Monday, June 19, 2006


Remember Who Makes The Rules

There are certain facts of life that all of us prefer to overlook. Some of these facts fall into the river of denial, others overwhelm us with their power, and some of them are little more than assumptions when you look closely.
I can remember the first time I heard “the golden rule is that who has the gold makes the rules.” There’s a fact of life that isn’t widely talked about. It jeopardizes everything we learned in Sunday School and civics. But to anyone who follows politics it’s as clear as a mountain stream. The rules for the EPA are made by...yup, the energy and chemical companies; the rules for lobbying Congress are made by the lobbyists; the rules most of us try to live by, to work by, are made by people who want to control us. It’s for our own good, though.

This review of Derrick Jensen’s book, Endgame, caught my eye because of the citation about decolonizing ourselves. That’s what the native communities in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are attempting. The post-colonial world isn’t working out, except for a very select and self-selecting few. Time to face the facts of modern life and make some changes, in our world and in ourselves.

June 19, 2006

"We should always remember who makes the rules"

By Mickey Z.

In his eye-opening new two-volume book, "Endgame" (Seven Stories Press), Derrick Jensen writes: "One person's strategic goal may be to make a lot of money. Another's may be to get married. Still another's may be to bring down civilization."

I don't know Derrick beyond a few e-mail exchanges so I can only speculate where he stands on marriage or accumulating capital. However, he's not at all vague on the last goal: "We need to bring down civilization now," he writes. "We need not hesitate any longer. The planet is collapsing before our eyes, and we do nothing. We hold our little protests, we make our little signs, we write our little letters and our big books, and the world burns."

As I've said before, the primary difference between a book reviewer like me and a book reader like you is that I got the book for free. So, I will not burden you with my half-baked interpretations of "Endgame" except to say it can-and likely will-change the way you see the world, the way your prioritize your activism, and the way you participate in our suicidal/homicidal culture. In place of any more my opinions, I'll provide a few excerpts from Derrick Jensen himself:

"Having long laid waste our own sanity, and having long forgotten what it feels like to be free, most of us too have no idea what it's like to live in the real world. Seeing four salmon spawn causes me to burst into tears. I have never seen a river full of fish. I have never seen a sky darkened for days by a single flock of birds. (I have, however, seen skies perpetually darkened by smog.) As with freedom, so too the extraordinary beauty and fecundity of the world itself: It's hard to love something you've never known. It's hard to convince yourself to fight for something you may not believe has ever existed."

"Pretend you are not civilized. Pretend you love the land where you live. Pretend you were never taught to value economic production over life, or pretend you unlearned this. Pretend you were never taught that everyone else is here for you to use, or pretend you unlearned this. Pretend you do not feel entitled to take from those around you. Pretend you know that someday you will die. Pretend you are not separate from your landbase, but a part of it, as it is a part of you. Pretend you were taught to take care of your landbase as though your life depends on it. Pretend that's what you do."

"Bringing down civilization first and foremost consists of liberating ourselves by driving the colonizers out of our own hearts and minds: seeing civilization for what it is, seeing those in power for who ad what they are, and seeing power for what it is. Bringing down civilization then consists of actions arising from that liberation, not allowing those in power to predetermine the ways we oppose them, instead living with and by-and using-the tools and rules of those in power only when we choose, and not using them when we choose not to. It means fighting them on our terms when we choose, and on their terms when we choose, when it is convenient and effective to do so. Think of that the next time you vote, get a permit for a demonstration, enter a courtroom, file a timber sale appeal, and so on. That's not to say we shouldn't use these tactics, but we should always remember who makes the rules, and we should strive to determine what 'rules of engagement' will shift the advantage to our side."

"One of the good things about everything being so fucked up-about the culture being so ubiquitously destructive-is that no matter where you look-no matter what your gifts, no matter where your heart lies-there's good and desperately important work to be done."

"I just got home from talking to a ... longtime activist. She told me of a campaign she participated in a few years ago to try to stop the government and transnational timber corporations from spraying Agent Orange, a potent defoliant and teratogen, in the forests of Oregon. Whenever activists learned a hillside was going to be sprayed, they assembled there, hoping their presence would stop the poisoning. But each time, like clockwork, helicopters appeared, and each time, like clockwork, helicopters dumped loads of Agent Orange onto the hillside and onto the protesting activists. The campaign did not succeed.
"'But,' she said to me, 'I'll tell you what did. A bunch of Vietnam vets lived in those hills, and they sent messages to the Bureau of Land Management and to Weyerhauser, Boise Cascade, and the other timber companies saying, 'We knows the names of your helicopter pilots, and we know their addresses.'
"I waited for her to finish.
"'You know what happened next?' she asked.
"'I think I do,' I responded.
"'Exactly,' she said. 'The spraying stopped.'"

"Let's be clear: Those in power are poisoning children, stealing their physical and cognitive health: making them weak, sick, and stupid. How close must the culture cut before you will fight back?"

"Pretend you are not civilized. Pretend you are not a slave. Pretend you are a free human being. Pretend you were taught to value freedom, your own and others, enough that you will fight for it. Pretend that is what you do."

"Endgame" has the power to rock the foundations of even the most grizzled activist veteran. Don't take my word for it, buy the book or steal the book or borrow it from your library and see for yourself. Do it's later than you think.

To order "Endgame" (two volumes), please visit:

Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at

Authors Website:

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