A few years ago environmental activist Derrick Jensen gave a talk in which he imagined how Star Wars might have turned out if it had been written, not by George Lucas, but by a bunch of environmentalists. He called it “Star Non-Violent Civil Disobedience” and described how various pacifist factions would fight over the best way to stop Darth Vader from blowing up the Earth. In doing so, they would never reach a consensus or form a unified resistance movement, which would allow Darth Vader to succeed. But the environmentalists would rejoice because there would be a three-sentence clip in the back pages of The New Empire Times about their efforts.
The folks at endciv.com—who brought Jensen’s story to life in the above video—say, “The ‘Star Wars’ piece is one of Derrick’s best analogies, one that delivers a precise critique of mainstream environmental groups.”
I certainly see a lot of truth (and humor) in his criticisms, particularly in regards to lack of organization and disagreement on strategy. But, from what I know of Jensen, he wouldn’t think much of the environmental movement if it were unified and enacting a truly strategic nonviolent campaign.
If I understand his philosophy correctly, Jensen doesn’t think people can be persuaded to do the right thing—hence his criticism of nonviolence. He favors acts of sabotage, e.g. taking out phone lines and blowing up dams, because he believes they would have more immediate and forceful results.
I can’t say that I agree with that logic. I’m not aware of any major acts of property destruction that had the effect of reversing a particular injustice. And even if there are some examples, I’m not sure they don’t measure up to the successes nonviolence has attained over the past hundred years.
But rather than dive further into that debate, I think it’s better to take what good lessons we can from Jensen’s critique of nonviolence, as he certainly makes some legitimate points.
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Here is a recently posted video from Australia that serves as somewhat of a counterpoint –
(“Switch Off Hazelwood: The Kick Off”)
The video promotes civil disobedience.
Here’s the blurb that was posted with it –
“One of the lamest criticisms of actvists in the Climate Change Movement is that they’re making The Wrong Effort. But that’s Armchair Warriorism for you- it’s always looking for a new ways to not get amongst it.”
Here’s a big question –
Is Mr. Jensen advocating murder?
Should environmental rebels blow people up — like in the actual Star Wars movie?
The video at least implies that, yes, we should get out and kill people like that.
Such a message certainly fits with the connotations of an “Endciv” label. After all, without a form of civilization or civility, what’s to stop us from killing people?
Although some “Endciv” people actually only object to certain forms of civilization — even as they use that label — other “Endciv” approaches that consist of outright rejection of any and all civilization fit with the implied messages in this video which suggest that we should be out bombing people (as if that murder actually would be enough to bring about radical change, even if we were willing to do it).
I realize that talk about “civilization” has a grandiose quality that can be difficult to engage with, but I’m going to continue to do that, since I should offer clarification regarding the major accusations in that last comment
I only was pinning those accusations on the video — and only in a limited way, since the video isn’t so forthright about how rebels supposedly should just get on with blowing up the ‘bad’ people (who, actually couldn’t be clearly differentiated from the rebels, and from everyone else — to touch on another problem with that message).
Beyond that criticism toward the people behind the video, I had just suggested that murder strategies are compatible with some (and only some) approaches to the basic idea that “civilization” is bad. I didn’t specify whose particular anti-“civilization” approaches are the ones that could include or do include forms of murder though. So I certainly wasn’t saying that all people with a connection to “Endciv” would tolerate or promote murder. For all I know, those people may promote shared morality or shared laws that could preclude murder — in which case, they would would be promoting a form of civilization, even as they present an anti-“civilization” message. I had only mentioned compatibilities between murder in relation to views about how any and all civilization should end (as opposed to other views that reject a form of “civilization” without actually rejecting all possible types of civilization). But, in mentioning compatibilities, I only am saying that those people leave open murder as a possibility (since moral codes that could be at odds with violence are gone in their vision, for instance); yet, those people don’t necessarily call for murder.
All of this is made more confusing because some of these people approach the word “civilization” in unusual ways. Some of those people don’t actually reject any and all writing, for instance (and this a relevant point on this site, since writing is one form of civilization that allows us to outline visions of nonviolence).