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Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

Outsiders (p. 111)

From chapter "Giving Back the Land"

It’s easy enough at this remove to simply say that slaveholders were immoral, and that members of the KKK and other hate groups were a bunch of stupid bigots with whom we have nothing in common.

But are you sure? Try this. What if, instead of owning people, we’re talking about owning land. Someone tells you that no matter how much you paid to purchase title to some piece of land, the land itself does not belong to you. No longer may you do whatever you wish with it. You may not cut the trees on it. You may not build on it. You may not run a bulldozer over it to put in a driveway. All of those activities are immoral, because they’re based on your exploitation of a living thing: in this case, the land. Did you ask the land if it wants you to build on it? Do you care what the land thinks? But the land can’t think, you say. Ah, but that’s just what youthink. It is how you were taught to think. Let’s say, further, that your livelihood and your way of life are based on working this land—the outsiders call it exploiting—and that if the outsiders have their way, you’ll be out of business. Again and again they tell you that you are a bad person, a stupid bigot, because you refuse to see that your way of life is based on the exploitation of something you don’t perceive as having any rights—or sentience—to begin with.

Angry yet?

Then how about this? Outsiders take away your computer because the process of manufacturing the hard drive killed women in Thailand. They take your clothes because they were made in sweat shops, your meat because it was factory-farmed, your cheap vegetables because the agricorporations that provided them drove family farmers out of business (or maybe because lettuce doesn’t like to be factory-farmed: “lettuce prefers diversity,” say the outsiders), and your coffee because its production destroys rain forests, decimates migratory songbird populations, and drives African, Asian, and South and Central American subsistence farmers off their land. They take your car because of global warming, and your wedding ring because mining exploits workers and destroys landscapes and communities. They take your TV, microwave, and refrigerator because, hell, they take the whole damn electrical grid because the generation of electricity is, they say, so environmentally expensive (dams kill salmon, coal plants strip the tops off mountains and generate acid rain, wind generators kill birds, and let’s not even talkabout nukes). Imagine if outsiders wanted to take away all these things—without your consent—because they had determined, without your input, that all of these things are exploitative and immoral. Imagine that these outsiders actually began to succeed in taking away these parts of your life which you see as fundamental. I’d imagine you’d be pretty pissed. Maybe you’d start to hate the assholes doing this to you, and maybe if enough other people who were pissed off had already formed an organization to fight these people who were trying to destroy your life—I could easily see you asking, “What do these people have against me anyway?”—maybe you’d even put on white robes and funny hats, and maybe you’d even get a little rough with a few of them, if that was what it took to stop them from destroying your way of life.