Derrick Jensen

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Derrick Jensen (born December 19, 1960) is an American author and environmental activist living in Crescent City, California.[1] Jensen has published several books questioning and critiquing contemporary society and its values, including A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, and Endgame. He holds a B.S. in Mineral Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University.[2] He has also taught creative writing at Pelican Bay State Prison and Eastern Washington University.[3]


[edit] Themes in Jensen's work

Jensen is often labeled an anarcho-primitivist, by which is meant he concludes that civilization[4] is inherently unsustainable and based on violence. He argues that the modern industrial economy is fundamentally at odds with healthy relationships, the natural environment, and indigenous peoples. He concludes that the very pervasiveness of these behaviors indicates that they are diagnostic symptoms of the greater problem of civilization itself. Accordingly, he exhorts readers and audiences to help bring an end to industrial civilization.

In A Language Older Than Words and also in an article entitled Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Jensen states "Every morning when I awake I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam. I tell myself I should keep writing, though I'm not sure that's right".[5]

Jensen proposes that a different, harmonious way of life is possible, and that it can be seen in many past societies including many Native American or other indigenous cultures. He claims that many indigenous peoples perceive a primary difference between Western and indigenous perspectives: even the most open-minded Westerners generally view listening to the natural world as a metaphor, as opposed to the way the world works. Furthermore, these indigenous peoples understand the world as consisting of other beings with whom we can enter into relationship; this stands opposed to the more Western belief that the world consists of objects or resources to be exploited or used.

[edit] Writings

A Language Older Than Words uses the lens of domestic violence to look at the larger violence of western culture. The Culture of Make Believe begins by exploring racism and misogyny and moves to examine how this culture’s economic system leads inevitably to hatred and atrocity. Strangely Like War is about deforestation. Walking on Water is about education (It begins: "As is true for most people I know, I’ve always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?").[6] Welcome to the Machine is about surveillance, and more broadly about science and this culture’s obsession with control.

Endgame is about what he describes as the inherent unsustainability of civilization. In this book he asks: "Do you believe that this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?" Nearly everyone he talks to says no. His next question is: "How would this understanding — that this culture will not voluntarily stop destroying the natural world, eliminating indigenous cultures, exploiting the poor, and killing those who resist — shift our strategy and tactics? The answer? Nobody knows, because we never talk about it: we’re too busy pretending the culture will undergo a magical transformation." Endgame, he says, is "about that shift in strategy, and in tactics."[7]

Jensen's writing uses the first-person and interweaves personal experiences with cited facts to construct arguments. His books are written like narratives, lacking a linear, hierarchical structure. They are not divided into distinct sections devoted to an individual argument. Instead, his writing is conversational, leaving one line of thought incomplete to move on to another, returning to the first again at some later point. Jensen uses this creative non-fiction style to combine his artistic voice with logical argument. Jensen often uses quotations as reference points for ideas explored in a chapter. (For example, he introduces the first chapter of Walking on Water with a quote from Jules Henry's book Culture Against Man.)[8]

Jensen wrote and Stephanie McMillan illustrated the graphic novel As the World Burns (2007).

[edit] Awards and acclaim

  • 2008: Grand Prize winner, Eric Hoffer Book Award for Thought to Exist in the Wild, Derrick Jensen, Photographs by Karen Tweedy-Holms.[9]
  • 2006: Named "Person of the Year" by Press Action for the publication of Endgame.[10]
  • 2003: The Culture of Make Believe was one of two finalists for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize.[11]
  • 2000: Hackensack, NJ, Record declared A Language Older Than Words its best book of the year.
  • 2000: Language was nominated for Quality Paperback Book Club's New Vision Award.
  • 1998: Second Prize in the category of small budget non-profit advertisements, as determined by the Inland Northwest Ad Federation, for the first ad in the "National Forests: Your land, your choice" series.
  • 1995: Critics' Choice for one of America's ten best nature books of 1995, for Listening to the Land: Conversations About Nature, Culture, and Eros.[2]

[edit] Published works

[edit] Spoken word on CD

  • Derrick Jensen Standup Tragedy (live CD)
  • ---- The Other Side of Darkness (live CD), 2004
  • ---- Now This War Has Two Sides (live CD), PM Press, 2008

[edit] Books

[edit] Further reading

Related authors include John Zerzan (Against Civilization: A Reader and Elements of Refusal), George Draffan, Ward Churchill, Chellis Glendinning, Inga Muscio, Terry Tempest Williams, Frederick W. Turner (Beyond Geography: The Western Spirit Against the Wilderness), Jack Forbes (Columbus and Other Cannibals), Dave Edwards, Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, Beyond Civilization, The Man Who Grew Young), Neil Evernden (The Natural Alien), David Watson (Against the Megamachine), Stanley Diamond (In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization), Jacques Ellul (The Technological Society), Thom Hartmann (Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight), and Lewis Mumford (Technics and Human Development and The Pentagon of Power).

[edit] References

  1. ^ Endgame, Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization, Seven Stories Press (ISBN 1-58322-730-X), p.17
  2. ^ a b Derrick Jensen
  3. ^ Jensen D., 2003, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, Context Books (ISBN 1-893956-37-7).
  4. ^ He defines a civilization as "a culture — that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts — that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning state or city), with cities being defined — so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on — as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life." Jensen D., 2006, Endgame, Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization, Seven Stories Press (ISBN 1-58322-730-X), p.17
  5. ^ Actions Speak Louder Than Words
  6. ^ Walking on Water, p.1
  7. ^ Endgame V.1, p.1
  8. ^ Jensen D., 2004, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, Chelsea Green (ISBN 1-931498-48-2), p.1
  9. ^ "HOFFERAWARD.COM". Retrieved on 2008-04-27. 
  10. ^ Press Action ::: Press Action Awards 2006
  11. ^ Derrick Jensen

[edit] External links

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