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Excerpt from Endgame

Shut Up and Do It (p. 646)

From chapter "Dams, Part IV"

I give a talk. Afterwards someone asks, “I’ve heard you several times, and you always talk about the need to take out dams. Why don’t you just shut up and do it?”

“That’s a good question,” I respond, “and one I ask myself all the time. I have three answers, all of which ring hollower every day than the day before. The first is that I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“Getting caught. I don’t want to go to prison. I don’t want to get killed. But in some ways those fears are secondary to the fact that I’m not quite ready to leave loved ones behind.” It’s like the person I mentioned whose people were people of the salmon, and who would be willing to take down dams once his children were a little older. I said, “I used to know a very good activist who said she’d go underground only after the death of her 23-year-old cat, whom she had rescued as a kitten from a vivisection lab. She couldn’t leave her behind. I knew another who was going to do that work only after her elderly father died. She couldn’t leave him behind. There are those I’m not yet ready to leave behind. I’m not particularly proud of this, nor am I ashamed. It just is. But I have to also tell you that the rapidity with which the world is being destroyed is making this fear increasingly pallid. And when this culture is poisoning our own bodies, the fear is also increasingly moot.”

“The second answer has to do with proclivities. Some people love to play with explosives. They do it for fun. Some people love to write. I do it for fun. It seems kind of silly for me to learn all those skills that I don’t enjoy and that I’m not very good at—my only D in college was in my chemistry quantitative analysis lab class—and make all of those mistakes of inexperience that are the only way we learn when there are already people out there who not only know this stuff but get off on it, probably the same way I get off on writing. But if the people with these skills don’t soon step forward, the murder of the world will necessitate me learning some new skills.

“The third reason—and this is the one that really stops me—is that I feel like the work I’m doing now is important, and I don’t see anyone else doing it. I don’t see enough people explicitly calling for us to bring down civilization, and making the sorts of comprehensive and comprehensible analyses I try to do. If there were enough other people doing this work, I’d sign up at the local YMCA for classes on bomb making. But there aren’t, so I keep doing it. It’s a matter of leverage. I still believe that given my gifts and proclivities writing continues to be the best way to multiply my efforts. Of course if or when I find a better lever I will, fears and proclivities aside, pick it up and use it. Likewise if it comes clear that I’ve overestimated the leverage provided by writing—if I find it’s not helping enough—I’ll do what’s necessary to save salmon. It’s the same old story of needing it all. Tecumseh not only fought against the civilized: he also spent a lot of time gathering an army.

“And while Tecumseh was able to conduct raids against the civilized at the same time he was recruiting, this was because the territory in which he operated was not yet completely occupied. By now the entire country, indeed most of the planet, has been overrun by the civilized. This means that there needs to be an absolute firewall between any public face and any underground activities. Otherwise everyone might as well just go down to the police station for recreational mug shots. I am not blowing up dams precisely because I am talking about it publicly. I am talking about it publicly because someone needs to do that.

“The short answer is that for now this feels like the best thing for me to do. If that changes I’ll do something else.

“The point is to accomplish something. After all, only the entire world is at stake.”