Quotes from Deep Green Resistance, the book.

Full text is available here.

One of the cardinal differences between liberals- those who insist that Everything Will Be Okay- and the truly radical is in their conception of the basic unit of society. This split is a continental divide. Liberals believe that a society is made up of individuals. Individualism is so sacrosanct that, in this view, being identified as a member of a group or class is an insult. But for radicals, society is made up of classes (economic ones in Marx’ original version) or any groups or castes. In the radical’s understanding, being a member of a group is not an affront. Far from it; identifying with a group is the first step toward political consciousness and ultimately effective political action.

***

Classical liberalism from Locke forward has a contradiction at its center. It believes in human sovereignty as a natural or inalienable right, but only against the power of a monarchy or other civil tyranny. By loosening the ethical constraints that had existed on the wealthy, classical liberalism turned the powerless over to the economically powerful, simply swapping the monarchs for the merchant-barons… [T]he pursuit of wealth for its own sake had been considered a sin and such pursuit had been constrained by a whole series of social institutions. But Smith argued that the “Invisible Hand” of the market would provide what society needed; any government interference would be detrimental.

***

With power removed from the equation, victimization looks voluntary, which erases the fact that it is… social subordination. What liberals don’t understand is that 90 percent of oppression is consensual. As Florynce Kennedy wrote, ‘There can be no really pervasive system of oppression… without the consent of the oppressed.’ This does not mean that it is our fault, that the system will crumble if we withdraw consent, or that the oppressed are responsible for their oppression. All it means is that the powerful- capitalists, white supremacists, colonialists, masculinists- can’t stand over vast numbers of people twenty-four hours a day with guns. Luckily for them, and depressingly for the rest of us, they don’t have to.

***

Judith Herman asks, ‘What happens if you are raised in captivity? What happens if you’re long-term held in captivity, as in a political prisoner, as in a survivor of domestic violence?’ You come to believe that all relationships are based on power, that might makes right, that there is no such thing as fully mutual relationships. That, of course, describes this culture’s entire epistemology and this culture’s entire war of relating. Indigenous people have said that the fundamental difference between Western and indigenous ways of being is that even the most open-minded Westerners view listening to the natural world as a metaphor as opposed to the way the world really works. So the world consists of resources to be exploited, as opposed to other beings to enter in relationship with.

***

The triumph of the pornographers is a victory of power over justice, cruelty over empathy, and profits over human rights. I could make that statement about Walmart or McDonalds and progressives would eagerly agree. We all understand that Walmart destroys local economies, a relentless impoverishing of communities across the US that is now almost complete. It also depends on near-slave conditions for workers in China to produce the mountains of cheap crap that Walmart sells. And ultimately the endless growth model of capitalism is destroying the world. Nobody on the left claims that the cheap crap that Walmart produces equals freedom. Nobody defends Walmart by saying that the workers, American or Chinese, want to work there. Leftists understand that people do what they have to for survival, that any job is better than no job, and that minimum wage and no benefits are cause for a revolution, not a defense of those very conditions. Likewise McDonalds. No one defends what McDonalds does to animals, to the earth, to workers, to human health and human community by pointing out that the people standing over the boiling grease consented to sweat all day or that hog farmers voluntarily signed contracts that barely return a living. The issue does not turn on consent, but on the social impacts of injustice and hierarchy, on how corporations are essentially weapons of mass destruction. Focusing on the moment of individual choice will get us nowhere…

Gail Dines writes, “When I critique McDonalds, no one calls me anti-food.” People understand that what is being critiqued is a set of unjust social relations — with economic, political, and ideological components — that create more of the same. McDonalds does not produce generic food. It manufactures an industrial capitalist product for profit. The pornographers are no different. The pornographers have built a $100 billion a year industry, selling not just sex as a commodity, which would be horrible enough for our collective humanity, but sexual cruelty.

***

Many people have longings for a spiritual practice and a spiritual community. There aren’t any obvious, honorable answers for Euro-Americans. The majority of radicals are repulsed by the authoritarian, militaristic misogyny of the Abrahmic religions. The leftist edges of those religions are where the radicals often congregate, and that’s one option; you don’t have to check your brain at the door, and you usually get a functioning community. But for many of us, the framework is still too alienating, and feels frankly unreformable. These religions have had centuries to prove what kind of culture they can create, and the results don’t inspire confidence.

***

‘We can’t stop them.’

This is the Om of the alternative wing. There can be understandable personal reasons for believing in the invincibility of an oppressive system. And there are certainly reasons that those in power want us to see them as invincible. Abusive systems, from the most simple to the most sophisticated, from the familial to the social and political, work best when the victims and bystanders police themselves. And one of the best ways to get victims and bystanders to police themselves is for those victims and bystanders to internalize the notion that the abusers are invincible. Even better is to get the victims and bystanders to proselytize about the abusers’ “invincibility” to anyone who threatens to break up the stable abuser-victim-bystander triad.

***

On the positive side, most of the Tilters are at least willing to engage with the issue and to tell some difficult truths. Population is not an easy topic for people who care about human rights. Historically, some very nasty elements have used population as an excuse for “population control” policies constructed around a simmering racist metanarrative: the problem is really that brown people are too stupid and/or too sexual to control themselves. Those of us who come to the population discussion from the perspective of resource depletion, human rights, or feminism have to distinguish ourselves from the racist history entwined in the issue. When we say “overpopulation” we need to define what we mean and why it matters.

What I personally mean is that the earth is a bound sphere. The planet is finite. There are absolute limits to the numbers of individuals that any species can attain. That is what carrying capacity means: how many members of a species the environment can support indefinitely. Too many members and that species is drawing down resources, degrading the landbase for itself and for other species, and will most likely end in extinction. That is physical reality.

***

The authors of this book are repeatedly asked, ” How do you want people to live?” The question is often thrown like a challenge. The assumption is that civilization is the only way and once pinned to the wall we will be forced to admit that. But while progressives and environmentalists propose solutions that are really just grasping at industrial straws, there are people living sustainably in Sweden, and doing it so intimately they can describe one reindeer out of a thousand. The civilized and the industrialized are still trying to destroy them — the people, reindeer, and rivers — to rum a lace work of interdependence into production units and consumer goods. Still, the Sami persist. If the civilized could learn by example, surely of all people the Swedes would. But it is not the lack of examples of sustainable, egalitarian, and peaceful cultures that is the problem and it never has been. The problem is power, and the bottomless well of psychopathology that is eating the planet alive.

***

[T]he foundation of this culture is force. And the primary reason we don’t resist is because we are afraid of that force. We know if we act decisively to protect the places and creatures we love or if we act decisively to stop corporate exploitation of the poor, that those in power will come down on us with the full power of the state. We can talk all we want about how we supposedly live in a democracy. And we can talk all we want about the consent of the governed. But what it really comes down to is if you effectively oppose the will of those in power, they will try to kill you. We need to make that explicit so we can face the situation that we’re in. And the situation we’re in is that those in power are killing the planet and they are exploiting the poor, they are murdering the poor, and we are not stopping them because we are afraid.

***

There will never be another oil age. There will never be another natural gas age. There will never be another Iron Age or Bronze Age. Further, there will never be — or not for a very, very long time — an age of tall ships, for example, because the forests are gone. This culture has destroyed so much that there will not be the foundation upon which a similar civilization could be built. Topsoil is gone. No, there will never be another rise of a civilization like this. There might be — presuming humans survive — some small-scale civilizations, but there will never be another one like this.

***

DeCaro notes that [John] Brown’s reputation in history has been consistently attacked and “the ‘facts’ of his case have been mediated from slave masters, pro-slavery people, and pacifists.” (Those in the latter category will hopefully find it relevant, if embarrassing, that they are lumped in with such dreadful company.) But not everyone has been so easily convinced that Brown was wrongheaded. Malcolm X, not surprisingly, had great respect for John Brown and little patience for white liberals who criticized his methods. “John Brown… was a white man who went to war against white people to help free slaves. And any white man who is ready and willing to shed blood for your freedom — in the sight of other whites, he’s nuts.” In other words, those who hate Brown do so in large part because he was a “race traitor.”

***

[T]he only reason large-scale agriculture even functions is because of cheap oil; without that, large-scale agriculture goes back to depending on slavery and serfdom, as in most of the history of civilization. In the year 1800, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, close to 80 percent of the human population of this planet was in some form of serfdom or slavery. And that was with a fraction of the current human population of seven billion. That was with oceans still relatively full of fish, global forests still relatively intact, with prairie and agricultural lands in far better condition than they are now, with water tables practically brimming by modern standards. What do you think is going to happen to social justice concessions when cheap oil — and hence, almost everything else — runs out? Without a broad-based and militant resistance movement that can focus on these urgent threats, the year 1800 is going to look downright cheerful.

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