of them.
Premise 1 – industrialized civilization has never been and will never be sustainable, mainly because it’s based on non-renewable resources.
The film, like Jensen’s book, traces the rise of cities, which by necessity steal resources from distant regions and eventually denude the entire landscape of those resources. After making the case that the corporate elite are mindlessly and voraciously consuming an ever increasing amount of energy, land, water and other resources, the filmmaker points out that we live on a finite planet. He then argues that corporations will most likely continue this greedy consumption until everything is used up – or until we stop them.
The imagery in this section consists of shot after shot of old growth clear cuts, through which 90% of the earth’s rainforests have been transforms into deserts. It features cameos by indigenous and environmental activists who argue that industrial civilization has created an elaborate infrastructure for a lifestyle that has no future. They also point out that no “clean green path” to sustainable living will ever support the extremely wasteful way of life we have become accustomed to.
Premise 2 – traditional communities don’t allow willingly allow the confiscation of their natural and mineral resources by capitalist owners. Accordingly, a major focus of industrialized civilization has been to destroy indigenous communities by force. A corollary of Premise 2 is that industrialized civilization would collapse rapidly without, if not for its reliance on widespread violence.
This section juxtaposes common media images of violence with consumption-related adverting and infotainment. For example one split screen shows the aerial bombardment of Baghdad together with jewelry specials from the shopping channel; another depicts Bangladeshi sweatshops alongside a series of tiny butts in skin tight jeans.
In an excerpt from a public forum, Jensen explains that much of violence is invisible and a matter of conditioning. He gives the example of the cop who will pull a gun and drag you to jail if you don’t pay your rent or satisfy your hunger by eating off grocery shelves. He then questions the belief we all grow up with that people have to pay for the right to exist on this planet.
The film goes on to criticize the main message put out by the nonprofit environmental movement we can remedy this pervasive violence and extensive resource theft and exploitation by making politically correct purchase choices. In the view of Jensen and other activists featured in the film, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Forest Ethics and similar “eco-bureaucracies” have essentially sold out by making preservation of the industrial economy their highest priority and saving the planet secondary. As Jensen points out, future generations won’t care how much we recycled. All they will care about is whether we leave them a living planet.
This section is also highly critical of the dogmatic stance of much of the environmental movement towards nonviolent civil disobedience. Jensen does a great send up of the movie Star Wars. In his version, the rebels don’t destroy Darth Vader by blowing up the death star. Instead they promote eco-tours and Fair Trade products from endangered planets and send waves of compassion and loving kindness towards Darth Vader, as they lock themselves down on his ship. They also vote to condemn and exclude the renegades who propose to blow up the death star – for allowing themselves to be contaminated by Darth Vader’s culture of violence.
Premise 3 – the culture (of industrialized society) as a whole and most of its inhabitants are insane.
The section points out that, contrary to popular belief, no combination of fossil or alternative fuels will allow us to continue our current “happy motoring” society. It focuses on Alberta’s insane tar sands project, the most environmentally destructive enterprise in history. Tar sands production is responsible for the second highest rate of deforestation (second to the Amazon rain forest in the world), as well as massive waterway contamination. All this environmental devastation is occurring to develop a technology that has one of the worst rates of Energy Return on Investment (2:1).*
Premise 4 – from the beginning, the culture of civilization has been a culture of occupation.
The film ends with a brief overview of the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. In the final scene, Jensen poses the provocative and disarming question: “If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air and contaminated your food supply, at what point would you resist?”
* EROI refers to the amount of energy returned for each unit of energy required to extract or create the new energy. Even solar photovoltaic cells, which aren’t particularly efficient, have an EROI of 8:1. Saudi oil has an EROI of 10:1. US oil reserves prior to 1970 had an EROI of 23:1. As of 2000, US reserves had an EROI of 8:1 (source: Fleeing Vesuvius).
by stuartbramhall in Mind Control and Disinformation
(This is the second of three posts regarding the “diversity of tactics” debate raging in the Occupy movement and Chris Hedges inflammatory February 6th article on Truthdig entitled The Cancer in Occupy)
Nearly all the on-line critiques (rightly, in my view) accuse Hedges of being a hypocrite for endorsing “rioting in the Greek anti-austerity protests in his 2010 Truthdig article The Greeks Get It, while simultaneously condemning disenfranchised Americans when they engage in similar “class warfare” in his own backyard. This is doubly ironic given the important role the Greek black bloc played in these protests:
“Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.”
The Historical Role of Violent Resistance
Several are equally dismayed by the way Hedges (deliberately?) misrepresents the historical debate over violent vs nonviolent tactics. Numerous critics object to his inclusion of window breaking, erecting barricades, flag burning and swearing at police as “violence.” Prior to the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle, the activist community has consistently distinguished between physical harm to other beings and damage to private property, which has never been equated with violence. Moreover as Nihilo Zero points out in The Folly of Chris Hedges, the latter is clearly taking the side of the ruling elite in minimizing the important role played by militants like John Brown, Malcolm X, and Emma Goldman in the American struggle against class and racial oppression. The US civil rights struggle was won by both the nonviolent tactics of Martin Luther King and the violent tactics of the black power movement. Likewise, in the struggle for native American rights, the American Indian Movement embraced violence alongside other organizing tactics in fighting for native American rights.
The Bizarre Interview with Derrick Jensen
All agree that Hedges’ phone interview with activist author Derrick Jensen is the most bizarre section of the piece. Several question whether Jensen really said what Hedges claims he did, or if he’s being quoted out of context. The Jensen quotes, referring to the Black Bloc throwing flowerpots at the police “because it’s fun” and the need to “work with the system more” before resorting to violence are diametrically opposed to the views he expresses in his writing and his recent documentary End:Civ Resist or Die. In the film (watch it for free at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/end-civ-resist-or-die/) Jenson openly advocates violent resistance against what he portrays as a corporate/fascist occupation.
A Tactic, Not a Movement
Yet as Nihilo Zero, Don Gato and others point out, the major problem with Hedges’ article is that the so called “Black Bloc Movement” he attacks in doesn’t exist. Black bloc is a term used to describe a specific tactic – dressing alike (in black) and wearing masks – to avoid identification by the police. Its use is by no means limited to anarchists. Black bloc is employed by activists across the ideological spectrum who wish to avoid identification by the police. Hedges clearly has no direct knowledge or contact with either “black bloc” practitioners or the thousands of other Occupy activists who reject pressure to commit to exclusive nonviolence. Thus the entire article is based on totally erroneous assumptions, starting with Hedges faulty premise that “black bloc” represents a specific movement with a coherent ideology.
To be continued
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class, Things That Aren't What They Seem
Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America
By Ward Churchill (2007 AK Press)
Pacifism as Pathology is a collection of essays centered around Ward Churchill’s original 1985 essay “Pacifism as Pathology: Notes on an American Pseudopraxis.” The premise of the essay is that the militant nonviolent stance assumed by the US progressive movement is based on irrational psychological reasons rather than strategic reasons or moral principle.
Viewpoints from a Range of Activists
The 2007 edition contains a preface by Derrick Jensen, who lays out compelling reasons for the necessity of “violence” in bringing about genuine political change in his 2006 book Endgame. Jensen’s argument, as in Endgame, is primarily ecological. Humankind is being systematically killed off by the capitalist class, via their poisoning of the air, water and food chain, as well as their heedless imposition of catastrophic climate change. Jensen poses the very reasonable question: are we willing to retaliate violently to save our own lives and those of our children and grandchildren?
The next essay is Ed Mead’s preface to the 1998 edition of Pacifism as Pathology, immediately following an 18 year prison term as a result of armed actions (bombings of state and federal buildings in Washington State) conducted by the George Jackson Brigade. Based on his experiences, he arrives at the following conclusions: 1) pacifism as a strategy of achieving social, political and economic change can only lead to dead end liberalism – the most vicious and violent ruling class in history won’t give up privilege without a physical fight; 2) because 99.9% of practitioners of political violence will eventually confront death or imprisonment, it’s imperative that political violence be carried out in a manner calculated to win; and 3) although the George Jackson Brigade applied the tool of revolutionary violence when its use wasn’t appropriate, he feels pride that they erred on the side of making revolution instead of the alternative.
The book also contains an afterwards by Canadian Activist Mike Ryan describing his frustration after 20 years of nonviolent resistance as part of the Canadian peace movement – and his conclusion that violent resistance must be allowed as a tactic for genuine political change to occur.
Churchill’s Infamous Assault Rifle Workshop
Churchill explains, in his 1998 introduction, that Pacificism as Pathology was originally written in 1985 as part of a four year debate over a workshop “Demystification of the Assault Rifle” that he gave at a 1981 Radical Therapy conference. He was invited to give the workshop owing to an admission by many activists that their fear of weapons was chiefly responsible for their rejection of violence as a political strategy. The reaction of some conference participants was to pass a resolution banning similar workshops in the future, as well as the presence of firearms (except those of the police or military) at any Radical Therapy conference. Churchill was invited to write an article on his views for the magazine Issues in Radical Therapy, which was subsequently Xeroxed and distributed widely throughout North America. While Churchill acknowledges the right of all activists to personally reject violent strategies and tactics, he challenges the right of nonviolent proponents to condemn activists willing to embrace property destruction and/or armed self-defense among a diversity of strategies. As he points out, activists willing to engage in violent resistance wouldn’t dream of trying to force their views on nonviolent activists.
Armed Jewish Uprisings Under Nazi Occupation
For me, the most valuable part of the book is the first section about Bruno Bettelheim and Jewish armed uprisings, in the Warsaw and Bialystok ghettos and in numerous concentration camps during the second world war. This is an aspect of World War II history I was totally unaware if, as the work of Bettelheim and other scholars documenting armed Jewish resistance are carefully sanitized from the history textbooks served up to US high school and college students.
Bettelheim, who contrasts the Jews who resisted violently with the majority of Jews, who followed the Nazis passively to the camps and even to the gas chambers, makes a strong case for his belief that the persecution of the Jews was aggravated by the pervasive lack of fight back. He blames their failure to resist on strong psychological denial – a pathological need to cling to an illusion of “business as normal” – that ultimately overwhelmed their basic survival needs. The logical position would have been to accept the cold reality that their own lives were doomed and to use their deaths to save the life of other Jews by making the extermination more difficult. He points out that Jews had easy access to guns in 1930s and 1940s Germany, and there was no reason why every Jew that was arrested couldn’t take one or two SS officers with them.
Churchill describes how all the revolts inflicted significant damage on the Nazi machine. The revolt at Auschwitz killed 70 SS officers and destroyed the crematorium. Armed rebellions at Sorbibor and Reblinka were even more effective, and Sorbibor had to be closed following the uprising. There were also lesser insurrections at Kruszyna, Krychaw and Kopernik.
Militant Nonviolence: Racist, Deluded and Irrational
Churchill devotes the rest of the book to correcting historical distortions regarding Gandhi’s and Martin Luther Kings nonviolent resistance movements (which have been totally whitewashed by the ruling elite); a brief historical overview of the ineffectiveness of nonviolence in contrast to campaigns incorporating violent resistance; an analysis of the inherent racism implicit in the dogmatic nonviolence promoted by white upper middle class activists; and an outline of the irrational psychological motivations underlying militant nonviolence.
Although Churchill couches his psychological analysis in much more polite terms than I would, he believes that some white upper middle class activists are deeply conflicted about whether they really want to dismantle capitalism and give up their position of privilege. Thus they adamantly reject any approach incorporating violent resistance, owing to its historical record of effectiveness.
Pacifism as Pathology can be downloaded free at http://www.cambridgeaction.net/images/c/c7/Pacifism_As_Pathology.pdf