Melissa Gragg and Jason Miller interview Derrick Jensen
“Top priorities may not be any of those five. It may be continuing to stabilize the financial system. We don’t know yet what’s going to happen in January. And none of this can be accomplished if we continue to see a potential meltdown in the banking system or the financial system. So that’s priority number one, making sure that the plumbing works in our capitalist system.” —President-Elect Barack Obama
Ironically, it is the plumbing of that capitalist system that we are using as we flush the future of life on Earth down the toilet.
We can “elect” a charismatic, intelligent man from a brutally oppressed minority to be our president to purge our collective guilt, mouth “feel good” platitudes, celebrate the triumph of “democracy,” and delude ourselves into believing we are preparing to warp back to a fictitious golden era when America was a benevolent guardian of humanity and the Earth, but that doesn’t change the fact that industrial capitalism is rendering this planet uninhabitable.
And just two days after the “election,” we learned that our newly minted “savior,” for whom we were desperate after eight years of “anomalous” malevolence under the Bush administration, is making the viability of our violent, irrational, unstable, exploitative, unjust, and unsustainable socioeconomic paradigm “priority number one.”
Obama has sold his soul to capitalism, a way of being premised on greed, selfishness, materialism, alienation, and infinite growth—a recipe for ecocide.
Perhaps the best “change” for which we can “hope” is that more people will awaken and fall into a despair that spurs them to do something about the rapidly deteriorating state of our environment, frighteningly large increases in the number of extinct species, rising scarcity of potable water, ecological overshoot, and a host of other symptoms of the terminal disease Obama blithely calls the “capitalist system.”
Let’s glean some insight from Derrick Jensen, an anarcho-primitivist, author, lecturer, philosopher, and tireless fighter for a beleaguered, dying planet. Here is a back and forth he had with radical activist, Melissa Gragg, and Cyrano’s Journal Online’s associate editor, Jason Miller, on 4/15/08:
Melissa: Okay, let’s start off with you kind of, I’ve seen a couple interviews, and I guess you have to answer some of the same questions over and over.
Melissa: But do you want to explain to people who haven’t read your writing why you think civilization needs to be brought down?
Derrick: Well it’s killing the planet. Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. There’s six to ten times as much phytoplankton in the oceans as—I’m sorry, six to ten times as much plastic as there is phytoplankton, and that’s the equivalent of, in temperate forests, of there being Styrofoam ninety feet thick through all the forests, and . . .
Jason: Wow, that’s a pretty horrifying metaphor.
Derrick: No, it’s not a metaphor. That’s an analogy I guess it would be, but it’s, I mean it’s, that’s what it is in the, in the real physical ocean.
Derrick: There’s a myth with this culture. I mean they say that one sign of intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns, and I’m going to lay out a pattern here, and let’s see if we can see it in less than six thousand years.
Derrick: But when you think of the plains and hillsides of Iraq, is the first thing that you think of is cedar forests so thick that sunlight never touches the ground. That’s how it was prior to the beginnings of culture. One of the first written myths of this culture is Gilgamesh deforesting the plains and hillsides of Iraq to make cities, and the Arabian peninsula was Oak savannah, and the near east was heavily forested, Greece was heavily forested, Italy was heavily forested, north Africa was heavily forested. Those forests were cut for, to make the Phoenician and Egyptian navies. You know this culture destroys land bases wherever it goes. It destroys, it destroys the natural order. It’s built on, it’s not based on living in one place forever. The Tolowa, on whose land I now live, lived here for at least 12,500 years if you believe the myths of science, and this culture’s lived here for 180 years, and the place is hammered. I mean there was, there was salmon runs so thick that people were afraid to put their boats in the water for fear they would capsize, and the salmon are, are almost gone, and you’re, you’re southeastern Kansas, right?
Derrick: Yeah, I mean, there were Eskimo Curlews in that area that would come through, and they would be in flocks of, so large they would darken the sky for days at a time, and they were eradicated.
Derrick: So yeah, it’s, it’s, I mean, also it’s really obvious. I mean any way of life that’s based on the use of non-renewable resources won’t last, pretty, pretty clear, and I mean, so this way of life has never been sustainable, and it never will be. Any way of life also, that’s based on the hyper-exploitation of renewable resources won’t last. The only way you can live sustainably is by actually improving your habitat. That’s how all creatures that survive in the long run, survive in the long run, and this was a really stupid blow out, and it’s killing the planet.
Jason: I think the readers would like to know this. What’s your opinion of radical direct action groups like the Earth Liberation Front and the ALF?
Derrick: I think that they are in their infancy and will make a lot of mistakes as they grow up and will, and they will grow up. I think that there’s a lot to commend them for their, many of the people for their courage, and there is, there’s some huge problems, and there’s a huge snitch problem, and I have to question the seriousness of some of the people—not all of them. Some of them are very, very serious, and I need to say this, because it’s just so, the whole federal response to it is just so stupid. The Feds, since they’re—they labeled them as the largest domestic terrorist threat on one level, and it’s, and then at the same time, and they’re saying, you know, we’re catching all these terrorists, eco-terrorists, who are doing this. At the same time you hear George Bush all the time say there hasn’t been a successful terrorist attack since 911.
Jason: [laughter] That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought of that.
Derrick: Yeah, it’s huh? I guess you kind of, kind of have it both ways.
Derrick: Also the notion of terrorism in this case is really stupid, because it’s, I mean, nobody’s been injured, nobody’s been particularly scared, nobody’s been terrorized, you know. They’ve been startled maybe.
Derrick: You know, but you would think that for it to actually be a terrorist organization they’d actually have to, like, hurt somebody or to seriously threaten their lives.
Jason: Those internet pictures where they’re wearing ski masks and cuddling puppies, those are pretty scary.
Derrick: Oh, yeah, there’s actually an organization called Hugs for Puppies that’s been declared a terrorist organization.
Jason: Are you serious?
Derrick: Yeah, I’m absolutely serious.
Derrick: It’s, it’s really, it’s really just absurd, and of course the real thing that they’re doing is they’re impeding commerce, which is what must never happen in this culture.
Derrick: So on that level it, it’s terrorism pure and simple, because interference with corporate profits is, that scares the hell out of the power.
Derrick: I mean, but of course, I mean it’s all just really silly. I mean they call them a terrorist organization, and yet the, some of the primary snitches are walking around without having anything happen to them, and you know, I think that any sort of real terrorist organization would just be laughing their heads off, like, I’m sorry, you’ve got snitches, they’re walking around, and what you do is you don’t allow them to play guitar on your community radio station?
Derrick: So it’s just, it’s just, [inaudible] the whole thing is, is you know, sort of . . .
Jason: It’s farcical?
Derrick: Yeah it’s, on that level, it’s really farcical, but I, I don’t, if you, and it’s fine if you use the word farcical, but if you do use it, then also, I mean, the sentence is imposed upon–the people are not . . .
Derrick: I mean they’re very real, and there, there are some very serious, very dedicated people who are spending a long time in prison.
Jason: Oh, I agree. I wouldn’t make light of that at all.
Derrick: Yeah, yeah. So, so I mean, there are some parts that are just absurd about it, but there are other parts that are—and part of the problem is that we don’t have an entire culture of resistance, and there’s not the sort of support within the, not even necessarily the larger community, but even among themselves. I mean more than half of them who’ve been caught have turned snitch, and that’s a pretty dismal percentage in terms of having any sort of culture resistance.
Jason: Well it kind of reminds me, kind of brings to mind several thoughts. One of my questions for you was how do we raise the level of consciousness within enough people to build resistance to where direct action like that really makes sense to the point to where it’s not just premature, ineffective self-sacrifice where there are just a few people out there doing it and it’s, they’re easily written off as terrorists or cranks? I mean how, how do we get enough people, how do we mobilize enough people?
Derrick: Well I write books and do talks, and you do articles and, I mean, it’s like I was watching the movie Battle of Algiers with a friend of mine. Have you seen it?
Melissa: I, I read about what you had to say about it, but go ahead.
Derrick: Oh, well, if you’ve already read it, I won’t—do you want me to tell you anyway, or?
Melissa: Because Jason hasn’t.
Jason: I haven’t, no.
Derrick: Okay. It’s a great movie. It’s, it’s about the Algerian insurgency against the French. I’m watching it with a friend of mine, and I say, so, where do you think I’d be in this movie [inaudible] giving me some strokes, and the friend says, oh, you’d be dead.
Derrick: Thank you very much, and then my friend said, no, actually you’d be dead for thirty years, because, and your books are on the shelves of the leader of the insurgency.
Jason: Oh, yeah.
Derrick: So the point is that you have to go through a pre-revolutionary phase before you can have a revolutionary phase, and you’ve got to, there has to be this, this assembling of, I mean, it’s like, it’s like as the current system collapses, I’m going to be, I’m dead, and two reasons. One is because as, as the system collapses, those in power will increasingly lash out, and they’ll kill anybody who opposes them.
Jason: Right. Right.
Derrick: It’s like John Stockwell, CIA agent, who outed the agency. He was asked at one of his talks, you know, if what you say is true, why are you still alive? He said, because they’re winning, and . . .
Jason: Good point.
Derrick: As soon as they start to lose, you know, I’m dead. Anybody, really, who opposes them is dead, but even if not, there are high tech medicines that are keeping me alive, and so in the crash I’m dead, because of Crohn’s disease, but in a sense—I mean of course I don’t particularly want to, you know, go down tomorrow or anything, but, but in a sense it doesn’t really matter, because at that point my work’s done, because the work of writing is, is really sort of a slow process, because I finish a book; it takes a year for it to get published, and then it takes another, you know, year for it to get out, you know, to start circulating, and then it takes three years or you know, however long for it to really have an effect on consciousness, or I’m making up a number, three years. But, you know, it takes time for that to have an effect.
Jason: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Right.
Derrick: I don’t actually know. I mean, do you know what year Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published?
Jason: No, I don’t.
Derrick: Okay, I don’t either, but I do know that Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said to her, you know, here’s the little lady who, who wrote the book that started the big war, and you know, I’m, I’m wondering, you know, I guessing that it wasn’t published in 1860, you know.
Derrick: It had to be published before to have an effect on even small scale public consciousness. So that my point is that there’s lots—here’s another thing that’s actually kind of funny is I read somewhere—I mean I don’t know, have you seen any of my talks on You Tube or anything?
Melissa: Yeah I just had the good fortune to today.
Derrick: Okay, thanks for saying it that way. I mean sometimes I will go out of my way to make just sort of, actually, I don’t often make scatological [typist’s spelling] references to the president, but I do once in a while, and when I do, I do it on purpose, because I read this thing years ago that, that was this analysis of how there are, there are certain pre-revolutionary times when, when it’s sort of in the order of things to make scatological references to those in power, and so like if the French Revolution is 1789, then you know, they weren’t making scatological references—I’m making up the numbers—but they weren’t making them in 1760, but they were in 1782.
Jason: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
Derrick: Then, so what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to go, okay, I’ll start it, you know. Let’s, let’s start this phase, and I guess, I mean, it’s all kind of silly that I’m saying that, but the real point is that the way we build this is by raising these issues and by—it’s like, you know Ward Churchill, right, or know his work?
Derrick: Okay, so when he started getting in trouble at the University of Colorado, I immediately wrote to him and said, you know, where do you need support, how can I support you?
Derrick: His answer was great, the best way you can support me is by continuing to speak the truth as honestly and as forcefully as you can, and that’s what we need to do. That’s one of the big things we need to do, and I’m saying we specifically, the three of us, is to continue to speak the truth forcefully and honestly. So other people would have different roles such as organizing, you know.
Jason: Uh-huh. Right.
Derrick: I’m not an organizer, and so there are other things other people could do, but what, what those of us who, whose primary weapon is discourse, what we can do is continue to speak the truth as forcefully and honestly as we can.
Jason: Right. Right. That’s an excellent answer, and that actually kind of ties in with the other questions I had. Well what struck me as someone who’s doing what you’re doing on a smaller scale—I’ve never had a book published–I’ve been publishing and editing a website and writing for about four years now.
Jason: You tend to be a lot broader in your attacks. I mean, for instance, you’re, you’re gunning for all of civilization, and I may be kind of evolving that direction.
Derrick: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
Jason: I’m more focused on capitalism right now.
Derrick: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
Jason: But a lot of the rabid libertarians and, and some of the really pro-capitalist staunch right wing people will come to our site, Cyrano’s Journal, or my section, Thomas Paine’s Corner, and comment on articles. And one of the ways that they try to undermine our message–whether it come from me or anybody I happen to publish, Adam Engel, for instance, one of our writers who you know–is to diminish, you know, to come out with the, the argument, well, “Why don’t you, why don’t you actually go out and do something instead of just sitting there behind the keyboard and just writing?”
Jason: But what struck me in the Culture of Make Believe you wrote about how, how tremendous the impact is as far as the apparatus of propaganda and how, how important it is to win hearts and minds.
Derrick: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. [inaudible] the right ones.
Jason: Yeah, right. Well it was important enough, and even the establishment, the, in the form of the United States, the allied victors of the Nuremberg Tribunal thought it was significant enough that they actually hanged Julius Streicher for the crime of running a newspaper, so what we’re doing, obviously, is very important.
Derrick: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Absolutely. [coughs] Excuse me. Yeah, absolutely, and there’s a couple other things about that, too. One is that even at its, at its peak, the IRA only had about 3% of the people armed.
Derrick: Any army, even like the, you know, U.S. military, what is it—I’m making up the numbers—the 3% is a real number, but the other ones I’m making up. I’ve heard it’s like only 10% or less of any military ever fire their weapon ever. I mean ever fired in, inside a [inaudible] shooting range.
Jason: Yeah. You got me there.
Derrick: So the point is that, you know, the U.S. military needs typists, and, I mean, Harriet Beecher Stowe carried, or Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman carried a gun, but you know, she, she required all of these people, she required quilters, I mean you know about the quilt language for the Underground Railroad, right?
Derrick: Okay, I mean, so there had to be, I mean, those fucking quilters in the Underground Railroad. That’s what they do. That was their support, and there were people who would provide meals. You need, you need all this stuff, and it’s, it’s absurd, the whole thing about, you know, if you’re, and besides it’s not only a red herring, but it’s really stupid to say that you’re supposed to write about it and do it, too, because for one thing, this is where my gifts lie, and this is what, this is what I get off on, and it’s like I was hanging out with this wetlands specialist a couple years ago, and he was, he would, he dug up some dirt, and he was rubbing it between his fingers and comparing the color of the soil to this, this chart and it was helping determine whether they were wetlands, and he’s doing this, and I just, I just looked at him, and I said, “So you get off on doing this?” And he starts laughing and says, “Yeah, it’s my second favorite thing to do in the world besides, I mean, after playing with my dogs,” and I, I just started laughing. I said this is, this is, this would be kind of hell, and for me, I mean, I get off on trying to figure out the relationship between perceived entitlement, atrocity and exploitation, and you know, pretty much condemn myself to a life of homework, and, and you know, a lot of people would consider that hell. And by the same token I know people who totally get off on explosives just for the hell of it. I mean not even talking about, you know, blowing up anything. They just, they get an explosives recipe, and they make it in their, in their kitchen, and I’m not exaggerating.
Jason: [laughter] I believe it.
Derrick: They do it because they get off on it, and apart from which my only D in college was in a quantitative analysis chemistry lab, so you know, you do not want me messing with explosives.
Jason: Uh-huh. [laughter]
Derrick: There’s another part of this, too, which is that there has to be an absolute firewall between above ground, below ground activities; otherwise, we may as well just go down to the police station for recreational mug shots.
Derrick: It’s just absurd for them to say you need to be doing, you know, you need to be doing the revolution as opposed to writing about it, because as I was talking to Ward about this, and he said, you know, sometimes I get the same criticism, and Ward said do you realize how incredibly stupid that is? Do realize how stupid any organization would have to be to, to want you to join it, Derrick?
Derrick: I mean we might as well all drive around in a clown car or something.
Derrick: Because, I mean, I’ve got huge red flags all over me.
Derrick: There was, there was, in the Eric McDavid trial in Sacramento, I was the person who was mentioned second most after Eric McDavid, and the prosecuting attorneys were, they were saying that having an interview of me in his possession was enough to say that he had a predisposition to quote, be an eco-terrorist, end quote.
Derrick: Simply having, and this is crazy, because, I mean, I have a Book of Mormon at home that a friend of mine gave me thirty years ago or twenty years ago, and I mean, does that mean I’m predisposed to be a Mormon?
Jason: Or maybe a polygamist?
Derrick: There we go, exactly.
Derrick: Or I have, I also have a book on meth. Does that mean I’m predisposed to, to take meth, and I have a book on raising homestead hogs, you know. It’s like I have a book on the civil war. Does that mean I’m predisposed to go lead a bunch of cavalry? It’s like, it’s insane.
Derrick: But that’s the level of thought crime that they’re talking about, and my point is that, that the above ground work is absolutely necessary, and the below ground work is absolutely necessary, and the important thing is to leverage our power, and the longest lever that I can find right now is writing, and that doesn’t alter the fact that every time I cross the Klamath I don’t feel like a failure, because the Klamath River salmon are still getting hammered for many reasons including the dams.
Derrick: So, I mean, there’s another question. Is my work sufficient? No. I mean I can always do more, and I mean, shit, I just finished a book. I mailed it off, emailed it, last Monday to my publisher, and so I was going to take a break, but now I’m already starting the next book. It’s like I haven’t taken a break in eight years, and I need to take a break. I mean, I’m, I’m falling apart physically and mentally and everything else, and at the same time, it’s like the world’s being killed, and you know, I can take a break when, when the collapse comes or when I’m dead, one or the other.
Derrick: It’s like I go back and forth on that, but I mean, I, I think my work is, is really good and really important, but those, it’s not good enough, and that there’s not, I mean, the world’s still getting killed, and it’s incredibly frustrating, and, and it’s not like, it’s not like, you know, it’s not, it’s not like, oh, I’m just not, you know, making enough money or something. It’s, it’s the real physical world is getting murdered, and, and you know, whether I am personally or that my health or my, you know, emotional state or anything else is falling apart, there’s, is really irrelevant compared to that. It’s like, you know, when the world’s being killed, you know, the problems, your problems, my problems, whatever don’t amount to a hill of beans.
Jason: Right. You–go ahead.
Melissa: I was going to say right, but in order to be productive and for your brain to be working coherently, you need to take care of yourself every day and try to work on your health issues, and I’m sure you approach your health issues with natural medicine and pharmaceutical medicine in the best combination possible, so.
Derrick: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, and that doesn’t alter the fact that also I need to take some time off. It’s pretty interesting. I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’m sort of getting better now that I’m done with the book, but my memory was going all to hell. My memory goes to hell when I’m on tour, but, but it was going to hell at home just horribly. Well this whole thing with the six o’clock, nine o’clock thing is just a great example of it, but it’s just entirely falling apart, and I remember, actually, this happens with every book I do, and it’s not merely that I need to rest, which I do, but it’s also that I’ve realized that as I write a book, I carry the whole book around inside of me, and it–okay, I’m going to use a computer metaphor, but that’s only because I can’t come up with a better one. I hate, I hate it when people say their brains are like computers, but I’m going to do it anyway which is that, you know, it’s like the book takes up more and more memory until everything else starts to fall apart, and then when the whole thing’s done, I can sort of download it, you know, get rid of it, and I don’t have to think about that book anymore.
Jason: Right. Uh-huh.
Derrick: And not think is the wrong word, because, because you know, I don’t have to carry it around with me, and so it’s pretty interesting, because even the past week my memory has started to get better, and it’s so funny. I mean every book I forget that I did this on all the other books, and I think that I must be, you know, that my memory’s actually going to hell for real and that I’m, you know, I’m getting older, you know. You know I’ve got some sort of organic brain problem, and then I finish the book and say, oh, yeah, that’s right.
Melissa: Do you think that our planet is going to be free of oil and gas based technology, electricity, etc. within the next, make up a number, twenty years, fifty years? I mean . . .
Derrick: Fifty years, absolutely. Twenty years, almost undoubtedly.
Melissa: Do you know how scary that is even for people like me who are completely, you know, dedicated to that being the best thing? That that’s just a terrifying thought, and then if you take people who are totally delusional or totally ignorant of the facts, then it just sounds absolutely insane to them. So have you given up on reaching the mass amounts of people?
Melissa: You’re just trying to, like I think you said you’re trying to radicalize people who are already largely there or halfway there.
Derrick: Yes. Yeah.
Melissa: So yesterday I ran into three people who did not think global warming was real.
Derrick: Yeah I don’t even talk to them.
Melissa: So, I mean, they were relatives.
Derrick: Oh, you know, actually I have a question. I gave a talk Lawrence, and afterwards when I was doing the Q & A this one guy says what do you do if you have relatives who don’t believe in global warming? What do you do, what do you do at Christmas? I said talk about baseball, and the reason is because there’s no reason to ruin the family get together which is all that’s going to happen, and nobody’s going to, it’s not going to make any difference. So stuff like that, you know, I try once, and then if not, then it’s like, God, you know, actually do you think the Kansas City Royals are for real this year?
Jason: [laughter] Not a chance.
Melissa: But are you just completely dumbfounded by the amount of denial and . . .
Derrick: Oh, God, every moment of every day. I can’t fucking believe it. It’s insane. It’s utterly insane. It’s, I can’t, I can’t get over it, and I can’t get over the fact that all of this so-called solutions to global warming, they all have, the thing they all have in common is they all take industrial capitalism as a given, and the natural world is secondary.
Melissa: Yeah. They all take consumerism as a given, too, and preserving our lifestyle.
Derrick: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s, that’s, and it doesn’t matter whether the, you know, lefty, righty, liberal, conservative, whatever. It’s about preserving the, you know, consumerism, capitalism, civilization, whatever you want to call it, and that’s stunning to me. It’s stunningly insane in terms of being out of touch with physical reality that, that even somebody like Peter Montague, who’s, I just love his work. He’s [inaudible] He’s great [inaudible] and he was talking about how it’s a really stupid idea to pump carbon dioxide into mines, because he said if it all starts to leak, it could, quote, disrupt civilization as we know it. It’s like, no, Peter, if you pump it down there and then it starts to leak all at once, it could kill off the planet, and so there’s this fundamental inversion of reality that is—it’s like I was doing this interview in Santa Barbara, on a radio station in Santa Barbara, and I was, you know, doing my standard line about my extra large fish in the oceans are gone, [inaudible] all that stuff, and the guy kept saying the same thing which is that’s fine, Derrick, but let’s get back to the real world.
Melissa: I’ve heard that phrase so many times over the course of just trying to raise children in a natural way, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Derrick: Yeah get back to the real world.
Melissa: Thousands of times, get in the real world.
Derrick: Yeah the real world, and so my response to that is yeah, when I go out into the real world, I’m going to roll around in this dirt, you know.
Derrick: That’s the real world.
Jason: What was his version of the real world?
Derrick: Industrial capitalism.
Derrick: The real world is what is politically feasible in a system that is, that is based on denial, and it’s just, it’s, yeah, so I, I never cease to be stunned. I mean I don’t know how it is now, but I, I heard something on Democracy Now like maybe three or four, it was back when there was still a bunch of Republican candidates. So I don’t know how long ago that was, three months ago or something, but at that point there had been like 10,500 questions asked of the presidential candidates, and there had only been three that were about global warming which were the same number as were asked about UFO’s.
Melissa: I think. [laughter]
Derrick: It’s just, I can’t, well, I mean another, I mean it’s kind of a joke that I tell, but it’s true. There are more people who care about the Detroit Tigers than real tigers.
Jason: I, I’ve seen that. I saw that in an interview.
Derrick: Then, and then another one that just happened this week is there was a, in California they have something called Prop 215 which means that you can get a card from a doctor that then allows you to grow a certain amount, grow and have a certain amount of marijuana for medicinal uses.
Derrick: In the county I live in, you’re allowed to have ninety nine plants if you have one of those, which is a lot.
Derrick: So the county here was going to lower the limit from ninety nine to six.
Jason: How did they arrive at that figure?
Derrick: It’s the least it can be in the state, and six is–any county is allowed to set whatever limit they want as long as it’s not less than six.
Jason: Oh, I see.
Derrick: Most counties have six, and Del Mar had ninety nine, and anyway, the board of supervisors for the county was going to switch it down to six, and they, they, there was a total stealth movement by the right wing, and there was this report put out that the main people were Christians, cops and school administrators, and they were the only, only people who gave any input to the thing so that the thing was just totally, yes, there should absolutely be six, actually there should be none, but we’ll go with six, and so they didn’t announce it to anybody. Two days before the board of supervisors meeting there was one article in the paper, and the place was packed. I mean everybody was just outraged, and so the board of supervisors couldn’t do anything or there would have been, you know, just, they would have been shot down on sight, you know, or something if they would have put this through, and my point is that I wish that people loved the salmon as much as they love marijuana.
Jason: [laughter] Right.
Melissa: Or their beer cans.
Derrick: Or their beer cans or for crying out loud, I had a friend of mine tell me that—actually she just told me this when she handed me the book on meth, and she said that she wished that environmentalists were as resourceful and as in love with, you know, the natural world as meth users are in love with and resourceful on meth, because every time the feds, you know, make it so some new recipe is illegal, it takes them about two weeks to come up with a new recipe, and they’re fucking blowing themselves up.
Derrick: You know as environmentalists, I mean, some of the ELF people got caught, they turned when they were sitting in the cop car. They didn’t even wait to get to the police station, and it’s just, it stuns me that, you know, if, if you, oh, my God, what would happen if they, if the board of supervisors, is going to do something that would outlaw television?
Jason: [laughter] Uh-huh. Right.
Derrick: Oh, my God, they would be dead in a week.
Jason: Here’s a good example of what you’re talking about related to our website. We can, do you know Dr. Steve Best?
Derrick: Yeah, yeah. I mean I don’t know him personally, but I know who he is.
Jason: Well he’s, he has generously agreed to become our senior editor for Animal Liberation, Earth Liberation, and I publish articles by him frequently.
Derrick: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
Jason: I put an article by him related to ethics concerning animal liberation or something along those lines and raising the moral consciousness of humanity, it will get zero comments. I brought articles on the legalization of the growth of industrial hemp, and that will draw thousands and thousands, you know, tens of thousands of hits and will get a couple hundred comments.
Derrick: Uh-huh. Yeah. Yep.
Jason: It’s just sickening.
Derrick: That’s it. That’s it right there. Yeah so the world, the world is being murdered. [yawn] Oh, sorry, oh, God, I’m tired, I have to go to sleep, and then it’s like, sorry, you’re not going to have television when the world’s murdered.
Melissa: Yeah but it’s just not funny, because it’s so true.
Derrick: Yeah, and you know, I don’t know if, if—one of my favorite lines about this is R.D. Lang, a psychiatrist, came up with the three rules of a dysfunctional family [inaudible] culture and rule A is don’t, rule A1 is rule A does not exist, and rule A2 is never [inaudible] rules A, A1 or A2, and so within a, within a dysfunctional family, what that means is you can talk about anything you want except [inaudible] that you have to pretend isn’t happening.
Derrick: Within a dysfunctional culture, we can talk about everything we want except for, you know, the main problem, which is a culture based exploitation. It’s cracking me up, the whole thing with Obama lately, I, I was watching, I was watching Keith Olbermann with my mom a little while ago, and they’re all freaking out that Obama’s saying that Americans are bitter. This one guy was just going off on saying we don’t want to think of ourselves as bitter. It’s like, fuck! I mean A, Americans aren’t [inaudible] as hell if you [inaudible] and B, in terms of being bitter, Jesus Christ, if they’re not bitter now when you have this core hypocrisy and you know, when their civil liberties are being systematically destroyed and so on. I mean the truth is, and I know that I do talk to a select set, but even when I talk to other people, they’re bitter as hell, but of course anybody who actually says it, they have to be shouted down immediately.
Jason: [laughter] Oh, yes.
Derrick: By the way, I’m also really clear that I don’t like Obama, so.
Jason: I don’t either.
Melissa: God I think you’re the only person besides us maybe who’s not on the band wagon.
Derrick: Right. Oh, no, no, he’s just the same as all the others, but the point is that he did, he did use an F word, you know. He used the B word in this case, and, and you can’t say that the people in the United States are bitter, because if we acknowledge that they’re bitter, then suddenly—see that’s part of the deal, too, and that’s one of the reasons why so many people have written to me to say that they find my work really liberating is because they go, I thought I was the only person who was thinking this.
Derrick: So if everybody in the United States started going—it’s like, it’s like I’m not going to—people in the United States aren’t bitter. You remember Network, I’m mad as hell, I’m not going to take anymore.
Derrick: That’s back in the seventies.
Derrick: They’re even more hacked off now, and it’s not necessarily at the right thing. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not. I mean and I also think, too, and this is sort of off the subject, but you know, people say how do you approach people who don’t care about salmon? It’s like, well, I figure out what the wedge is. You talk to a small business owner, some don’t give a shit about salmon, but you talk to him about Big Box stores, they’re pissed off, and so there’s—and you talk to college students. A lot of them don’t know what the hell–oh, my God. I was in Colorado years ago doing a, doing a talk, and [inaudible], anyway, I was in Colorado years and years ago. I went out to dinner, I’m hanging out with these two guys, and one of them says you know, people don’t care about salmon, and the waitress happened to walk up to us right then, and I said, do you know that salmon are in trouble in the northwest, and she said, no, I had no idea. It’s like, okay, whatever, I mean, she’s a waitress, and then we kept talking to her and it ended up that her major was in environmental studies.
Jason: Yes. That’s pretty scary.
Derrick: Yeah it’s very scary. Why’d I bring that up? I don’t know why I brought that up.
Jason: Lack of consciousness or fragmented consciousness.
Melissa: You were talking about when you, when you talk to people it’s, it’s, see the . . .
Derrick: Oh, yeah, use whatever you can to, to figure out, figure out where they are and what they’re, and what they’re already hacked off about. Oh what I was going to say is you talk to college students, and they might not care about the salmon, but they sure as hell care about the fact that they have to get a job, and most of them don’t want to, and so let’s talk about the wage economy and how horrible that is, and that leads to capitalism which leads blah, blah, blah.
Melissa: Yeah. Right. But, so you know, millions of people are just trapped in it and can’t, couldn’t even find the time to, you know, millions of people are just trapped in it with no hope of escape until they die.
Derrick: Well that’s true, and that’s one of the things that sucks about the system, and that’s what I think sucks about any abusive system is that one of the things that any abusive system must do is it must make its victims dependent upon the very system, because otherwise, nobody would stick around, and that’s true with, with you know, domestic violence. That’s one of the first things that, that any abuser has to do is to cut the partner off from their social circumstance, their social, social support system.
Jason: Good point.
Derrick: It’s the same with the larger system; it’s how to systematically eradicate the unions. One of the reasons that the pilgrims had to kill the Pequots is because some of the pilgrims were shucking their clothes and running off dancing naked in the woods with the Indians, and there were, the pilgrims had to pass laws saying that anybody who was going to go run off and join the Indians would be tortured to death.
Melissa: Gee, I read that. I didn’t know that.
Jason: I didn’t either.
Melissa: I read that in one of your books.
Derrick: Yeah, and then when that didn’t work, of course, they had to [inaudible]. It’s, I mean, how are you going to get somebody to work for IBM or Microsoft unless you destroy all alternatives, and that’s in Culture of Make Believe that the guy—this is one of, I, I still cite this a lot. It’s one of the most important things I think that’s in that book is that the post slavery philosopher who said that if, that there are land ownership conditions in which it’s in the capitalist’s best interest to own slaves and then land ownership conditions in which it’s in the capitalist’s best interest not to own them.
Jason: I’m familiar with that analysis.
Derrick: It’s very simple. There’s a lot of land, and there’s not many people, then they have access to the land. That means they’ll have access to food, clothing and shelter, and that means that they have access to self sufficiency, and that means they’re not going to work for you unless you put a gun to their heads. And on the other hand, if you have a lot of people and not much land, well, if you can convince them that one person owns all the land, then they don’t have access to the land which means they don’t have access to food, clothing and shelter, which means they don’t have access to self sufficiency, which means they have to go to work for you. It’s really very simple.
Jason: Some of these . . .
Derrick: Just a second. I turned, so, I turned that off, by the way. Sorry, I’m back.
Jason: Oh, that’s okay. It just makes me so angry that some of these really intelligent people are so morally depraved. They’re so, such rotten human beings that they can sit around and construct arguments like the one you just made to, to support [inaudible overlapping conversation] of slavery to convince people that it actually makes sense.
Derrick: Right. Well the same is true, of course, for any, any supporter of capitalism.
Derrick: Or for that matter, any supporter of civilization.
Derrick: I got an email from somebody the other day, and I’m not going to respond to it. It’s, you know, I recognize that civilization’s killing the world, but I love my ipod, and I love my cell phone, and it’s like, well, I guess thank you for being honest.
Derrick: You know at least she’s not making it up, at least she’s not deluding herself.
Derrick: I would rather just deal with that open selfishness.
Jason: So was there any conclusion to that? Did she ask, was there a question for you, or did she just say that . . .
Derrick: Yeah she said that what that means is that we need to get, we need to figure out a way that we can have both electricity and a planet.
Melissa: Yeah I’ve had, when I’ve talked to people about some of these things I’ve had people say there has to be a middle ground, there has to be a middle ground, and there really isn’t.
Derrick: No, I mean, find, I mean, you don’t, you can’t have—that’s one of the things I like about End Game as opposed to Language and Culture is that Language I talk about how psychologically it’s, you would, this culture’s [inaudible] unsustainable, and, and culture, and how it’s culturally, and with social rewards it’s unsustainable and irredeemable, but you know, both of those are in some ways arguable, but you can’t argue with the fact that to have solar panels you’ve got to have electric wiring which means you have to have copper mines.
Derrick: You just can’t, you can’t get past that, and, and so it’s simply not arguable with any sort of integrity. Just if you, I mean if you’re using oil, you’re going to use it up.
Jason: That’s a good point. There, I’ve yet to see a really, a truly intellectually honest argument.
Derrick: There isn’t one.
Melissa: I have a question, and I just have, my girlfriend bought me the Graphic Novel today, so I thought that was really, really well done, and I really enjoyed it, and I’m going to loan it to you now, Jason.
Jason: Thank you.
Derrick: Uh-huh. Well, thanks. Yeah I was going to say actually I don’t need a copy, thanks.
Melissa: But I don’t really know why that was mentioned. Okay this is my question, and I’m completely understanding of how natural and good for the land base it is to live in a way where you would fish, hunt and gather and maybe do some small farming.
Derrick: Right. Right.
Melissa: I don’t know how you feel about the small farming thing.
Derrick: No, it’s fine. That’s fine. I’m not, I’m not one of those sort of—I think agriculture is generally a bad idea. In fact I think it’s not generally. I think it’s the worst, Jared Diamond said it’s the worst mistake any humans have ever made. I agree with that. That doesn’t alter the fact that some people make a distinction between agriculture and horticulture, and you know, small scale stuff, I mean like yam planting or, or putting fires, you know, setting small fires to open areas for, for Oak or for deer. I don’t think that’s a big deal, and the big, the big question, and Ray Raphel [typist’s spelling] I think is his name, I think, said, you know, some of those people will say that of course, you know, Indians, Indians changed the landscape, too, so changing landscape is natural. He cuts through all the bullshit by saying the real question is are they planning on living there 500 years from now, and that’s the real question.
Derrick: So I think if, if your particular land base will allow you to arm in such a way that you will still be there in 500 years, and the land will still be just as healthy or healthier in 500 years, I think that’s fine. It’s, which does alter the fact that regular agriculture, you know, is, is a war against the soil. The small scale, you know, and that’s the thing. A lot of those, the white people when they came across, they would, they started looking for the Indian–they wanted to destroy the Indian, Indian gardens. A lot of times they couldn’t find them, because they couldn’t tell the difference between them and the forest.
Derrick: Anyway so what was your question?
Melissa: Okay, this is my question. If you lived in a city, and if you did not have the money to buy wild caught or free range, you know, if everything you could buy that was from an animal, was from a factory farm or was, you know, from a mile wide net, would you still, would you eat it, or would you choose to be vegetarian under those circumstances?
Derrick: I would probably eat meat, and the reason is because, two, two reasons. One is that a personal lifestyle change doesn’t really make any difference. Whether I personally eat nothing but Eucalyptus leaves or whether I personally eat nothing but, you know, cows that have been tortured every moment of their life, on the big, big, big scale, that doesn’t really matter, because the, because it’s a really short lever, and, and one can draw lines wherever one, one chooses. I mean it’s hard, also, for me, because I have to eat meat, and, because of Crohn’s disease.
Melissa: I’ve read then about, I’ve known a couple other people. I’ve read that they could, that it’s better to have a 30% higher protein intake and digestion issues and stuff.
Derrick: Yeah, and so in my case it’s like, well, I’ve got to take the torment in my body, and in another, I mean, I live pretty simply, but that’s mainly because I’m a cheapskate, and it’s not—actually you’ll meet her. My friend Terry Schuster [typist’s spelling] from, she lives in Lawrence, outside Lawrence. She, she has put it that the question to ask yourself as to whether, you know, an action—okay, so in the book I just finished, one of the things we talk about, me and Aric McBay, my co-writer for it, one of the things we talk about is how the real question is, is the world better off because you were born? Is the world a better place because you’re alive, and do you leave the world a better place, and simple living doesn’t make that a positive answer in that you make the world a slightly less bad place than before, which is fine, but we can do things that are better, and then Terry converted that. It’s really great, but the question to ask is with any action is, are, is this action more effective at protecting the Earth than killing yourself, and I love that, that, and, because the end result of, I mean, and in End Point it’s sort of simple living is just killing yourself, and, but once again, we can do positive action, and, and here’s the other thing, too is that I don’t know if you’ve seen this. I, I say this in all my talks–by the way, I just found out three or four days ago that Ottawa University is a Christian school.
Melissa: I had no idea.
Jason: I didn’t know that either.
Melissa: A cousin, a cousin I don’t talk with that much who’s really neat is a professor there. I didn’t know that. I’m quite sure she’s not religious either.
Derrick: So that’s good. I mean I don’t care if she is, but that’s good to have some who aren’t so maybe it won’t be so weird.
Derrick: Anyway what was I saying? That, yeah, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but, but one of the things I’ll say is that the, the relationship, the fundamental part of the prey relationship is if you consume the flesh of another, you now take responsibility for the continuation and dignity of the other community. So if I consume salmon from the Klamath River, I take responsibility for the continuation of and dignity of the salmon in the river of the Klamath community. So here’s the deal. If somebody is in the inner city or me or anybody, if I eat factory farmed food, if I eat a cow who was tormented in the factory farm process, it is my responsibility now to shut down the factory farm system, and that’s what I need to do. The problem isn’t with me consuming it. The problem is me consuming it without doing what’s necessary to fulfill my end of the bargain, and that’s true once again whether you’re eating soy beans, and another thing I need to say about this is that, yeah, factory farms really torment, but the same is true for plants, and in addition, I mean, we all know, you know, the effects of soy beans on, you know, rain forests and all.
Melissa: Most, go ahead.
Derrick: Oh, it’s just, it’s just that, that the problem, I mean, factory farming is really, really horrid, and I’m in no way making defense of that, but the problem in mono-cropping of any sort, that if we are going to have farming, and my friend Lierre Keith wrote a great book about this that she’s trying to find a publisher right now, but, but if you are going to have farming, it needs to be, what’s the word, integrated where you have cows on pastures, and the cows shit, and then the pastures grow the food, and you have all these—mono-cropping is destructive of soil.
Jason: So what you’re describing, the alternative, is sort of an ecosystem.
Derrick: Yeah, yeah, and back to your original point that, I mean, sure, I mean, if those are my only choices. I don’t know, though, because see here’s the thing is that if those are the only choices, it’s really hard, because then when I’m on the road, I basically just, I mean, I do eat a meat diet, but I, I don’t, at home I don’t eat factory farm meat, but on the road, basically I just go to restaurants, and so I’m, in fact, faced with that choice that you were talking about exactly every time I go on the road, and I just basically eat whatever’s put in front of me, and I don’t know that I want to try to make a moral case for that, because I don’t think you can make a moral case for it, so I’m pretty sure it’s that no, you can’t make a moral case for it.
Melissa: Well, you know, it’s a whole other conversation for another time, but I forgot what I was going to say.
Melissa: But most of the crops raised for industrial agriculture in my understanding, I mean, over 50% are used to feed livestock anyway, so eating, so I’m not, I’m not arguing your point or against you, really, but eating factory farmed animals also contributes to, you know, industrial agriculture in a huge, huge way.
Derrick: Right. Right.
Melissa: I think it was 70% is the number.
Melissa: Seventy percent of the crops going for food are used for agriculture. Maybe that’s water. I don’t know. But anyway, well, that was just a question, and that’s kind of a whole, it’s not a separate topic, but we all have to choose our, our battlegrounds.
Melissa: You may not want to answer this since you don’t, you don’t have children, but here are three little questions, and you can just answer however you want. They’re all sort of . . .
Melissa: What’s the best way to disseminate information to literate and non-literate humans about the world population crisis and to convince them to do their part to mitigate it, and what do you think would be the best solution? If you had children, would you discourage them from having children altogether, or you can, you know, say the children of your friends or family or whatever, or would you encourage them to stop at the replacement rate?
Derrick: Well there’s a bunch of reasons I wouldn’t, I would discourage people from having children. I mean one is, one of which is that the next forty years are going to be hell, and I talk to my mom about this all the time. I mean, you know, just in the last ten years I’ve seen the migratory bird population collapse right here, and my mom has often said that she’s glad she’s not younger than she is, because she doesn’t want to see what’s coming, and I think, I mean, that, I mean, I’ve had a vasectomy, but you know, I’ve dated some women over the years that we broke off the relationship because they wanted kids, and, and there’s, there’s a bunch of reasons that I’ve never had kids myself, one of which is even when I was a kid I recognized that there are too many people on the planet, and that was really the first. Another is I never really liked kids that much, but, and, but there’s the thing, too. It’s when people ask me, I mean, it’s the same, actually, as the eating meat or anything else is that one’s personal choices don’t make a damn bit of difference on that, that, that whether . . .
Melissa: [inaudible overlapping conversation] most people have.
Derrick: If you particularly want to have a child or children or something, then, I mean, you know, those two aren’t going to make a damn bit of difference in terms of overpopulation.
Melissa: Right, but you know, that’s how everyone comforts themselves into having kids, and, and supporting factory farming also.
Derrick: But my point, my point still remains that personal change doesn’t equal, equal social change, so you know, I can be as self righteous as I want about not having kids, but it doesn’t make a fucking bit of difference really, and I mean, once again, there are much larger levers, and, and the way that I talk about this is in my talks I talk about population, and actually I also have to say that I don’t think population is—it’s what I say in my talks—population is not a primary problem, and yes, there’s more people than the planet can support. We, humans have exceeded carrying capacity. Of course, absolutely I agree with that. There should be and will be way the hell fewer people. I’m not going to disagree with any of that. That said, I think the consumption is a bigger problem than population, because the average person in the United States or Canada causes way more harm than the average subsistence farmer in India. The average subsistence farmer in India, I mean, if they had twelve kids, they’d still cause less damage than me who doesn’t have any kids, because I, you know, have a much larger ecological footprint to use that language, and so consumption, once again, there are more humans, and I’m not, more humans than the planet can support, and there will be [inaudible] human, and the process is going to be nasty, you know, all that stuff, and we’re seeing right now with the end of the rural age, with, with the food riots all over the world. People, old people have been predicting that for years. Okay, that’s the first thing. The second thing—oh, there’s not even, it’s not even a secondary problem. It’s actually a tertiary problem, because I believe that people make rational family planning decisions based upon their personal and social circumstances, and the social circumstances in this case include a culture based on growth, and the Tolowa, once again, who were here 12,500 years, and they had cyclical mythology. They had mythologies that were based on, you know, go forth and multiply, and that mythology’s based on the fact that they had lived here for thousands of years and were going to live here for thousands of years, and that influences your family plan decision, and, God, here’s another thing. The native North Americans used about 250 different plants for contraceptives and abortive agents, and it was the women who made decisions to use those if you can believe that. I mean what a bunch of fucking primitives. That’s irony, by the way, and so the point is one of the things I can do is I can talk about it, and I can just raise those, raise those issues. You can, anybody else can, and, and honestly when you ask if I would discourage people from having children, I wouldn’t in general, because, because I feel so strong about this whole lifestyle thing that I don’t think that–I mean, it’s so funny. I have this one friend that when we were just getting to be friends one of the things she said is, you know, I hope you don’t judge me for having children, and said I wouldn’t have them now. I mean, I just, you know, she was a fundamentalist Christian for a few years, and then, and she had some children.
Jason: [laughter] Right. Uh-huh.
Derrick: I said, Jeez, it’s not like you’ve got six or anything, and there’s this silence on the phone, and then she said, actually I have six.
Melissa: That’s funny, because I have five.
Derrick: Well, again, the problem’s your fault, isn’t it?
Melissa: I always was into world population.
Derrick: [laughter] The point is that that doesn’t make any difference to me, and you know I don’t care if somebody drives a big car. I don’t care about any of that stuff, because, and it’s like in the, in the book that I just finished, I was about, I talk about this explicitly that I don’t give a shit that Al Gore has a huge house and you know, flies around in a plane. That doesn’t make any difference to me. What does make a difference to me is the solutions that he presents are all personal solutions, and he doesn’t question the growth economy, and so my point is that, that, and I’m not just saying this because you happen to have five kids and my friend happens to have six. That, that doesn’t, and it’s the same with—you know there are some things. It’s like if somebody, like, like veal is where I draw the line. You know it’s like I think I would have a hard time having a friend who ate veal, but that’s just a weird thing, and that’s just me, but it’s . . .
Melissa: But . . .
Derrick: But my point is that those personal choices are so small compared to larger levers, and you know, somebody can have, you know, fifteen kids, and then, if they still have time, and they, and if they took out dams on the planet, that’s like good on you, you know. I realize that those are separate questions.
Melissa: I see what you’re saying completely, but you know like my last sixteen years of absolute hardship and isolation has been totally negated, because all of these lifestyle choices have been, you know, because I’m living in a mainstream culture. You know I probably need to go live in a, some kind of a commune, but in all of these lifestyle choices have been so difficult and so self sacrificing to make within the context of how and where I was living and my overall financial condition, and so I kind of disagree, because how can people take me seriously if I’m not living what I . . .
Derrick: Because you’re not the point. I mean here’s the deal is that . . .
Melissa: Right . . .
Derrick: Ninety seven percent, I mean, you could, you could, let’s say that your big, your thing, what you really want to do is reduce the amount of trash that you make, okay?
Derrick: So what you do is you, you wear your tennis shoes until they fall apart entirely. You wash every plastic bag. You . . .
Melissa: Right, right. I know all this stuff.
Derrick: Yeah, okay, so what that will do is that will—and the average person in the United States produces about 1,200 pounds of trash a year. I think, I might have the number wrong, but I think it’s 1,200 pounds, whatever, 2,700 pounds, whatever. It doesn’t matter, and . . .
Jason: A lot.
Derrick: Well, no, yes. Yes and no. Yes it’s a lot except that that is only 3% of the per capita trash made by people in the United States. Ninety seven percent is made by industry.
Derrick: So it’s like with water. People say, you know, you’ve got to take shorter showers. Ninety percent of the water used is for agriculture and industry.
Derrick: So those personal, and I’m not trying to negate the choices you’ve made. We can, I mean . . .
Melissa: Well I was, I was joking. I mean . . .
Derrick: Okay, I didn’t perceive it that way, but in any case, I’m not trying to—I’m just saying if you want to reduce, do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Melissa: That is why I do it.
Derrick: Well that’s great, but that doesn’t alter the fact that on the big scale, that’s not, I don’t think that’s where the real action is.
Jason: You’re not, you’re not making, you’re not looking at things from a moral personal perspective. You’re looking at the bigger picture is what . . .
Derrick: Well I don’t even want to say bigger picture necessarily, because that would then sort of demean your choices again. I’m looking at it on a social scale, there we go. On a social scale, the personal choices, unless you use those to, you know, proselytize, sure, but, but on a personal scale, those choices aren’t, aren’t really, well, it’s a personal change doesn’t equal social change, and what we need to do is to create that culture of resistance, and if, if that, if that includes simple living, that’s great, and one thing, I’m not arguing against it, but it’s, it’s not . . .
Melissa: It’s not an effective maneuver. It’s not . . .
Derrick: I’m not going to say it’s not effective. It’s not sufficient. Sufficient is a word I’m happy with, and I’m not saying that you make it insufficient, because you’re obviously doing other work, too, but . . .
Melissa: I can see what you’re saying, it’s just, it’s just frustrating.
Jason: I think we understand.
Melissa: Yeah we totally understand.
Jason: I, I’m a vegan myself, and I, I despise factory farming, but I, I took in what you were saying about the mono-cropping and the industrial agriculture, and you know I didn’t take any, I’m not offended by it or anything like that.
Derrick: Well see and there’s another thing that . . .
Jason: It’s an act of conscience. I realize that me being a vegan is a, is a, not even a drop or a fraction of a micro-drop in the bucket.
Melissa: It’s like a political stance.
Derrick: Well and look at, yeah, exactly. Look at it this way. Okay, you’re in Nazi Germany, and so the way, the way that one leads you, it doesn’t matter who, is going to strike out against the Nazis by not buying anything from IG Farben.
Derrick: You know it’s like that’s good, you know, great. Okay I fly all the time. I fly way too much, and I figured out what—in End Game I wrote about this—I figured out how much I’m responsible for of United’s net income. It’s like, it’s, I don’t know what the number is. It’s like one nine billionth or one nine hundred millionth or some, I don’t remember what it is. I think there’s a nine in there somewhere, but it’s not very much, and that’s with me flying a ton, and so once again, that, yeah, I can take responsibility. Here’s another way to say it is that this is what my friend Janet Armstrong said to me years ago, an Indian writer and activist, and she said—I was saying, oh, my God, I feel so terrible, because I’m responsible for global warming, because I have a car, and she was like, look, you didn’t create car culture. Don’t take responsibility for what you didn’t do, and you know, what you can do is stop car culture, and it’s the same.
Melissa: Yeah, I remember.
Derrick: I mean if you want, I mean, having children is, well, okay, for somebody else. I certainly sure as hell don’t want them, but for somebody else, you know, having children can be a wonderful and beautiful and obviously natural thing, and it’s one of the things that this culture has cost us is that I think that within the context of a healthy functioning community, there could be some people who would have five children, and other people who wouldn’t have any as long as there’s, you know, replacement level. Actually within a hunter gatherer, probably not because you can’t, they’re limited by the number of children they can carry obviously.
Derrick: But drop that for a second. You know it’s like that or well, it just kills me that, that–it really disturbs me a lot that we even, and I’m not saying you bring it up, because you bringing it up is fine, but it disturbs me a lot that we even have to have this conversation, because one of the things that’s happened is this culture has made it so having a fine meal is, is destructive. That’s really fucked up, because you know, the people who lived here, I mean, they ate salmon all the time, and they did so—I don’t know if you ever had smoked salmon, but it’s, it’s a sacrament, and then I mean that, both sort of euphemistically in terms of being, you know, just ecstatic and also . . .
Melissa: I grew up eating it. Yeah, I remember.
Jason: Yeah, I did.
Derrick: But not just that, but like specifically smoked salmon. It’s like, and the Indians, too, using the word sacrament is, I mean, that’s what they call it. I mean that is, you know, the body of Christ, you know, the sort of Tolowa version of the body of Christ.
Melissa: Right, but in reality, you know, in actual physical reality, it’s a very complicated issue to where . . .
Derrick: Well but that’s my point is that for the Tolowa it wasn’t a complicated issue, and this culture has made it so, and that’s really fucked up, and the fact that we even—and one thing, I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring it up, but the fact that we even have to have this discussion is really messed up, because something as natural as eating or having a child or shitting or, or any of these acts that shouldn’t be, that shouldn’t be, and that’s one of the things that’s really very hard is if even something as, as simple as eating or having a child or shitting is destructive, I mean, my God, then what about when you get to ipods and television?
Jason: Points to consider.
Melissa: Okay, I’m turning forty on Earth Day, and you’re a little older than me.
Melissa: How have you changed both, you know, professionally if you want to use that word, and personally in the past ten years? Like what viewpoints have you turned around or altered? How have you grown? How has becoming more of a public persona impacted your life regarding . . .
Derrick: I have to make sure, I have to unlist my phone number.
Melissa: Yeah like having to, you know, erect boundaries. I mean I could never be a public person. I’m hugely introverted, so.
Derrick: Oh, me, too, actually.
Melissa: You know having boundaries and establishing those kind of things and you know, so many people want to be your friend now I imagine, because—I, I know that. I’m sure that’s true.
Derrick: Yeah, it’s, it’s, and I’m, I’m trying to learn how to say no which I’ve never been very good at, and I, I’ve, yeah, I’m, I mean, you, you’re not going to see this, because you’re only going to see me on the road which is a persona in a sense, but I mean, I’m extremely introverted. I live by myself in a forest, and . . .
Melissa: That’s what I’d like to do.
Derrick: I don’t, I don’t have that many local friends, and I mean, the ideal week for me might be, I mean, the only people I see are the people at the post office if I go mail some books and then my mom, you know, because it’s like I, I’m very, I’m extremely, I mean, I’m a couple of standard deviations from the norm introverted, and so that’s been hard. I mean, and the gall of people. I mean I, I can’t believe that people would just call me out of the blue to try to talk about their personal problems. There have been three people move to Crescent City because of me, which is really weird.
Jason: Were they stalkers?
Melissa: No, they just probably want to be close to someone they admire which is a little scary [inaudible] you.
Derrick: Yeah it’s, yeah, yeah, it’s all, and how I’ve changed in my views, I guess I’ve just become more clear. I remember when I was, about ten or twelve years ago, asking Janet Armstrong again, actually, do you ever wonder if maybe you’re just all wrong, and that everything is, all your analysis is wrong, and this culture does make sense, it’s just that you’re wrong? She said, yeah, I used to think that, and I don’t anymore, and I’m that way. Back then, ten, twelve years ago, I said, God, maybe I’m wrong, and now it’s like, ah, no. I don’t worry about that. I mean of course I could be wrong on points, but the analysis is just so clear, and so there’s that. I’m, I’m more confident in my ability, abilities. I mean ten years ago I had written Language, and it wasn’t published yet, and I was terrified it was never going to get published, that I was going to have to publish it myself, and I’m not so worried about that anymore.
Derrick: I, I mean I still have, like I’ve got some books coming out, a collection of interviews coming out sometime in the next couple weeks and then a novel coming out in the fall, and both of those I thought I was going to have to self publish, so it still happens, but, but I’m much more, much more confident. I never, it’s interesting, it isn’t really what you asked, but when I fantasized about being a writer when I was younger, I got a lot of things wrong, and one that I got wrong that is worse than I thought it would be is that I thought I would actually make money at writing, and that’s really not the case. I mean there’s a cliché that’s really true which is writing is a great way to make a life and a terrible way to make a living, and I’m sure you’ve experienced that.
Jason: Yes, definitely.
Derrick: So that, I mean, I would have thought that with, if I ever had twelve books out or however many books I’ve got out, that I would be making a very comfortable living, and I’m not, which is one reason I tour, and so that was on the bad side. On the good side, I never dreamed that I would be giving talks to 450 people, and I never dreamed that there would be people routinely driving five, six, eight hours one way to see me. I had people come–one person came all the way from China, and I’ve had people come, once again, routinely, there’ll be people drive five and six and seven hours one way, and I’ve had people, one person, a couple flew from Michigan down to New Mexico, and, and I mean I never would have imagined that. I never would have imagined, and one thing when I was fantasizing about it, I didn’t fantasize about, you know, huge crowds, standing ovations or any of that stuff. So that’s, that’s also different.
Derrick: Once again, not on a social level; just on a sort of personal curiosity level, and what else is different? I’m writing a lot more. Finding an audience helped me to, gave me the confidence to write more than I did before.
Jason: I imagine.
Derrick: Politically I think my views have just hardened. I’ve become more clear, but not fundamentally different in the last ten years. Is that, is that your question?
Melissa: Well it was a really open ended question just for you to say whatever you’re thinking about.
Jason: We just learned a lot about you.
Melissa: So, so yeah, have you, just psychologically has it been difficult having so many people who want to . . .
Derrick: Well one of the things that’s really hard that I need to figure out is it’s really, I have, for the last seven or eight years, I’ve pretty much answered almost every email that I’ve gotten, and there’s only, I’m, there’s only two authors I know who do that; me and Chomsky, and it takes me about four hours every night, and it’s killing me, and I want to stop, but on the other hand, I mean, I get so many notes from people like high school kids who say that my books have saved their lives, and I mean, how can you not respond to that, and I don’t, and then also, I mean, I have made friends, I mean real friends, not just, you know, sort of . . .
Jason: Wow. Uh-huh.
Melissa: Worshipees or . . .
Derrick: Worshipees, yeah, but honestly like Aric and Stephanie, both of those. They sent me emails. Stephanie’s the one I did the Graphic Novel with, and Aric, the one I did the book I just finished with.
Melissa: Who’s Aric? I mean I know you’re doing a . . .
Derrick: A-r-i-c M-c-B-a-y. Aric McBay. He wrote a book called, oh, shoot, I can’t remember right now. You can look up his name. He’s, he’s written a lot about life after Great Crash, peak oil stuff, and he’s great. My God he’s so young. He’s like twenty five, and so fucking smart I can’t believe it. Anyway, so I’ve met, I’ve made all these honest to goodness friends this way, too, and then also my friend Lierre Keith and lots of other friends, too, and I don’t, I don’t–but I want my life back in terms of the four hours a night. I don’t know what to do, and, and there’s another thing I do want to mention, too, that really pisses me off that, that I can’t, okay, over the last six or seven years, I’ve received about I’m going to say 690 pieces of hate mail, about 690, yeah, it’s about 690 pieces of hate mail.
Derrick: Two of those are from right wingers, and . . .
Jason: Only two? You said TWO were from right wingers?
Jason: The others were?
Derrick: That’s the next question. Vegetarians, vegans, permaculturalists, pacifists, anarchists who say I’m not anarchist enough, dumpster divers who complain because I buy anything, hitchhikers who complain because I fly to gigs. I am, I have been absolutely stunned by the level of what—there’s a term for this. It’s called horizontal hostility. I’ve been utterly stunned by the cannibalism that permeates.
Derrick: It, it makes me so angry. I’ve just actually broken off relations with Green Anarchy, the magazine, because they published a hit piece on me.
Melissa: Did they really?
Derrick: Yeah. Fuck them.
Melissa: It’s more, it’s so much worse getting attacked by people that are supposed to be in your own camp whether it’s, you know, your own sex or you know, in your own [inaudible overlapping conversation]
Melissa: It’s so much worse than getting socked by the enemy.
Derrick: Exactly. I can’t, I, and I never expected that, because I mean, there are, there are activists whom I despise, and I never say anything publicly bad about any of them.
Derrick: This horrible hostility is just, it’s killing the movement. It’s just, well, I don’t know if it’s killing it, but it’s really harming it, and it’s no wonder there’s so many snitches. Because there’s no, people don’t have each other’s backs in the movement in general. Once again, almost all of these just hate mail has been from, from people I would have thought were on my side.
Jason: Okay. Right.
Derrick: I mean and it’s so funny. I mean of the two pieces of hate mail I’ve gotten from right wingers, one of them was just incomprehensible, someone who was getting mad because I used quantitative analysis. Like what? Like whatever, and the other one [laughter] was a death threat because I shared the stage with Ward Churchill, so it wasn’t even fucking hate mail aimed at me. I said, God, this is just not right. You know if you’re going to make a death threat, make it about me at least.
Derrick: So yeah, I mean, it’s just, that is something that I never would have imagined because—another thing, it’s just weird, it never would have occurred to me, it’s amazing to me how many people write to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and I mean, just people, and the thing that made that a lot easier for me to take was I learned that baseball players routinely get death threats, and they get letters from little league coaches telling them how they could improve their swing, and that’s just, but it never would occur to me to write to Terry Tempest Williams whose work I just love, once again, to write to Terry Tempest Williams and say, you know, on page 43 you said this, and it’s like, oh, good God. It wouldn’t occur to me.
Jason: Right. No, it wouldn’t me either even with someone who, with whom I disagreed in a very fundamental way.
Derrick: Exactly. It’s like . . .
Jason: Or someone like that.
Derrick: Yeah like Lewis Mumford. I love his work. I mean, and he’s dead, so I wouldn’t write to him anyway, but, but I love his work, and he’s so great, but there are some places where we have some reasonable differences, and I mention one of those in, in End Game, and, and by the way, that sort of disagreement I wouldn’t have a problem with either. You know it’s the same with the review. If a review—I just got a review the other day from “As the World Burns” that was, and it said yeah, we really like it and so you finished the book, right?
Jason: [laughter] Uh-huh.
Derrick: Okay, so it was so funny. The review said it was a great book except that the plot device with the aliens distracted from the main plot, and it’s like, wait a second, that was the main plot.
Derrick: It was just silly, but it didn’t bother me at all, because it was like, you know, generally a good review, and it just made me want to say, like, who cares, you know?
Jason: That’s the one on Green Anarchist?
Derrick: Oh, no, my God. That one was horrible.
Melissa: What did they say about you? I was all ready to see, to move to Eugene.
Derrick: Oh, good God, don’t do that.
Jason: I was, in fact, I just re-published, I found an old interview with you that was published by them.
Derrick: Oh, yeah, they did, they did, and that’s the thing. It’s, when I wrote to them and said, this is, you know, cancel my subscription, they sent me a couple really nasty notes about this basically saying you need to get tougher and blah, all this bullshit, but anyway, what was I going to say, that, oh, no, it was, it was so funny. It was a review of, of the Zoo Book, and they’re complaining, one of the things they complain about is I don’t talk about industrial sabotage, and it’s like, wait, what, huh? I mean the book is about zoos, and also they complained because I don’t talk about indigenous agriculture like you know what else? I don’t talk about baseball. It’s like, the book is about zoos, zoos. It says on the cover, zoos.
Derrick: It’s, the thing was just really, really stupid, and I mean, and I’ve got this friend who has gotten notes from other Green Anarchists attacking him for I don’t know what, and, and calling one of his friends fat. It’s like, I mean, how low do you have to get to start, you know.
Derrick: It’s just, it’s horrible hostility once again. I mean I’m sort of doing this here by gossiping on Green Anarchy, but it’s, I just, I just don’t understand it. I think it’s very harmful.
Jason: Oh, I think so, and it’s people like that who lack the patience. I mean regardless of what, what might have evolved from this, Lenin certainly carried off one of the most successful revolutions in history, at least against [inaudible], and patience was one of the main strategies that he preached, and these people that are just so ready to jump the gun like you said . . .
Derrick: Uh-huh. Right, that’s a great point.
Jason: Revolutionary conditions must exist before it can happen.
Jason: Force it to happen.
Jason: You can’t, you can’t drop, you know, 144 crates of AK47’s in the middle of Times Square and expect the masses to run around and grab the guns and take down the government. It’s not going to happen.
Derrick: Right. [laughter] They’d probably run and grab them and, and take down the local liquor stores.
Jason: [laughter] Probably. So, but yeah, I—if they’re, if they don’t think you’re radical enough, then I’m not sure what they’re looking for. They’ve got . . .
Derrick: Yeah, it’s very weird, very, very weird.
Melissa: Well some people that are attracted to anarchy are very young and/or very immature. I mean it’s, by nature it attracts . . .
Derrick: Yeah, another thing—yes, exactly. Another part of that, because anarchy, anarchism often times also attracts people who are angry.
Melissa: Yeah and ignorant and uneducated, too.
Derrick: [laughter] Yeah, we’ve run into a bunch of others, and they’re like, they don’t bathe often.
Derrick: Be that as it may, my point is that, is that it can attract a lot of people who are angry, and my friend George Draffan made the point that there’s a difference between being angry about what’s going on in the forest and being angry, and then projecting that onto what’s happening in the forest.
Jason: That’s good.
Melissa: That’s a nice point.
Derrick: Yeah, I don’t, I’m actually, and this may surprise you. It may not. I mean it has surprised some interviewers. I’m actually not an angry person at all. I’m actually very calm, and I’m just angry about some things that make me angry.
Derrick Jensen is the author of The Culture of Make Believe, A Language Older than Words, Listening to the Land: Conversations about Nature, Culture, and Eros, a USA Today Critics Choice for one of the best nature books of 1995, and Railroads and Clearcuts. He writes for The New York Times Magazine, Audubon, and The Sun Magazine, among many others