Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Savage and the Sustainable: Part Four [of four] (Derrick Jensen)

Derrick Jensen, Endgame, vol. 1:

'There's another problem, though, that trumps all of these others. It has to do with a characteristic of this civilization unshared even by other civilizations. It is the deeply and most-often-invisibly held beliefs that there is really only one way to live, and that we are the one-and-only possessors of that way. It becomes our job then to propagate this way, by force when necessary, until there are no other ways to be. Far from being a loss, the eradication of these other ways to be, these other cultures, is instead an actual gain, since Western Civilization is the only way worth being anyway: we're doing ourselves a favor by getting rid not only of obstacles blocking our access to resources but reminders that other ways to exist, allowing our fantasy to sidle that much closer to reality; and we're doing the heathens a favor when we raise them from their degraded state of society. If they don't want to join us, simple: we kill them. Another way to say all of this is that something really grimly alchemical happens when we combine the arrogance of the dictionary definition, which holds this civilization superior to all other cultural forms; hypermilitarism, which allows civilization to expand and exploit essentially at will; and a belief, held even by such powerful and relentless critics of civilization as Lewis Mumford, in the desirability of cosmopolitanism, that is, the transposability of discoveries, values, modes of thought, and so on over time and space. The twentieth-century name for that grimly alchemical transmutation is genocide: the eradication of cultural difference, its sacrifice on the altar of the one true way, on the altar of the centralization of perception, the conversion of a multiplicity of moralities all dependent on location and circumstance to one morality based on the precepts of the ever-expanding machine, the surrender of individual perception (as through writing and through the conversion of that and other arts to consumables) to predigested perceptions, ideas, and values imposed by external authorities who with all their hearts--or what's left of them--believe in, and who benefit by, the centralization of power. Ultimately, then, the story of this civilization is the story of the reduction of the world's tapestry of stories to only one story, the best story, the real story, the most advanced story, the most developed story, the story of the power and the glory that is Western Civilization.'

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