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Having read and admired Keith Farnish’s first book, Time’s Up!, I played with the hope that his new book, Underminers: A Guide to Subverting the Machine, would be a fulfilment of the promise of that book. In Time’s Up!, his orchestration of the natural world from one ten-millionth of a metre to organisms the size of planets and beyond filled me with an awe at life that I had not felt since my early forays into science fiction, when I contemplated life forms whose alien shell guarded beauty that had once been present during childhood romps through the woods.

In the new book, this celebration of the miracle of life and rage at its desecration would be transformed into effective tools of resistance. Having unsuccessfully sought the sacred sense of life in the pious abstractions of the environmental movement, whose primary goal was so obviously to preserve the comforts of civilisation with a splash of floral colour, I was tired of imaginary battles that always ended in noble defeat. It had long seemed to me that the same sense of purpose as the French Resistance, the same willingness to endure the necessary pain while maintaining unwavering attention to detail, and a readiness to give up one’s life for the cause, was exactly what was called for if we were to stop the manmade extinction of life on earth. The following is a brief attempt to understand his concept of civilisation and the power it has to lock us into a life that is not our own.

The definition of civilisation according to Mr. Farnish is disconnection. But while he ably defines the means of disconnection, he is less clear in this book concerning what we, the civilised, are disconnected from. Obviously, our Mother reaches out to us, her tendrils constantly seeking to repair her lost connections with us. But if we are to dedicate our lives to the destruction of industrial civilisation, we had better have an unshakeable sense of what we are struggling toward, not merely against. Where does the spirit flow when the tools of disconnection are disconnected?

Most of the book focuses on techniques to break our connection to civilisation, but he assumes a concept of civilisation which looms in the background like a dark emperor who never reveals his face. We need to shine a light on that face.

The justification for civilisation is that it promotes all that is best in humanity: its moral standards, its spiritual aspirations, its love of knowledge, its disinterested science and technological prowess that sheds abundance so freely. The alternatives are invariably portrayed as violent, superstitious, closed to rationality, progress, and enlightened human behaviour. Like a swan, the word ‘civilised’ leaves a wake of aspirations and expectations which are as powerful as they are mysterious. It carries the aura of whatever is decent, upright, refined and forward-thinking. It embodies everything that one who cares about his fellow human beings values. To question this is to question the very foundation of our lives.

Mr. Farnish defines the word ‘civilised’ in these terms: ‘Yes, we hear the word “civilised” a lot, but the meaning of that is false: good, moral behaviour is not civilised; it is just good moral behaviour. We also hear the word “citizen”, again in purely positive terms as someone who abides by the rules of society and is generally a well-rounded person: but someone who abides by the rules of society and is generally a well-rounded person is not a citizen; if they are a citizen they just happen to be a subject of civilisation.’ This definition touches on but does not deeply explore the power that lies behind the word. What the word ‘civilised’ does is munge together concepts that are actually distinct in a way that supports the ruling order.

‘Civilised’ — what lies encased within this word? How can we break it open? I’m not interested in linguistic analysis, but the morphic resonance which this word emits. What is the nature of that resonant field it creates in our minds when it is spoken? I sense two parts in it: one is a sense of goodness and order with an aura of progress and a sense of comfort. That comfort is the seductive element because it implies that we need this comfort in order to be good. It tells us we need freedom from the constant battle for survival in order to break through to a new realm in which progress becomes possible. This progress constitutes the foundation for further comfort and thus further goodness. The freedom from material want opens the door to promises of creative revelations and a life of beauty, freedom and wealth.

The other key element in the word is a deep moral aspiration. To be civilised means to respect the bounds of the other. It carries within it a sense of right order in human relations. In the Christian sense, it overflows into love for all humanity and its salvific destiny. In its secular meaning, it invokes human rights and the democratic ideal. But it makes the realization of these ideals contingent on the flourishing of a system that provides its material foundation. And that is where the distinction between its root meanings must be located. This is the core of the word’s power. It draws on our basic sense of meaning in human existence. What is it that gives us a sense of meaning and purpose? It is the striving for an ideal of contentment, beauty, stability and livingness that fulfils the roots our being.

Such is the bait. But the realization of this promise is contingent on the fulfilment of certain duties. Those duties include obedience to the system’s legal foundation, submission to the authorities who maintain and enforce that structure, and shouldering the burdens of building and maintaining the material groundwork upon which civilisation rests. In the modern capitalist version of the story, corporations form the central pillars of the civilised hierarchy. Submission to the interests of these pillars is fundamental to enjoying its benefits.

Before we can undermine the tools of disconnection, we must first understand what it is we are undermining and how deep the psychological, physiological and spiritual roots of the phenomena are. Progress is the guiding principle on both the left and the right. What is the purpose of human life? Civilisation answers, ‘It is to become ever more intelligent, rational, creative, and spiritually evolved.’ What is the method? It is to build an extensive material foundation that provides the comfort and wellbeing that makes a truly human life possible.

As Mr. Farnish indicates, I believe that we should draw a dividing line between these two factors: the promise of human fulfilment and the means to its achievement. What the word ‘civilised’ embodies is the advertising paradigm: give them a shining vision of what their life could be, then make them work to enrich your company while returning them nothing but a cheap substitute for life. Then make them believe that the thrill they experience in the brand is the thrill of life bonding them to the greater human community.

The elements of the deception are as extensive as the infrastructure of modern civilisation and must be constantly rotated in order to maintain the illusion of novelty, but the essential program never alters. These shadows of fulfilment which we chase into the night constitute the essence of our false life, while our true life lies weeping behind us, somewhere lost in the desert.

But there is something else that must not be undermined, which grows stronger in us when we disconnect: good, moral behaviour is how Mr. Farnish refers to it at the point where he defines civilisation. Yet I feel that ‘good, moral behaviour’ symbolises an array of extra-civilisational realities that are hinted at rather than celebrated. He references them in the distinction he makes between the legal and the lawful: ‘On the other hand, I do give a fig and more about whether something is lawful or not. Humanity has, whether formally or not, passed down something called Common Law, which consists of the basic rules that should be observed in a just society under all but the most extreme conditions. For instance, under Common Law it is wrong to intentionally kill or harm someone without their consent; it is wrong to take something that rightfully belongs to someone else; it is wrong to impinge upon someone’s basic human rights of clean air, fresh water, food, warmth, shelter, companionship, liberty and other things related to human dignity. Actually there are surprisingly few things that could be considered to comprise Common Law, which is significant, because anything more specific would imply a particular culture being imposed upon an individual or collection of people.’ This invocation of Common Law speaks to an older concept of law which corresponds to the fundamental rights and obligations of communities and the individuals that make up those communities.

The word ‘civilisation’ attempts to confiscate the source of morality, but moral behaviour happily overflows the bounds of legal obedience. Those who rule would have us believe that moral boundaries coincide with the demands of civilisation, that the obedience of right reason is obedience to the state and its corporate masters. But Common Law suggests another spring of morality and by that standard civilisation fails.

The ultimate violations of the Common Law are committed by the civilised: ‘So, it is civilised people who are causing climate change; it is civilised people who are sucking the oceans empty of fish and filling the waterways with pollutants; it is civilised people who are consuming global energy supplies at an expanding rate.’

But something is missing in this analysis. We know what it is to be disconnected. Daily we experience the aridity of living far from the sources of life. But what would it feel like to feel the splash of the clear water that irrigates our souls?

What is it then that fills us not merely with rage at the horrors visited on the body of our Mother, but reminds us of a hidden identity which survives from unexpected infusions which somehow continue long after despair seems final? This is the force that Mr. Farnish grasps after but never quite touches, though it lies beneath the surface of his guide to disruption like a barely suppressed shout for joy. It is the eternal sunrise we once lived within and could remember even now if only we hadn’t agreed so often that a sense of life’s greater purpose was the invariable mark of the loser.

It is the dawning realisation that our existence is not the closed circle we pretend it to be that sustains those reconnecting to their forgotten life. While our abusers threaten us with fantasies of violence and insecurity if their order is threatened, the underminers sense a greater order that lies beyond the suicidal frenzy electrolysing civilisation in its terminal decline. That order can be evoked by a phrase as simple as ‘good, moral behaviour’, but what is being unlearned is what makes that phrase seem so small. In reality, it has the power to disenchant us from the animatronics that daily seem more shrill, desperate, and tawdry as each emerging crisis swells towards its crescendo.

Boyd Collins spent some of his earlier years as a Cistercian monk at the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. In later years, he became a peace activist and produced  the Nonviolent Jesus blog. Currently, he lives in Texas in the United States where he is becoming active in the Transition movement.

Image courtesy of David Wilmott/ Wikimedia Commons

52 thoughts on “Underminers

  1. If I get what you’re saying, Boyd, it’s that it’s no good fighting against “disconnection” except by becoming “connected” ourselves — as in, powerful and joyful.

    If that’s what you’re saying, I agree. Joyless, self-important activism — with its attitude of “look how self-sacrificing I am, to be struggling so hard against something so evil” — is so unappealing, it’s hardly surprising it turns most people off.

    Not that I’m saying Keith Farnish is like that, but there’s certainly an element of that in his writing.

    • You picked up one of the meanings I was aiming at. After several years in radical left groups, I became disenchanted with the oppressive self-importance which seemed to be a major product of some of these groups. It is one of the things that draws me to Dark Mountain – a sense of a transformation that leads to new life, not simply modifications of the old. Also, like you, I don’t think Keith Farnish is like that. The reason I admire his books is because of the deep sense of the value of living nature that I get from them.

      But when considering modes of resistance, I think that they must be pitched at a much deeper level in order to be truly effective. Most fundamentally, they need to be expressions of the life force that flows through us rather than carefully calculated, theoretically-based “resistance strategies”, as impractical as that may sound. In other words, our resistance must not reinforce the very civilizational behaviors and thought-forms which support the current order.

      Thanks very much for your response.

  2. Fascinating conversation. This stands out for me:

    ‘So, it is civilised people who are causing climate change; it is civilised people who are sucking the oceans empty of fish and filling the waterways with pollutants; it is civilised people who are consuming global energy supplies at an expanding rate.’

    ‘Something is missing in this analysis’ you say, Boyd, and you’re right. I think it is missing in much of the writing around ‘civilisation’, including some that has been produced by Dark Mountain (at least in our beginnings) and by myself sometimes in the past.

    A couple of things stand out for me in looking for what’s missing. The first is that this analysis divides the world up into ‘civilised’ and ‘uncivilised’. So it is ‘civilised people’ doing the damage, and non-civilised people who are, presumably, not. It’s the world seen as discrete blocks and it can lead to real problems, I think. It’s not much of a leap from seeing ‘civilisation’ or ‘civilised people’ as ‘the problem’ to demanding that they be silenced or destroyed – a demand that is being made by some in Deep Green Resistance and elsewhere. It’s very righteous, and also dangerous.

    Is ‘civilisation’ a thing? I don’t think so. It’s a process, perhaps, but it’s not an external monster, the destruction of which will prevent Bad Things from happening. And people are not ‘civilised’ or ‘uncivilised’, they’re on a spectrum, and ever-changing. What could be knocked down and not built up again? It’s surely the wrong target.

    I’d be very interested in hearing how your life as a monk feeds into this analysis. I am following a Zen Buddhist path myself, and it has opened my eyes very widely to the lack of compassion, the anger and the rage inherent in much activism – something I was party to myself for a long time. It’s also made it clear to me that compassion surely has to be the first basis for any response to what is happening to the Earth, because without it you get this burning rage which will burn up enemies, real or imagined. I’d be very interested to hear your views on this.

  3. Thanks very much, Paul, for your thoughtful reply. Your response reflects some of the factors which make my conscience so uneasy as I try to find a practice that seems adequate to the crisis. I find myself constantly gravitating to “pragmatic” modes of resistance because of a deeply ingrained sense that only a decisive material response demonstrates true care for the planet that gives us life. Deep Green Resistance once held a powerful attraction for me – and still does to some extent – due to their radical commitment to life even when it means serious consequences to physical well-being. Yet I find their analysis and those of like-minded groups increasingly inadequate.

    When I reflect on where this demand for “pragmatism” arises, I feel that same “civilizational” resonance that sorts all life into standardized slots so that they can be reduced to controllable abstractions. We reach for premature certainty in order to fend off the fear that comes from a mystery paired with an ecological crisis that is no abstraction. The mode DGR uses to categorize their analysis seems modeled directly on the New Left of the 60s and 70s. Not that I don’t have a tremendous admiration for humanistic Marxism and for radical leaders such as Bill Ayers, but Bill’s thought reflects a maturing process that groups like DGR don’t seem able to grasp.

    You put your finger directly on the inadequacy I see in such analyses. They treat “civilization”, as other movements treat “capitalism”, as a monolithic organizational force with clearly defined membership and boundaries. Is it really “false consciousness” to say that this viewpoint reduces the actual complexity of the world in a way that hides significant truths, and, in the end, prevents us from being truly effective in our resistance? As inspiring as it might be to create these dichotomies of civilized and uncivilized, I wonder if it might not blind us to deeply embedded patterns of treating some others as alien and inhuman. It seems to me that such patterns are closer to the real target.

    My former monastic practice, which has evolved these days into Tibetan Buddhist practices, points to a deeper source for the crisis. It also conclusively demonstrated that true spirituality can never be an escape from facing such crises. The Jesus that accompanied us there did not withdraw from the world into “the light”, but lived its pain to the end. That life taught me that real spirituality has a lot to do with experiencing the anguish that surrounds us and responding to it in the most effective way possible.

    For me, the core of an adequate resistance practice has to arise on a foundation of compassion for all life. Focusing purely on the physical aspects of resistance reflects the “civilizational” assumption that makes material reality the final arbiter of all values. In a way, it is precisely the demand for material power and wealth and the consequent transformation of nature into dead matter, exploitable resources, and ourselves into disconnected centers of alienated consciousness that drives the current destruction. Also, speaking practically, the violent strategies proposed by DGR and to some extent, the Underminers, strike me as seriously inadequate the scale of the opponent. The nonviolent methods proposed by Farnish seem much more likely to yield positive results. As the term suggests, undermining is the act of degrading confidence in the centers of power until they lose the power of command. To do this, all the means employed and analysis which supports those means must reflect the connectedness of all life.

  4. Hi Boyd, and thanks for the review and interesting thoughts. Writing the book was an interesting process, and at first I was very keen to re-iterate the ideas I had introduced in Time’s Up! Lots of people like that book, it’s a nice introduction to difficult ideas that I felt was missing in the corpus. But while it would have been useful in Underminers to expand on the philosophy of connection and the nature of civilization, I realised that more had to be said about the means of achieving the desired outcome of reconnecting people to the real world. So, I removed an entire planned section from Underminers early into the writing, and instead started to write essays that explored the more personal and thoughtful side of things: “As if humanity actually mattered”, for instance, looks as the deep motivation behind protecting humanity. Others, like “Finding my limit” and “In Truth, As In Beauty” look at personal and community connections. The article “The Problem With…Civilization” also answers some of the questions you raise.

    As you go on in Underminers, there is a conscious change in scale, from the monolithic, through the local, to the personal. The last two chapters, in particular, may address what you are looking for, and I would be interested to know what you think of the methodology of Undermining itself which, after all, is what the book is about.

    On the DGR question, I have considered this on the Underminers blog. There is a link, but the ideas are definitely not the same.

    Cheers, Keith.

    • Hi Keith,

      Thanks much for replying to my blog post. In regard to my review, I have to admit that I focused mainly on the first two thirds of the book and my post was largely a reaction to the undermining tactics suggested there. The thoughts provoked by those sections focused my attention on the inner meaning of civilization as the enemy and the implications of that for an effective resistance. In two of the final chapters “Recreating Community” and “Recreating Ourselves”, I find an evocative vision of community and the inner work of re-connection that provides a powerful means of creating a world that respects the best of what has gone before us. I also intend to read (in some cases, re-read) the essays you suggest with care and attention.

      I hope I made it clear that I enjoyed and learned a great deal from the Underminers, as well as Times Up! What I was trying to do in my post was to deepen my concept of civilization. My personal motivation for doing so was that despite the ecological suicide mission industrial civilization is currently pursuing, there is much in civilization that I greatly admire and would never want to live without. Fortunately, those aspects – ethical standards, great music, literature, philosophy, spiritual growth, open-minded science and appropriate technology – do not require and often are diminished by the industrial infrastructure.

      So I began thinking about the two faces of civilization. Some ecologists and anarchists such as John Zerzan (another writer I greatly admire) see even the more basic aspects of civilization such as symbolic language as entrapments and connect them with its inherent destructiveness. I regard such ideas as revealing how such capabilities are never unqualified advancements, but are genuine creative accomplishments that enrich our existence and are steps along a path of spiritual evolution. This two-faced character of civilization has implications for what and who we direct our resistance toward.

      For me, the implication is that such resistance has to be moral in its motivation and its means. The means should serve to build the “good, moral behavior” that you present in those excellent sections that treat the moral conundrums of resistance. Means that violate the moral imperative that drives resistance to the industrial juggernaut undermine the sources of its own power. While the magnitude of the crime has to be fully faced, the means should not diminish the humanity which impels our defense.

      As to DGR, it was actually your blog post – I’m a regular reader of Underminers – that first alerted me to DGR and I read the book Deep Green Resistance cover to cover with great excitement. However, with time and reflection on the evolution of this group, particularly the dogmatic in-fighting and ex-communications, I have become more and more disenchanted with their approach. I was a member of a well-known radical leftist group during the 70s and experienced first-hand the authoritarian pathology that many such as Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn analyze with such clarity and maturity.

      I find your work a source of continuing inspiration in the battle to undermine the foundations of what I like to characterize as “wetiko” civilization, a Native American word which Paul Levy uses to characterize the “collective psychosis of titanic proportions” which has engulfed modern civilization. As I struggle in my far-off corner of Texas to reconnect with the living world, I will continue to use your words to guide and encourage myself and others.

      • Thank you for your very thoughtful words, Boyd. I have nothing to add to your analysis – completely agree (apart from the praise, which as always makes me feel a bit unworthy).

        The DGR issue really is an issue. As of today I am persona non grata, banned from their Facebook page for raising a question about identity and gender, and whether it’s akin to deep cultural identity. The divide is widening. Sadly. There is plenty of space for all sorts of variations on how anti-/un-civilization (even the spelling of “civilization / civilisation”) is carried forwards – I know Paul K. disagrees with a few of my ideas, but that doesn’t stop us being friends; just as him and George M. fall out over ideas, but learn from the process (George seems to have undergone all sorts of revelations in recent years thanks to, I suspect, Paul’s gentle guidance). It’s ironic that Derrick Jensen should have the final word here: “We need it all.”

        Kind regards, Keith

        • The prophets among us, the ones that have unshakable faith in the truth of their vision, full of the devotion that lives beneath the civilized garbage heap, the dedication that comes alive in the face of wetiko (“cannibal”) culture, are often driven insane by the implicit mockery of that culture, which tries to kill what it can’t consume. Sometimes they feel that the only way to maintain the vision is through a self-imposed isolation that seeks to keep the flame safe and pure. But the implicit mistrust implied by this protectiveness eventually corrupts the essential truth they seek so desperately to preserve.

          I saw the disease gray the faces of some of the most joyous spirits of the sixties, consuming them with a devouring pain that sucks out the humor in the crow’s feet at the edges of the eyes. And I think of Lierre Keith who writes so beautifully in the defense of the remnants of the natural world yet is so blinded by rage at domination that the humanity of those around her becomes invisible. We should all feel such rage, but, if we are true to the source of that rage, we can’t let it consume us.

          As in the case of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, though the climb back from the pit is rocky and humiliating, they can bring back a treasure that keeps them going through long years of quiet, yet no less potent resistance, one that they would never have found if they hadn’t made the insane commitment.

          All the best, Boyd

          • This does get to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? We three doubtless have different approaches and views and opinions, but here we all are talking about them in a considerate fashion, leaving space for opposing views. It’s interesting that DGR have banned you, Keith. Jensen has also refused to have anything to do with Dark Mountain since I wrote a mild, passing criticism of some of his ideas on the blog. I was amazed at that. He puts out the most radical ideas and expects to be listened to, and yet even the mildest criticism of them has him angrily refusing even to engage.

            The more I see of DGR, the more I think they represent the worst aspects of civilisation, ironically. The terrible, intolerant factionalism which, as Boyd points out, is so typical of the old vanguardist left is there in spades, and the whole battle they are having about gender is both a massive distraction from their purpose and an example of their deep intolerance of dissent – ironically. I’m afraid I have come to believe that if Jensen or Keith ever tasted actual power they would use it to abuse those who they disagree with – just like the system they oppose.

            All of which comes back to Boyd’s wise points about where rage and righteousness can lead. I agree entirely that compassion – even, and especially, for those you strongly disagree with or dislike – has to be the basis of any action, or we will simply repeat the cycle of pain and abuse we’ve seen so many times before.

          • Replying to Paul here (can’t find a Reply below) – it’s funny how names are such a powerful form of identity; I thought you meant me when you said “Jensen or Keith”, with a lurch in my gut; then I realised you know I would never want power :)

            I’m *trying* to build bridges, at least with DGR UK, who seem a lot more open to “third ways” and the like than the USA core. Adam from DGR UK is helping me organise Resisting Together in Edinburgh, which should also have someone from EF! and Dark Mountain to be properly representative of the breadth of opinion and effort going in. I’m shocked at Derrick being so negative about DM – as a writer and English teacher it’s one form of resistance one would expect him to embrace. I can share my own, sadly negative experience, privately – maybe over a drink of some sort. It’s always better to talk face-to-face – burnt bridges *can* be rebuilt, but they really shouldn’t be burnt in the first place :(

          • Hello, wow very thought provoking!
            I first would like to clear up a few things! Jensen and L. Keith really don’t want power, that’s not what DGR is about. We don’t want things to be dismantled to then get into power some how. DGR calls for grass roots organisation. Along with the dismantling of industrial infrastructure. This local organizing will only get stronger and stronger as the crisis deepens.
            Some people have said that trying to tackle industrial civ and gender is too big a task, and we should just tackle one at a time. I was in agreement and i think to an extent i still am but why not?
            Boyd; “Sometimes they feel that the only way to maintain the vision is through a self-imposed isolation that seeks to keep the flame safe and pure. But the implicit mistrust implied by this protectiveness eventually corrupts the essential truth they seek so desperately to preserve.” I can understand that is how DGR may look form the outside but we are still a very young organistaion and have had to take a lot of heat and try and get past a lot of stigma around our stance on gender. Give us time. also: “And I think of Lierre Keith who writes so beautifully in the defense of the remnants of the natural world yet is so blinded by rage at domination that the humanity of those around her becomes invisible. We should all feel such rage, but, if we are true to the source of that rage, we can’t let it consume us.” you can not but help to become incited by the domination of men over women. This does not mean someone has to lose compassion for humanity it could foster the exact opposite or a mixture! “Yet I find their analysis and those of like-minded groups increasingly inadequate.” I find this a funny one. I dont understand. It seems quite simple. The planet is dying. Industrial civ is doing that. To dismantle these systems would not mean that you wont be able to have your literature and music. It simply means that there will be a livable planet for all the Buddhist’s that come after you.
            I agree anger is not always helpful but that does not mean that we can not use it. Right now i think the planet could do with a few more people getting a little bit angrier especially in there local environs.

    • Interesting discussion,

      Boyd said:

      I think of Lierre Keith who writes so beautifully in the defense of the remnants of the natural world yet is so blinded by rage at domination that the humanity of those around her becomes invisible. We should all feel such rage, but, if we are true to the source of that rage, we can’t let it consume us.

      …and I wondered what he was basing that on. I’ve followed Keith’s writing and watched some of her public appearances and don’t recognise the characterisation of blindness to humanity. Look at her cheering on the grassroots democratic organisation of people in Vermont, for example. Perhaps there is a lack of compassion towards the instigators of, & benefactors from, the current ecological holocaust. Which seems fair enough to me, although I could see how it might annoy the Buddhists. Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding the concept of compassion and what form it could take towards these people? The classic case study: compassion towards Hitler (or Darth Vader as per D.Jensen’s hilarious parody).

      It seems stupid/pointless for whoever’s in charge of DGR’s facebook page to ban Keith Farnish, given their obvious wide tracts of common ground (do you have the exact wording of the original comment, Keith?). Ditto Jensen’s refusal to engage with DM if it’s as Paul describes, though taking this as evidence that he would turn into some kind of post-civilis/zational tyrant is a bit of a leap, no? I agree about the trans- issue being a huge distraction, though – an example of the ‘horizontal hostility’ the group rightly decries, even if its members occasionally fall into that trap themselves.

      all best,

      • Hi Ian, it’s become water under that bridge now – I did Tweet the exchange it in a fit of pique if you want to find it, but it seems to have been an over-reaction. Building bridges, and trying to understand…I guess with such intense feelings not everyone’s going to get on all the time. Cheers, K.

      • With regard to the statement about her blindness to the humanity of those around her, I was speaking specifically about the intolerance of differing viewpoints which she and Jensen have shown towards those who could easily have been won over as natural allies. This intolerant attitude reminds me of vanguard leftist groups such as the Weather Underground, who showed a similar intolerance toward those unwilling to take the same extreme positions as themselves. Listening to Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn and other radicals from that era speaking today about what they learned from the their mistakes is something that I have learned much from.

        The vision of DGR was one that I found quite inspiring when I first came across it. I think Derrick and Lierre are outstanding writers with deep insight into the current ecological crisis. But they are also human beings subject to the same ideological diseases that we should be quite familiar with from the history of the 20th century.

        The words of Thich Nhat Hanh may be a guide here: “When we protest against a war, we may assume that we are a peaceful person, a representative of peace, but this might not be the case. If we look deeply, we will observe that the roots of war are in the unmindful ways we have been living. We have not sown enough seeds of peace and understanding in ourselves and others, therefore we are co-responsible: ‘Because I have been like this, they are like that.’ A more holistic approach is the way of ‘interbeing’: ‘This is like this, because that is like that.’ This is the way of understanding and love.”

        The key for me is to recognize that no matter how brilliant and true our insights may be that we are not separate from those whose violence we despise. The same violence that exists in them also exists in us and that we must heal this violence in partnership with all others, especially those on which we project parts of ourselves we don’t wish to own.

      • ‘Perhaps there is a lack of compassion towards the instigators of, & benefactors from, the current ecological holocaust. Which seems fair enough to me, although I could see how it might annoy the Buddhists. Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding the concept of compassion and what form it could take towards these people? ‘

        I think you are, Ian. Jensen’s parody is funny, but it isn’t about compassion, and compassion is not about softness, or the forgiveness of atrocities. If you want to talk about Buddhism specifically – though this applies to most spiritual traditions as I understand it, and to a decent secular approach to other living creatures also – the compassion called for extends to all beings. It has to: you can’t be selectively compassionate. So yes, you do need to feel compassion for Hitler. And indeed Darth Vader (isn’t that what the whole Star Wars cycle was about, by the way? Do we not feel compassion for the man who became Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi? The story doesn’t work without that!)

        Compassion is about understanding – sitting with that person’s perspective until you understand it, see who they are, and also see that your own perspective is not the only one. This has the tendency of dissolving both righteousness and ego: two things I see in spades in DGR, and in the activist world more generally, and which I’ve demonstrated plenty of myself in my time. Righteousness and ego, as Boyd suggests, tend to lead to tyranny. If you’re sure you’re right, and if you’re sure the enemy is ‘out there’ – it’s ‘industrial civ’, for example, which is some easily isolated thing, like the Galactic Empire – then you will commit atrocities in the name of your cause. This is the story of human history.

        But compassion does not imply approval, and neither does it imply inaction. I may try my hardest to understand where the CEO of an oil company is coming from, and doing that will help me to act wisely and with kindness and with a humility that helps me understand that I am often wrong too, and that he is human and his perspective is valid. But it doesn’t mean I approve of him, and neither does it mean I can’t protest about his actions or oppose them. In fact, I would say that compassion requires me to oppose them, given the impact they are having on life more widely.

        Boyd speaks below of Thich Nhat Hanh, perhaps the best-known ‘engaged Buddhist’ alive today, whose combination of wisdom, compassion and active involvement against atrocities (most notably in Vietnam) is to me an inspiring example of what ‘anti-civ’ action could look like at it best.

    • Thanks for the replies, much grist to the mill as usual…

      @Keith – I had a look at the twitpic and, while I can’t say I fully understand the original point you were raising, it certainly doesn’t seem ban-worthy. Insensitive phrasing perhaps, but I’m sure there are far worse examples to be found. Bridge-building probably worthwhile IMO, but maybe leave the yanks to it and concentrate on the UK faction, with whom you can at least discuss face-to-face over a beer should the need arise. I don’t get the intensity of their gender critique (while elements make good sense once they explain their stance at length) – perhaps the situation is much worse for women over there than it is over here?

      @Boyd – thanks for the clarification, though a specific example might help your case re: L.Keith. Do you object to her categorisation of liberals vs. radicals perhaps? Or should there have been more of an attempt at reconciliation with the trans- activists (who physically attacked female DGR representatives and threatened them with rape and execution – pretty hard to make allies there!) Seems to me she makes a reasonable critique in the first instance, and the DGR response to the charge of transphobia (at least at first – I’ve not followed the later turns of the controversy), did its best not to alienate trans- people from the movement totally, simply standing by the decision to exclude them from the ‘women-only spaces’. I take your points about the dangers of ideology in the general sense, though. Very easy to get caught up in a tunnel-vision version of reality interpreted entirely through abstract concepts, as R.A.Wilson and others have described. Communicating entirely via the written word doesn’t help with this!

      Not sure I agree with the Thich Nhat Hanh quote – it seems crazy to take on responsibility for the actions of others in that way. I didn’t march against the Iraq war assuming that I was a peaceful person – I knew that the politicians embarking upon that criminal adventure (like so many others before it and since) would force me into contracts of domination probably for the rest of my life, entirely without my consent, as must be the case in a society built upon the theft of resources from other lands. The only ‘co-responsibility’ I see between myself and warmongering politicians goes in the opposite direction – Because they have done this, I am like that. Or, to take another example, despite my best efforts to live according to different standards the material conditions of modern British culture (purpose-built over centuries by politicians, kings, industrialists etc.) dictate that ‘we’re all capitalists now’. Of course we all get contaminated by the tide of shit getting pumped over the land. But surely getting clean individually only solves the problem locally, temporarily. What about others? What about the children born tomorrow? The only real solution is to stop the shit from getting pumped out in the first place (forgive the analogy, which I now regret).

      @Paul – I had a hunch there would be more to it than that :) Will give this some thought and maybe get back to you later.


      • Thanks Ian, I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

        As for the Thich Nhat Hanh quote – I can see why it sounds that way, and a few years back I would have agreed with you. At present though, I can understand it better. I don’t think he is saying that, for example, you are ‘co-responsible’ with Tony Blair for the Iraq war. But it seems what he is getting at is that if ‘activists’ don’t seek to work with, and spread, compassion, and hell, maybe even love, then they will replicate the horrors they rage against. That’s obviously a truism of history: angry revolutionaries seize power and proceed to torture and kill in the name of a better tomorrow. It’s also very common in activist movements.

        Anger is easy. Compassion is hard! Very hard. But if we give in anger (shades of Darth Vader again!) are we not following the rules set down for us by the civilisation you (we) decry? Do we not rage, and torture, and kill and brutalise. Everyone thinks they are on the side of good – Blair did, the oil company CEOs do, you do, I do. But we only are if we show it, and act it out. It’s the hardest path to take. But we are all complicit – not equally so, but we are. Acknowledging that means we can act with compassion and humility – but still act!

        • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Ian – you brought up salient points that made me think a bit more deeply about my response to DGR. I watched the Liberals vs. Radical videos more than once and admired Lierre’s willingness to draw sharp distinctions that need to be made, though I fundamentally disagree with the thesis that material forces are the primary drivers of history. Nevertheless, I admire her commitment to follow the truth about oppression wherever it leads, no matter how uncomfortable the conclusions. It was not the videos, but the persistent reports about summary purges of former colleagues such as Aric McBay, as well as other acts of rejection without appeal that reminded me of the leftist groups of the 70s. Those were the sources of my criticism of the group’s leadership.

          Your point about it being “Very easy to get caught up in a tunnel-vision version of reality interpreted entirely through abstract concepts, as R.A.Wilson and others have described.” resonates strongly with me (a long-time fan of the Illuminatus! trilogy). It is precisely blind obedience to such abstractions that are signs to me that the resistance strategy presented by groups such as DGR does not question the civilization they oppose deeply enough.

          As Paul suggests, compassion of the kind Thich Nhat Hanh advocates does not mean approval. Here is an example of the depth of his resistance to American aggression in Vietnam, “Nhat Chi Mai was one of the first six people ordained into the Tiep Hien Order. In 1966, she placed a statue of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, and a statue of the Virgin Mary in front of her, and burned herself alive at the Tu Nghiem Temple, a nunnery. She left behind letters to the Presidents of North and South Vietnam, imploring them to stop the fighting.” Here is Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentary on this act and other acts of self-immolation by Buddhist monks and nuns, “They sacrificed themselves in order to seek help from the people of the world. I believe with all my heart that those who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors but only at a change in their policy. Their enemies were not human beings, but the intolerance, fanaticism, oppression, greed, hatred, and discrimination that lay within the hearts of their fellow men and women.”

          What is portrayed here is not “acceptance” of the oppressor, but a compassionate vision that wills no harm to any human being, only the death of the real enemies, what my ancestors, the Cherokee, referred to as “wetiko”, defined in this way by Jack Forbes, “… this disease, this wetiko (cannibal) psychosis, is the greatest epidemic sickness known to man.”

          It is not from lack of radical opposition to what Jensen refers to as the “culture of occupation” that we practice compassion, but from a deep understanding of where the real enemy lies hidden. Tony Blair is the embodiment of a cultural psychosis, but even he can be healed. The question being “What are means to this healing?” Are they violence sufficient to force wetiko to yield power? Or is there another way that laughs at power, that grounds itself in the opposite of power?

  5. ‘Civilised’ — what lies encased within this word? How can we break it open? I’m not interested in linguistic analysis, but the morphic resonance which this word emits. What is the nature of that resonant field it creates in our minds when it is spoken? I sense two parts in it: one is a sense of goodness and order with an aura of progress and a sense of comfort. That comfort is the seductive element because it implies that we need this comfort in order to be good. It tells us we need freedom from the constant battle for survival in order to break through to a new realm in which progress becomes possible.

    I wonder about our assumptions. Because we call our larger society a civilization does not imply that the members of that society are ‘civilized.’ I doubt any of us live up to the ideal of being civilized, at least for longer than an afternoon at a time. This is one of the myths we need to break apart.

    Secondly, I doubt that our daily “struggle for survival” is any easier than that of hunter-gatherer societies, who, according to some, required about four hours a day of “work” to supply daily needs. Now, we have dental care and central heat, for example, comforts that arguably extend our lives. But it can also be argued that pre-agricultural societies enjoyed greater levels of individual health than modern ones do.

    Third, I do not understand the overwhelming need for progress – whatever that word means. Progress is what got us to where we are. It may be that what we might explore is less progress than letting go, stopping, waiting, watching, experiencing.

    No, I suspect that the word ‘civilization’ applies to systems of organized power rather than to moral or ethical paradigms. At bottom, it applies to defensive coalitions, people banding together to keep from losing food to wandering bands who threatened.

    I love it that this conversation is happening, that we are searching for alternatives. But, I guess, if we are talking about undermining modernity, I wish we would talk about practical things. Can we face the natural world of predators and the universal need for food without threatening each other and that natural world? Can we live in or with fear without losing the ability to be rational and compassionate?

    In short, do we know what we want for our lives?

    I know that I don’t.

    • Hi Robin, all very good questions – I don’t have many answers, apart from suggesting ways we can move away from Industrial Civilization, and help it crumble in the process. The future is what you make it; just as we have always made our own futures in the face of infinitely varied challenges and gifts. There is no one right way to live, as Daniel Quinn puts it. But there are better ways to live. Best, Keith.

  6. Okay Paul, a couple of comments but I mostly agree with what you’re saying about the dangers of righteousness and a perception of an Enemy ‘out there’ potentially leading to atrocities. I can’t say whether DGR folk are desperately in need of this warning or not, but I don’t think that I am personally – you’ll perhaps recall my confessions in a previous exchange about the various ways in which I am intimately associated with (and in many ways simply <em<am) ‘The Enemy’ when it comes to the war being waged against the living earth.

    I had a look at Thich Nhat Hanh’s story of involvement in the Vietnam war, mainly looking at this page via the wiki article you linked to, and while there are some impressive achievements and no small amount of personal risk attached to his stance, he seems to fit the role of liberal figurehead rather well. So you get the generalised call for peace directed both towards the aggressive superpower and towards the resistance movement (the same way people insist on condemning both sides in the Israel/Palestine conflicts even though the violence is going overwhelmingly in one direction), renunciation of any ‘anti-Americanism’, naive acceptance of the aggressor’s stated goals of ‘fighting communism’ and ‘aiding democracy’, and general opposition towards all forms of violent resistance. In this way he fits the mold of other spiritual or quasi-spiritual leaders which the West similarly has no problem putting on a pedestal, like Gandhi, MLK, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mandela… (see this old post of mine) No wonder the NLF (Vietcong) called him a ‘lackey of imperialists’ – in the end it was their organising of peasant villages and creation of a guerrilla army that won the war and sent the Americans packing, helpful though Hanh’s actions may have been in other ways. But I suppose your question will be ‘What happened next, after this fabulous military victory?’ Another research project :-) But no, it probably wasn’t a panacea.

    I guess I feel uneasy when talk of compassion towards perpetrators comes up because I worry that the energy directed towards this will come at the expense of the victims. You could spend a lifetime trying to get inside the perspective of Hitler/Vader/Blair/BigOilCEO trying to understand what motivates them. They’d probably appreciate the attention, as sociopathology and narcissism often go hand in hand. It would be easy to get sucked in for ages which would make them doubly happy if it kept you from more effective action. It might even lead to a conversion to their point of view, which would be a coup to brag about. I would say the victims deserve compassion first and foremost and action should spring from solidarity with them rather than an urge to somehow cure the behaviour of the perps. What if they’re beyond redemption?

    You say that anger is easy and compassion is hard, but I often find the reverse is true. On issues the culture wants me to ignore (eg: fracking, climate change, species decline/extinction) I find it very difficult to screw my attention to the details and the anger will only come after I’ve sat with them for a long time and fully processed what’s going on. Even then I have to go back for regular re-affirmation or the wound closes over, I get lulled back to sleep. Other times it goes the other way and I have to make a conscious effort to avoid getting swept along with the tide of Acceptable Outrage (eg: dead Syrians, Russian homosexuals, arctic Greenpeacers). I’ve thought before that a corollary of violence going down the hierarchy (as DJ describes in the premises to Endgame) is a disproportionate empathy going up the hierarchy, towards bosses, religious figures, experts, political leaders etc. – basically the people it literally pays to fluff up with humankindness. We’re allowed to exercise our capacity for compassion but only in strictly limited circumstances and in ways that benefit the powerful. But maybe you would argue that this doesn’t represent genuine, mindful compassion?

    Just as a final point – I’m not sure this is what you meant but I don’t think anger is an entirely negative force or an exclusively civilised phenomenon. For sure it can stagnate and be easily misdirected, but as long as it’s used to spur action towards a remedy I think it’s invaluable. In fact I don’t think there’s nearly enough of it!


    • Thanks Ian. I can only speak for myself, and for my limited understanding of Buddhism, as a novice. But to me, it seems this way:

      Firstly, you talk about compassion as if it were an object – and a choice. Something we may choose to spend our energy on, as an alternative to anger, for example. It doesn’t work like that. Compassion is something that is cultivated through practice. This is an intellectual debate, but we are not talking about an intellectual aspect of life. Compassion is cultivated in Buddhism through long hours of practice, adhering to ways of living and behaving, meditation and more. It is something that grows, and it becomes a way of being. It brings with it a lot of inner peace, and a calmness and stillness from which comes, I think, wisdom.

      Without wisdom, there is no effective action. I see no wisdom in DGR. I see anger, righteousness and abuse directed at those who disagree. You say anger can be helpful. Perhaps, yes: but only if acknowledged, and controlled, and not acted upon. Acting from anger, as Yoda would tell you, takes you straight to the dark side ;-) Acknowledging anger, sitting with the reason for its arising, and then acting out of compassion, seems to me to be the most human way. Otherwise, we involve ourselves in the cycle of violence again, and again.

      That action may take many forms. Burning yourself to death? Well, perhaps, but in Western culture it is as likely to take other forms. I have known Buddhists who march, protest and involve themselves in direct action of all kinds. But they are always peaceful. They will not unleash violence on anyone, because they know it will eat them alive.

      You talk of ‘spiritual or quasi-spiritual leaders which the West similarly has no problem putting on a pedestal, like Gandhi, MLK, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mandela…’ These are strangely lumped together! Gandhi, for example, was a massive threat to the British empire for most of his life, and was in and out of prison as a result. He may be lionised now, when he’s harmless because dead, but at the time he was treated very differently; and more than anyone else, he freed India. Similarly Mandela and MLK.

      As for calling these people ‘liberal’ – that’s not right. You are looking at people operating in a very, very old spiritual tradition – something much older than the modern political divisions you are trying to slot them into. Would you argue that the Viet Cong were more effective than Gandhi? It’s a hot topic. Perhaps you would argue, like Jensen, that the IRA’s actions represent a success story that should be emulated by ‘anti-civ’ activists? This way, madness lies.

      I understand the anger. I feel it myself, and I spent twenty years acting on it. I think Jensen’s analysis has a lot going for it. But I also know, from experience, that what is being proposed on the back of it, by many hotheads, is just going to lead to more horrors if it is acted upon. And it’s going to fail: no one is going to ‘bring down civ’ with terrorist-style actions. ‘Civ’ is in us as much as it is outside us, which is the point of this discussion about spirit and soul. Take down a dam and the dam will be built right up again while you’re in prison for life.

      You’re right about our complicity, on every level. We are ‘civ’. The real dams are inside us. That idea is unattractive to many ‘activists’, but I’ve come to believe it’s true. Outer and inner work have to go together, in my view. I realise this makes everything much harder! But I think it’s true.

      • Well said, Paul. Like you, I am a novice in Buddhism, but what you say here strongly reflects the intuitions I’ve managed to glean from my practice so far. But it also seems to me that Buddhism helps to disentangle us from the web of abstractions that civilization weaves. This includes concepts such as “liberal”, “radical”, “anger”, “compassion”, etc. Of course, we must use terms to communicate, but it is well to recall that they often hide as much as they show.

        Fundamental to Ian’s point is the dichotomy between “liberal” and “radical” as reflected in a chapter in Deep Green Resistance called “Liberals and Radicals”, which I read with great relish when I first encountered it. She defines the two categories powerfully, emphasizing the lack of effective realism on the part of liberals, and the clear-eyed, adult attitude of radicals.

        This is certainly a distinction of value, but it reminds me of the Terence McKenna quote, “If you don’t have a plan, you become part of somebody else’s plan.” When the debate on ecological strategy is framed in terms of the categories of liberal versus radical as used in Lierre’s chapter, then the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Much like the “debates” on Fox News here in the U.S., the initial framing which establishes the bounds of the exchange steers the viewpoints along a pre-determined path. The spectacle invariably ends by assigning the term “liberal” to the viewpoint it was designed to denigrate.

        Liberals are characterized as follows:
        They think, “Everything Will Be Okay”
        They are insulted at being identified as a member of group or class
        They are idealists who believe that reality is a mental activity
        They believe that oppression is a matter of attitudes and ideas and “…social change happens through rational argument and education.”

        The radical side of the dichotomy is characterized this way: “Materialism, in contrast, is the understanding that society is organized by concrete systems of power, not by thoughts and ideas, and that the solution to oppression is to take those systems apart brick by brick.” To complete the characterization from the Marxist viewpoint, it is the material conditions of production that determine consciousness and therefore the ruling ideas of a particular society. Let me make it clear that I strongly agree with her characterization of the material structures of power that currently rule our planet. But I also think that the characterization leaves out significant aspects of reality.

        One of the reasons I brought up the act of self-immolation of Buddhists during the Vietnam war is because it breaks through this liberal/radical dichotomy. Clearly, these monks and nuns were radical in their opposition to American aggression in Vietnam. But, just as clearly, they did not believe that the only effective means of opposition was to fight with the Viet Cong. They believed in a non-material reality, a non-power-based reality, which was nevertheless intensely effective in enabling social change. While I certainly don’t advocate that or any other particular tactic, the anti-war movement of the 60s reveals that many powers beyond material force can drive historical change. The Vietnamese Buddhists would fall into the liberal bucket according to her dichotomy. Is reality really that simple?

    • Hi, thanks for that,

      Hmm, I guess I don’t really ‘get’ compassion the way you & other Buddhist/spiritual types talk about it. In other exchanges people have stressed to me the experiential aspect of it, stating that it has nothing to do with the intellect, which most often gets in the way. Also I’m told (as you say) that it’s something that you have to sit down and practice. Which I don’t (although putting myself in the other’s shoes comes as practically second nature to me to the point where I have difficulty remembering where I left my own!) so we’re probably talking at cross purposes to a degree.

      To me, compassion – ‘a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering’ by one definition – is something that arises spontaneously through hearing particular stories or being witness to certain events or expressions of character. So yes, there isn’t a lot of choice in the matter, but doesn’t it necessarily follow the direction of attention? You won’t get the desire to help someone you’re not aware of. So it depends where you direct your attention, which is something you can choose to some extent (though it’s hard to ignore something that’s right in front of you). On the other hand this is where you can be manipulated by outside forces attempting to direct your attention to areas of their own choosing – the key to propaganda and other types of sleight of hand trickery. Thus a highly empathic close friend of mine has no opinion about the Israel/Palestine conflict but was overjoyed to hear about the decision to intervene militarily in Libya to stop ‘mad dog’ Gadaffi from massacring his citizens (the lies the mass media told us at the time). Clearly dry intellectual understanding has its merits!

      Without wisdom, there is no effective action. I see no wisdom in DGR. I see anger, righteousness and abuse directed at those who disagree.

      That’s not all you see, I hope. Maybe it’s not wisdom born from stillness & inner peace, but I think there’s an aliveness & responsiveness there too. Plenty of other qualities to praise rather than denigrate if you choose… Not to say there’s no importance in drawing attention to the bad stuff.

      I have known Buddhists who march, protest and involve themselves in direct action of all kinds. But they are always peaceful. They will not unleash violence on anyone, because they know it will eat them alive.

      Good for them! The nonviolence might limit what they can accomplish on their own, is all. I’ve heard from people in Europe who knew some of the partisans during WW2 and they said that the mythology of noble warriors in songs and popular culture was bullshit – a lot of them were bastards fighting for dubious reasons, stealing food, raping women etc. (On the other hand plenty of resistance armies have had strong moral codes and strict punishment for deviant behaviour – read Che Guevara’s Bolivian Diaries for example). Point being that twisted, unenlightened people can still do useful things, if you’re willing to accept the ‘gifts’ they bring.

      re: Gandhi, yes he probably did more than any other individual to end direct British occupation, but in the end his refusal to countenance any form of violence undermined the resistance at many key moments and probably prolonged the agony of the Indian people – see quotes at the above link. In the end it was not nonviolent civil disobedience but mass civil unrest, strike action, mutiny, underground organisation, sabotage and pitched battles with the police & army that made the country ungovernable and basically forced Britain to concede independence. Apparently the Indian National Congress leadership were just as terrified of what was happening as the brits were:

      Although Congress was using the threat of revolution to intimidate the British, in fact the leadership were themselves seriously concerned about popular unrest and the growing influence of the Communist Party of India. They wanted a handover as soon as possible in order to head off further explosions of rage such as had occurred in Calcutta and Bombay. They were also confronted with increasing communal violence generated by the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan. While the British had certainly exploited communal tensions and had given the Muslim League considerable support, communal violence was taking on a life of its own. (John Newsinger, ‘The Blood Never Dried’, p.163)

      So yes, pretty ugly and again you have the question of what happens in the aftermath, but that’s what it took to get the job done. As with Hanh, there’s no question about the importance of Gandhi’s actions, it’s just that different tactics were needed in addition. I’ve not looked very deeply into the Irish struggle, but to say the IRA’s actions had no positive effects for the population at large seems facile. There’s an intriguing scene in Ken Loach’s film, ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ that hints at the same kind of turmoil and unaddressed grievances that simmer beneath political compromises, made too soon and without popular consent just because there’s a sniff of power. But no-one in the room questions the validity of the armed struggle in getting them that far. While he betrayed many of the ANC’s founding principles, at least Nelson Mandela didn’t (to my knowledge) renounce his earlier radicalism.

      Anyway, I’ve gone on more than I meant to. Agreed about the danger of hot-heads, but maybe that just gives the ‘cool-heads’ a job to do to keep them focused and pointing in the right directions? We’ve talked about the feasibility of ‘bringing down civ’ before, I think. On the spiritual level you’re probably right about the dams being inside us as well as out in the physical world. But feasibility deals with the material world first & foremost (probably the material conditions also affect the soul too) and if the resource requirements are no longer there to put the dam back up, no amount of hot-headed desire is going to make it happen.

      In my humble opinion :-)

      cheers for now,

      • Thanks Boyd. This is a really fascinating discussion.

        Thanks laos Ian. We will have to agree to disagree on some of this. I don’t think we have defined ‘violence’ throughout the discussion, which is a hindrance. I don’t reject all physical resistance by any means – quite the opposite. But it has to be focused and take others with it. I too was excited when DGR first appeared, and then increasingly disappointed when their various fundamentalisms became clear. I’ve come to believe now that the real problem is the very concept of setting up such vanguardist activist groups. All the most inspiring activists I know have refused to join such clubs, and rightly.

        Finally, this quote stood out for me:

        ‘you have the question of what happens in the aftermath, but that’s what it took to get the job done. ‘

        Ah – the job! But what is the job? Rapid destruction of infrastructure, and we’ll worry about the rest later? Sounds like the invasion of Iraq! And it puts me in mind of that line from Ezra Pound, who was writing about Yeats and the Irish struggle: ‘the problem after any revolution is what to do with your gunmen.’ Gunmen who think that material reality is all, struggle comes first, dissenters must be silenced, the situation is to urgent to ask consent from ‘the masses’. I studied history, and this stuff scares me!

        Anyway, thanks for the conversation: it’s been a really good one.

        • Hi all,

          Adam from DGR UK here. This is a very interesting conversation.

          Boyd – I agree with you about the environmental movement being about wanting to be seen to be doing the right thing and feeling good about oneself, whilst actually achieving very little and continuing to preserve the comforts of civilisation. I also agree that we need a movement similar to the French Resistance in which people are prepared to consider and do what is necessary, which might include dying for the cause.

          Valid point on needing something positive to work towards as well as coming out against industrial civilisation. DGR members get this a lot and my view is that there are plenty of different examples of people doing positive things – Transition, Permaculture, Ecovillages, intentional communities, community gardens, centres of sustainability and learning. However, in my view there is not nearly enough effective resistance to industrial civilisation. We need both now; we can’t wait until the details of what we’re working towards are all neatly worked out before trying to stop the destruction. People need to do what motivates them, and for DGR members, this is working towards dismantling industrial civilisation.

          It’s important to point out that there are different definitions of civilisation out there. The definition of civilisation that DGR members use and believe to be so harmful is the way of life that began about 10,000 years ago, when agriculture developed in the Middle East. This then spread globally, and lead to the growth of towns and cities. Towns and cities require that large amounts of resources be imported in from elsewhere; once these resources have run out in one area, the extraction process will begin somewhere else. If these resources are located in another country, an army will be used to ‘extract’. This aggressive culture of resource extraction has lead us down the path we currently find ourselves on, in which industrial civilisation is destroying the planet.

          Personally I think that spiritual aspirations and an interest in knowledge were part of human nature before the civilisation that I described above developed, whereas I see science and technology as very much part of the problem. Boyd, you talk about a love for all of humanity being ‘civilised’ but again, I would say that this is part of human nature and came before civilisation, when humans knew their place in this world and I’m sure had love and respect for all living beings.

          I agree with your discussion of the deceptive justifications of civilisation.

          With regards to the comments, we at DGR often draw attention to the pitfalls of horizontal hostility (a term coined by Florynce Kennedy in 1970 to describe the damage caused when oppressed groups fight amongst themselves instead of fighting back against the powerful – it is amongst the worst enemies of successful systemic change). We might not agree on what needs to be done to stop the destruction but we all want to move towards a just and sustainable world. To do this we need to put our differences aside and start working together and supporting each other. What DGR members do think is that current levels of resistance are not sufficient; every biotic indicator shows that the destruction is increasing. We want people that care about this to face up to it and to re-evaluate their response.

          Paul- we’ve met and I must say I’m disappointed with your comments about DGR. You either misunderstand our strategy or you are misrepresenting it. Have you read the DGR book or strategy?

          You wrote ‘It’s not much of a leap from seeing ‘civilisation’ or ‘civilised people’ as ‘the problem’ to demanding that they be silenced or destroyed – a demand that is being made by some in Deep Green Resistance and elsewhere.’ I’m not aware of any in DGR that want to silence or destroy any person or any living being. We want the destruction of the planet to end and hope that, ideally, a unified, non-violent mass movement will form to bring about this change. We are not convinced, however, that this is going to materialise any time soon, which is why we also advocate for a separate underground network to work towards sabotaging the infrastructure so crucial to feeding industrial civilisation. We believe the collapse of industrial civilisation is inevitable, and seek to accelerate this collapse for the health and survival of the planet.

          You wrote that DGR is factional, which couldn’t be further from our aims. We have a very clear strategy and have set boundaries on how we organise internally. We do question and challenge the effectiveness of how previous activists and resistance movements have organised and behaved, which has caused controversy and lead to attacks on DGR members, as Ian M points out. DGR members have not attacked anyone; this would go against our Statement of Principles and Code of Conduct. We are very open to discussing our views and perspectives if people are respectful. If they are not respectful, why should a dialogue continue?

          With regard to the controversy around trans-identified people, DGR members are sympathetic to the oppression which trans-identified people may face and have solidarity to anyone suffering oppression. See the DGR UK FAQs for more info

          Your comment ‘I’m afraid I have come to believe that if Jensen or Keith ever tasted actual power they would use it to abuse those who they disagree with – just like the system they oppose’ is also a misunderstanding of what DGR seeks to achieve. As Lou points out, we want industrial civilisation to collapse, whilst working with others to help build community resilience. There is no power grab here; post-civ, we hope people will form into human scale communities and organise themselves. Obviously, this is an ideal; the reality is likely to be messier.

          You wrote ‘Without wisdom, there is no effective action. I see no wisdom in DGR. I see anger, righteousness and abuse directed at those who disagree.’ Can you reference where you have seen this anger, righteousness and abuse directed at those who disagree? I think many in DGR agree that nothing will be achieved from being thoughtlessly angry, righteous or divisive.

          DGR is an above-ground group, which means that we have no involvement in violent direct action or in the promotion of specific criminal actions. What we do is to engage in non-violent direct action, work to repair our landbases and communities and to advocate for an active underground. We are not advocating for any violence against any living beings, but we will vocally support property destruction and sabotage. You seem to imply that DGR members are hotheads and advocating for terrorism. I don’t know where you get this from? I am yet to meet a single DGR member who fits this description.

          In response to Paul’s comment about industrial civilisation rebuilding itself – the fossil fuel party is a one time blow-out. If civilisation is brought down, there simply wouldn’t be enough fossil fuels available to go after the increasingly hard-to-get reserves that the energy corporations are so desperately going after now.

          Keith was banned from the DGR Facebook group by accident, so that’s been resolved. Interesting to hear that Derrick won’t have anything to do with DM because of an article you wrote, Paul, which article was that?

          Boyd – No one has been purged from DGR. Aric McBay was part of a small, unsuccessful effort to oust both Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen from the organization. The entire staff and many of the members resisted this attempt. He left with DGR money and documents that he never returned. More info here

          With regard to spirituality, for myself and, I think, for most in DGR, there is a love for nature and a deep personal sadness over our disconnection from it and for what is happening to our world. This feels very spiritual to me, and is well articulated in the DGR Statement of Principles I’m sure many in DGR are constantly working on themselves, to change their inner worlds just as much as the outer one, and to incorporate modes of resistance which do reach the ‘deeper level’ you refer to. However, we do believe fundamentally that material change only occurs by taking action in the real world.

          On compassion, understand, healing for those CEOs of corporations causing the destruction, how does this help stop the death and damage being done out there right now as all on this thread live our comfortable lives?

          Ian M, I enjoyed reading your posts and agree with your point about the West’s motivations in making resistance ineffective by promoting the virtues of non-violent leaders. Although Mandela advocated acceptance and unity after prison, he was extremely militant in his earlier days. Just before his arrest, he set up the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. Glad you pointed out the other aspects of the independence movement in India as well non-violence and their important. Interesting points about unplesent people fighting the Germans in France in WW2. I’m sure that’s try in most resistance struggles.

          Boyd – DGR does not view civilisation or capitalism as ‘monolithic organizational forces with clearly defined membership and boundaries’ but considers them to be oppressive systems that we are all part of. The current culture is maintained with tools and processes such as agriculture, patriarchy, war, resource extraction and slavery, to name a few.

          In your later comments you said ‘What is portrayed here is not “acceptance” of the oppressor, but a compassionate vision that wills no harm to any human being, only the death of the real enemies, what my ancestors, the Cherokee, referred to as “wetiko”, defined in this way by Jack Forbes, “… this disease, this wetiko (cannibal) psychosis, is the greatest epidemic sickness known to man.”’
          What you are describing here is what DGR identifies as industrial civilisation by a different name.

          Boyd and Paul – DGR and Keith have both made proposals for what they believe needs to happen to stop the destruction of our planet. I’d be very interested to know specifically what actions you advocate for?



          • Thanks for replying Adam. I am not going to go through your points one by one and respond; I think I’ve been clear enough, as indeed have you. I’d only repeat that the language of vanguardism, of defending the ‘oppressed’ without asking their permission, of defining and categorising people and things, is the language I have been criticising. I have seen too much of this kind of thing. Your post is like a defence of principles from a member of the Socialist Workers Party. You’re giving is the line. You ask what I will do: the answer is, I will avoid lines, because I’ve seen where they march people to.

            There are some good people in DGR and I understand their frustration. But I’m sorry; I think the whole premise is flawed. Are you seriously arguing that you can ‘bring down’ 10,000-years worth of human development? Really? And then it will just stay down? And everyone will become peaceful and free again? This is not serious.

            You yourself wrote a review of the DGR book in the latest issue of The Land magazine (if I have the right Adam; apologies if not) In it, you wrote, of the gender controversy:

            ‘DGR is a radical feminist organisation which believes that gender is a socially constructed hierarchy used to oppress women.’

            There, in a nutshell, is the problem: not the opinion itself, but the fact that everyone is required to ‘believe’ it. That’s Lierre Keith’s view: does it therefore have to be everyone else’s? Where’s the diversity of views? There is none, which is the way this problem started.

            Over on John Michael Greer’s blog today there’s a good piece on this very issue, with some interesting discussion after it. Here’s a key quote:

            ‘To force a government to do your bidding by means of violence, you have to be more competent at violence than the government is, and the notion that the middle-class intellectuals who do most of the talking in the peak oil scene can outdo the US government in the use of violence would be hilarious if the likely consequences of that delusion weren’t so ghastly. This is not a game for dabblers; people get thrown into prison for decades, dumped into unmarked graves, or vaporized by missiles launched from drones for trying to do what the people in these discussions were chattering about so blandly.’

            I don’t doubt the good intentions, but we know where these can sometimes lead. The fact that someone ‘makes proposals’ does not mean anyone is bound to counter with their own; at least not on the same terms.

          • Big comment sitting in moderation from Monday, but for now…

            I think the whole premise is flawed. Are you seriously arguing that you can ‘bring down’ 10,000-years worth of human development? Really? And then it will just stay down? And everyone will become peaceful and free again? This is not serious.

            Don’t worry, it’s only 6,000 years in Britain ;-) Even less elsewhere, eg just over 500 years in the Americas (although they had their own civilisations too prior to European conquest). I think you know your above description is a caricature of DGR’s position. The 10,000 year old culture is on its last legs because of its own destructive practices. As I understand it DGR’s strategy is to preserve a living planet first & foremost, without which no human society is possible, whether ‘peaceful and free’ or otherwise. Don’t you agree that the phenomenon of civilisation has caused the most pain and suffering that human beings have ever experienced (although we may be sheltered from the worst of it here in the affluent West). Why wouldn’t we better off without it?

            Hopefully Adam will respond to your other comments, but the comparison to the SWP seems totally unfair to me. You sound angry and dismissive, which is ironic after our earlier discussion about acting through compassion and how you valued talking about ‘different approaches and views and opinions … in a considerate fashion, leaving space for opposing views’!!


    • Happy Monday, everybody :) It was nice to have all this stuff to think about while I was strimming a grassy verge for 6+ hours! Will try not to get too bogged down here for a change…

      @Boyd – Sorry, just saw your comments above. Yeah, that Liberals vs. Radicals video is great. Funny they changed it to Liberals and Radicals in the book so to not make it seem too combative, but it’s clear Keith very much enjoys her liberal-bashing, even with the caveats thrown in like ‘I’m not trying to set one up as Good and the other as Bad’ and ‘I used to be one myself so it’s okay’ (paraphrasing). Although maybe it’s just exhilaration at telling forbidden truths? I accept your warning about sharp distinctions having the potential to frame a debate and ‘[steer] the viewpoints along a pre-determined path’ to the point where ‘liberal’ turns into a smear-word. In the best case you could just use the distinctions as rough & ready pointers to certain patterns of behaviour so you could get a handle on where people were likely coming from. Of course this shouldn’t be used as a short-cut to actually getting to know individuals, who will almost certainly have varying proportions of both radical & liberal characteristics in them (I know I have).

      The material determinism topic is a big one, opinions about which will shape attitudes and approaches to all sorts of different things. I don’t much fancy getting into it here except to say that I heard of ‘cultural materialism’ through anthropology, not Marxism. Apparently the two schools of thought developed independently and don’t have much crossover. Until …. NOW.

      re: self-immolation, I’ve not considered it long enough to have a confident opinion as to its merits as a strategy. You say the people who did this were clearly ‘radical in their opposition to American aggression in Vietnam’ but looking through the comments in the Nhat Hanh article I linked to above I think they fit the ‘liberal’ characterisation far more closely than the ‘radical’. For example the nun’s letter to President Johnson:

      In a poignant letter addressing President Johnson, Nhat Chi Mai said she wanted to speak out on behalf of ordinary Vietnamese, to express horror of, and disgust at the devastating destruction of the war conducted by a country which had the mightiest military machine in the world. She begged the President to have compassion both for the Vietnamese as well for the American soldiers, sent to Vietnam to fight in a meaningless war. She pleaded with the U.S. government to stop bombing and start negotiating with North Vietnam, requesting that they withdraw troops gradually. Finally she called for a free election under U. N. supervision to help the Vietnamese to rebuild their country.

      The main verbs – speak, express, beg, plead, request, call. She doesn’t understand that ‘power concedes nothing without a demand‘. Thus her words fall on deaf ears and she can be safely ignored. Also, viewing the war as ‘meaningless’ is profoundly ignorant. Of course there was a meaning – gigantic superpowers don’t expend so much energy without expecting something in return. In private the US govt were quite clear about their priorities:

      A secret memo of the National Security Council in June 1952 also pointed to the chain of U.S. military bases along the coast of China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea:

      Communist control of all of Southeast Asia would render the U.S. position in the Pacific offshore island chain precarious and would seriously jeopardize fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East.


      Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities. …

      It was also noted that Japan depended on the rice of Southeast Asia, and Communist victory there would “make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan’s eventual accommodation to communism.”

      In 1953, a congressional study mission reported: “The area of Indochina is immensely wealthy in rice, rubber, coal and iron ore. Its position makes it a strategic key to the rest of Southeast Asia.” (Howard Zinn, ‘People’s History of the US’ pp.473-4, online here

      I don’t want to say the nun’s death was pointless (though I have to admit that is my initial feeling – basically, what a waste!) – it’s not just the powerful ones observing her example after all and perhaps you’re right that there’s a different kind of communication happening through the act. But the burden of proof is on you that this was ‘intensely effective in enabling social change’ – best of luck!

      @Paul – Fair enough, thanks for the stimulating chat.

      re: ‘the job’ – yes, clumsy way to put it, I realise now. There are several key differences between wars for national independence and the kind of struggle DGR appear to be advocating, probably most crucially the fact that broad popular support is highly unlikely, at least at the beginning. It’s not a case of ‘Britain out of Ireland/India’ so much as ‘Britain out of the British Isles’. As you rightly insist there’s no clear enemy ‘out there’, no white faces or colonial police to provide the obvious hate figures. The post-colonial peoples face the same kind of problems with the puppet aristocracies doing their best to emulate the previous power structure and international capital shaping everything from afar to suit its needs (largely still coincident with those of the original imperial countries, but with the US, China and other powers crashing the party later on). It would be an interesting exercise to chart the areas of fiercest historical resistance vs. current average standards of living in order to see what kinds of response to Civilisation/Empire tended to work out best for the people and/or the ecology in question. Asia and the Middle East don’t seem to be doing too well, but South and Central America appear to have turned a corner in some ways. This also raises the question of whether revolutions are voluntary phenomena as opposed to an inevitable outcome of certain social or environmental factors (I recall people charting the cost of food against the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings with quite a strong correlation, for example). More material determinism…

      I think your fears are probably well-grounded. People will take it on board as a caution or they won’t. However, I thought of making the same request that Adam pitched in with (nice to see you contributing here, Adam!), that is of providing specific quotes or references to things that troubled you about DGR&co. Experience in environmental activism certainly adds weight to your pronouncements (though I haven’t seen you actually share any details of this experience which led you to your various strong convictions – go on, tell us a story!) but, without pointing to something that others can see too – and make up their minds accordingly – it’s an appeal to authority rather than an argument.

      Oh, I meant to say before that what you said about the importance of inner, as well as outer work rang true to me. I’ve been banging on about the importance of action action action whereas in truth I’m far more drawn to the contemplative, philosophical side of things – which is why DM continues to speak deeply to me. I’ve long recognised that Something Must Be Done, but most of the options presented to me thus far have seemed like dead ends, inadequate to the task. However I’m coming to the conclusion that nothing’s ever going to be perfect, and you have to work with what’s available, engaging with it as best you can to shape it to your needs & values. I think DGR are right to say that individual action based on purity of thought & spirit is another dead end and that what is needed is old fashioned solidarity between groups of people with a common cause, albeit with widely diverging motivations and beliefs. Time to rejoin the Madding Crowd??

      @Adam – thanks for the kind words. Do you have sources on Mandela’s radicalism? I doubt the film is going to paint a trustworthy picture somehow… I remembered after writing that bit about nasty partisans that the DGR book had a kindof profile of the average partisan in France, and that surprisingly they were quite normal conservative people in everyday life, not the aggressive outsiders that you might otherwise presume to be the obvious resisters. So maybe the stories I heard were exaggerated, or they were isolated examples that were taken to represent the whole.

      … so much for not getting bogged down … ;)

      regards to all,

      • My point about Nhat Chi Mai is that if we can only feel injustice deeply enough, as she did, as Thich Nhat Hanh does, as Marx and Jesus did, by that very fact we have weakened the rafters that hold civilization aloft. Of course, feeling is not enough – it must overflow into action, as it necessarily will if it is true outrage, but this action may not follow the grooves of past radical movements, but may reach an intensity that breaks new ground.

        The rhetorical strategy used by Lierre Keith in her “Radicals and Liberals” chapter was “If you’re not a radical, you must be a liberal.” In other words, if you’re not a clear-eyed, violence-embracing, “adult” radical like me, you must be a fuzzy-minded, reality-avoiding liberal. Those are apparently the only two choices for those concerned about the murder of the planet.

        What I’m suggesting is that there may be another choice. It may be possible to care deeply about the extermination of life, as Nhat Chi Mai did about the devastation of her country, to be “radical” in the sense of feeling ultimate concern for the world that has given us birth and yet not embrace the necessity of physical violence. Even more, there may be a perspective that is more truly radical than the one that sees the current situation through the lens of the French Resistance of WWII.

        One of the reasons I like Derrick Jensen’s writing so much is that he constantly touches on a perspective that breaks through the bonds of civilized materialism. Here is a passage from his book, Dreams, “Part of the reason this culture is killing the planet is that it ignores devalues or demonizes messages from those places that writing comes from, where dreams come from, where so many other ideas and beings come from. It tries to create a rigid separation between what it calls the human on the one hand, and what it calls the natural, and especially what it calls the supernatural, on the other…”

        Perhaps we have voices in ourselves deeper than the authorities we cling to in waking life. Maybe the first step beyond the borders of civilization is to give those voices the same credibility we give to the evening news shows. Maybe more. Maybe more than we even give those who weave the ideologies by which we live.

      • Good musings, Boyd – I’ll be keeping a lot of it in mind (as well as many of the other views shared in this thread) in the years to come.

        I agree the liberal/radical rhetoric is kindof cheap and could be used to sow discord between people who should really be on the same side. But, I don’t know, for me that wasn’t the main thrust of that particular discussion, which I guess was to broaden conceptions on the possibilities of resistance. Sure, I felt insulted & belittled at various points along the way, but then… sometimes it hurts to grow!

        If I could pull you up on the ‘violence-embracing’ part, you make it sound positively gleeful, but I’ve seen plenty of agonising over the ethics of it, even when it comes to ‘violence’ towards property (which can be experienced on a very personal level by the owners/users of that property). It comes down to situational effectiveness – if peaceful marches stop a war then great, otherwise if nonviolent direct action, social withdrawal, setting yourself on fire works, fine. What doesn’t fly IMO is kneejerk condemnation of other tactics just because some find them morally reprehensible. It’s not about embracing violence per se, but coming to sober evaluations of what works in any given circumstance.

        What I’m suggesting is that there may be another choice. It may be possible to care deeply about the extermination of life, as Nhat Chi Mai did about the devastation of her country, to be “radical” in the sense of feeling ultimate concern for the world that has given us birth and yet not embrace the necessity of physical violence. Even more, there may be a perspective that is more truly radical than the one that sees the current situation through the lens of the French Resistance of WWII.

        Great – the more choices & perspectives the better!


        • Your thoughts are helpful as well, Ian. That’s a particularly good point about it sometimes hurting to grow. In my case, I was an “open” Marxist in the tradition of John Holloway for many years so my growth has been in another direction than the one described by Lierre Keith – not from liberal to radical (I’ve never really considered myself a liberal), but from radical to one who questions the basis of a certain type of radicalism.

          I do indeed recognize the agonizing over the question of violence in DGR, as well as in related viewpoints like Keith Farnish’s. What I challenge is the mentality that implies that the only thing that matters is “what works” without asking “works to achieve what?”

          When we define “what works” to mean whatever works to bring down the culture that is destroying life on this planet, we tend to visualize the entity in purely physical terms. Just now I struggled what to call this murderous being. Dozens of phrases occur, such as “global financial elite”, “transnational corporate empire”, and on and on. These terms emphasize the physical power of this entity – its ability to chop down forests, pour sludge into oceans and carbon into the atmosphere. To see the monster strictly in these terms is, I am coming to believe, to succumb to the constricted consciousness of the civilized.

          The very terms we use to characterize a violent struggle are the product of the civilization that is committing the violence. Focusing on its outer forms – “what works” in the narrow sense – is exactly the folly the empire loves to see its rebels commit. The national security state is at its most efficient when its physical infrastructure is attacked.

          The defense of life must embrace what will be sneered at as rank foolishness by the civilized. Derrick Jensen characterizes the foolishness in this way, “For the indigenous, and indeed, for all living beings, life is about responsibility, in its root meaning of ‘giving in return.’ How do you think the world became so wildly diverse, so wildly resilient…so beautiful, so strong?…It happens because these beings live and die, and because how they live and how they die – and because what they give to those around them – makes those around them stronger.” It is this type of folly that erodes civilization like termites in the rafters, long after the guerrillas have been safely ensconced in re-education camps.

          It is civilization that makes material effect the measure of all truth. When we begin to live beyond the physicalist paradigm, new possibilities for altering the fields of power awaken. It is in those fields that hope can come alive again.

  7. I forgot to say that this page on the DGR website is one of the most disturbing pieces of writing about gender I have ever come across. Speaking as a man, it alone would make me run a mile from DGR. This is not ‘feminism’, it is misandry.

    Take, for example, this paragraph:

    ‘We must follow the lead of women, and prioritize issues that are brought forth by women or concern women. The culture we want to move into will be women-centered: we should move in this direction ourselves. Make it a priority to have women in positions of power, and to foster new woman leaders.’

    So ‘we’ want a ‘women-centred’ culture, do ‘we’? And how is that better than a man-centred culture? And who decided this, and why is it preferable to gender equality? Sounds to me like simply privileging one gender over another – again.

    Here’s another choice part:

    ‘It is inappropriate for us to speak as authorities on subjects that women directly experience. As men we do not and cannot understand these experiences. If we are to speak at all on such subjects, it should only be after women or if women ask us to do so, and never from our own perspective.’

    The irony of this having been written by a woman on a page about what men are like and how and why they behave appears lost on the writer.

    And just one more:

    ‘Within the dominant culture males are perpetrators of harassment and violence.’

    Well, some of them are. Some of them are not. Many more are victims of just such violence. But there is no mention of this. The whole page drips with a generalised contempt for men. This is no attempt to reach gender equality and root out genuine abuses. It is chilling stuff, and I can’t understand why any man – or woman, come to that – would buy into an organisation that presents its attitudes to other human begins in this way.

    • Paul: Men wrote the guidelines. Women reviewed and suggested some edits. And then the men made the final edit. So I don’t know where you got the “written by a women” idea?

      And I love how such a well read, educated man can still spew the same answer as everyone else! That the same violence is perpetuated against men! Yes of course but at a vastly reduced rate, severity and common occurrence. I don’t know enough on this subject to go into further details with regards to statistics.

      And I do think that women are entitled to have a contempt for men in general for example when 1860 acts of parliament (made up by men) are still being used against women in Ireland when it comes to abortion!

      The STRATEGY used by the IRA was extremely effective I think that’s what DJ was getting at.

      I do agree with you that we need to reclaim and define the word violence. Violence is extremely effective. Governments, corporations have been using it on us for a long time and we are in exactly the place where they want us. It is an extremely effective tool in the tool box!

      I also agree that we need to work on our inner selves as indus civ is in us also. That’s why we need to work with community’s and our culture to start changing popular beliefs. Along side advocating for an underground movement. Why are we so fearful and what of exactly?

      “the notion that the middle-class intellectuals who do most of the talking in the peak oil scene can outdo the US government in the use of violence would be hilarious if the likely consequences of that delusion weren’t so ghastly.”

      It isnt normally the middle class intellectuals that do the front line underground stuff they do the above ground stuff hence the need for both. I love the last bit….. ” If the likely consequences of that delusion weren’t so ghastly.” Ghastly? in that they might have to go to prison? What about indigenous cultures that are experiencing genocide to make way for the mining of minerals to go into our wind turbines? These peoples are normally at the sharp end being raped, beaten, imprisoned and murdered. I don;t think the US middle class have anything to worry about right now! Am i missing the point?


      • Hi Lou,

        We could argue all day, but it would be a shame! I don’t agree, for example, that ‘women are entitled to have a contempt for men in general.’ I think that’s an awful, sad point of view, and I don’t know any women who share it. Who does it serve to promote more division in that way? What rage does it spring from, and why is anyone entitled to direct that rage at an entire gender?

        Similarly, I don’t agree that the IRA were particularly effective, at least in their post 1970 phase. Given that they allowed the British army to destroy their weapons and that their leaders are now serving in the British government in a still-divided Ireland, this is at least debatable. Another interpretation would be that their leaders realised that their violence wasn’t working, and redirected their energies towards engaging the citizenry. A lot of people died for nothing during the Troubles.

        But as I say, we could argue all day. Argument, in the end, just creates more tension. We all recognise how violent this civilisation is. I don’t think that problem can be solved by groups like DGR, or through ‘activist’ violence, and I hope that people don’t have to die to prove me right. My feeling is still that compassion, rather than anger, has to be the basis for action, and I still see little of that here. But we all have to walk our own paths.

  8. By the way, in terms of male violence: the majority is directed against men. Rates of mental illness, suicide and imprisonment are also higher amongst men. How shall we look at this problem? We could divide it along gender lines, focus on male violence and female victims and generalise about ‘male violence’, thus implicating all men in the problem. Or, we could talk about violent men, and the culture that breeds them, and what we can do to prevent their violence against others – men and women. Plenty of men, myself included, have never thrown a punch but have been victims of one; and have seen women suffering from the same violence. Again, it comes down to compassion and respect for individuals, and a rejection of ideological generalisations. As soon as we decide that a single group is our oppressor, and lose sight of individuals, we will become oppressors in our turn.

    • Paul: Yes your right, we should definitely be looking at our culture (British as I can only speak for that) that breeds these violent men and what to do about it. We also have to look at violence again and realise that we are not just talking about physical abuse perpetrated against women but also how women have subconsciously learnt to act and behave around men. That is also an abuse and a deeper problem.
      It has to start young. Boys seeing there male careers and males in their community’s actively changing their attitudes towards women. It starts with common everyday language, gestures and attitudes. Its almost like we have to go into the main stream schools (which I abore) and say right, this pre school year we will be treating attitudes towards women differently and we will all consciously use different terminology and go from there!
      I do not agree with your first statement however. I will just briefly mention the gang rapes in most city’s and countries that go on everyday notably India and war torn countries. I don’t know if the family’s of women who have died from bleeding to death from there orifice’s because they have been so badly raped, would agree. 50% of women in S Africa ( ranked first for per capita for rapes) will be raped in their lifetime and only 1 in 9 cases will be reported. What of rape being used as part of ethnic cleansing? Where women of enemy tribes will be raped by the invading army?
      I shan’t argue though. As we will just go round in circles.

      Thank you for your thoughts you have made me think.


    • Undercover “cops”? We are not doing anything illegal and we do not want to be wasting energy on paranoia that comes with the suspected undercover “cop” thing, that’s why we are undeterred.

      • Not undercover “cops”, as seen on TV. Undercover “police”, as in the ones that have actually infiltrated every subversive movement in Britain (and elsewhere, I’ve no doubt) for decades. They don’t care whether you’re planning anything illegal. Normally they are the ones inciting others to violent acts: see (I won’t attempt HTML this time).

        If you are openly discussing anything even mildly subversive, you can be sure that they’ll turn up. If you think it’s paranoia to be concerned about this, then I can only say, that’s further evidence that you don’t appreciate the scale of the problem.

        • We know they will turn up. What are we to do about it? Stop talking about this kind of stuff? there is no point being put off by this. I am not making myself clear, Thats my fault. We do appreciate the scale of the problem and we know that as things become tricky for the ruling power they will come down harder and get more subversive but we should not be stopping because of this. Thank you for highlighting this.

          • Can i also add this is why DGR really emphasises the need for a healthy security culture. The article was eye opening. Thanks

    • I think the agent provocateur phenomenon could be another example of bastards still being capable of doing useful things. In the article you link to G.Monbiot describes the J18 ‘Carnival Against Capitalism’ as

      a street party that went wrong and turned into the worst riot in London since the poll tax demonstrations [...] [it] went well beyond non-violent protest. According to the police, 42 people were injured and over £1m of damage was done.

      The is the point of view of the establishment, which Monbiot doesn’t balance out with views from those who were actually involved. Regardless of police infiltration it can’t be said that the J18 actions were completely counterproductive. As one activist evaluated it:

      In the days and weeks which followed there was a feeling of optimism, excitement and apprehension. We felt victorious. We had outsmarted the police. We had brought thousands of people onto the streets, and we had reached a new level and intensity of struggle. Dozens of local groups around the UK had been formed in the process of organising for the day [extensive planning for which had started the previous year]. Thousands had taken part in their first anti-capitalist action. Real functioning networks of resistance, across the UK and globally, had been developed and consolidated. Perhaps most importantly of all, however, was that capitalism itself had been put well and truly back on the agenda. The very fact that the Financial Times headline the following day read, “Anti-Capitalists lay Siege to the City of London”, whilst the London Times – as if predicting the events soon to unfold in Seattle, Prague and elsewhere – declared, “capitalism’s enemies will return”, was seen as a tremendous victory. (from ‘SchNEWS at Ten’, p.157)

      So clearly a lot ‘went right’ as well.

      Likewise, while a lot of people were appalled at the revelations that the so-called McLibel pamphlet was co-written by an undercover policeman back in 1986, an alternative conclusion is that infiltration doesn’t necessarily stop a group’s actions from being highly effective. Dave Morris, one of the two activists who went on trial against McDonalds, was unequivocal about the campaign’s success,

      “despite the odds overwhelmingly stacked against us in the legal system and up against McDonald’s massive and relentless advertising and propaganda machine.

      “We now know that other shadowy forces were also trying to undermine our efforts in the most disgusting, but ultimately futile ways. All over the world police and secret agents infiltrate opposition movements in order to protect the rich and powerful but as we have seen in so many countries recently people power and the pursuit of truth and justice is unstoppable, even faced with the most repressive and unacceptable Stasi-like tactics.” (link)

      Which is not to dismiss the importance of a strong security culture, which (as lou points out) the DGR authors have been very vocal about.


    • …for example:

      I’d also like to draw attention to JMGreer’s comments in the article Paul referred to above:

      For that matter, I have to wonder how many of the people who were so free with their online talk about violence against the system stopped to remember that every word of those conversations is now in an NSA data file, along with the names and identifying details of everybody involved.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that talking about this stuff online immediately disqualifies you from any underground action,as things currently stand (maybe things will be different after the electric grid goes down and the spooks lose access to all the data they’ve compiled). I made my above comments knowing that they probably commit me to exclusively above-ground action, which is fine by me. I think anyone seriously considering taking part in the more militant forms of resistance (or having done so in the past – so) should think long and hard before talking about anything related online or in any other public sphere. Maybe there should be a prominent disclaimer along these lines on all posts such as this?


      • Um, so where are all these underground activists going to spring from — people who’ve never posted, emailed, telephoned, or spoken in a public gathering on any subversive topic, and who therefore aren’t listed in police files, yet are by some mysterious process radicalised, equipped and willing to follow the DGR agenda — an agenda which, by definition, they are barred from debating or influencing?

        Maybe there are a few loners around in the Unabomber mould, but hardly enough to make a serious dent in anything. And why would they dance to the tune of a group like DGR?

      • Good questions, Robert. I don’t have any brilliant answers to offer right now. Possibly the above stance is overly paranoid or errs too much on the side of caution. It’s up to others to decide the appropriate course of action for them – I just wouldn’t like to see people diving headlong into this stuff without thinking through the possible consequences.

        The problem of radicalism arising most often in known activists (with long histories in ‘milder’ forms of resistance) is a difficult one. I think it was discussed briefly in the DGR book, but they weren’t able to offer any watertight solutions. People can become radicalised through other means, though (we’ll see more of this as oppression and poverty swallow progressively more and more of the middle classes), and above-grounders can offer inspiration and/or guidance. As to why undergrounders would choose to ‘dance to the tune’ of DGR or other aboveground advocates, I guess it rests on the persuasiveness of the analysis and the applicability of the strategy.

        Lastly, my warning only applies to public forums. Debate about subversive topics in person, among friends, family, people you trust carries far less risk.


      • I agree, Ian – there’s no way I could reasonably do anything beyond marginally-legal stuff; too much likelihood of arrest for terrorism. I trust that people – the very many people who aren’t conspicuous agitators – will take a lead from Underminers (which definitely hasn’t been infiltrated, because it’s just a concept) and do what they feel is right. If I didn’t think there was sufficient mass to steer things in the right direction then I wouldn’t bother putting the effort into this.

        Cheers, K.

  9. In case anyone’s still here…

    This article gets into the nitty gritty of the material determinism question in a very satisfying way:

    This bit near the end struck me as highly relevant to the above discussion:

    The Return of Agency?

    I think much of the debate precipitated by Holmgren’s “Crash on Demand” comes down to the sudden realization that if there is to be radical change of the sort necessary to avert a climate disaster of unimaginable scale, we can’t depend on some sort of historical necessity to make this change for us. The moral narrative of climate change is eclipsing the peak oil narrative of respond and adapt, even as the more sophisticated students of peak oil remain ruefully aware of the limits on agency. The trepidation, fear, even anger that has been breaking out in recent commentaries has to do with emerging possibility that we, as a subculture of activists, may have a series of unbearable decisions in the days and years ahead. Most of us are, I believe, of peaceful demeanor. I think this is a great blessing. Many of us understand the perils of revolution and violence, the simple fact that it has so infrequently worked. We understand, moreover, that the collapse of global economies, of civil society creates its own predictable violence. We understand that the result and consequences of any action that pursues radical, human designed change is neither controllable nor predictable. But at the same time, refraining from radical, potentially destructive, action is also a choice whose results are unpredictable and almost certainly dire. The stakes are as yet beyond comprehension. The question is no longer whether we can make history as we please, but whether history itself will continue to exist. This is difficult. Let us be patient and tolerant with ourselves and each other.

    Not sure I have the energy for another round of in-depth discussion so feel free to leave this hanging as an afterthought :)


    • Thanks, Ian, but what struck me most about this analysis was the final sentence, “Moral philosophy and deep spirituality may be our solace and salvation.” – and the source of our rebellion.

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