Derrick Jensen in Victoria, cont.
A few choice lines from Derrick Jensen's talk at the University of Victoria on October 20, 2007, most of them verbatim and the rest close to it:
- "On the ferry over this afternoon, I was looking all around, thinking how beautiful these islands must have been before this culture arrived, and how beautiful they'll be again once it's gone."
- "We're all so busy pretending we have hope."
- "I don't see myself as depressed or depressing. We're fucked. But life is really, really good. We're fucked, but life is really, really good."
- "Is the world more diverse, more resilient, because you were born? If not, the world would be a better place if you had never been born. That's not a comment about you personally. It's a fact."
- "The job of an activist is not to be morally pure. The job of an activist is to confront and take down an oppressive culture."
- "One reason we don't defend the places we live is that we don't really live there: we live with Brad and Angelina and the Boston Red Sox and all the rest."
- "In a way I am privileged to live in Germany in 1938, and to have a gift as a writer, because I don't have to pull any punches. I intend to go down swinging."
All very inspiring, lots of laughter and lots of applause throughout. I've heard that Jensen's Q&A sessions can get heated; he said last night, for example, that whenever he speaks in New York City, only 25 people come, and except for his agent, they all hate his guts. This, though, was warm and convivial, perhaps because the sponsors here were the Victoria Anarchist Reading Circle, the Camas Collective Bookshop, and Wild Earth, rather than the university itself.
Actually it's not true to call it entirely convivial. The first question in the Q&A described the talk as "mental masturbation," on the grounds that it didn't turn us into a united movement with a distinct mission. Jensen said something like, "First of all, fuck you. I try to be civil in my Q&A sessions, but if you call me a chronic masturbator, all bets are off."
It came around that the guy felt he was speaking for others in the audience, but no one was willing to admit it, and Jensen wound up answering thoroughly and compassionately anyway. Basically the response was, "I don't know your gifts. I'm here to help people wake up to the need to act, and I'm trying to model the process for figuring out what you can do. But I don't know what you'd be best suited for. The good thing about living in a time of crisis is that there are lots of options available for you." Lots of applause.
Probably the most important part of the evening for me was around Jensen's assertion that personal choice is more or less irrelevant. The cumulative impact of individuals is far less than the total industrial impact, so if you have to drive, drive; if you can't have a garden, don't. The caveat is all, though: IF you're otherwise making the world, and the local landbase, more flexible, resilient, and stable.
It wasn't the right room in which to ask about guilt, but it hangs over me constantly. I mean very well. I do little but talk, however, and occasionally write. I'm learning more about local botany and foraging, and that's one of the things Jensen is keen on (since urban dwellers will represent the majority of deaths after a crash, since they don't understand their local food sources), but that's not good enough. I know it isn't, but I don't see other options for me without changing my life more drastically than I'm capable of.
Hmm. Turns out I need to process a little more before I can write sensibly about this lecture....