Gray Panthers of San Francisco
October 2006 Newsletter

Book Review
Derrick Jensen: The Culture of Make Believe



This is not a book for the faint of heart, but, once started, it is hard to put down.

Jensen is an environmental activist and author who lives in Northern California. His thesis is that civilization—not just industrial civilization, but all civilization—has sustained itself through violence against humans and nonhumans alike, and that we now have reached a place where the damage is irreparable. Activists must try to protect those species still in existence while civilization comes crashing down around us—and try to help bring it down before it wipes out what life remains on the planet.

Extreme? Yes. But Jensen’s exploration of the hatred and violence in the Western world is compelling. What elements are shared by the genocide against American Indians, by slavery and lynchings, the Holocaust, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What forces in society caused these horrors? What did people tell themselves in order to participate in them or allow them to happen? “It is as easy as it is unwise to simply throw up our hands in the face of these acts, declare them incomprehensible, or, just as safely, having nothing whatsoever to do with any of us. I’ve never stuck anyone with a knife, nor even aimed a chainsaw at a human being. I just don’t understand how someone could do this. Maybe they’re just evil.” (p. x, Preface, The Culture of Make Believe.)

Jensen is an eloquent and readable writer with remarkable breadth of vision. His books will shake up your mind in unexpected ways.

More on Jensen

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