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Excerpt from What We Leave Behind

Servile and Infantile (p. 262)

From chapter "Powerlessness"

Our resistance to the planet’s destruction—this resistance is often called environmentalism—is of course servile to its core. Our activism consists almost exclusively of begging those in power to go against the requirements and rewards of this omnicidal economic and political and cultural system and do the right thing, something we know they will never do with any consistency, something we know they cannot do with any consistency, because to do so would cause the entire economic system (based as it is functionally upon unsustainable and exploitative activities) to implode. We never demand they do the right thing. And we certainly never force them to do the right thing. And God forbid we actually cause the right thing to be done using our own power. That would be too scary. So, we beg them to remove dams. We don’t demand they remove dams (or else, what? What are we going to do? Have an orgasm? Take a naked picture of a woman to try to seduce them into removing the dams? Dress up as salmon and have a die-in? That will surely put the fear of Nature into them and force them to do the right thing! Oh, I know: we’ll threaten to vote against them, in favor of someone else just as beholden to large corporations . . .). We don’t force them to remove dams. And God forbid we remove the dams ourselves. Similarly, we beg those in power to reduce carbon emissions. We don’t demand they reduce emissions (And what are the alternatives? Sign an online petition saying they’re mean and nasty? Or would that be too aggressive? Would that be assigning blame? Maybe we’ll demand they reduce carbon emissions or we’ll meditate and send them waves of pink bubbles of love. That will show them! Or how about this: I just read on a Christian pacifist website that to attempt to force those in power to not commit atrocities is to not have faith that the Holy Spirit can reach and convert even them. So there’s another course of “action” for us: we can sit on our f

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ing hands and wait for God to do the work for us. We don’t force them to reduce emissions. And God forbid we simply destroy the infrastructure necessary for them to emit this carbon dioxide, depriving them of the ability to heat the planet. We as activists are almost entirely servile. And don’t just suggest that this means we need to assume positions of power within this omnicidal system. As I’ve shown in numerous books, those “in power” are and must be themselves servants to the machine-like social structures called corporations, and beneath that to the machine-like social structure called civilization, to The Machine.

Even more than servile, our activism is infantile. It’s characterized by magical thinking, denial, fear, narcissism. Just tonight I received a request to attend a conference on sustainability. The organizer also requested I critique his writeup. I commented that he said nothing about fighting back, to which he predictably responded that fighting back never works (ummm, wasn’t there this little thing called the Fall of Rome that was hastened just a tad by those nasty barbarians (read indigenous peoples) “fighting back”? There are plenty of examples of people or groups successfully fighting back, and in any case, I don’t perceive our other activism as coming anywhere close to working: if any of our activism worked, the world wouldn’t be getting dismembered before our eyes). I also commented that throughout this entire document that purported to be about sustainability he never once mentioned concern for the natural world, or indeed mentioned the natural world at all. He responded that he didn’t want to express concern for nonhumans because he was afraid the conference would then be perceived as a get-together of “tree-huggers,” something he evidently considered a bad thing. So let me get this straight: he’s going to put on a conference ostensibly about sustainability that avoids talking about stopping those in power from killing the planet and in fact avoids talking about the planet at all—the real, physical planet, filled with nonhumans— remember that? I shared the exchange with a friend, who said, “This is all so typical of the left, of the so-called resistance: earnest, useless, and full of fear. This is a big reason we always lose.”

I won’t be going. Nor will I be baring it all for peace, nor having an orgasm on December 22 (at least not for any reasons other than the obvious).

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More infantilism. Just today I received this description of a talk by feminist “theorist” (scare quotes around theorist because her theories are, well, you’ll see) Sally Miller Gearhart: “Gearhart described herself as a ‘recovering activist,’ [implying, of course, that activism is an addiction to be kicked] relating a turning point in her life in which she decided to avoid negative thinking. . . . Although Gearhart had once fought [sic] to preserve the California redwood forest, living next door to a logger and helping to build her own driveway, which required [sic] chopping [sic] down redwood trees, resulted in a reevaluation. In particular she described an instance of loading a truck with redwood logs, feeling the power of it and realizing [sic: read, projecting] this was how men felt. She said she did not know if it was bad that men felt this power and did not think it was wrong that she felt it. She suggested that perhaps visualizing and fantasizing might be more productive than demonstrations in the end.”

This is of course insane on many levels. Naturally, humans consume trees and other plants and animals to survive—but there’s literally a world of difference between doing that humbly and well, and turning old growth into junk mail circulars, or “requiring” the killing of trees for a driveway. I never cease to be appalled and amazed at the level of idiocy required to conflate every real human need with corporate, capitalist rapaciousness: it’s the collapse of all meaningful distinctions. And am I the only person bothered by her seeming to enjoy the power (that’s power over for those of you keeping score at home) she wielded to kill others for her convenience? By power she’s clearly not talking about the joy of doing physical labor (in part because I’d be willing to bet my life that she didn’t load the truck by hand, but merely ordered and oversaw the mechanical killing and transportation of the trees, consequent to their presumed sale), but rather the power to dominate. I must admit I’m disgusted by those not repulsed by subjugating others. But the real reason I include this reference to her has to do with her last sentence, where she believes that visualizing and fantasizing might be more productive than demonstrations. Sure, demonstrations can be just slightly more physical manifestations of magical thinking (If literally millions of people march against the US invasion of Iraq, that will stop the war, or at least give the Democrats the backbone to end it, right? Right? Pretty please, with sugar on top?), but at least demonstrations require action in the real, physical world. Such is not the case with visualizing. One reason our “resistance” accomplishes so little is that so much of it consists of a bottomless well of infantile, self-indulgent self-deception. But there’s something even more disturbing than all this about her comments. Please note that she does not seem to mind killing, but only when she gets to kill those lower than her on the hierarchy, those she can kill with impunity. To subjugate those who cannot fight back is okay, and gives a feeling of power, but to stop those who are systematically destroying life on this planet is “negative thinking,” or really, unthinkable.

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We need to grow up.