“A few years ago I began to feel pretty apocalyptic. But I hesitated to use that word, in part because of those drawings I’ve seen of crazy penitents carrying “The End is Near” signs, and in part because of the power of the word itself. Apocalypse. I didn’t want to use it lightly.
But then a friend and fellow activist said, “What will it take for you to finally call it an apocalypse? The death of the salmon? Global warming? The ozone hole? The reduction of krill populations off Antarctica by 90 percent, the turning of the sea off San Diego into a dead zone, the same for the Gulf of Mexico? How about the end of the great coral reefs? The extirpation of two hundred species per day? Four hundred? Six hundred?
Give me a specific threshold, Derrick, a specific point at which you’ll finally use that word.”Jensen
Here we have no problems with speaking the simple and obvious truth, in scientific terms no less! This is a truth zone, after all. In the words of Jensen himself:
“Capitalism is a system by which the living are converted into the dead.”
First off, let’s get some shit out the way stat: Derrick Jensen is among the greatest of human beings to have ever walked this earth. Derrick Jensen is a hero. He is a prince! He is a walking avatar of every virtue that a man can have. I have a lot to learn from Derrick Jensen. We all do!
Most of all: Derrick Jensen is a truth-seeker who strives to be honest with himself. A rare breed. In most respects I am not fit to lick this man’s boots: but in this – I am proud to call him comrade.
The greatest gesture of respect I have to offer is my ruthless critique. A man like this deserves some good ass concepts. Let’s give him some!
Aight the man is at derrickjensen.org, and the texts are Endgame 1: The Problem of Civilization and Endgame 2: Resistance. Throughout these two books, Jensen regales us with tales of his war against the death-cult of Capital, his journey towards truth through praxis, his life experiences, along with lots and lots of historical trivia. It’s good stuff, real good stuff – even if it’s ultimately pretty tragic. Worthwhile reads.
Through his praxis-process, he has generated 20 green premises. We’re gonna go through them all, and then some.
First let’s just locate him real quick-like on our political compass:
Jensen is fully identified with the biosphere – but he’s also a past-fetishizer who is consciously hostile to most horizons of universality. He sees the world from a past of harmonious ‘sustainability’, and he wants to get us back there. He’s got an Other, and he has sure as fuck named them: the ‘civilized’. Jensen thinks the Holocene never even happened – history was a mistake.
He is already implicated in an historically generated horizon of universality becaues of his biosphere-identification, but he hasn’t come to realize this or its full ramifications yet. He’s also not a fan of the ‘selfhood’ of the ‘civilized’, but he is an animist, an idealist, and a bit of an essentialist – all of which are very civilized indeed. There’s some anarchism in there too.
Because of his anarchism, I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and put him as a boundary case – but this guy has a deep reactionary streak in him.
emTme3 is a watermelon – green on the outside, red on the inside. We cannot be reactionaries, because we know that all subjective experiential horizons are historically mediated and produced, and we also know that returning to imaginary pasts is impossible.
There we are down there, busily tunneling away through ideology!
We have a lot in common with Jensen, but also some significant differences. These differences are gonna be fecund af.
Anybody who sets themselves up in opposition to the exterminatus machine has to have a practice. This practice must be error correcting, or you will never learn from your mistakes. So right out of the gate, we get some true shit:
“All writers are propagandists.”Jensen
I would put this as ‘there is no neutral position’, or ‘there is no outside of ideology’, but while these framings are a little more precise, Jensen is nonetheless very correct.
Writing is propaganda. There’s no way around it. Jensen doesn’t hesitate to go all the way here – even mathematics starts with a value judgment – that of reducing everything to quantification.
You gotta pick a side, pick a line, and roll with it. That’s just how it is.
There is nonetheless a crucial distinction to make here – there is writing that knows it is propaganda, and there is writing that pretends not to be propaganda. Or – there is writing that pretends to be ideologically neutral, and writing that makes its commitments and premises clear.
Which is to say, when it comes to writing, there are honest propagandists, and dishonest ones. Being able to make this distinction is nothing less than the beginning of independent thought.
Jensen gets this – because he’s minimally honest with himself.
“All writers are propagandists. That doesn’t mean we’re all liars. Some are liars. Some are not.”Jensen
Nothing is Sustainable
These books are really big and sprawling, so I’m not going to do a systematic critique of the entirety of the texts. Instead, I’m going to do it conceptually, going through each of the most important assumptions and symbolic constructs that Jensen uses for his arguments.
Sustainability is one of the big ones. It’s built right into his first premise!
- Green-Premise 1: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.
So immediately here we run into my biggest problem with Jensen’s conceptual apparatus – he is explicitly using pre-historical human activity as a baseline for ‘sustainability’ and for pre-‘civilization’. While it is certainly true that many of these social projects had much healthier relations with their enabling conditions than we do (it would be impossible not to!) and were even able to reproduce those conditions for quite some time – they were not sustainable.
Do you know how we know that pre-‘civilization’ human activity wasn’t ‘sustainable’?
Because it ain’t around no mores!
Also, ‘nature’ itself was never ‘sustainable’ either. Do you know how we know that?
It’s gone too!
In the Post-Holocene we consider the concept of sustainability to be obsolete. It is Pre-Darwinian, and relies on reification of ‘nature’ as a self-sustaining holistic totality – which we now know is not the case. We know this because of evolutionary theory and ecology, and we know this because, well – a homeostatic self-sustaining holistic totality could never have generated something internal to itself that could destroy itself, which is exactly who we are and what we have done.
So when I write things like this, I am deliberately depreciating the concept of ‘sustainability’:
“The only purpose any sapient being must never forget after becoming sapient is the mastery of its environmental relations, establishing a regulatable metabolism with its enabling conditions that reproduces or improves those same conditions. All other purposes are secondary to this, or all purposes are devoured by time’s gaping maw.”emTme3
Rather than ‘sustainability’, we’re just gonna use ‘extinction track’ and ‘survival track’. This allows us to see something that Jensen can’t – there’s just no reason that an industrial society can’t be a long term project. Industry and tech give us the capacity to be better terraformers, if we wanted to be! This would require a consciously planned economy that isn’t dominated by value dynamics – so, socialism. An economy that could actually adjust its energy metabolism profile, rather than just an extinction magdump.
This is not only possible, it is the only way forward for civilization, full stop. Immediately we run headlong into Jensen’s Third Premise:
- Green-Premise 3: this way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread exploitation and degradation.
Notice the sleight of hand here: ‘civilization’ has now been replaced with ‘industrial civilization’. Which is really already a significant improvement cuz like – no pre-capitalist social project ever had the slightest chance of fucking with the long term reproduction of biospheric outcomes, no matter how ultimately ‘unsustainable’ they proved to be.
It’s just not a thing. Rome was a blip in geological terms. Nothing pre-industrial could ever have come close to using more than the energy bandwidth from the sun. Capitalism + fossil fuels = a whole different story.
So Jensen’s schemata just doesn’t have a lot of room for fine-grained definitions or precise tuning. It’s a fairly fuzzy world horizon. Again we gotta make a political distinction here – capitalism isn’t reducible to industry. Industry is only one moment in the cycle of accumulation. We could easily have both technology, science, and a positive terraforming economy, and in many ways this would be better than pre-historic ‘sustainability’, because we would have vastly expanded power to regenerate and improve our enabling conditions.
All you need is the setup, effective socialization of the kids towards the telos, and enforcement of the rules! And it’d be prolly be nice to not have capitalists beating down your door too.
Burning a bit of coal isn’t that much of a problem if you’ve got a significant portion of the division of labor planting and tending forests. Having a meat industry isn’t so bad if there are strictly enforced limits on how much meat can be produced/consumed. Having a lot of people isn’t so bad if contraceptives are widely available and it’s taboo to have more people than the planned carrying capacity allows for.
Exploitation is also something that is very possible to at least ameliorate, if not entirely eradicate. You do this by guaranteeing a minimal baseline of material security for everyone. Even if the surplus of one’s labor is still going to be expropriated, it would be expropriated towards social and environmental ends. This is a different kind of exploitation than that of capitalism, where one’s surplus is expropriated for profit and the reproduction of domination and exploitation-for-profit.
If your surplus actually went towards making responsible, long term social decisions – then it wouldn’t feel so bad, would it?
Jensen isn’t really capable of making distinctions like this, nor does he want to try to imagine-for-a-change. He doesn’t really gaf about ‘civilization’, industrial or otherwise. As far as he’s concerned, it’s all gotta go. This follows from his first premise, which is incorrect precisely to the extent that it fails to make crucial political, economic, and historical distinctions.
This brings us to my second major beef: Jensen’s fuzzy, flattened definition of ‘civilization’. This seems to include anything post-agriculture, and to exclude only, well, in his terms – “stone age tech”.
“Humans exploit their surroundings! Human needs are in opposition to the natural world, otherwise why would politicians say we need to balance the economy versus the environment? Balance implies opposition. Whether it’s a God-given right or an evolutionarily ordained mandate, humans chop down trees, deprive all others of their habitat. It’s what we do.” But to believe this is to mistake civilization for humanity, an unforgivable and fatal, if flattering, error.”Jensen
Which like. C’mom. That prehistoric stuff wasn’t ‘sustainable’ either man. It gone!
And how was it not also civilization? Did they not have culture? A division of labor that reproduced itself? Are not the indigenous far more civilized than any of us? Were their own social setups/modes of energy regulation not infinitely civilized?
He is taking the ‘civilized’ at their word by using these definitions. This is just one of the ways in which his conceptual apparatus is actually a product of the civilization he so despises.
You can’t distinguish humans from civilization like Jensen wants to – not anymore. He looks at it from his prehistorical golden age, and says – ‘this is not human’.
But it is, dawg. It is! It’s the most human thing there is, and likely the last thing we’ll ever be. We look at it from the perspective of our future-oriented emancipatory universalist horizon, and we see that it is all humans, all the way down. The best and the worst. The concept of ‘human’ is itself an evolving socio-historical battleground – each new event adds to it and changes the terrain.
Using ‘civilization’ like this, the concept is exhausted. It’s meaningless and useless – this is why we have the Science of History – so we can make and define better historical concepts to guide our practices! Jensen will have no truck with the science tho – tainted by ‘civilization’ as it is. As we’re going to discover, he desperately needs this definition to hold in order to dodge both our inevitable accusations of anti-humanism and the most explicit concrete outcomes of his political line.
“Non-linear—cyclical—cultures, those not predicated on growth but on dynamic equilibrium, maintain stable populations. Having reached the limits of what their landbase willingly supports, indeed—and this is well-nigh inconceivable to those of us raised in a culture where we are taught to perceive all life as horrific competition and humans as the bloody victors—having reached a population level that best serves the needs not only of their human community but of their nonhuman neighbors, they, believe it or not, reduce the number of children. They do this by breastfeeding their existing children for many years, by abstinence, by taboos, by the use of herbal contraceptives and abortions. Prior to conquest, American Indian women, for example, used more than two hundred plants, roots, and other medicines as means of birth control, making the decisions themselves as to whether to use them. When all else fails, some cultures, and I’m not promoting this, practice infanticide. This infanticide is often not gender-based.
Beneath these techniques is the real point, which is an intimate and mutually beneficial relationship with their landbase.”Jensen
This all sounds extremely civilized to me. I’m all in. Sign me the fuck up!
Oh wait. I can’t. Because it’s gone.
As obviously civilized as our indigenous predecessors were, they did not understand themselves or their existence with concepts like ‘sustainability’. This concept is a retroactive projection onto these civilizations, from the perspective of a mass extinction event that has, as of yet, only just begun to understand itself as such. Some pre-capitalist civilizations no doubt had conceptual horizons and social practices that were concerned with long term survival, but some of them did not – hence the Pleistocene Overkill.
And exactly zero of them ever self-consciously used an obviously post-capitalist conceptual construct like ‘sustainability’. If they did have this concept, it was only latently embedded within the spiritualist parameters of their world horizons.
Ultimately, if you can’t defend yourself when the capitalist scourge shows up, well – bye bye ‘sustainability’. As we’re going to see, this was a huge problem with the various indigenous conceptual apparati when they first encountered the people-of-the-commodity.
Our politically partisan universality is capable of overcoming these conceptual problems. We can do this as follows:
- Red-Premise 1: There is no such thing as ‘sustainability’. In the longest term, to the best of our existing scientific cosmology’s understanding: everything is fucked. This in no way entails a necessary fall into nihilism – rather, it could impress upon us the insurpassible fragility and ultimate value of each precious moment of our existence, or any existence – human and non. If everything passes in the longest term, all the more reason to try to keep us going for as long as possible!
Unfortunately, the assumption of the ‘sustainability’ of ‘pre-civilization’ social modes is a foundational axiom for Jensen’s entire output – a un-examined, pre-modern, romantic-animist fantasy that leaves his apparatus on some rather shaky foundations.
While we’re at it, let’s fix this ‘civilization’ business too:
- Red-Premise 2: All human existence is social. Every social project is ‘civilization’, no matter the tech or the outcome. Therefore, there are only the following options: consciously long-term social projects, overshoot dieoffs (with little significant long-term biospheric impact) – or mass extinction events.
There we go. Ah, clarity!
Indigenous Perspectival Inadequacies
Throughout these texts, Jensen provides us with reams of quotations and observations from this baseline – indigenous perspectives on the receiving end of Capital’s colonizer front.
- Green-Premise 2: traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until those communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their land bases to be damaged so that other resources can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.
Quite so. This is nothing but the repeated pattern of capital’s expansion from feudalism till now – you gotta remove the population from their landbase so they have to submit to wage slavery and you can ‘develop’ the land for commodity production. So basically any core needs a periphery, and this relationship is always one of violent expansion and exploitation.
We’re going to analyze these early anti-colonial perspectives, but let us first emphasize the following: we are on the side of the indigenous. We are on the side of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the culled – no matter their skin color or their gender or their species. We are on the side of the future. We are on the side of Life. Anybody on the side of Life is a comrade of ours.
We are against this: societies that cause mass extinction events.
That being said, we are still going to nonetheless ruthlessly criticize and analyze our indigenous comrades – a gesture of profound respect and comradeship.
“Now, were Columbus and his fellow European exploiters sim- ply “greedy” men whose “ethics” were such as to allow for mass slaughter and genocide? I shall argue that Columbus was a wétiko, that he was mentally ill or insane, the carrier of a terribly contagious psychological disease, the wétiko psychosis. The Native people he described were, on the other hand, sane people with a healthy state of mind. Sanity or healthy normal- ity among humans and other living creatures involves a respect for other forms of life and other individuals, as I have described earlier. I believe that is the way people have lived (and should live).
The wétiko psychosis, and the problems it creates, have inspired many resistance movements and efforts at reform or revolution. Unfortunately, most of these efforts have failed because they have never diagnosed the wétiko as an insane person whose disease is extremely contagious.”Jack D. Forbes
Jensen crafts another premise out of this:
- Green-Premise 10: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.
While this is obviously true, here we have identified the problem as primarily cultural: a mental illness – the wétiko disease. This is an inherently idealist diagnosis! It is incapable of coming to grips with truly anti-capitalist materialist concepts – like ideology.
There is no doubt a mental/subjective component to capitalist ideology, capitalists and their wage slaves act as they do not because of a mental illness – tho they are obviously all completely insane – but because of the constraints of the specific structure of their social relations. The wétiko mental illness is merely a symptom of the disease itself: capitalist social relations, themselves an auto-expanding machinic algorithm.
Everyone who willingly participates in the reproduction of said relations will have already been minimally inculcated with the wétiko disease. It is very difficult to exist within and reproduce these relations without already having wétiko-brain. The reproduction of said relations reproduces wétiko too. This is just how ideology works.
Our poor indigenous comrades had no adequate frame of reference to understand this when the wétiko hive-mind first showed up. They could only interpret this new phenomena with the concepts they had on hand – the concepts they used to understand themselves. So, they assumed that the Pale-Faces were, like themselves: reasonable human beings – people with whom one could negotiate, come to an agreement with, make treaties, and interact with on the basis of Truth and Honor. People who could be trusted. People who kept their word.
They were wrong.
History shows this very clearly: capitalists cannot be negotiated with. They are not reasonable beings. They do not listen to facts, or truths, or Nature, or God(s). Their laws are mere contrivances, their treaties and pacts meaningless, their Gods but idols. Our ‘climate leaders’ and agencies will be some of the last to learn this.
Capitalists only ever do the following – they take your land from you, they develop it for commodity production, they commodify your culture, they force you into wage or chattel slavery, and they cause mass extinction events.
This is all they are capable of. This is all they have ever done. This is all they will ever do. They have no honor. They serve only mammon. And they bring only death and slavery in their wake.
Very rarely – they are honest about this:
“In war, they shall kill some of us. We shall kill all of them.”Thomas Jefferson
We study these words carefully. We internalize them. We compare them with the historical record, and with our current conditions.
We find that, at least one time and maybe by accident – a capitalist spoke truth.
The indigenous civilizations of the Pre-Capitalist world were not the first nor the last to make the crucial mistake of extending the hand of trust and brotherhood to those who know neither. The first populations that were subject to proletarianization and the enclosure and commodification of land were the subaltern peasant populations of the European continent itself. They too did not understand what they were up against.
We still have not understood what we are up against – but our indigenous comrades, they learned:
“If there is one here tonight who believes that his rights will not sooner or later be taken from him by the avaricious American pale-faces, his ignorance ought to excite pity, for he knows little of the character of our common foe. And if there be one among you mad enough to undervalue the growing power of the white race among us, let him tremble in considering the fearful woes he will bring down upon our entire race, if by his criminal indifference he assists the designs of our common enemy against our common country. Then listen to the voice of duty, of honor, of nature and of your endangered country. Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers.”Tecumseh
“The blood of many of our fathers and brothers has run like water on the ground, to satisfy the avarice of the white men. We, ourselves, are threatened with a great evil; nothing will pacify them but the destruction of all the red men.
Brothers—When the white men first set foot on our grounds, they were hungry; they had no place on which to spread their blankets, or to kindle their fires. They were feeble; they could do nothing for themselves. Our fathers commiserated their distress, and shared freely with them whatever the Great Spirit had given his red children. They gave them food when hungry, medicine when sick, spread skins for them to sleep on, and gave them grounds, that they might hunt and raise corn.
Brothers, the white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting their benefactors to death. The white people came among us feeble; and now we have made them strong, they wish to kill us, or drive us back, as they would wolves and panthers.
Brothers—The white men are not friends to the Indians: at first, they only asked for land sufficient for a wigwam; now, nothing will satisfy them but the whole of our hunting grounds, from the rising to the setting sun.
Brothers—The white men want more than our hunting grounds; they wish to kill our warriors; they would even kill our old men, women, and little ones…
Brothers—My people wish for peace; the red men all wish for peace: but where the white people are, there is no peace for them, except it be on the bosom of our mother.
Brothers—The white men despise and cheat the Indians; they abuse and insult them; they do not think the red men sufficiently good to live.
The red men have borne many and great injuries; they ought to suffer them no longer. My people will not; they are determined on vengeance; they have taken up the tomahawk; they will make it fat with blood; they will drink the blood of the white people.
Brothers—My people are brave and numerous; but the white people are too strong for them alone. I wish you to take up the tomahawk with them. If we all unite, we will cause the rivers to stain the great waters with their blood.
Brothers—If you do not unite with us, they will first destroy us, and then you will fall an easy prey to them. They have destroyed many nations of red men because they were not united, because they were not friends to each other…
Brothers—Who are the white people that we should fear them? They cannot run fast, and are good marks to shoot at; they are only men; our fathers have killed many of them.”Tecumseh
“Have we not courage enough remaining to defend our country and maintain our ancient independence? Will we calmly suffer the white intruders and tyrants to enslave us? Shall it be said of our race that we knew not how to extricate ourselves from the three most to be dreaded calamities—folly, inactivity and cowardice? But what need is there to speak of the past? It speaks for itself and asks, ‘Where today is the Pequot? Where are the Narragansetts, the Mohawks, Pocanokets, and many of the other once powerful tribes of our race?’ They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white men, as snow before a summer sun. In the vain hope of alone defending their ancient possessions, they have fallen in the wars with the white men. Look abroad over their once beautiful country, and what see you now? Naught but the ravages of the pale-face destroyers meet your eyes. So it will be with you Choctaws and Chickasaws! Soon your mighty forest trees, under the shade of whose wide spreading branches you have played in infancy, sported in boyhood, and now rest your wearied limb after the fatigue of the chase, will be cut down to fence in the land which the white intruders dare to call their own. Soon their broad roads will pass over the graves of your fathers, and the place of their rest will be blotted out forever…
Think not, brave Choctaws and Chickasaws, that you can remain passive and indifferent to the common danger, and thus escape the common fate. Your people too will soon be as falling leaves and scattering clouds before their blighting breath. You too will be driven away from your native land and ancient domains as leaves are driven before the wintry storms. Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws, in false security and delusive hopes. Our broad domains are fast escaping from our grasp. Every year our white intruders become more greedy, exacting, oppressive and overbearing. Every year contentions spring up between them and our people and when blood is shed we have to make atonement whether right or wrong, at the cost of the lives of our greatest chiefs, and the yielding up of large tracts of our lands.
Before the pale-faces came among us, we enjoyed the happiness of unbounded freedom, and were acquainted with neither riches, wants, nor oppression. How is it now? Wants and oppression are our lot; for are we not controlled in everything, and dare we move without asking, by your leave? Are we not being stripped day by day of the little that remains of our ancient liberty? Do they not even now kick and strike us as they do their black-faces? How long will it be before they tie us to a post and whip us, and make us work for them in their corn fields as they do them? Shall we wait for that moment or shall we die fighting before submitting to such ignominy? Have we not for years had before our eyes a sample of their designs, and are they not sufficient harbingers of their future determinations? Will we not soon be driven from our respective countries, and the graves of our ancestors? Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up and their graves be turned into fields? Shall we calmly wait until they become so numerous that we will no longer be able to resist oppression? Will we wait to be destroyed in our turn, without making an effort worthy of our race? Shall we give up our homes, our country, bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of our dead, and everything that is dear and sacred to us, without a struggle?
I know you will cry with me. Never! Never! Then let us by unity of action destroy them all, which we now can do, or drive them back whence they came.
War or extermination is now our only choice. Which do you choose?”Tecumseh
“Ever since I can remember, I have loved the whites. I have lived with them ever since I was a Boy, and to the best of my knowledge, I have never wronged a white man, on the contrary, I have always protected them from the insults of others, Which they cannot deny. The Four Bears never saw a white man hungry, but what he gave him to eat, drink, and a buffalo skin to sleep on, in time of need. I was always ready to die for them, which they cannot deny. I have done everything that a red skin could do for them, and how have they repaid it! With ingratitude!
I have never called a White Man a Dog, but to day, I do pronounce them to be a set of black hearted dogs, they have deceived me, them that I always considered as brothers have turned out to be my worst enemies. I have been in many battles, and often wounded, but the wounds of my enemies I exalt in. But to day I am wounded, and by whom – by those same white dogs that I have always considered, and treated as brothers. I do not fear death my friends. You know it, but to die with my face rotten, that even the wolves will shrink with horror at seeing Me, and say to themselves, that is The Four Bears, the friend of the Whites…
Listen well what I have to say, as it will be the last time you will hear me. Think of your wives, children, brothers, sisters, friends, and in fact all that you hold dear, are all dead, or dying, with their faces all rotten, caused by those dogs the whites, think of all that my friends, and rise all together and not leave one of them alive. The Four Bears will act his part.”The Four Bears
“Others of your accursed race have, in years past, disturbed our peaceful shores. They have taught me what you are. What is your employment? To wander about like vagabonds from land to land, to rob the poor, to betray the confiding, to murder in cold blood the defenseless. No! With such a people I want no peace,—no friendship. War, never-ending war, exterminating war, is all the boon I ask… Keep on, robbers and traitors: in Acuera and Apalachee we will treat you as you deserve. Every captive will we quarter and hang up to the highest tree along the road.”Timucua Acuera
“This land belongs to us, for the Great Spirit gave it to us when he put us here. We were free to come and go, and to live in our own way. But white men, who belong to another land, have come upon us, and are forcing us to live according to their ideas. That is an injustice; we have never dreamed of making white men live as we live.
White men like to dig in the ground for their food. My people prefer to hunt the buffalo as their fathers did. White men like to stay in one place. My people want to move their tepees here and there to the different hunting grounds. The life of white men is slavery. They are prisoners in towns or farms. The life my people want is a life of freedom. I have seen nothing that a white man has, houses or railways or clothing or food, that is as good as the right to move in the open country, and live in our own fashion. Why has our blood been shed by your soldiers?
The white men had many things that we wanted, but we could see that they did not have the one thing we liked best – freedom. I would rather live in a tepee and go without meat when game is scarce than give up my privileges as a free Indian, even though I could have all that white men have. We marched across the lines of our reservation, and the soldiers followed us. They attacked our village, and we killed them all. What would you do if your home was attacked? You would stand up like a brave man and defend it. That is our story. I have spoken.”Sitting Bull
“When a white man kills an Indian in a fair fight it is called honorable, but when an Indian kills a white man in a fair fight it is called murder. When a white army battles Indians and wins it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre and bigger armies are raised. If the Indian flees before the advance of such armies, when he tries to return he finds that white men are living where he lived. If he tries to fight off such armies, he is killed and the land is taken anyway. When an Indian is killed, it is a great loss which leaves a gap in our people and a sorrow in our heart; when a white is killed three or four others step up to take his place and there is no end to it. T
he white man seeks to conquer nature, to bend it to his will and to use it wastefully until it is all gone and then he simply moves on, leaving the waste behind him and looking for new places to take. The whole white race is a monster who is always hungry and what he eats is land.”Chiksika
“You cannot make peace with a culture, a people, that is trying to devour you”.Pucksinwah
These voices are the voices of our comrades! They spoke truth! These testimonies give us some of the first external eye witness accounts of what we now know was a mass extinction event in the making.
Despite the unquestionable value and truth-content of these perspectives, in each of them we can see the same problems: they are essentialist, idealist, pre-scientific, and incapable of really coming to grips with the monstrosity that is capitalist ideology. They all trusted capitalists at first, and only learned too late that this is impossible.
They trusted capitalists because their conceptual apparati were not advanced enough to realize the truth soon enough – they simply did not have the historical experience or the concepts to know what they were up against. They projected their own humanist values onto the white man – nothing but an emissary of a machine which can make no distinctions between life or death, truth or lies, honor or infamy. (Up! This is all number knows).
Thus – the unrelenting genocide of indigenous populations, as atrocious as it was and continues to be, was still just this: an historical inevitability. If you can’t even grok what’s coming at you – you’re done for.
History doesn’t go backwards. None of these – our illimitable indigenous predecessors who tried to warn us – had learned this yet.
For the sake of whatever posterity might be unlucky enough to survive capitalism, here is what we know about capitalists, with the benefit of hindsight:
Capitalists and their minions are profit and enjoyment addicts. They cannot be trusted. They cannot be reasoned with or negotiated with. They have exterminated a biosphere in their relentless pursuit of number-go-up. When the capitalists come: you must stop them, or they will kill everything.
The only way to beat an apex predator is to become one yourself.
Now that’s some shit! Ain’t history a bitch. Let’s go ahead and make that our third red-premise. Useful information for every organism in the entire universe, this:
- Red-Premise 3: When the capitalists come: you must stop them, or they will kill everything. The only way to beat an apex predator is to become one yourself.
In all possible futures, only one thing is certain – there will be no more capitalists, no more mammon god, and no more homo-economicus. The only real question is this: what then will there be?
What do you want there to be in this – the only future: the future without homo-economicus? Bands of scavengers scrabbling in the irradiated dirt at the whim of a climate hostile to any further mammalian aberrations? Or a revolutionary terraforming project and a united front for the continuation and sublation of human civilization as such?
It’s your choice. It’s my choice. We are all of us choosing now, every second, each of us, in our own way.
Pacifism and Violence
So Jensen is an honest truth-seeker, and practices self-criticism as a part of his truth-seeking. It is no surprise then that he has had to renounce pacifism in all its forms. His treatment of this subject is spectacular, and his reasoning impeccable.
Premises related to pacifism:
- Green-Premise 4: civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur it is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.
Oh fo sho. We could also call this antagonistic hierarchy of violence – class struggle. Non-humans and the lumpen slum dwellers are on the bottom of this structural violence. The revolutionary reversal of this is that violence done to the highest on the hierarchy is nothing less than justice.
This parallax of violence distribution is built into the history books and the education system too – there are popular children’s cartoons about that poor widdle Tsar’s family, but you aren’t gonna get taught Lenin in highschool.
There is no neutral way to see this.
- Green-Premise 5: the property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.
There is no neutral way to see this either. Ideological parallax!
- Green-Premise 13: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.
I could reshape this into a beautiful-soul shattering weapon thusly: there is no ‘outside’ of violence’, any more than there is an ‘outside’ of ideology. You cannot exist in the capitalist world-system without doing violence to someone somewhere, regardless of your intent or awareness. Even those at the lowest end of the system deflect and reflect systemic violence onto each other.
Jensen makes a list of standard pacifist dogmas. I’ll go through them and try to keep it short. Short and brutal. Pacifists are cowards and cannot defend themselves, after all.
- Love leads to pacifism, and any use of violence implies a failure to love.
Bullshit. Real love entails responsibility, and responsibility means a willingness to act on behalf of that love. Love means caring about something beyond yourself more than yourself. If you cannot kill out of love then you do not know what love is.
- You can’t use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.
O rly? The fuck else are you gonna use? The only tools we have are capitalist tools! And those tools have already dismantled the master’s house. Capitalism is its own gravedigger.
- It’s far easier to make war than to make peace.
Cowardice. Craven cowardice. It is far harder to put your life on the line for your values, far harder to risk everything, far harder to be able to overcome one’s conditioning in the pursuit of one’s ends, far harder to discipline oneself in the craft of warfare, far harder to face head on the violence that exists within all of us, far harder to stare necessity in the face.
And of course – there is no peace.
- We must visualize world peace. If we just visualize peace hard enough, we may find it, because, as Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller tells us,“Peace is rarely denied to the peaceful.”
Idealist bafflegab. When we try to visualize world peace, we will inevitably conclude – the end of war requires the end of scarcity, full stop. How you gonna do that without taking down capitalism? The second you try to get concrete with idealist talking points like this, shit gets bloody.
Peace has always been denied to the peaceful. That is what war is. That is what capitalism is and does.
- To even talk about winning and losing (much less to talk about violence, much, much less to actually do it) perpetuates the destructive dominator mindset that is killing the planet.
It is not a ‘mindset’ that is killing the biosphere. It is concrete actions done by concrete agents in the plane of immanence. Changing the mindsets of these agents will never stop their actions, because their actions do not come from a ‘mindset’ – they come from the material exigencies of the reproduction of capitalist relations – also the source of the mindset. It doesn’t matter what we think or feel, only what we do, and everyone who has to eat will necessarily have to reproduce capitalist relations. Reproducing these relations reproduces the subjective components of the ideology as well.
That changing a majority of people’s minds is necessary – well, duh. But that alone isn’t enough. We also need a willingness to sacrifice for the future, to care about something more than ourselves, to want something different for our future, and the capacity to organize to achieve those goals. We have to become people willing to fight our own conditioning, willing to turn against ourselves and our parents and our friends.
We have to become different than what we are.
- Ends never justify means.
If your ends don’t flow from your means, then you just don’t have any ends. If you do have ends, then you make them happen. That’s it.
And ‘Justify’? To whom? To what?
A real act is one that is self-justifying. It has no external reference point. It cannot be argued with or ‘justified’ – because it has been done. This is the essence of action, and the essence of a materialist ethic. History is written by the victors – those who win will always be justified, because they will be the very metric of justification itself.
Capitalists have taught us this – we must learn.
- “Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence. Hatred can be overcome only by love.”- Gandhi
Lots of Ol G-Dawg here, every liberal’s favorite role model. Never mind that he was a reactionary creep who wanted to preserve India’s caste system.
Violence in no way implies hatred. What would you do for love?
- “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall.” – Ghandi
What a crock of idealist hogwash. This is the worst theory of history I’ve ever seen. The tyrants and murderers have won. They have won and their fall is the end of everything. Sorry G-man, this ain’t Disney princess story time. There are no happy endings now.
- Violence only begets violence. “We must be the change we wish to see.”
The end of war can only be accomplished by the ending of scarcity, not by ‘being the change’. The end of scarcity is the reproduction of liveable biosphere conditions and a minimum level of material security for everyone. How’re we gonna get there?
The change I wish to see is a world without capitalism. If I could imagine that into happening by just being, you better believe it would have already happened by now.
- If you use violence against exploiters, you become like they are. Related to that is the notion that violence destroys your soul.
More idealism. If internal purity is your goal then you have already denied yourself the capacity to have external goals.
When one kills an oppressor, one does not become like him. What one becomes is free. Freedom that includes the choice to renounce becoming an oppressor in turn.
- If violence is used,the mass media will distort our message. Every act of violence sets back the movement ten years.
The mass media is and can only be an instrument of distortion and lies. There is only a movement to speak of if it is armed to the teeth and dangerous as fuck – so, there just is no movement that is even capable of failing yet.
- If we commit an act of violence, the state will come down hard on us. Because the state has more capacity to inflict violence than we do, we can never win using that tactic, and so must never use it.
Well, you’ve already lost then haven’t you. More beautiful soul bullshit and self-preservation.
If you have given yourself to the cause, then you are willing to die for it, and you are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish its ends.
The state is a terrain of struggle. At the moment, it serves the reproduction of our capitalist relations. We need to change that. We have to change that, if we want to survive.
- And finally, violence never accomplishes anything.
Violence has accomplished a mass extinction event – I’d say that’s a pretty notable something.
Against all this pacifist pablum, I will juxtapose the words of a true revolutionary, a man who devoted himself to the communist horizon, among the best of all humans:
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”Che
Che loved you. He loved all of us. He died for us.
If we’re all going to die anyways, it may as well be for something.
Pacifism, Jensen’s take:
“…equanimity in the face of the culture’s destructiveness can mask cowardice, stupidity, and an appalling lack of creativity, and can be an avoidance of responsibility for acting to halt the atrocities.”Jensen
Fuck it, let’s go for broke. The G-man himself!
“Where the choice is between only violence and cowardice, I would advise violence.”Ghandi
“To take the name of non-violence when there is a sword in your heart is not only hypocritical and dishonest but cowardly.”Ghandi
“Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defence of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.”Ghandi
“I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by nonviolently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. He has no business to be the head of a family. He must either hide himself, or must rest content to live forever in helplessness and be prepared to crawl like a worm at the bidding of a bully.”Ghandi
Well, if motherfuckin Ghandi said it…
So, we unequivocally uphold Jensen’s 15th Premise:
- Green-Premise 15: Love does not imply pacifism.
Idealism – the unquestioned assumption that our ‘internal’ states and intentions are more important and primary than the ‘external’ world – is the running thread through all of these pacifist axioms. Against all idealist narcissisms we materialists insist – it is only the concrete outcomes of our concrete actions on this planet that matter. At. Fucking. All.
Jensen has his own proto-materialist ethic:
- Green-Premise 16: The material world is primary. This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences. It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves (even if we do get some help from the Easter Bunny and others). It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here—the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is very silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is very silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.
This is a strong front against transcendent idealisms. Couldn’t have put any of this better. It is indeed extremely silly to not take our own existence-in-immanence seriously.
But he then goes and tries to save morality:
“All morality is particular, which means that what may be moral in one circumstance may be immoral in another. And the morality of any action must be put into the context of a system—civilization—that is killing or immiserating literally billions of human beings, killing our collective future, killing our particular landbases, killing the planet. In other words, our perception of the morality of every particular act must be informed by the certainty that to fail to effectively act to stop the grotesque and ultimately absolute violence of civilization is by far the most immoral path any of us can choose. We are, after all, talking about the killing of the planet.”Jensen
Rather than trying to salvage anything from the obvious bankruptcy of all existing moralisms, here I want to try to make a distinction between morals and ethics.
Morality is nothing but conforming to existing hegemonic social practices and norms. In our conditions, morality can then be nothing but hypocrisy and cowardice. Ethics, on the other hand, is breaking with existing social practices and norms in order to hold oneself to a higher standard. Ethics is a commitment to oneself and one’s cause/telos, while morality is nothing but the absence of this commitment.
This is worth making a premise out of:
- Red-Premise 4 – Morality is conforming to existing hegemonic social practices and norms. We become ethical when we break with morality by holding ourselves to different, higher standards than those enforced by morality. Ethics is a commitment to oneself and one’s cause/project, while morality is nothing but the absence of this commitment. Therefore – any ethical stance only arises against morality.
Pacifism is a form of slave-morality. As such, it is also conformity, cowardice, ignorance, and hypocrisy. It has never accomplished anything by itself. If it had, we wouldn’t be a mass extinction event!
Non-violent means can be situationally useful, but without a real threat to back them up, they’re toothless and useless. ‘Protests’ are just glorified street parties. Although we are taught to venerate MLK Jr, and to fear and hate Malcom X – the wave of ‘68 was only able to accomplish anything at all because of the presence of both non-violent and potentially violent actors.
Any ethics capable of adequacy to our historical conditions must break with all existing moralisms, and so also with pacificism.
So then, our next premises have arisen:
- Red-Premise 5: Insofar as we are materialists, we value this plane of immanence as much as our own internal worlds (they are not seperable to begin with) and more than any transcendent elsewhere or hereafter. It follows that it doesn’t matter what we think or feel. It is only what we do that matters, and the concrete outcomes of those actions. We must judge ourselves and all others according to these actions and outcomes, and in doing so we find this: pacifists are also doing a mass extinction event.
- Red-Premise 6: During a mass extinction event there is no peace. There is only violence. One side of violence is dishonest, and calls itself peace. The other side of violence is honest, and calls itself justice. There is no neutral. Either you are a complicit collaborator in capital’s relentless extermination campaign, or you stand up to fight it. Either way, you are a violent being. Violence is inescapable. Nobody is innocent. There are no beautiful souls.
Adventurism and Terrorism
“Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam.”Jensen
As useless and self-serving as the pacifist ethic is, the path of violent necessity stared in the face is hardly promising or hopeful. First of all, we live under the umbrella of (what Jensen points out is) a deliberate attempt by imperialist superpowers, the USA first of them, at what is termed ‘full spectrum dominance’. What this means is the attempt at a more or less global monopoly on violence – in all combat arenas, physical, mental and digital.
So any armed resistance to this full spectrum dominance could only be effective if it has already scaled up to the capacity to be able to locally neutralize this monopoly on violence. That’s liberation army territory. No such thing can exist in the cores – for now. In the future? Everything is up for grabs.
At the moment, Jensen is necessarily limited by scale to acts of sabotage, propaganda-of-the-deed type stuff, and hacking. It seems unlikely that these could accomplish much except on a very local scale against an enemy with (even attempted) full spectrum dominance.
But such acts are the only ones possible against the machine in the core.
Jensen doesn’t shrink from exploring these options. Although his tales are fun, the numbers just don’t add up. I guess if each of us went out individually and took out a dam/pipeline/power planet or whatever, maybe this might add to something. But for a single individual, the risk is dire and the advantage almost nil compared to the magnitudes of spaciality that capital operates across. There’s a lot of infrastructure guys! And like, we actually need that infrastructure to be able to pivot.
He talks to some hackers who know what’s up. One believes that the practice of hacking is itself a break with capitalist logics – an eruption into an exploratory flow dimension without limits or boundaries.
They all think that bringing down the machine would only take a few hackers doing the right hack at the right place at the right time.
So why hasn’t it happened? These books were out in the mid-oughts – an eternity ago on the extinction clock. I thought you guys wanted to save all the fishies? And, if you’re going to be hacking saboteurs, why not try to link up this capacity with some kind of organized political infrastructure that could gain advantage from the disruption?
Any day now.
Here’s the thing about all this adventurist fantasizing – it has no real political telos, because Jensen has no real positive political project other than the glorious (and automatic!) anprim afterparty. So these struggles and aims are politically blind, incapable of linking up effectively with existing social antagonisms or their organizations. As such, they are scattershot and ineffective – inherently limited to defensive tactics with no real offensive potential.
It all comes down to the goal. If I simply want ‘industrial civilization’/capitalism to go away, then I don’t have to do a goddamn thing. Simply by reproducing capitalist relations and being a good law-abiding citizen, I am already ensuring its inevitable downfall.
The most violent thing any one of us can do right now is nothing.
So why try to do anything at all? It depends on what you want. Do you want to take down civilization in the name of a Nature-long-past, or do you want to transform it in the name of the human biosphere it already is? Do you want to survive the cliff? Where? With whom and with what? You gotta pick your future.
The Specter of Malthus
Jensen’s got some shit to say about overpopulation. So do we!
“The United States constitutes less than 5 percent of the world’s population yet uses more than one-fourth of the world’s resources and produces one-fourth of the world’s pollution and waste. If you compare the average U.S. citizen to the average citizen of India, you find that the American uses fifty times more steel, fifty-six times more energy, one hundred and seventy times more synthetic rubber, two hundred and fifty times more motor fuel, and three hundred times more plastic. Yet our images of overpopulation generally consist not of those who do the most damage, the primary perpetrators (there can’t be too many [middle-class] Americans, can there?), but instead their primary (human) victims.”Jensen
Another way to understand this is that the principal contradiction of interests (global cores vs peripheries) pre-exists and shapes any possible conceptualization of it. So there are two contradictory macro-perspectives on overpopulation. The view from the top will always be – too many poors. The view from the bottom will always ask ‘but who is using all the resources’?
“At least partially in response to the obvious arrogance and absurdity of those who want the poor to stop having babies but don’t mind the rich having SUVs (and nuclear weapons), there are those who claim—equally absurdly, and equally arrogantly—that all talk of carrying capacity is racist and classist. To even use the phrase carrying capacity in this crowd is to invite hisses and catcalls, as well as spat epithets of Neo-Malthusian. I suppose the argument is that because some of those who want to protect this exploitative way of living use carrying capacity as a means of social control against the poor—as an American Indian activist friend said to me, “The only problem I have with population control is that you and I both know who is going to do the controlling”—then the notion of carrying capacity itself must be racist and classist. This seems similar to me to suggesting that because Hitler claimed (falsely) that Germany was being attacked by Poland, and that therefore the Germans needed to attack, and that because this same argument has routinely been used (just as falsely) by the United States as well as other imperial powers, that anyone who claims self-defense is lying. These people seem to forget that the misuse of an argument does not invalidate the argument itself.
Worse, this argument, that the very concept of carrying capacity is a fabrication designed for social control, as opposed to a simple statement of limits, serves those in power as effectively as does ignoring or de-emphasizing resource consumption when speaking of overshooting carrying capacity, because it goes along with the refusal to acknowledge physical limits (and limits to exploitation) that characterize this culture. “Jensen
Aight there’s a lot to unpack here. Jensen is wading into an ancient historical debate: Marx vs Malthus.
Malthus basically argues that overpopulation/overshoot is an inevitable consequence of any increase in the food supply. Thus, the culling of this overpopulation is ‘natural’, God-ordained, and Good. Malthus thought that either we teach those poor fucks ‘moral’ (sexual) restraint, or they get what’s coming to them.
There’s a lot of reasons to dislike this stance. Perhaps the most glaring is the overt class dehumanization. The Malthusian stance is always attractive to essentialists at the top of the class hierarchy – because they see themselves as the point of civilization, and the rest as just disposable dreck – even tho it’s the ‘dreck’ that makes it all happen. We can see this very clearly in the first part of Jensen’s quote here, although he will not point this out as an explicitly class perspective (which in our conditions will also have a racial component). Sartre put it in stark terms when he stated that ‘Malthusianism is the practice-process of the Bourgeoisie’.
So, fuck Malthus obv. Malthus is used as a weapon by our ruling classes and always has been, no matter how you interpret him. This is why there’s a kneejerk response to his concepts – this shit is always lodged directly in the bourgeois imaginary, a necessary perspectival artifact of their structural position. Jensen insightfully notes that the refusal to stare the close proximity of Malthusianism and Capitalist ideology directly in the face is already a political capitulation.
However, in the Post-Holocene it is now clear that Malthus was, at least partially, correct. We are living in a Malthus timeline.
We are in a situation of drastic population overshoot, because we have built our food production system around the ubiquity of oil inputs. Overshoot is inevitable given an unrestricted food and energy surplus with no population control mechanism. The capitalist metabolism automatically produces overshoot, because it automatically maximizes energy production at the expense of long-term carrying capacity, stealing from the future to reproduce the present. The correction of our current overshoot is indeed inevitable – Malthus was, in this sense, right. I will argue that he was still only partially so.
Malthus lived before Marx, and before the invention of historical materialism. What this means is that he was unable to see that the food supply is itself mediated and produced by specific, particular historical conditions and social relations before it has anything to do with any kind of absolute carrying capacity. We only approach the absolute carrying capacity of the landbase/planet through the relative carrying capacity of food production, mediated by (capitalist) social relations. Before this, there is only only ever an economically relative carrying capacity to approach. In fact, we could argue that the absolute carrying capacity and relative carrying capacity are themselves in a reciprocal dynamic.
What this means is that any future-oriented society that has a chance in hell of survival is going to have to limit food production and distribution in anti-capitalist ways to artificially regulate its own metabolism and attempt to create/maintain its own carrying capacity, rather than simply destroying it.
As for fixing our current overshoot status, well – it’s getting fixed one way or the other. The choices here are basically a controlled decline vs the cliff, and we’re not doing planned population degrowth anytime soon. If we were organized enough, we could make sure some of this population correction went up the ladder, where it should go.
Insofar as we are not organized enough, well – population overshoot correction is going down the cliff, the way God, Malthus and Capital like it.
“What would it take, I’ve heard peace and social justice activists ask, to bring the poor of the world to the fiscal standard of living of the rich? Well, another thirty planets, for one thing. It’s a dangerous—and stupid—question. Within this culture wealth is measured by one’s ability to consume and destroy. This means that attempts to industrialize the poor will further harm the planet. Because industrial production requires the exploitation of resources, the wealth of one group is always based on the impoverishment of another’s landbase, meaning that on a finite planet, the creation of one person’s (fiscal) wealth always comes at the cost of many others’ poverty. Those reasons are why the question is stupid. It’s dangerous because it serves as propaganda to keep both activists and the poor playing a game that doesn’t serve them well, and which they can never win, instead of quitting this game and working to take down the system.”Jensen
Here we’re starting to get to fundamental political differences. Jensen sees no point in trying to better conditions for the oppressed and hyper-exploited majority, or in trying to establish counter-hegemonic, anti-capitalist projects – because for eco-reactionaries, nature comes first.
Let’s make some finer distinctions here.
First of all, we’re is trying to bring the poor majority up to the living standards of the international bourgeoisie, or their petit national emulators, or the bought-and-paid for strata of Core labor aristocrats. That shit has to go, and is.
Establishing a baseline level of material security for everyone necessarily involves the expropriation of these strata and the elimination of their ‘lifestyles’. So, it involves land reform, and it involves wealth redistribution, it involves re-education, it involves a massive ongoing restructuring of the division of labor, &c &c &c. This is already a different game from capitalism!
But Jensen will have none of this, because for him all industry has to go. Unfortunately, industrial oil-based agriculture is why we have 8 billion mouths to feed. He is implicitly endorsing the overshoot dieoff here, while pretending that if we just tore down industry everyone would go back to his ‘sustainable’ paradise.
Newsflash: pre-industrial agricultural practices cannot support 8 billion people! Rather than giddily returning to their care-free pre-capitalist modes of social existence, a lot of folks are just dyin in a ditch.
Humanism and the Cliff
Let’s deal directly with the elephant in the room:
- Green-Premise 9: Although there will clearly some day be far fewer humans than there are at present, there are many ways this reduction in population may occur (or be achieved, depending on the passivity or activity with which we choose to approach this transformation). Some will be characterized by extreme violence and privation: nuclear Armageddon, for example, would reduce both population and consumption, yet do so horrifically; the same would be true for a continuation of overshoot, followed by a crash. Other ways could be characterized by less violence. Given the current levels of violence by this culture against both humans and the natural world, however, it’s not possible to speak of reductions in population and consumption that do not involve violence and privation, not because the reductions themselves would necessarily involve violence, but because violence and privation have become the default of our culture. Yet some ways of reducing population and consumption, while still violent, would consist of decreasing the current levels of violence—required and caused by the (often forced) movement of resources from the poor to the rich—and would of course be marked by a reduction in current violence against the natural world. Personally and collectively we may be able to both reduce the amount and soften the character of violence that occurs during this ongoing and perhaps long-term shift. Or we may not. But this much is certain: if we do not approach it actively—if we do not talk about our predicament, and what we are going to do about it—the violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.
So like, this is Jensen’s most honest look at the incoming overshoot dieoff. He doesn’t endorse it directly even tho his politics clearly do. This 9th premise is long-winded because he’s trying to avoid the fact that his politics want this to happen as soon as possible. After we subtract all the uncomfortable waffling, all it really says is this – a massive dieoff is happening.
Indeed it is!
A gentle slope would require revolutionary action and we don’t have that. Nonetheless, our politics do not lead to endorsing the dieoff as a cliff, they point to planned degrowth.
This contradiction between the aims of past-oriented green politics and future-oriented red politics is irreconcilable and leads to quite different cognitive mappings, aims, and practices. Yet both are responding to the same crisis. They need to be able to talk to one another. Your environmental movement would be a lot more effective if it had a (party) state apparatus on its side!
This is a contradiction within our concept of Nature itself. Which ‘Nature’ you reify and how leads to this inevitable political split between Greens and Reds, reactionaries and revolutionaries. Jensen is still reifying a pre-scientific Nature concept:
- Green-Premise 8: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of any economic system. Any economic or social system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and really stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) require the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it from damaging your landbase.
And we cannot uphold this.
Of course the needs of the landbase are more important than the continuation of the absurdly destructive and pointless capitalist mode of production – but the needs of humans are important too! If you simply demolish capitalism overnight in favor of saving the landbase, well, you just killed like 99% of the existing human population. Oops.
This dieoff endorsement lurks in the background of every eco-reactionary politick – sometimes overtly advanced as eugenics. Against this, a universal humanist stance must counterpose the possibility of the transformation of capitalism into something else. Such a transformation would absolutely require the sacrifice of ‘lifestyle’ choices on the part of the lucky few – but fuck those people. They’re the problem! This is the only way to stop the bleeding with a minimal amount of mass death.
It is the people at the top of the class hierarchy and their destructive life practices that need to go, along with the systemic ideological discourse/practice that enables this kind of entitled, murderous narcissism. The eco-reactionary urge to bathe it all in fire for the sake of the biosphere does not help with this. If anything, you are only becoming a more complicit member in the ongoing project of overshoot dieoff by attempting to accelerate it.
A massive population reduction is happening anyways. It’s baked in!
The difference here is this: we want to cushion the landing, and Jensen wants it to happen faster sooner.
“I see the collapse of civilization as the liberation of the planet.”Jensen
So, we can see here how Jensen’s attempt to identify directly with an animist biosphere inherently leads to anti-humanism. Any attempt to relate to nature can only be done through the mediation of historically (humanly) produced concepts. There is no ‘nature’ without us! Forgetting this is also forgetting the historical mediation and ultimate contingency of one’s own cognitive apparatus, imagining one can escape the shared legacy of our species, anthropocentrically pretending not to be anthropocentric. To be reifying and identifying with a Nature-In-Itself is to already to be misunderstanding oneself and one’s humanity.
This is understandable. It’s hard to be human, especially now that we’re starting to realize what we are. Can’t fault Jensen for not wanting to be one.
This historical blindness also fucks up this premise too:
- Green-Premise 12: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people. There are just people. The rich may have lots of pieces of green paper that many pretend are worth something—or their presumed riches may be even more abstract: numbers on hard drives at banks—and the poor may not. These “rich” claim they own land, and the “poor” are often denied the right to make that same claim. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world.
This kind of political/economic flattening is a necessary effect of Jensen’s starting premises: which is to say that he already considers the problem to be ‘civilization’ tout court, and so is looking at the situation from a perspective he assumes is outside of it.
It’s not! And by assuming it is, we get this:
“Really there are just people. None rich, none poor. Except in our minds.”Jensen
Yeah, no man. This is idealist brainfog. Class relations are real. Social antagonisms are real! Social constructs are real! So are the delusional stories capitalism tells about itself. These are really existing phenomena, that have real consequences. They must be accounted for.
There is no such thing as ‘people’. There are classes, and there are interests, and there are individuals. But there is no such thing as a ‘neutral’, abstract, ‘preson’.
Jensen can’t make adequate political-economic distinctions for the same reason he is an anti-humanist – he can’t see that his own horizon is itself a historical construct, which is to say – that it is also a political construct.
So Jensen’s biosphere consciousness, while a step in the right direction, is not enough. It must be able to make political/historical distinctions as well. It must realize that the poor and indigenous and subaltern are its allies, and that it is only through their political perspectives and interests that we ever have any access to the perspectives and interests of the biosphere.
To juxtapose our position as clearly as possible against all eco-reactionaries everywhere:
- Red-Premise 7: The needs of the landbase are only important insofar as they can reproduce human existence. Otherwise, it’s just a stochastic genetic recombination algorithm. Jensen is reifying and sacralizing a homeostatic earth mother, and he’s leaving us out of the picture. We are the frame of this picture. Nature does not know itself except through us!
We do not have access to ‘nature’ outside of human-originated socio-historical constructs. Our very definition of ‘nature’ is itself already a political act!
In addition to this, we live after Darwin. The Pre-Darwinian animist concept of nature that Jensen is assuming to be transhistorical is now longer the same as it was. After the emergence of the scientific concept of nature; animisms, vitalisms, and creationisms have lost their innocence forever.
Jensen cannot reconstruct his fantastical Garden of Eden until after the fall into history has already happened. He cannot take the perspective of the biosphere except through already historical coordinates. By assuming he can, he is living in an imaginary past, and using this phantasmic perspective to launch a transcendent critique.
It is by correcting for this historical mediation and including it in our own self-understanding that we become less past-oriented and more future-oriented, no longer yearning for a past that was never there and will never be again.
If we don’t save us, the biosphere doesn’t really matter – because it only matters at all within our own (inescapably) anthropocentric-historical coordinates! Those coordinates are what makes anything ‘matter’ in the first place! ‘Mattering’ is a socio-symbolic construct. Nature can only know itself through us. Nature only matters to us!
Which, should be way more than enough, really.
The mattering of the known universe’s very capacity to matter is at stake!
Understanding and caring about this would require us to become new (post?) humanists – people who value themselves and their species and their biosphere equally. People who were serious about existing in immanence, and not just transcendent tourists.
Jensen is only part of the way there. He needs historical consciousness! Biosphere consciousness (nonhumans) + historical consciousness (humans) = Post-Holocene consciousness.
Together they are the Green Army, or they are nothing.
This then is the distance between the greens and the reds, and a possible bridge between them.
As long as we’re in concept-space, it’s time for some dialectics! Fuck ya. So much for escaping philosophy!
“Man (strong) versus woman (weak), man (good) versus nature (flawed), thought (honest) versus emotion (misleading), spirit (pure) versus flesh (polluted), love (good) versus hate (bad), serenity (good) versus anger (bad), nonattachment (good) versus attachment (bad), nonviolence (righteous) versus violence (evil), and so on ad nauseum. So often I’ve heard pacifists and others say we need to get rid of all dualism,that by speaking of those who are killing the planet as my enemy I am perpetuating the same dualisms that got us here. But striving to eradicate dualism is perpetuating the same dualism! This time it’s nondualism (good) versus dualism (bad). It’s all nonsense.
The problem isn’t that there are pairs of opposites. Opposites simply exist.”Jensen
Opposites not only exist – they are integral to the structure of language itself!
Dialectics is the classical name for the practice of working through conceptual oppositions like this. There are lots of dialectical practices in just about every culture across history. Our conceptual thought processes themselves are generated from structures like this. Learning how to navigate, deconstruct and build these structures is a necessary tool in every thinkers kit.
Now, if you don’t learn how to do this yourself, your thought processes are going to be determined by structures that you have absorbed from other people. That sucks for you! The second you start doing it yourself, you’ve just taken responsibility for your own mental freedom. You can change your own thought processes on the fly by learning how to do this shit.
Let’s see if we can’t fuck with Jensen’s dialectics a bit. He’s on the right track in that he has already figured out that the mystical-nondualist’s attempt to escape language/dualisms doesn’t work – but there’s always room for tweaking!
“We can – and I certainly would – argue against the values chosen by this culture for each of these poles,but the truth is that the different poles do have different values. And that leads to the real problem, which is the word versus. Yes,men and women are different.But they are not in opposition; instead they work together. Yes, humans are different than nonhumans (as it would also be true that salmon are different than non-salmon, and redwoods are different than non-redwoods). But they are not in opposition; instead they work together…Spirit is different than flesh. But they are not in opposition; instead they work together. Love is different than hate, serenity is different than anger, nonattachment is different than attachment,nonviolence is different than violence. But they’re not in opposition; each of these paired opposites works together. Dualism is different than nondualism. But they are not in opposition; instead they work together. Duh.”Jensen
Aight so – here he’s moving from the oppositional ‘either/or’ (very much an ingrained part of commodity conditioning) to an inclusive both/and. This is a good move, but still pretty idealist. He wants these opposites to work together, he thinks they ought to – but this is idealist projection. Insofar as we are materialists, our concepts must always be trying to better capture and understand what is, not the way we want things to be.
So there is a further move to make here – these opposed pairings are both either/or’s and both/ands! Weeeee!
This is how we get to contradiction proper. Men and women are both complementary and antagonistic. Humans and nonhumans are both complementary and antagonistic. Mind and body are both complementary and antagonistic. Love/hate, serenity/anger, attachment/nonattachment, violence/nonviolence. Etc.
This is still a pretty abstract treatment, but it gets you thinking in terms of conceptual structural relations, where you read each concept through the other’s mediation. To finish out the process here, we would have to pick the side of these pairings that is primary.
Take the case of mind and body. To some idealists, the universe is mind generated. The mind comes first! Just by fucking with a single opposition like this, an entire history of ontologies spills out.
But insofar as we are materialists, bodies pre-exist and must exist in order to generate a mind at all. So, we would read our bodies as primary, and understand the mind as generated by our biological meatsacks (and social relations). Minds and bodies are both complementary and antagonistic, but minds come after bodies and after social relations.
We can use this to see better ways to conceptualize the nature/human dichotomy too!
“If man’s [sic] success [sic] as a species, in terms of population growth and knowledge, is a natural phenomenon, how can man [sic] be said to threaten nature? Is the line between artificial and natural itself artificial?”
“This is, of course, nonsense. We are embedded in the natural world. We evolved as social creatures in this natural world. We require clean water to drink, or we die. We require clean air to breathe, or we die. We require food, or we die. We require love, affection, social contact in order to become our full selves. It is part of our evolutionary legacy as social creatures. Anything that helps us to understand all of this is natural: any ritual, artifact, process, action is natural to the degree that it reinforces our understanding of our embeddedness in the natural world, and any ritual, artifact, process, action is unnatural to the degree that it does not.”Jensen
The line between nature and artifice is indeed artificial, my man! All concepts are artificial! That’s what a concept is!
And as for materialists, nature came first obv. But insofar as we take the historical constitution of our world-horizons into account, all ‘natures’ are also artificial constructs. And insofar as we take a scientific, historically materialist understanding of nature – then nature has always been artificial, because it did not start to know itself until we showed up.
Nehoo this is another massive subject and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. I’ll let you figure out the rest of these dualities. Try them out! Fuck around with them. Each new configuration is a new perspective. Find more! By starting to do this, you will start to rotate your mind through all the possible perspectives that have been generated in our historical moment.
Just know that eventually – you will have to choose. When it comes to acting in the world, either/or is inescapable.
Oh, and pro-tip: If you ever get lost or stuck doing dialectics, you can always use Laruelle or Nagarjuna to slice through them all and start over.
“Each day when I ask whether my work is just an elaborate claim to virtue, I keep coming back to the same answer: clean water. We need clean water to survive. We need a living landbase to survive. We do not need cheap consumables. We do not need a “purified Aryan race.” We do not need to fulfill a Manifest Destiny to overflow the continent or world. We do not need an “advanced state of human society” (even if that were an accurate definition of civilization). We do not need to maximize profits or “develop natural resources.” We do not need oil, computers, cell phone towers, dams, automobiles, pavement, industrial farming, industrial education, industrial medicine, industrial production, industry. We do not need civilization. We—human beings, human animals living in healthy, functioning communities—existed perfectly fine without civilization for the overwhelming majority of our existence. However, we do need a living landbase. This is not a claim to virtue. This is just true.”Jensen
This is the beginning of a materialist ethic, draped in romantic past-fetishizing. Clean air, clean water, food, and shelter. This is all we can fight for, all we can hope for. This is the baseline of a social order worth participating in, a socius that values dignity, freedom, and the future.
Notice how, with this as our minimum baseline – nature gets hers too! By remembering that we are equally a part of nature as she is of us, we have helped both. We are a thermodynamic feedback loop with nature – and the entire loop must be cognitively grasped, identified with, and cared about.
Contra-Jensen: We will need our tech in this new world, and we will have to learn how to use it responsibly. We will need our sciences. We will need to understand ourselves and our new world scientifically. Spiritualisms have not helped, and they will never help as long as they continue to obscure, lobotomize and pacify.
We cannot return to a past that never was.
Ethics itself is a whole ‘nother paper and I wanna finish this. The Prime Directive as deontological exigency is enough for now.
I dunno if I have an catch-all theme for the rest of Jensen’s premises. I’ll just bash through them quick-like.
- Green-Premise 11: From the beginning, this culture – civilization – has been a culture of occupation.
Privatization and enclosure of the land was and is the first act of the mass extinction event. In the future, this must be prevented at all costs.
- Green-Premise 14: From birth on – and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case – we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.”
Yup. Anti-humanism. And Nihilism. And Wisdom. And Idealism. I guess they just fucking hate themselves?
- Green-Premise 17: It’s a mistake (or more likely, denial) to base our decisions on whether our actions will or won’t frighten fence-sitters or the mass of Americans.”
Oh fo sho. We have to frighten them. They should be frightened. They are killing everything.
- Green-Premise 18: Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.
Rather than using ‘sustainable’, here we could just say this – essentialism is historically obsolete.
- Green-Premise 19: The culture’s problem lies above all in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.
Well, ok. This kinda flows from his first premise – the biosphere is it, for Jensen. He would save it over us.
Capitalism’s culture isn’t really the problem. I mean, sure – it is drab, and vapid, and homogenized and leveled by the value form, and there’s nothing else to be said or done because it’s all been said and done, and everything is frozen in an endless eternal now, and every media outlet just spews nostalgic remakes of better days.
But that shit’s just a symptom of the fact that capitalism is the only social project dominated solely by number.
Culture is in chains in such a system!
Capitalism’s problem isn’t its culture – capitalism’s problem is that it’s capitalism. The culture is limited by value form parameters and accumulation dynamics, which stamp themselves into everybody and everything. De-reification of the plane of immanence and de-valuation of biosphere outcomes is the logical outcome of value form conditioning.
In the kingdom of Number, Number produces culture, and Number is qualitatively blind. A culture that is incapable of making qualitative distinctions isn’t a culture at all!
If it has a price-tag on it, sorry kids – it’s already dead.
So instead of culture, we have facsimilies, copies, shadows, spectacle, mirrors, and screens. Instead of art, we have entertainment. Instead of education, we have pacification. Instead of analysis, argument and struggle, we have ‘opinions’. Instead of reason, we have wisdom. Instead of a future, we have a mass extinction event.
Culture is not and cannot be primary in a world ruled by Number. Any cultural lens on our culture is still trapped in a spectacular hall of mirrors. A world in which culture reigns supreme? Another name for that is Communism, kiddos.
Jensen is almost there:
- Green-Premise 20a: Within this culture, economics – not community wellbeing, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself – drives social decisions.
Number-must-go-up, it cannot be denied. But again with the cultural (idealist) framing. A more materialist approach to this would be within the capitalist mode of production…
- Green-Premise 20b: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the monetary fortunes of the decision-makers and those they serve.
They sure are. But we’re not really getting more precise here.
- Green-Premise 20c: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the power of the decision-makers and those they serve.
Well, ok. Money and power are connected, but also distinct. You can use completely different conceptual schematas to understand either. But sure, fine.
- Green-Premise 20d: Social decisions are founded primarily (and often exclusively) on the almost entirely unexamined belief that the decision-makers and those they serve are entitled to magnify their power and/or financial fortunes at the expense of those below.
Oh fuck. Now we’re getting somewhere. Ideology. That slave morality tho! Betcha didn’t think he was gonna cut back on you so hard, did ya? Historical responsibility. They only do it cuz we don’t stop them!
- Green-Premise 20e: If you dig to the heart of it–if there is any heart left–you will find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.
And a miss at the end. This is a side effect, not the main point. He wants it to be personal, but he can’t really make it personal. It isn’t personal for capital:
It’s just business!
Jensen’s trying to strike at roots with this 20th and last premise, but he doesn’t quite have the concepts to really nail it down – hence the multiple fuzzy reframings. He does manage to get a pretty good triangulation tho.
Let’s take a shot at it:
- Red-Premise 8: Within the dominion of the commodity, social decisions depend upon and are temporally antecedent to accumulation’s closure/expansion and the reproduction of said closure/expansion. Accumulation and extinction are the same process.
Them’s the breaks kids. If you can’t fuck with accumulation, you just don’t have any power at all! And as long as accumulation dominates in the last instance, we cannot adequately plan for any future!
Is ‘Civilization’ Redeemable?
What a question!
- Green-Premise 6: civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to imiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.
This is another difference between our future-orientation and Jensen’s past-orientation. He wants to burn it all down, and we want to transform it. From the standpoint of a fully realized Communism – civilization would then be redeemed. Without that telos, well;
He’s probably right that we’re not gonna voluntarily try to change anything – we’re just slamming into the wall as hard and fast as we can.
This reactionary past-orientation is incapable of seeing potential redemption at all, and thus falls into anti-humanism and democide. Our future-orientation can see redemption in everything and everyone – the only perspective that can see both the best and the worst in everybody. Jensen writes off the ‘civilized’ entirely – but we will always see the potential.
To declare civilization irredeemable is the height of idealist arrogance. We do not get to decide whether it is irredeemable or not, because we are not ‘outside’ civilization. We are in it. We are doing it. We are of it. We are it.
What we get to decide is this – whether or not to struggle. If our struggling pays off, civilization will have been redeemable. If it doesn’t, it will not have been redeemable.
Either way, it is not something that can be decided by individuals, or abstract philosophical positions.
It will be decided by struggle.
The Endgame Thrashing
So that’s our Jensen take. I decided to focus on him because he’s an honest, sincere, and less una-bombery example of the deep-green eco-reactionary telos. By critiquing Jensen, we have more adequately triangulated and understood both of our positions. A productive exercise!
The differences I have delineated here between red-future pol and green past-pol are not just differences of personal opinion – they are inherent logical outcomes of the structure of the Symbolic Order. Anybody taking either of these structural positions or reifying these root level assumptions will embody and reproduce these differences, regardless of whether or not they bother to work them out on a conscious level.
Conceptually speaking, a lot of this parallax comes down to contradictions in our concept of nature itself – the tension between the Scientific Concept of Nature and the Enchanted Universe is universal in our times. We have to choose, and which ‘Nature’ we choose to reify will determine our thoughts and practices. Reifying an essentialist, pre-modern concept of nature is, well – kind of like having a brain tumor. You are going to fall for every pseudoscientific scam and bogus shaman out there, totally failing to understand when you live.
Unlike Ingram’s cowardice and hypocrisy, I can’t fault Jensen for much. He is struggling, he is on the side of the biosphere, and the side of life. He is an honest truth-seeker living in the empire of lies. We are comrades, and between comrades there must always be respect. I have the maddest of props for this man and what he does.
Nonetheless, our position remains critical of Jensen’s lack of historical consciousness, his past-fetishizing future-blindness, his animist idealism, his insufficiently systematic understanding of political economy, and the ultimately anti-humanist thrust of his telos.
Let’s make a final examination of this telos:
Even if anarcho-primitivist tribal bands are a possible or even highly probable outcome of collapse – there just is no way to know if it will be possible for this to be long term. The biosphere is not and has never been a homeostatic self-sufficient totality, and it is transforming into a new phase. This phase will definitely be much more hostile to mammals.
There is no reason that anprims will necessarily be able to adapt or survive to these conditions. The biosphere of Jensen’s hunter-gatherer Garden of Eden is gone. History doesn’t go backwards. Entropy doesn’t go backwards.
If we lose our technology and revert back to anprim, we lose most of the influence we have over the biosphere. The new biosphere – or lack thereof – does not have to allow for human life!
Post-cliff anprim will probably exist somewhere, but it will be totally at the mercy of a hostile climate that will never magically regulate itself back to Jensen’s paradise. That shit is gone! Post-collapse anprim will have no tools, no influence, and no nature left to fetishize and worship. In post-collapse conditions, it will be impossible to be past-oriented. The past will be (and already is) nothing but the wreckage of the cataclysmic failure of homo-economicus’ social project.
Worst of all, post-collapse anprim will be unable to stop the re-emergence of capitalism – something that must never happen ever again.
We must take the sciences with us. We must take rationality with us. We must learn to use our technology responsibly. We must stop capitalism now, and forevermore. We must remember what we have learned, and we must keep learning.
We must look to the future.
- Red-Premise 1: There is no such thing as ‘sustainability’. In the longest term, to the best of our existing scientific cosmology’s understanding: everything is fucked. This in no way entails a necessary fall into nihilism – rather, it could impress upon us the insurpassible fragility and ultimate value of each precious moment of our existence, or any existence – human and non. If everything passes in the longest term, all the more reason to try to keep us going for as long as possible!
- Red-Premise 2: All human existence is social. Every human attempt at a social project is ‘civilization’, no matter the tech or the outcome. Therefore, there are only the following options: consciously long term civilizational projects, overshoot dieoffs (with no significant long-term biospheric impact) – or mass extinction events.
- Red-Premise 3: When the capitalists come: you must stop them, or they will kill everything. The only way to beat an apex predator is to become one yourself.
- Red-Premise 4: Morality is conforming to existing hegemonic social practices and norms. We become ethical when we break with morality by holding ourselves to different, higher standards than those enforced by morality. Ethics is a commitment to oneself and one’s cause/project, while morality is nothing but the absence of this commitment. Therefore – any ethical stance only arises against morality.
- Red-Premise 5: Insofar as we are materialists, we value this plane of immanence as much as our own internal worlds (they are an interdependent feedback loop), and more than any transcendent elsewhere or hereafter. It follows that it doesn’t matter what we think or feel. It is only what we do that matters, and the concrete outcomes of those actions. We must judge ourselves and all others according to these actions and outcomes, and in doing so we find this: pacifists are also doing a mass extinction event.
- Red-Premise 6: Love does not necessitate pacifism. During a mass extinction event there is no peace. There is only violence. We have been in a state of exception since the End of the Holocene. One side of violence is dishonest, and calls itself peace. The other side of violence is honest, and calls itself justice. There is no neutral. Either you are a complicit collaborator in capital’s relentless extermination campaign, or you stand up to fight it. Either way, you are a violent being. Violence is inescapable. Nobody is innocent. There are no beautiful souls.
- Red-Premise 7: The needs of the landbase are only important insofar as they can reproduce human existence. Otherwise, it’s just a stochastic genetic recombination algorithm. Reifying a sacred earth mother/homeostatic totality leaves us out of the picture. We are the frame of this picture. Nature does not know itself except through us! We need both biosphere consciousness (nonhumans) and historical consciousness (humans).
- Red-Premise 8: Within the dominion of the commodity, social decisions depend upon and are temporally antecedent to accumulation’s closure/expansion and reproduction of said closure/expansion. If you can’t fuck with accumulation, then you just don’t have any power to speak of. As long as accumulation dominates in the last instance, we do not have the capacity to adequately plan for any future! Extinction and accumulation are the same process.
- Red-Premise 9: We must take the sciences with us. We must take rationality with us. We must learn to use our technology responsibly. We must stop capitalism now, and forevermore. We must remember what we have learned, and we must keep learning. We must look to the future.
- Red-Premise X: The mattering of the known universe’s very capacity to matter is at stake.
idk where else to put this, but the deep-greens don’t get dams. unlike most other power sources, the environmental cost is, or at least can be close to fixed. And there’s definitely ways to build these things so the fishies can use them. It’s fucking stupid not to – but again, capital is blind to nature.