Saturday, July 11, 2009

Forget Shorter Showers

Sura Faraj cued me into this article by Derrick Jensen. Read it, and he's my response:

I agree with the gist of what Jensen is saying here, but have two responses:

1. Industrial economy is not a machine running for it's own purpose, it fuels and profits from consumerism. So, yes, me living simply has negligible direct effect, but living simply is also a boycott of all the products of the industrial economy. Businesses run their machines to produce the shit we over-consume, general reduction, toward elimination of over-consumption will leave them running machines with less profit. Which results in them needing to turn off some of the machines. Living simply has an indirect effect of slowing the entire industrial economy. We should celebrate this collapse, but we can't, cuz the collapse also hurts us, our friends, our families.

2. Nazi Germany, antebellum US, Tsarist Russia are not comparable to "industrial economy" we're talking about fighting capitalism, a global system. This is much much bigger than those other things. "Voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting" are the equivalent of entering this fight armed with a featherduster the opponent has provided you with. Even altering or abolishing the government (which will require fighting with something A LOT stronger than these featherdusters) is an exclusively political approach.

Jensen is buying into the separation of politics from economics. As a result he doesn't recognize how growing a garden is more than "harm reduction" it is the creation of a non-capitalist economy.

So, he's right, we need to stop thinking of personal changes as political because of their harm reduction. We need to think of them as political because of their autonomy production.

Abolishionists did not own slaves. Nazis thrived because they saved the German economy and were defeated by mostly non-Germans and by Germans who could expect to live in post-Nazi Germany. Revolutionaries are only successful when they are fighting from outside of the system they fight against. What post-industrial, post-capitalist economy is there for us to fight for? Where is there an outside for us to fight from? As long as we depend upon the industrial economy, we break ourselves when we break it.

It is only from a position of autonomy that we can truly begin to fight, where the tactics and objectives become clear because they are based upon defending what we've built. Here we can celebrate the collapse of that destructive economy without also suffering in it's decline. It is through the personal individual choices Jensen is discarding that we build this position of autonomy. It's a herculean task, so we can't waste our time with feather dusters and directionless confrontations.


Tracy said...

great article and response, who's leading the revolution though? and what are we all supposed to do afterwards?

Ben Turk said...

True revolutions need no leaders, only participants.

What we do afterwards?

We live in the worlds we created. This is bottom-up revolution, it starts with new basic interactions, builds autonomous networks and worlds based on those interactions, then pits those worlds against the world of the industrial economy, when our worlds win that competition, we'll already have economic arrangements that meet more people's needs with fairer more equal distribution of opportunities, that don't race towards environmental annihilation, and allow more direct compassionate human interaction.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like Jensen's article.

Basically, it sounds like an excuse for bigger, more invasive government, which would, ironically, cause yet MORE of the problems he outlines.

No, Mr Jensen, I agree with Max Stirner, "society" and "collective behavior" are spooks of the mind. There are only individuals acting individually. The more individuals choose to change their individual behavior, the better off every individual will be.