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The Culture of Make Believe

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  1,257 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an ex ...more
Paperback, 720 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company (first published 2002)
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Chris
The absolute best writer at telling you how fucked up everything is, but making you feel ok about it. Not in a "well, there's no point, so why bother," kind of way, but rather in a "shit, that makes so much sense, I don't feel overwhelmed anymore, so I'm gonna go out and kick some ass in a positive way," kind of way. Everything I've read of his is brutally honest, and amazing.
rissa
We have been trained to see the KKK as a strange fluke run by a group of uneducated lunatics, "the" Holocaust as an awful but isolated incident run by a charismatic lunatic, but to not see the many current and invisible atrocities. We have been trained to ask why certain people commit certain hateful acts, but never to ask what kind of culture forms these people, and this hate, in the first place. We definitely do not ask if the culture that our ways of life are intricately, but abstractly, base ...more
Kim
Jun 10, 2009 Kim rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: theory
I may regret this...

I didn´t quite regret this. The stated purpose, or one of them anyway, is to examine privilege and the effects of privilege on the privileged. And Jensen has most of the privilege a person can have. He´s male socilaized/identified, he´s straight, he´s a US citizen, his family is upper middle class, he´s educated, he´s white, he owns property. He spends pages and pages, 605 to be exact talking about the history of genocide and destruction that comes out of the US and its paren
...more
Samuel
This is an extremely difficult book to read. It is an academic critique of human civilization. It begins by trying to define a hate group, and moves on to show how our government would have to be included in any adequate definition. That's the beginning. The rest of the book is a litany of stories which come together to make the extremely strong case that our entire civilization is founded upon violence, hatred, and destruction. The problems with civilization, to Jensen, are not solvable through ...more
blake
Wow, one of the more intense books I have ever read. If you're prone to depression, I recommend taking this one in very small amounts, maybe a chapter a week. I read the whole thing in about a week and spent the last few days in a very pessimistic fog about our prospect as a species.

Jensen has the strangest way with words when describing some of the most horrific historical events imagineable. He is eloquent and forceful without being too in-your-face. He does come off as a little arrogant at t
...more
Bobby
Very interesting and eye opening. Imperialism isn't dead it just goes by a different name. This book may have made me an anarchist
Curtis
It is somewhat ironic that I finished reading this book a couple days ago in a title company waiting room - waiting patiently to be called back to a more professional looking office where my wife and I would then proceed to sign and initial a stack of paperwork so thick that the title company's custom manilla folder could barely contain it. Through this exercise of initials and signatures I further ensnared myself into the intricate web of money, credit, mortgages, property ownership, etc. that ...more
Matt
Jensen catalogs atrocities. Done by corporations, nations and individuals. Though divided into chapters, the substance of the book meanders through the same general theme. We are destroying what sustains us and that is madness. Mixing personal anecdotes and impressive research, Jensen’s book is part call-to- action and part self-discovery. He analyzes himself, and others, in the hope of seeing the deeply rooted “transparent bonds” which cause us to act in self-destructive ways.

I’m not sure what
...more
Aaron
This book left me sad and hopeful and rethinking everything I thought I knew about Western culture.
And I consider myself a tremendous skeptic, especially about this country we call America.
But Jensen interweaves economics, religion, history, media (just to name a few) and shows why the way we live now - as "civilized" Americans, or Westerners - is, not to put too fine a point on it, destructive.
Destructive to our humanity. Destructive to other cultures and races and people. Destructive to the pl
...more
Pippypippy Madden
Derrick Jensen finds the furthest, darkest reaches of the human death culture called civilization. He is plain spoken, even as he explores the history, causes, and largely unspoken, unacknowledged- or hidden in plain sight- rules which perpetuate violence against human beings and the land that we live on. Jensen's ideas can seriously rattle one's cage- even if they are not entirely unfamiliar- and yet reassure at the same time. For me, the reassurance comes in hearing these ideas spoken out loud ...more
Libby
Someone suggested I read this book about three years ago, but I have to say I probably wasn't ready for it until this year. It was amazing, well-written, seriously challenged my view of the status quo and my "place" in it and reopened my curiosity about "truth" and how we come by that. I would suggest reading "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn first, because if the average person ran right into this book I don't think they'd be prepared to accept it. An overview of US and g ...more
Jesse
Oh Christ the things we do to each other, and the excuses we tell ourselves to make each and every atrocity seem ok! I honestly didn't know about the Bhopal disaster in India in the early 80's; look it up on Google images and ruin your day.

Derrick Jensen uses a LOT of words with himself and through interviews with others about our human condition and how we're all jerks with sick violent tendencies.

If you are looking for an uplifting ending where an author takes the beginning of the book with a
...more
Tracy Tarbutton
Absolutely one of the best.
Clea Milner
Life-changing book.
David
Jensen's a smart guy, sharp at pointing out and deconstructing the inhumane contradicitons of capitalism and our collective denial about same. I found particularly perceptive his idea that "hatred felt long...and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred but like economics or religion or tradition." But the 700-page The Culture of Make Believe (great title) is ovelong by a couple hundred pages at least because Jensen likes to hear himself talk--he adopts a pose of curiosity that is usually just ...more
amy
Warning: This isn't so much a review as a list of random things I'd like to remember about the book. Goodreads just doesn't give enough characters in the "Private Notes" section! Why, Goodreads, why?

This book was long, too long and winding... but there was much that i want to remember:

1. comparing 19th-century rationales for slavery to modern-day arguments for world trade/free markets

2. the chapter on native american removal, genocide

3. western civilization as "conquest abroad and repression at
...more
Zachariah
Overall a really really good read. I'd recommend it to anyone. Everyone. The book is not without it's problems but in the end they are too minor to go into. After about halfway through the book I voiced my biggest complaint which can be read below if you really want to. Just don't let me or anyone else discourage you from reading this book if you are at all interested in it. Even the length of the book, which, because of his wandering prose, was much longer than it needed to be, still should not ...more
Miriam
I held out a long time before I read any Derrick Jensen. In my mind Derrick Jensen was to primitivists what Crimethinc was to young train hopping punks. I heard dogmatic and judgmental opinions from people who repeatedly sited Derrick Jensen.
However, I decided to give "The Culture of Make Believe" a chance when my friend Juli, told me she was reading it and it actually contained highly researched and indepth analysis about the interconnectedness of oppressions.
"The Culture of Make Believe" i
...more
Cailin Deery
Generally, The Culture of Make Believe is a meticulously researched and compelling historical, cultural expose. It’s an overwhelming and heavy read, but I never felt bogged down. It unburies historical and recent atrocities, takes our structures of power to task, considers the economics at play behind so many actions of hatred, and explores the reasons that we have been blind to so many of these tragedies. It also patiently explains how we might change our way of thinking to not miss the warning ...more
Keith
Well, if you recall from my review of "A Language Older Than Words", I had some issues with Jensen's writing, from a stylistic, and sometimes technical standpoint. I'm pleased to report that he got better by the time he wrote "Culture...", and that his abilities as a speaker in a live setting are in fact matched by his skill as a writer. After having read this, and having started "Endgame", I realize now that most of his talk that I heard in April was drawn from his books, which shouldn't be sur ...more
Alex
Derrick Jensen has a knack for compiling some of the most horrible atrocities ever committed and piecing them together within a compelling and provocative thread. This book is more "socially" focused than A Language Older Than Words (which was more ecological), so in that sense I got more out of it, but it's probably not as well written as that earlier book.

The best parts here are about the KKK, IWW, J.P. Morgan and the turn of the century big capitalists and war profiteers, the Nazis, and slave
...more
Alan Kaufmann
Simply the best critique of Western civilization I've ever read. If you've ever looked around at what is going on in the world and thought, "This is insane! Why is this happening? How can they DO that?", and actualy wanted an answer, then read this book.

Warning, this book is not for the faint-of-heart. It discusses, in detail, lynchings, genocides, the rape epidemic, the child abuse epidemic, the Klu Klux Klan, corporate greed and control in several eras, wars, hate crimes, etc., etc. If you are
...more
Craig
I dog-eared many pages to reference for this review, but I am not going to use any of them. Jensen explains and reiterates often throughout the book that we have progressed through various genocides and holocausts until we are now at a point in history with the most efficient and rational systems of killing and destruction (based on how capital and production work to take, consume and discard--on to the next resource to exploit, whether that be oil, trees, people, etc). The way our current syste ...more
Georgiana
Jul 09, 2012 Georgiana marked it as to-read
43 (I believe it was upton Sinclair who stated, "it's difficult to get man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it")

62 the citizens of Mohenjo-Daro obeyed not because they were inferior but because they would starve if they did not.

63 The difficulty comes--and here is the real beauty of the story of Noah and his sons--when, like Ham (or at least my vision of Ham), you find your way through these shifts in perception and see the patriarch naked and vulnerable.
...more
Ilya
Derrick Jensen teaches creative writing in a maximum-security prison, and supplements his income by writing 700-page tomes filled with rants about the evils of industrial capitalism, which breeds hatred, oppression, materialism and environmental destruction. Of course it was capitalists who built Kombinat Mayak, and it was capitalists who set up a factory producing handbags and gloves from the skin of the Yangtze River dolphin during the Great Leap Forward. I don't want to believe that all envir ...more
David Johnson
I am not an avid reader but this is one book that I just didn't want to put down. I rarely completely read a book but this book is filled with so much factual information from the perspective of so many people that it makes for an exciting read. Mr. Jensen has is a great writer and I look forward to reading his other books. As an African American it is very refreshing and encouraging to hear a Caucasian admit that there is something very wrong with how America has and continually mistreats peopl ...more
Michael Kage
Interesting perspective with ample research dedicated to Jensen's position. After reading I was left feeling that atrocities are terrible but I understand how and why they happen more so. His solution to the issue is weak and simply never going to happen and he seems to admit that.

Negative aspects of the book: LONG! This is the first book I've read by Jensen and I can already tell that he likes to hear himself talk. Google the author and read about his background. While he is not out to kill an
...more
Alison
Daniel Quinn can do it better than I can:


"Derrick Jensen is a man driven to stare without flinching at the baleful design of our culture, which encourages us to honor those who wreak the most havoc on the world (and on human lives) and to scorn those who protest against the havoc as opponents of decency and good order. In fact, The Culture of Make Believe so explicitly reveals the intimacy between the murder of the world and "decency and good order" that I'm surprised any author would dare write
...more
Brendan
As with all of Jensen's books I've read, the material presented here is thoughtful and well-researched. Slightly less repetitive than some of his other works, The Culture of Make Believe is a great introduction to Jensen's particular way of thinking.
brooke
very, very, very long.But totally worth everytime I told my kids to make their own spaghetti O's cause "Mommy's readin'"
Seriously, this book is eyeopening. We all know intuitively the injustice that occurs every single day in every crevice of our planet. Mr. Jenson reminds us, with all of his writtings, that armed with the proper knowledge we can change things. He directs us towards that knowledge, so that we may make educated choices about how we choose to live each day, distructively or beginn
...more
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Derrick Jensen is an American author and environmental activist living in Crescent City, California. He has published several books questioning and critiquing contemporary society and its values, including A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, and Endgame. He holds a B.S. in Mineral Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Eas ...more
More about Derrick Jensen...
A Language Older Than Words Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization Endgame, Vol. 2: Resistance Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial

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“For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.” 39 likes
“One of the fables we live by is that some day the killing will stop. If only we rid ourselves of Chinese, white men will have jobs and white women will have virtue, and then we can stop killing. If only we rid ourselves of Indians, we will fulfill our Manifest Destiny, and then we can stop killing. If only we rid ourselves of Canaanites, we will live in the Promised Land, and then we can stop killing. If only we rid ourselves of Jews, we can build and maintain a Thousand Year Reich, and then we can stop killing. If only we stop the Soviet Union, we can stop the killing (remember the Peace Dividend that never materialized?). If only we can take out the worldwide terrorist network of bin Laden and others like him. If only. But the killing never stops. Always a new enemy to be hated is found.” 28 likes
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