Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Derrick Jensen vs. the Dalai Lama

Talk about a billing for fight night.

This weekend I went to the “Peace Jam,” a gathering that bills itself with the tag-line “Change Starts Here.” Listening to the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Sharin Ebadi, Rigoberta Manchu Tu, and five other Nobel Peace Price winners speak about how to solve the world’s problems was the perfect frame for reading Derrick Jensen’s latest tome, “Endgame, Vol. II: Resistance.” Their approaches could not be more different, each providing a counter-argument to the other. On top of that, It’s currently 4:30 in the morning and I’ve been sitting in a fluorescent-illuminated tile hallway all night (long story) listening to Rise Against’s latest album. Perhaps a bit of sensory overload.

Jensen’s “Endgame” is surprisingly direct. After indicting civilization in Volume I, he proceeds to outline his dream of a violent resistance to civilization. It is literally a declaration of war. I found it particularly fascinating because it focuses on a detailed prescription for an all-out campaign to destroy dams, including targeting strategies, how to effectively use explosives, creating cascading failure, identification of critical nodes, etc. Since this is the exact reason why the government sees fit to keep me in their employ, I am not at liberty to comment on this aspect of Jensen’s work. But my aim here is to address Jensen’s broader proposal to address the problems of civilization through direct and violent confrontation. His first chapter, “We Shall Destroy Them All,” begins with this quote from Thomas Jefferson (providing prospective on the then-current conflicts with Native Americans): “In war, they shall kill some of us; we shall destroy them all.” As Jensen points out, this is the approach that our growth-based civilization takes towards its opponents, and by default towards the Earth in general. Jensen recommends adopting that same strategy in defense of the Earth, summarizing the demand of one faction within anarcho-primitivism—the complete destruction of industrialized civilization. Jensen wraps up his introduction by expressing his displeasure with the pacifist approach to solving the problem of civilization, specifically leveling criticism at the Buddhist practitioner who said “what I do for peace is split wood.” It is the failure of this kind of withdrawal approach that Jensen claims validates his “fight back” alternative.

The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, thinks that the problem of civilization can be solved through compassion and a reduction in negative emotions, specifically advocating the personal change path and advising that we follow Ghandi’s advice to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” While I think that this approach is much more sophisticated than Jensen’s simple characterization of “withdrawal,” I don’t find it necessarily superior to “fight back.”

I think that both Jensen’s “fight back” and the Dalai Lama’s “personal compassion” are selectively valuable tools. In truth I think that “personal compassion” is universally valuable, just not universally effective. Ultimately, both strategies only work to the degree that they address the fundamental causes of the problem of civilization. I think that “fight back,” at least as articulated by Jensen, fails to clearly identify these causes, and therefore only has effect to the degree that such action chances upon sources of causation. Differently, “personal compassion” intends to address causation directly but, to use terminology (probably inaccurately) from Buddhism, succeeds only in affecting a makyo of ultimate causation—that is, compassion directly addresses only an ephemeral symptom of the ultimate causes of the problem of civilization. Ultimately, I think that the failures of these very different approaches highlight the actual solution—which is firmly grounded in the need to properly define the problem.

This ultimate source of causation is, in my opinion, the structural underpinnings of civilization. I’ve written at length about this (see A Theory of Power), but in essence hierarchy is structurally unstable, and the symptoms of “Civilization” are in fact symptoms of this underlying, hierarchal structure. A solution that does not specifically and directly address hierarchy as the source of these problems will fail. Jensen’s “fight back” will fail because, for all its military overtones, it does not leverage the fundamental military principle of economy of force—the large portion of its energy wasted in misdirected action takes away from its ability to actually impact our fundamental hierarchy. It would be difficult enough to defeat hierarchy with 100% of the effort that Jensen hopes to muster. With the 20% that may, by chance, actually impact hierarchy-in-itself, it will surely fail to have the desired effect. Likewise, the “personal compassion” advocated by the Dalai Lama will fail because it does not actually address hierarchy. While I think that personal compassion is a valuable tool in affecting change, it must be combined with more before it can actually form a viable alternative to our present, hierarchal system.

One of the Nobel Laureates at “Peace Jam” came very close to articulating this exact problem. Rigoberta Manchu Tu, an indigenous Mayan activist, commented that the US economy is predicated upon the exploitation of other, poorer economies. She further stated that wealth in the rest of the world necessarily required poverty in the US. A bold statement, certainly, in front of a mostly upper-class crowd of “Land Rover Liberals,” but the one comment that most closely identified that the source of the problem lies with hierarchy.

A solution to hierarchy must, ultimately, be an alternative to hierarchy. Even if Jensen’s dreams succeed, the resulting anarchy would lack the communication structure to maintain an awareness of the problems of civilization that is necessary to prevent its rebirth (even if only in some patchwork of dystopian micro-agrarian despotisms). It is precisely because a solution must also be an alternative that I think, ultimately, the Dalai Lama’s second message—that of non-violence—is not only a possible attribute of a solution, but a necessity. As Daniel Quinn noted, organized violence is the sine qua non of civilization, and it is uniquely adapted to defeat a challenge that is itself predicated on violence. While, as John Robb has pointed out (and I have often advocated), Fourth Generation Warfare is able to effectively confront the weaknesses of civilization, it remains incapable of providing an alternative to civilization. Ultimately, a fifth-generation conflict moves beyond the current spectrum of insurgencies to provide a fundamental alternative to the hierarchal mode of organization. In a way this comes full circle and embodies both the Dalai Lama and Jensen while rejecting their superficialities: fifth generation “conceptual” warfare will defeat civilization by “fighting back” with “personal compassion,” not acts of violence, to propagate an alternative system of coordinating complexity from hierarchy. As I have written about extensively elsewhere (see Rhizome Theory Directory), this fifth generation “warfare” is the establishment of a rhizome structure to coordinate complexity in human society without the hierarchal symptoms of diminishing marginal returns or the demand for growth. Ultimately, in any world that I can imagine to be worth saving, destruction of civilization is ultimately only temporary. Depending on various theories of collapse, overshoot, resource depletion, and environmental destruction, it is likely that hierarchal civilization will never again rise to its present level. But that does not mean that a still-hierarchal, still-destructive patchwork dystopia cannot soon emerge from the ashes. For this reason, even if Jensen succeeds, his efforts to end domination and the abuses of hierarchy will ultimately fail. Only the maintenance of a sufficient level of organized complexity can perpetuate a sufficiently uniform anthropological self-awareness to prevent the recurrence of hierarchy—an anthropological self-awareness that can be effectively maintained within a rhizome structure.

By “anthropological self-awareness,” I mean an understanding within the general populace of the forces that operate within human society, of the dangers of hierarchy, and of the specific theories that permit rhizome complexity without creating the dependencies that degrade eventually into hierarchal structures. For lack of a better analogy, it is much like the self-awareness of the rules of a horror movie by the characters in the movie “Scream.” This anthropological self-awareness must, itself, become our new mythology. Within such an environment—and I think only within such an environment—a network of rhizome nodes can be established that co-exists with hierarchy, while at the same time out of phase with hierarchy, gradually replacing hierarchy as the latter becomes increasingly irrelevant. It’s a complicated vision—and that is certainly one of its weaknesses—but if the Catholic church can get away with the Trinity for two millennia, it seems like rhizome is worth a shot…


Theo_musher said...

I finished your book. I haven't read "endgame I and II" yet, but I plan to try to get a hold of a copy. The thing I like about Rhizomes is that its positive. I mean eventually, we have to get beyond critical theory and present alternatives.

I think we'll just have to start building this new form of society in the midst of the dying heirarchies. I think it will involve a form of civil disobedience, related to the types of practicalities involved in living admist all these intensive regulations and laws that aren't designed for people living off the land. But, yeah, some type of all out mayhem ala "Fight Club"
Doesn't strike me as realistic at all.

Theo_musher said...

The form of civil disobedience I am thinking of mostly involves getting past a certian mindset, of think every little rediculous law needs to be obeyed even if they go counter to realistic and responsible survival needs. Not really civil disobedience for the purpose of making a point but just basically, trying to get away with stuff until kind of a critical mass is reached and flouting certian laws becomes tolerated by neighboring hierarchies.

An example would be people hunting and gathering in a state forest and squatting there illegally, without being caught but then as gas prices go up to the degree that enforcement is impractical, sort of becoming a bit more overt about because it looks like it will be tolerated.

That kind of thing. Meanwhile people doing stuff like this develop a respect for the Earth that transcends these written laws anyway.

Anonymous said...

I was first introduced to hierarchy as the fundamental problem of our world when I was 20. A friend shared a personal philosophy of his he loosely called "Vertical and Horizontal." Eight years later I keep returning to it because so-called Vertical Thinking explains so much for me.

Daniel Quinn offers up ownership (locking up the food) as one of the fundamental conceptual problems in "My Ishmael," but ownership is really predicated on a notion of deservingness which, I think, is the bud of hierarchy.

The approach of "Be the change you want to see" could work if that change was a change to Horizontal relationships. If, say, you opened a restaurant and didn't give yourself a bigger salary than the waiters or even the dishwashers just because you "own the place." If I earned enough money from running a restaurant to meet all of my obligations, and my basic wants, I wouldn't care if I lived any better than the bussers or not.

Hierarchy, or Vertical Thinking, probably has a spiritual root; I bet it's rooted in the difference between having what one needs and having everything the ego wants.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the middle of the first volume of Endgame and haven't yet read A Theory of Power (but will soon).

Anyway, isn't urgency the key as far as Jensen goes? If we don't help to speed up collapse then civlization may well take the whole world with it (if we're not already past that point).

Alan2012 said...

Whatever is falling should
be pushed" -- Nietzsche


Anonymous said...

I absolutely had the same thought about urgency. Time is of the essence and human society's hierarchy is only of interest to those small numbers who do survive. Being the change I want to see means being brave about living and dying and ending the horror. Jensen's awareness of the imperiled earth seems more realistic given the delay that the Dalai Lama's ideas would cost to implement.

Anonymous said...

I used to be in the Derrick Jensen email list and there seems to be a real culture around him of hatred of civilisation and hatred of people.

The irony is that only a civilised person would have access to this level of obsessive antipathy but I suspect he's not getting a lot of negative feeback. I agree with him that civilisation needs to come down but it's much better to replace it with something better and there was minimal discussion about that when I was involved. Ultimately I left because the whole experience ended up beign symptomatic of civilisation itself. Plus Derrick seems to be really obsessed with the evils of christianity which was getting to be a real drag.

Frank Black said...

Man creates structure because he craves it. Even those who protest over civilization and all its structured hierarchies of power want structure. We crave structure because the universe needs structure. The orbits of the planets need structure. Our bodies need structure. Our minds seek it out. We love it and loathe it at the very same time. I don't understand it, but I can't see any way out of it right now. We don't seem to have the ability to live in a truly free way.

Some structure is based on biological imperatives: As much as we may want to have a child with our partner, we can't do it unless that partner is of the opposite sex. That may change at some time in the future, but it is a fact for now. That makes the family structure "structured". The rules may bend and soften here and there, but the man and woman portion does not. There are better times to hunt than others on our planet. Each region has its own unique settings, but there are still better times to hunt than others. There are better times to plant than others. The cycles of nature drove us to create elaborate rituals that comfort us in our ignorance. We just crave structure. I think we crave it because it makes us feel safe.

I've often told my peacenick friends (of which I am one) that our method for changing the world isn't the only valid method. We wish to see a world changed by peaceful, thoughtful and compassionate means that are free of ego, greed and selfishness. Many people want that sort of change. But, there are also those who would like to change the world through violence. Their vision of the world may be one of a single race, religion or philosophy. This world would be created via destruction. An odd way to create, but it is, alas, a valid method. And, please understand, when I say "it is a valid method", it doesn't mean I advocate it or feel that it is "good". But, it is every bit as valid as my chosen method. There may be a myriad of other methods with various shades of difference; each of them is as valid as the next. In the end, what makes something valid is being able to effect it. If you feel the world should be changed by a violent overthrow that includes removing all white people from the face of the earth, you are certainly within the bounds of natural law to attempt such a thing. But, if you do decide to attempt to implement your change, you will likely be met with opposition. That opposition's power (in whatever form "power" comes) will meet your power. The greater power wins. Sometimes power is violence. Sometimes power is persuasion. Sometimes power is something else. Some would hope that "god" would intervene on behalf of their cause. Since god is the ultimate embodiment of power, we all hope that such a being/force/chick/dude is on our side.

To date, innumerable methods have been tried and none have succeeded. Just like many religions, we perceive our methods of changing civilization as the ultimate method ever attempted. Whenever I hear of a church or religion speaking of newly acquired wisdom, relvelation or knowledge, I smile and think, "Oh, thank god that FINALLY, after millennia of trying, we now have full wisdom and understanding! And to think it came from Topeka, Kansas!"

I think we build structures and hierarchies and tear them down just as fast. We learn from the experience and find ourselves hating what we once believed because we feel it to be inferior or less sophisticated. How could we go back to the way things were? Look how far we've come? To go back would we be an offense to all those who sacrificed to get us this far? Perhaps this is just the "American" in me reacting to our incessant change. Nothing, from pants to music is "good enough". We always need something better, newer and different. Perhaps those from other nations could give their perspective?

Ultimately, we end up where we are now... we look around and try to figure out where we are heading and how to nudge things into the direction we desire. We know that where we are isn't cutting it. We know that where we've been didn't cut it either (or, if it did, it didn't cut it for the more powerful people). I don't pretend to have the answers to all of this. I know that things are about to change in a big way and there is nothing we can do about it. This time it isn't a powerful tribe, brutal government or heartless corporate power that is instigating change; this time it seems to be nature itself. Man vs. Nature: Who ya got?

Jon said...

I've read most of Derrick Jensen's books, but not A Theory of Power. I'm presuming based on the blog contents that the solution Jeff Vail is proposing would take longer to come about than would the solution to bring down civilization by using a diversity of tactics (ie. violence if necessary, but not necessarily violence), which is more along the lines of what Endgame is about to my reading, than just 'fighting back'.

I agree with other commenters that the issue of urgency has to be primary in this discussion. There appears to be very little time available to bring about the necessary change in order to avert all out ecological disaster.

If time is a valid constraint to be considered (to me, it clearly is), does the answer as to what the best solution is change?

Also, since I'm on the Derrick Jensen discussion list, I though I'd write to counter what 'Anonymous' said at 6:33PM:

Anon wrote:
"I used to be in the Derrick Jensen email list and there seems to be a real culture around him of hatred of civilisation and hatred of people."

Regarding hatred of civilization: He's an anti-civ author, folks on the list can clearly identify some pretty major problems with civilization, but the analysis goes way deeper than a mushy, loaded word like hate.

Regarding hatred of people: This is categorically untrue.

Anon wrote:
"Plus Derrick seems to be really obsessed with the evils of christianity which was getting to be a real drag."

That's really really far from anything I've ever observed on the list.

Theo_musher said...

I think there will have to be some violence and some property destruction. It doesn't have to be an either or approach. But if a Rhizome is built in an area and it gets clearcut and all the people are evicted what is all the love and compassion in the world going to do?

That's not to say everyone has to go immediately to the nearest dam and bow it up, but there has to be a willingness to defend ones way of life as one becomes part of a network of people living independant of civilization.

The "man" will come calling eventually.

Anonymous said...

"I am certain that none of the world's problems – which we are all perforce thinking about today – have any hope of solution except through all of world around society's individuals becoming thoroughly and comprehensively self-educated. Only thereby will society be able to identify and inter-communicate the vital problems of total world society. Only thereafter may humanity effectively sort out and put those problems into order of importance for solution in respect to the most fundamental principles governing man's survival and enjoyment of life on Earth."

— Buckminster Fuller, "Preamble and Memorandum to Those Interested in Playing World Game"

Anonymous said...

This is interesting....I agree with Jon, and like Jon, I'm on the DJ list.

I think there is an over-reaction when 'violence' is mentioned as part of the tools that may be needed to change things.

It's a good example of one of Derrick's premises in "Endgame" that violence going down the hierachy is fairly transparent (or justified with media/political spin), but is considered abhorant, obscene or not on, etc going the other way.

Violence may be used, or maybe won't be used. It's not the only tool. Get over it: the governments in power use violence all the time and with all the WMD's they have stockpiled, have had the monopoly for too long. Why give them this in the face of what's happening? The biosphere is going down! Please don't get hung up on this!

To me the best examples of how/why violence could be used would be the responces from indigenous people on the edge of empire, who are having their land taken or destroyed, their cultures pulled down by globalisation. They are the leaders and true heroes right now. As Derrick says, I don't know how to live sustainably. I need to ask the land where I live what it needs and how to do this.

Most indigenous cultures know this. If they choose to use violence, it's usually as a last resort in the face of rapicious greed, cheating, lying developers who are ripping them off and destroying their land. I think that's a functional expression of anger, rage and violence.

I may be anti this civ, but I'm for 'leaver' type indigenous cultures. I really hope they survive, and if possible we join them. There is hope, but not for us 'homo colossus' (read William Catton's "Overshoot").

There's 570+ species going to extinction everyday. IMHO, either we really change the way we live, quickly, or join them. Mass extinction is beckoning us to have a very big shake up. Violence may be a part of this whether we like it or not. I hope this violence is mostly going up the chain, not down.

'Dopeless hope addict'

Anonymous said...

Ummmmm .... I guess I don't see how the Dalai Lama, who is the head of a hierarchical, civilized organization, really has much of anything relevant to say against civilization. Since when has Tibetan Buddhism been a force against domestication, against rulers, against hierarchy? Tibet was one of the most hierarchical and tyrannical of class societies!

That doesn't mean that some of his RHETORIC couldn't be appropriated, such as peace, etc., but I don't see how he has the qualifications whatsoever to speak against civilization. He's certainly not going to abdicate his hierarchical position.

Theo_musher said...

Plus if his tactics were all that effective he'd be living in Tibet and not India.

sventastic said...

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength to Love (1963)

Violence is an expression of hierarchy: it is the intention and action of dominance over another.

Change occurs, violence happens; that's the way of the world. We, as humans however, have the capacity to choose how to act with each other and our environment.
We may find ourselves in less-than-ideal conditions, but that's the hand we're dealt, and we have to work within the realistic context we find ourselves in. That's the dynamic relationship between choice and choicelessness. We are choiceless in the circumstances we find ourselves in, but from that very place, we can choose how to think, feel, and act.
The world is what we make of it. Be the change you want to see in the world, is pretty simple, profound, and brilliant.
That does not mean indulging in idiot-compassion or spiritual materialism. It doesn't necessarily mean pacifism. But it does mean opening our eyes, hearts, and minds, and realizing that "business as usual," a.k.a. hierarchy and its patterns of violence, are futile and self-destructive.
There is a better and more ultimately skillful way to go about things, one based in simplicity, altruism and loving-kindness.
By-the-by, in terms of Dalai Lama and Tibet: It's true that Tibetan history is rife with the worst of bureaucracy, politics, and sectarian violence. But at the same time has produced self-actualized and amazing people. Maybe it was time for these teachings to leave that container and spread throughout the world.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the middle of Endgame 1 also and am very glad to hear of your work, the Theory of Power. I like this talk of rhizome very much because even though I have not read your book it gives me a picture, networked grassroots is what I see. I personally have high hopes the Green Party will be able to shake off central authority figures like Peter Camejo and others like him trying to impose hierarchy but so far we are standing firm and maintaining the democratic federation they've begun. That is the structure I see standing beside the current hierarchy and taking care of business while also replacing policy makers with much better people. The national GP is a federation of state parties and the state parties are federations of locals. I also agree there needs to be a spiritual aspect, that of respecting the earth's spirit to approach the right attitude for allowing a lasting change. So glad you folks are talking about this. One of my songs is Hierarchy...

Hierarchy, hierarchy
The way this world is run you see
So much social misery
All because of hierarchy

To put one above another
is not the way it’s meant to be.
So, let’s don’t blame each other, its just that hierarchy.

Some have got religion
They say theirs is the best
They believe their God
Is above all of the rest
A great big man in charge
And he may be unkind
If you don’t accept him as
The master of your mind

But to put one above another
is not the way it’s meant to be.
So, let’s don’t blame each other, ignore that hierarchy.

Some believe in science
They say it is the truth
They say it should be obvious
They say that they have proof
the universe is nothing but
a stone cold machine
And they will accept no argument
Against that kind of meme

But to put one above another
is not the way it’s meant to be.
So, let’s don’t blame each other, forget that hierarchy.

Racism and sexism
And some other isms too
They are all designed you see
to put one up on you.
It’s not our rights or freedom
It’s responsibility
And diversity is nature’s way
To peace and harmony

But to put one above another
is not the way it’s meant to be.
So, let’s don’t blame each other, its just that hierarchy.

© 2006 Howard M. Switzer

Theo_musher said...

What I would like to know is how hard are elites willing to fight to stay in power? If power is just a process of blind evolutionary forces, then I can see rhizomes gradually establishing themselves paralell to hierarchies and eventually supplanting them.

Then hierarchy would have no choice but to cease from replicating itself and intensifying and so just fade away.

If elites know wherby their power is derived and know how to preserve it and eliminate threats to it, then I don't see hierarchy going out without a fight.

There is only really a handful of the elite of the elite anyway, even in a massive crash and massive die off, there still would be room for elites to Lord over everyone else ala neo-feudalism.

Theo_musher said...

If anyone is interested I just wrote about this debate on my blog from another perspective, the perspective of what type of person it would take to violently overthrow civilization.

kyle said...

Thank you for having this discussion. I've read every word Derrick has ever published. I've been on his email list in the past and, for the most part, have enjoyed it very much. When I went back to school, I had to sign off for a bit because the email traffic became more than I could handle.

Regardless of individual criticisms, I think Derrick is one of the most important writers and thinkers of our time. He raises important issues that abolutely need to be addressed. Our culture is (and always has been) based on violence. Our way of life is based on the use of nonrenewable resources (and the hyperexploitation of renewable resources) and is, therefore, by definition, unsustainable. It isn't going to last. A group of people aren't going to bring down civilization....but it will come down like a building with a weak foundation.

"In truth I think that “personal compassion” is universally valuable, just not universally effective."

Bingo. So why do we keep trying? If I stop buying chicken, that will not end the factory farms. I will never rape a woman, but that doesn't affect the mindset of objectification and entitlement that infect this culture. I will never personally kill anybody (not that I can tell from here anyway), but that will not stop those in power from systematically destroying communities the world over.

We might not agree on everything Derrick says, but I'm sure we can agree that something else needs to be employed. At least his line of thought forces us to confront the fact that "we aren't winning." The kind of personal compassion that the Dalai Lama advocates simply doesn't work. Derrick has started an important dialog of other possibilities.

sventastic said...

Hello all.
It's very important how one defines compassion.
It is not lovey-dovey, saccharine, "idiot-compassion" that superficially tries to make everyone happy.
This would be ridiculous, futile, and counter-productive to actually helping people liberate themselves from their suffering.
Compassion can mean "tough love" sometimes, like a parent rearing a child. Belligerant anger and violence are not effective methods in relating with anyone, let alone a worked-up kid. Rather, giving them some space, and showing them kindness and compassion, while remaining calm, poised, and perseverent is much more skillful.
I don't have kids myself, but have worked at plenty of overnight summer camps for experience.
Anyhow, the methods of skillfully and compassionately working with children, and the elderly (the best work there is as far as I'm concerned) are directly applicable to dealing with all other folks as well.
Again, unabashed violence is not the answer. It only makes things worse. One might have to act forcefully, or even physically, but one can do so with compassionate intent and positive motivation, rather than being carried away by and indulgent in negative emotions.
Look at your own experience. Think about the times you've given in to violent urges, and look at the results. Look at the times you've thoughtfully engaged situations, maybe with some love and kindness in your heart, and look at the results of that.
Now look at greater human history and apply the same reasonings.
Gandhi and MLK, to name just 2, accomplished sweeping, radical reforms that unquestionably increased the quality of life of millions of people, within a context of oppression and systemic violence, while using methods of active non-violence and love.
Their methods were specific to their particular cultural contexts, but the underlying, enduring message of human dignity and compassion are universal.
One must find this within oneself first, and then express it out to others. As the Dalai Lama said recently, we must first disarm ourselves (of hate, greed, fear, violence, etc.) before we can truly make positive change in the world.
Societies are composed of individuals, and we must all work on our own hearts and minds adequately first while also working with others. All of our acts and intentions are interdependent; everything we do effects each other and our environment. Doesn't it make sense to make genuninely postive acts?
Revolution is needed. Violent revolution is not.
Violent revolution motivated and engaged in anger, hate, and fear that will only perpetuate the same negative patterns in ourselves and in society.
We must cut this cycle at its root, and the only way to accomplish that is through love and compassion, attitudes that heal and cultivate as opposed to those which oppress or destroy.

Theo_musher said...

What if elites are sick of all the problems with the earth too and have plans to "cull the herd"?

Aren't there powerful microwaves and lasers now that can remove people from an area without destroying the land?

The US military machine seems much more capable of handling this problem through violence than environmental activists.

If you talk about violence, you are talking of being an elitist and making decisions of who lives and who dies. You are talking about knowing what is best for everybody else. I don't see this as being anarchist or populist. This is aside from whether it is compassionate or not.

This is where my thoughts on led to.
If there is a successful violent eco revolution why would it not work out like animal farm?

I think that is Jeff's point. But I agree violent insurrection would be only partly sucessful. 20% might be really high.

How sucessful were the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground in changing the status quo? People are more radical now?

sventastic said...

I'm not exactly sure what you are asking me.
Folks who are perceived to be in power have always oppressed others, and violence is and has historically been the path of least resistance and lowest common denominator in asserting control. This does not need to be the case.
Is a parent being elitist when she tells a child to look both ways before crossing the street? Is she oppressing or using violence? Is she trying to be compassionate and help the child out?
It really depends on the mindset of the mother in that moment.
I think a more relevant question may be: what is power?
Is it simply the ability or inclination to exert violence over or kill others?
I don't think so. If this was the case, then mass-murderers would be considered very powerful people, but instead we generally think of them as isolated crazy people. Socially, we tend to ascribe "power" to folks we've been socially conditioned to submit ourselves to, like policemen, generals or presidents, etc. (all of whom are often responsible for a lot of killing one way or another, but in less direct ways).
Hierarchy or power are purely conceptual constructs. They don't truly "exist," not in the same way the Mississippi River or Grand Canyon or the moon. They are not tangible objects to be given or taken away.
They are a state of mind, attitude, or belief system. It is for this very reason that they don't actually have any control over our lives
Let me repeat that:
Hierarchy does not necessarily have any control over our lives.
Although the folks with the lasers and microwaves can maim us or kill us, that does not necessarily make them victimizers or us victims.
Only we can make that decision.
I'll repeat that one, too:
Only we ourselves can decide for ourselves who has control or dominance over us.
We may be beaten, put in jail, tortured, killed, and thrown in an unmarked mass grave.
This does not mean that the perpetrators of those acts have power over us.
This might seem counterintuitive, but please take a moment, a deep breath, and a step back.
What does "having power" mean? It is not merely the threat of inflicting physical or mental suffering. Physical and mental suffering are relative phenomena. The suffering I have because I can't get a cookie for desert is a little different from a child who is starving and lives in a toxic waste dump in Calcutta. And yet my suffering seems so close and real.
It is not.
We must realize this for ourselves, each and every single one of us, inlcuding the gang with the lasers.
Power is a belief, a myth, a contrived and imaginary mental phenomenon. Our concepts about it definitely exert influence over how we live our lives. This is mainly the result of social conditioning, but our beliefs and investments in them can be re-programed.
We must respect that which should be respected, but we don't have to submit ourselves to it. We should learn how to act skillfully and wisely in the world, without truly becoming subservient or passive to anyone, nor reacting violently against them, for such a reaction would only serve to perpetuate the downward spiral of suffering.
This is my main point:
People only seem to have the power than we mentally and socially invest in them. It is a perceived reality only.
It is like being afraid of a fire in a dream.
While we're in the dream, the hot smoke and fire seem very real, but in actuality, you are simply in your climate controlled bedroom and have no reason to be afraid.
Then we wake up, there's no fire, and we breath a sigh of relief and forget about it, and move on to the next scary thing that seems to have power over us, like Donald Rumsfeld, a gang of marauders with a laser, or a shortage of cookies.
Do you see what I'm getting at?
I'm not saying we should be nihilists and not believe in anything at all. On the contrary, I am espousing compassion and care as per my previous post.
What I'm saying is that we don't need to live our lives in fear (or greed or hatred) of those in "power". We put those very people in positions of power, physcial or otherwise.
We cannot control whether we are hit with a tsunami, earthquake, or microwave weapon. But we don't have to freak out or cower in fear or victimhood if we experience these things.
Please don't think that I'm letting folks who hurt other folks off the hook; I'm not. Their immoral actions will come back to haunt them, as per the law of cause and effect.
I'm saying that it's not only nice to be compassionate and kind, but it really is the most skillful and sustainable strategy for living in the world. We do not have to invest power or belief in others, and we can live our lives genuninely free, regardless of hurricanes, meteors, or lasers and microwaves.

Theo_musher said...


I apologize, I actually was adressing the poster above you. I guess, its Kyle, I was responding to. Specifically these "other pssibilities" he was mentioning that Jensen is adressing. You and I seem to largely agree.

If these "other possibilities" include violence, as in blowing up dams and knocking out power in order to create a cascading effect leading to system failure, I think they are doomed.

They won't work. I mean is spontaneous reversion to hunting and gathering the result of the recent bombing in Southern Lebanon? Are the Lebanese people all going to simply throw their hands in the air and say "well, I guess we will just have to be small groups of hunter gatheres and horticulturists now that are infrastructure has been knoecked out."

No. They are going to rebuild their farms and factories and now they just hate Israel more. Its not like there are no test cases to study of how large scale violence works. It may be new to environmentalists coming from the milieu of the Sierra club and luberalism and so forth. I mean its probably not foremost on their minds to study warfare.

But the US military has meanwhile gotten pretty adept at destroying things. These new weapons can kill all the people in an area without destroying the infrastructure and turning everything into rubble.

So someone with a vision of large scale violence with the intention of radically transforming an area of land ought to look into these techniques, maybe the goal should be to become an elite cabal and take over the US stae department and enforce eco fascism upon the globe. Become world rulers and enforce sustainable permaculture in an imperialist fashion.

Anonymous said...

Jeff- Read you infrequently, but always interesting.

Anonymous said:Derrick seems to be really obsessed with the evils of christianity which was getting to be a real drag.

Which is really funny. I spent ten years in the right wing and many of them advocated violent overthrow of the government, too. Obviously ignoring the new testament admonition to obey the government.

Anyway, I get real irritated by people like that. I know they picture themselves as some sort of James Bond/ ninja hybrid. Revolution/ civil war/ destruction of "civilization" or whatever you want to name it is this: death, disease, misery, dirt, blood, starvation. et al. For children and old people especially.

I've never read this guy, but I can tell you all this sort of deal just brings in a different sort of despot. Mankind hasn't changed on iota since the dawn of time.

I appreciate the Dalhi Lama. I hope it comes to that and soon. The other crap? He might be a real "thinker" but he obviously doesn't give a shit about the children that would suffer under his ideas. And, yes, it's probably going to happen anyway. If Dick Cheney does it or HE does it, does it make them any different?

sushil yadav said...

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.





To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




Anonymous said...

Please explore the similarities of your Rhizomes to the principles of Sociocracy. Also there is a middle-way buddhism which is not passive -- but instead actively involved in societal change. Check out this site:

Anonymous said...

I think that the anti-civilization anti-hierarchist arguments are missing the boat. Hierarchies in human social constructs evolved because they were more effective than the small groups that they absorbed or destroyed. Because hierarchies are becoming more complex and possibly more intrusive or destructive doesn't negate this advantage.

I think where it is going is diffusing responsibility. This preserves hierarchies and minimizes their weaknesses at the same time.

The Wehrmacht in WWII were masters at this. It enabled the German army to fight numerically superior forces on an equal basis because they were able to change direction and reorganize quickly and effectively in the face of the local situation on the ground.

This is not authoritarianism, the individuals doing the work tells their boss how the work is going to be done and what the effort required will be, or even that the goal is inappropriate or unachievable.

This doesn't eliminate conflict, but it does push responsibility down to the participants. If it fails it is not the hierarchies' fault it is the individual's since they said they could do it. This causes them to buy into the goal and to make the effort that it takes to maintain the hierarchy and achieve the goal.

Where we see armed conflict in the world today it is because the freedom fighter/terrorist has been disenfranchised by the local hierarchy and their is no advantage to participating. Armed resistance is very expensive, it may cost you your life. To remove violence as a viable alternative you need make the cost of dying exceed the cost of not being violent. If I'm going to die of disease, starvation, or execution by state sponsored forces by the time I'm 35 or 40 the price of dying for what I believe in at 25 or 30 is relatively low.