Derrick Jensen. Endgame, vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization; vol. 2: Resistance. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006. Paperback, total 929 pp.
Jensen, who also authored A Language Older Than Words and The Culture of Make Believe, is a powerful and a powerfully seditious writer. With these two volumes of Endgame, he has definitely emerged as today’s most vociferous spokesman of a growing movement that, outraged by the excesses of our consumer society, is calling for a revolution.
As he states in the first of twenty premises around which the rest of his argument is based, “Civilization is not and can never be sustainable.” He sees civilization as intrinsically violent—a violence closely tied to the hierarchical elite. Civilization, he further argues, cannot be fixed; it is irredeemable and will continue “to immiserate the vast majority of humans [and other beings] and to degrade the planet until it . . . collapses.”
I empathize and to a high degree even sympathize with Jensen’s position. I too am angry about the state of the world. I too see the destructiveness of our civilization. I too would like to vent my anger by tearing down old structures, but . . . I believe there is another, more responsible way of dealing with the situation: spiritual activism, with the emphasis on spiritual.
Jensen, at least in his rhetoric, at times inclines toward the violence that he so condemns. As I expressed in my essay “What’s Wrong with Anarchism?”: “Jensen is an honest thinker, who is tortured by his insights about the darkness of civilization. He makes a curious anarchist, for he has scruples. In a number of places he even admits that he is scared by his own radical thoughts.” There is a clear schism in his thinking, which allows him to recommend to others to take militant action, while he himself settles for written and spoken protestations.
To quote from the above essay one more time: “I cannot follow him on account of the same kind of sensitivity and conscience with which he appears to be endowed and which appears to be (temporarily?) eclipsed by his righteous anger against individuals and the “system” that is ravaging our common home.”
Jensen is very outspoken in Endgame—possibly too outspoken for an increasingly paranoid Homeland Security Department. The functionaries of that U.S. governmental department might not appreciate his more sensitive, lyrical, and even mystical side, as articulated in the following paragraph: “Do not listen to me. . . . If you want to know what to do, go to the nearest river, the nearest mountain, the nearest native tree, the nearest native soil, and ask it what it needs. Ask it to teach you.” (vol. 2, p. 887)
Jensen’s two-volume outpouring may be destined to attain the status of a manifesto, as it undoubtedly speaks for countless people. It has deeply stirred me and fertilized my own thinking.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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