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Excerpt from Endgame

Determination To Win (p. 515)

From chapter "We Shall Destroy All of Them"

I’ve been thinking again about Thomas Jefferson’s line: “In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.” Part of the reason the civilized consistently defeat the indigenous (and the rest of the natural world) is that Jefferson’s line isn’t rhetoric, but is every day and in every way— from the most forceful to the most mundane—made manifest in the real world. This was obviously true when Jefferson said it, as Indians complained time and again that no matter how many white soldiers or settlers (land thieves) they drove off or killed, more came to replace them. It’s true today as the indigenous inevitably lose land to the civilized—oh, the indigenous may stop an occasional oil well, but in time the dominant culture will take it all. It’s true right now in Iraq, where the Iraqis may kill a few U.S. soldiers, but the U.S. military has shown itself willing to destroy as many Iraqis as are necessary to maintain control of the region. It’s true on the home front: Part of the power of the police at protests is that each and every police officer (and each and every protester) knows that while one or two unruly protesters may throw a couple of rocks or bottles that bounce off cops’ body armor, if need be the police could and more importantly would destroy every last protester. If (or rather I should say when, because it’s going to start happening soon) some of us start liberating rivers by taking out dams, the fear is always that while we might be able to knock down a few, in time we’ll all be dead or in prison. The same, we fear, will be true when we start sinking factory trawlers, pulling down cell phone towers, ripping up roads or parking lots, demolishing Wal-Marts, burning logging trucks, dismantling corporate headquarters, and so on.We may get some of them, but we’re pretty sure they’re going to destroy every last one of us. Or at least they’ll try. The fear this implacability raises is palpable, and paralyzing. If they’re going to overwhelm us anyway with their machine-like grinding away at everything we hold dear, why don’t we just accept the goods and services the system uses to reward those whose silence makes them collaborators in the ongoing destruction of the living planet? If wild salmon and wild humans are doomed species—and if I’ve bought into a civilized morality that conveniently declares withdrawal a virtue (I just read a quote from an American Buddhist in an interview ostensibly about activism but more accurately about justifying inaction in the face of immorality: “What I do for peace and justice is split wood”) and fighting back a sin—shouldn’t I at least make myself as (physically) comfortable as possible in the meantime?

Jefferson’s statement is true in all parts of the culture. A corollary to the fourth premise is that whenever violence goes up the hierarchy (the “wrong” way) it’s usually limited and immediate, while violence going down the hierarchy (the “right” way) is systematic, repeated (often incessantly), and has at least the potential to be (and most often is) absolute and wide-ranging. Nearly always it is in one way or another relentless. This is as true on the personal and familial level as it is on the social and cultural. It is true on the interspecies level, where the occasional shark, for example, may take a bite—most often accidentally— out of someone swimming in its home,while systematic violence against sharks—violence that is destroying them—never ceases.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the civilized need not have a monopoly on an absolute determination to win. The stakes— life on the planet—are high enough I believe it’s time we as well as they append “at all costs” to our determination to win. Hell, I think it’s long past time we determined to win at all.

What this means is that I’ve been wondering what our resistance would look like and what it would accomplish—what the world would look like—if those of us who care about life on the planet leveled the playing field. What if we said Jefferson’s statement back to those who are killing the planet, and what if we meant it?

What if we said to the police, “You will beat and shoot some non-resisting protesters (or how about the regular old everyday people cops kill: between four and six Americans die every day because they encounter police), but we shall hold you accountable, and shall destroy all of you who do that”? What if we said to those who are killing rivers, “You will be able to stop some of us, but we shall destroy all dams”? What if we said to those in power, “You will be able to imprison or kill some of us, but we shall destroy all harmful economic activities”? What if we said, “In the war you are waging against the world, you will kill some of us, but mark our words, we shall destroy all of this civilization that is killing the planet”?

Even more important, what if we meant it?

Even more important than that, what if we put it into action?