Sunday, 9 March 2014

Endgame & The Weather Underground

These two documentaries discuss the theme of violent resistance. I don’t know whether Derrick Jensen has ever been arrested, or had the courage of his convictions when it comes to planting bombs and throwing missiles (I doubt it somehow), but as a TV and Film guest, and author of multiple deep green books on saving Mother Earth, he looks quite comfortable doing his mudslinging to me. Despite his criticism of mainstream environmental groups, he is establishment, and he is packaging a type of quixotic radicalism designed to appeal to alienated kids; a “market” for his books.  

I have many reservations about attacking “civilisation” as opposed to the (more accurate) terms “corporatism” or “capitalism” which indicates Jensen would rather throw the baby out with the bathwater, and we all revert to Luddite squalour living in tipis, despite the fact that as a world population we have already surpassed the carrying capacity of the natural environment to sustain that hand to mouth mode of life.

(i)                  We are technological apes;
(ii)                Technology (as an outgrowth of lumpen mechanistic science) is the handmaiden of capitalism, and will necessarily undergo paradigmatic change in a post scarcity culture.
(iii)               Not all “civilisation” is “bad”.
(iv)              Enlightened technology could be used for the betterment of humankind and the planet (See the upcoming John Liu documentary on soil depletion and terraforming)

Don’t get me wrong- I agree with much of Jensen’s critique of “civilisation” as he calls it, but he sounds to me like so many Deep Greeners- bleating on about tearing up the existing social relations, and (unless I’ve missed something) short on how to be the change (permaculture, design, education, extensification, going off grid, promoting diversity, non cooperation with authority structures and the failing money economy). I expect he is an advocate of depopulation to resolve the ecological crisis which brings a number of undesirable ethical problems.

Human society should be small scale (after E.F Schumacher, Colin Ward, etc etc), community based, diverse, resilient, low tech, but appropriate use of technology is a defining feature of our species. This wholesale “anti- civilisation” theme is a characteristic of the Deep Green movement, which Murray Bookchin identified and took to task throughout the course of his lifetime. Probably we will return to it, but suffice to say anyone who has to work the land will agree the use of some technology is a necessity, unless we want to live in abject drudgery in enslavement to a bucolic ideal. People who write “revolutionary books” should realise that.

The Weathermen Underground is a fascinating portrayal of the radical revolutionary group in the 60’s- 70’s which used violent means to advance their left wing program. The whole documentary is an allegorical repost to the violent resistance sentiment of Derrick Jensen and others who believe that smashing up a few windows downtown is the answer. Two quotes from the Weathermen documentary:

We believe that The Weathermen actions are anarchistic, opportunistic, individualistic, chauvinistic, its custeristic, and that’s the bad part about it. It’s custeristic in that its leaders take people into situations where the people can be massacred. And they call that revolution? Aint nothin’ but child’s play- it’s folly.

Illinois Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton condemning the Weathermen’s Days of Rage demonstrations.

I think what has to be stared at is that they brought themselves (they were not brought- they brought themselves) to that point. To the point where they were ready to be mass murderers. This is mass murder we are talking about. They came to this conclusion, which is the conclusion that was come to by all the great killers; whether Hitler, or Stalin, or Mao: that they have a grand project for the transformation and purification of the world. And in the face of that project, ordinary life is dispensable. They joined that tradition.

Todd Gitlin: American sociologist, political writer, novelist, and cultural commentator.

I don’t want to be too hard on Jensen. I share his anger and despondency at this time. But I just don’t think killing, maiming, and "destroying civilisation" is the way to go. I will leave the last words to MLK, since he was ungraciously lampooned in the Endgame documentary:

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, 
but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

By South Utsire

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