Derrick Jensen is the most passionate living justice author that I have encountered. He is enraged by the environmental and social injustice wreaked bDerrick Jensen is the most passionate living justice author that I have encountered. He is enraged by the environmental and social injustice wreaked by a culture of consumption and resulting oppression, and he is unequivocal in his perspective on what needs to be done.
In this, the first part of a two-part series, Jensen provides a very clear definition of civilization that he uses to vehemently argue that civilization is inherently exploitative and destructive (and, thus, evil). In this way the very core of our beliefs lead us to ruin. He has personal experience with individual abuse (in his own life) and addictions (in the lives of prisoners that he has taught), and he points out parallels between these and institutional abuse and cultural addictions. When he says (repeatedly) that "all writers are propagandists", he clearly includes himself, but he is very transparent about his core premises, and he strongly supports each of them.
His style, and the quotes that herald the beginning of each new chapter, are like a punch in my civilized gut. Jensen makes me feel the depth of the problem of civilization with an intense clarity and powerful sadness that rejuvinates my desire to grapple with the problem. I particularly appreciate his writing voice, which is so informally sardonic at times that I laugh out loud right as I might otherwise start weeping. He writes intimately, as if there is no barrier between him and the reader, and this certainly affected me emotionally. Even with this personal style, he includes a rich set of references and bibliography, both of which can help to empower readers to dramatically increase their understanding of the problem.
I recently encountered others who had tried to read Endgame, but who found that it made them too angry. This, however, ought to be seen as a good thing....more
I think that David Sirota's "The Uprising" is misnamed. It should really be called "Political Power 101", as Sirota does an excellent job of providingI think that David Sirota's "The Uprising" is misnamed. It should really be called "Political Power 101", as Sirota does an excellent job of providing an introduction to how political power really works. Ostensibly, Sirota is interested in looking at political power from a particular angle--what he calls the "uprising", but Sirota himself as much as admits that this uprising is fairly ill-defined. This confusion is my only real complaint with the book.
On the other hand, the vagueness of Sirota's protagonist group is also a strength, as it allows him to explore a fascinating array of people who are all demonstrating different aspects of political discourse. I learned a lot about the reality of practical political action, not to mention a healthy dose of nearly up to the minute American history.
One thing that really caught my attention is Sirota's account of third party politics and fusion, a technique for third parties to officially maintain a brand by endorsing another party's candidate right on ballots. I hadn't heard of fusion before, and now I am very excited by the concept. Sirota has a lot of good research (on fusion and many other topics), but he doesn't provide references inline; they're all in the back indexed by quotes from the book. This is fine, if non-obvious at first glance. I was motivated to track down an article by Peter H. Argersinger titled "A Place on the Ballot: Fusion Politics and Antifusion Laws", from the journal American Historical Review. As far as I can tell, Sirota doesn't include the issue number anywhere; for the record, this article is from volume 85, number 2 (April, 1980) of the journal.
For me, politics has seemed both confusing and deeply frustrating. I think David Sirota has provided a practical guide to understanding how power works that can help us to energize our own uprising. ...more
Although it spends most of its time in a coal mine, this quaint little adventure story doesn't offer much depth. All of the characters are static andAlthough it spends most of its time in a coal mine, this quaint little adventure story doesn't offer much depth. All of the characters are static and direct, and the main thrust of the plot is resolved almost by chance.
From a sustainability perspective, the story is rather ironic, as it glorifies the use of fossil fuels, coal, and mining; and it looks forward to an unending supply of the same....more
"Poison Study" made me laugh out loud several times, and the plot moves along rapidly. I found myself quite engrossed right up until the end, which fe"Poison Study" made me laugh out loud several times, and the plot moves along rapidly. I found myself quite engrossed right up until the end, which felt far more forced than the rest of the book, both in terms of plot resolution and character interaction.
Snyder presents a number of interesting ideas in her world building and character construction; these ideas lead to a number of pleasing, if somewhat predictable, surprises, but she doesn't really commit to any of them, so we don't get to test their ramifications more deeply. In addition, the characters themselves are each bright and shiny, as well as reasonably nuanced, but they stick unquestioningly to their niche within the storyline, which is ironic given the world that the book presents.
That said, those interesting ideas do allow the reader to ask some tough questions, primarily about aspects of justice, when encountered by aspects of the world and the story. The story itself rarely asks those questions, and never answers them, but, interestingly, the book asks many of those questions, directly, in a brief study guide at the end. It would certainly be interesting to address those questions in a book club, although I doubt that the book provides enough depth for meaningful answers to take root....more
We, the people of our culture, are the inheritors and administrators of a grave evil. Strong evidence of this evil is blazed in the destruction of ourWe, the people of our culture, are the inheritors and administrators of a grave evil. Strong evidence of this evil is blazed in the destruction of our environment, which is clearly caused by humans. Sadly, we have been taught, and we continue to teach others, that this evil is actually good: not that we should be destroying our environment, but that it is a consequence of an otherwise noble pursuit of our culture. With "Ishmael", Daniel Quinn bravely explores and exposes the destructive consequences of the assumptions of this culture.
"Ishmael" is a very important book, if the previous paragraph wasn't dramatic enough for you. It asks us some very hard questions, starting with why are we destroying our beautiful home, the Earth? Next up is does it have to be this way? (Spoiler: no.)
The book does have a number of idiosyncrasies that have alienated a number of readers; still, I exhort you to read this book and consider its arguments. Yes, the eponymous character is a telepathic gorilla; this is simply a device to project the arguments beyond the imposed isolation of civilization, to make us think about what nature could be teaching us if we tried to listen to it. Because of this, the book is technically fiction, but it is a thin veneer around a philosophy lecture. Yes, the author is a part of the culture he is criticizing. Yes, he uses fairly standard gender-weighted language ("man", "mankind", "Mother Culture"). How do either of these detract from his arguments? There are also some more substantive problems with the book, like the fact that he encourages the development of civilization without defining what he means by that, but these problems do not affect his main conclusions.
While this book contains philosophy and ambitious historical analysis wrapped in a thin candy coating, the philosophy is still presented very clearly. Quinn is not shy about his ideas; indeed, he lays them out in excruciating detail. For however much you may like or dislike his style, you still must account honestly for the substance of his arguments and his conclusions....more