Ten Questions for Radical Environmentalist Derrick Jensen, Part IHubert Collins
Part 1 of 2 (Part 2 here)
Derrick Jensen, the hardcore and prolific Green activist, is easily one of the most interesting public intellectuals of our time. His willingness to take ideas to their logical end point – and make no apology for it – keeps him from being easily categorized. As a radical environmentalist and doubter of uniform “progress,” his worldview is a fascinating mix of liberal boilerplate (e.g. capitalism is evil, the races are equal) and confrontational heterodoxy (e.g. Communism is a useless ideology at best because it in no way addresses ecological issues). The thinker most similar to him with whom Counter-Currents readers would likely be familiar is the Finn Pentti Linkola, another theorist completely unwilling to compromise with the forces he views as irreparably destroying the natural world he holds dear. Regardless, Mr. Jensen is his own man, and at times reading his work can feel like you’re reading Jezebel and Tyr all at once.
A liberal cliché holds that, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” This has always struck me as absurd, since historically fascism hasn’t been very Christian, and every national political movement – by definition – comes “wrapped in the flag.” Instead, I have always thought it most likely that a new Rightist order will arise out of the chaos wrought by environmental change. My interview with Derrick Jensen buttresses this theory. He still has his liberal shibboleths, and surely hates everything about Counter-Currents, but given that protecting the Earth is his axiomatic base, he ends up holding not a few positions quite amenable to this Website and its supporters.
Finally, as a disclaimer, I should note that my exchange with Mr. Jensen included no endorsement of Counter-Currents by him, or indeed of any line of racialist thought.
Hubert Collins: Many people, myself included, see the UN’s global demographic projections for this century as easily the most consequential planetary change of our era. Broadly speaking, what impact do you see this population surge having on human life as we know it today?
Derrick Jensen: Humans have already overshot the carrying capacity of the planet. We overshot the carrying capacity of the planet a long time ago. And before all you human supremacists and Communists start yelling at me, yes, overpopulation is a thing. But that doesn’t alter the fact that when we talk about overpopulation, we really also have to talk about overconsumption.
We’re going to break this down a little bit. First off, carrying capacity is the number of beings of a certain species who can live in a certain place forever without harming the land base. So, you can have an island that has a carrying capacity of a thousand deer, and you could have eight hundred deer live there forever without harming the place. You can temporarily exceed carrying capacity; that’s called overshoot. An overshoot leads to something called drawdown, which is where you harm the land base. So, if you have this island that can hold a thousand deer forever, you have eight hundred deer and that’s fine, and then, suddenly, the predator population collapses, people come in and shoot all the mountain lions, then the deer population can explode and go to two to three thousand. And the fact that it’s increasing from two to three thousand doesn’t mean it can keep increasing forever. What’s happening is that it’s increasing at the expense of the vegetation, which is the long-term source of food for the deer.
And so, when you exceed carrying capacity, you cause drawdown, which means you permanently reduce the land’s capacity to carry you. So, you can shoot up to two thousand deer, but as you’re doing that, you’re moving the permanent carrying capacity from a thousand down to nine hundred, down to eight hundred, down to seven hundred. So, when there is a collapse, the collapse will be that much worse. So that’s step one. Step two is that humans using a lot of technology changes the equation a little bit in that it makes it so that we are better able to exceed the local carrying capacity, which means destroying the land base. And those of us who are more highly technologized destroy the land base even more. So, it’s really a little equation. The harm to the planet, or the harm to the carrying capacity, is your population times your technological capacity to destroy the land, which is . . .
We can talk about how plows are useful for agriculture, but really, what that’s talking about is the technological capacity. The plow is a piece of technology designed to destroy the land base by converting it into solely human use. And that will work for a while, but it doesn’t increase carrying capacity. It allows you to temporarily exceed carrying capacity, and it makes the crash, when it comes, that much worse. So, yes, there are more humans on the planet than the planet can support. And, yes, humans from industrialized nations cause more harm than humans from non-industrialized nations. Both of those are true. So, you can drop that bullshit dichotomy of saying that because we acknowledge there are more humans on the planet than the planet can support, then that means that you hate poor people. That’s just a cheap attempt to avoid looking at the real issues, frankly, because the truth is we have exceeded the carrying capacity.
All my work is based on one simple notion, which is that this way of living cannot go on forever, and when it crashes, I would prefer that the world be in better shape rather than worse. That’s it. And so, broadly speaking, what impact do I see this population surge having on human life as we know it today? What I do know is that on every level, almost everyone in this culture is in complete denial about the state of the health of the planet, and in fact, most people don’t care about the health of the planet. And so, they will continue to . . . Depends on whether you want to blame numbers of one sort or blame numbers of another sort. They will continue to increasingly technologize the planet and they will increasingly continue to have babies, because we are not as smart as worms. Worms, when you limit their food supply, they limit the number of babies they have. I cannot say the same for us.
So, what impact do I see population and technology surge having on human life as we know it today? Well, I’m going to drop off the word human, because we’re the ones causing it. What I see is that, in the last fifty years, wildlife populations have come down by fifty percent. And I just read a couple of days ago that freshwater megafauna have gone down by something like eighty percent in the last twenty or thirty years. And that’s all just going to continue. The Earth will continue to be destroyed. This is what happens when you are in overshoot. And every cell in my body wants for us to have a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living where . . . Right now, more than half of the children in the world are not actively wanted. So, give women absolute reproductive freedom, we’ve got overpopulation solved in a heartbeat. Well, not in a heartbeat, in twenty to thirty years. But that can’t happen, first, because of Abrahamic religions where men control women’s bodies. Second, that also can’t happen because capitalism requires ever-increasing markets.
So we have to defeat both Abrahamic religions and the economic incentives for growth. What impacts do I think this will have? It will continue to increasingly kill the planet until the planet can no longer support . . . The planet’s dismantling process by this culture causes it to collapse this culture. And I’ve used this metaphor before, but it’s just so apt: When I was a kid, my mom asked me to clean my room and I said no, and she asked me clean my room and I didn’t do it, and she asked me to clean my room and I didn’t do it. And finally, she said to me, “Okay, fine. If your room isn’t clean by dinner time, I’m going to clean it, and you’re not going to like it because I’m throwing everything away.” And it’s the same with the natural world. We can solve this problem. We could stop inventing gadgets that destroy the planet, and we could voluntarily have fewer children, or we can let the world take care of it.
There’s one more thing I want to say about that. When this culture crashes, the very, very poor on the planet are not going to be the ones worst affected. And the reason I say that is because fifteen years ago, I asked Anuradha Mittal, former director of Food First if the people of India would be better off if the global economy disappeared tomorrow, and she laughed and said of course, because there are former granaries of India that now export dog food and tulips to Europe. And I mentioned before that my mom liked to travel a lot, and she went to Africa and she was appalled at the huge lima bean farms that were going in to export lima beans to Europe in Africa. And if you take away those transnational corporations’ ability to steal land for the wealthy, then a lot of the very poor will go back to how they were surviving for ten thousand years, which is through subsistence farming. So what impact do I see that population surge having on human life as we know it today? Oh, think about any dystopian film, Blade Runner or anything like that. People will get crazier, too. I’ve talked before about how John Livingston would talk about how humans are not particularly violent, in that he said if you pack rats in as tight as humans are in big cities, for comparative size or if you pack any other mammal in that tightly, there would be blood flowing in the streets every night. We’re not meant to live like that. So I also see a lot more craziness, a lot more manifesting all through the culture in every way, including through its epistemologies, its sociologies, its philosophies. People will go increasingly nuts. It will be manifested through its art, which will be increasingly . . . crap. There’s a line from Joanne Rand on what it’ll be like. She’s talking about after civilization crashes, but I think it’s what civilization will be like as it goes forward. “People flopping around like rats in a flood, feeding on the other guy’s guts and blood.” I don’t see anything good in that future.
HC: One common assumption is that much of the Global South, once faced with the extreme consequences of climate change and possible Malthusian collapse, will head into North America and Europe as a kind of human tsunami. How likely do you think that scenario is? And should it occur, do you suspect the West, as we currently understand it, will dissolve in a rush of cultural change and miscegenation, or suddenly develop a will to survive apart, and erect barriers and militaries to keep out the teeming hordes by any means necessary?
DJ: When I would do my Endgame talks, there was a joke I used to tell: “I am all in favor of closing the border with Mexico – on one condition, which is . . .” Then, everybody would gasp, which is an interesting thing in itself, which we’ll get to in a second. Anyway, everybody would gasp, because, “How dare he want to close a border?” Then I would say, “The condition under which I want to close the border to Mexico is if you also close it to the movement of resources.” Because if you want to close the movement of people, but not resources, what you’re saying is that, “I don’t want you, but I want the coffee that’s grown on land that used to be yours.” Because the people moving from Mexico or El Salvador aren’t coming because they want to take eco tours of the San Joaquin Valley. They’re not coming for the heck of it. They’re coming because their land has been stolen, and their way of life, their local way of life has been destroyed. And so the problem with a lot of this lies firmly in colonialism and destroying local land ways and destroying local land bases, causing people to want to move. And the asterisk I was putting in earlier is, I read this thing by an American Indian the other day which said, “Don’t you dare . . . When you talk about whether borders should be open or closed, don’t you dare reference American Indians as a reason to have open borders, because we sure as hell didn’t.” I know that many nations had kill-on-site relationships with some of their neighbors, that the Anishinaabe and the Dakota were considered honored enemies, and you would cross the border at your peril. And I know that when the Shawnee Tecumseh was out trying to raise allies among various other Indian groups, some of them would receive him well. I remember one of them received him and listened to him, and then said, “Well, we’re not going to join you, but we will give you this, we will let you walk to our border without killing you.” And then I think about bears, whom I see every day. There is such a thing as having a home territory, and there is such a thing as having . . . I mean, anybody who’s ever seen hummingbirds knows that hummingbirds will defend their territory. And anybody who knows dogs know that they have some home territory. And one of the things that’s messing all this up, as I said, is that capitalism and technology have increased the colonialist’s ability to destroy land bases across the world at will.
And what happens to the people then? Okay, now I’m going to step back and I’m going to say, why is it the fault of the poor person in the industrialized nation to have to have their local culture destroyed because of the actions of the capitalist class, harming the people over here? I wrote about this. One of my books I’m most proud of is Culture of Make Believe, because I wrote about these processes and how they work, and how I predicted in that book, based on the rise of the KKK in the 1870s, and their rise again in the 1920s, I really anticipated the whole Tea Party movement and the insanity of the far Right. The thing I didn’t anticipate in that book, that I missed badly, was the complete insanity of the Left. But leaving that aside, when you are low on the stack in a hierarchy, and you are . . . Or when you have a small piece of the pie in a system, and you have to work hard for that small piece of pie, and your pie piece threatens to get smaller, then you will fight back to try to maintain its size. And it doesn’t really matter whether your pie piece is getting smaller because of ecological collapse, because of an influx of immigrants, or because the capitalists are stealing more. You’re going to be resentful, and unfortunately, because we have all been inculcated – which comes from the root to stamp in with a heel – been inculcated into identifying with the oppressor, you cannot get angry at the system itself. And so what you do is you lash out at, preferably, those who are even lower than you are on the hierarchy. So you can get the poor whites.
A great example of this is a very good book called How the Irish Became White. And it’s about how the Irish came over in the 1830s, the 1840s, and there was a lot of prejudice by the previous North Americans against the new Irish immigrants. And the Irish had a choice. They could either ally in the North – ally with the freed blacks, for example – and have a working-class solidarity to take on the overlords. The problem is that when you have a lot of people in not much space, and so people don’t have access to land, which means they don’t have access to food, clothing, and shelter, it means they don’t have access to self-sufficiency, it means that they have to get a job. And if you have three children who are starving, it can be much easier to look at the freed black person who is willing to do that job for two cents an hour less, and get mad at him, as opposed to getting mad at the system. And so as a group, the Irish generally tried to make whatever distinctions they could that would enable them to get a job, because their children were starving to death.
You know, I used to teach at Pelican Bay State Prison, and a lot of my students would say, “Prison’s not quite so bad. What’s really bad is county jail.” Especially the LA County Jail. They said, “One of the reasons is that when you’re in a prison, there is an established hierarchy, and we all learn to read it, we get along, you do your time.” But in the jail, new people are coming and going every day, and it’s a kind of chaos. And what this means is there is a lot more violence in there because there’s no established order. And I’m not saying established orders are always . . . Stable ways of being are not always better. But what I’m saying is that stable ways of being are generally more stable. And I just recently learned the same thing is true for bears. There’s a female bear who lost her baby this year. The baby was killed by an adult male. And so I started asking some questions about adult males killing baby males to bring the female into heat. And a friend of mine did some research on this, and she found out that generally the way it works is you’ll have this big, old male who will keep the younger males in line, and will keep an established order that will make it so the younger males won’t kill the baby males. But then, if something happens, if he’s shot by a hunter, then there will be chaos for a while. And my point is that this culture, this expansionist culture that has been continuing to expand across the globe, has been creating chaos everywhere it goes among humans and non-humans for the last six thousand years. But there’s even more bad news here, which is that on a finite planet, eventually those chickens have to come on to roost. So yes, this culture has been throwing human and non-human cultures around the globe into chaos everywhere, and it could afford to do that because it was insulated. That insulation is breaking down. And I wish, again, that we were sane enough to address these issues in a reasonable fashion, but we’re not.
We’ve shown ourselves to not be so. And so, it will play out in further racism, further misogyny, further destruction of local cultures, whether those local cultures are in the Cotswolds in the UK, or in Syria, or in Pakistan, or in El Salvador, or in the Great Barrier Reef, or in the bear community who lives in this forest. That’s what this culture does. That’s what any abuser does, they disrupt every stable social structure. And that’s what we’re seeing.
HC: Ironically, at the same time as humankind heads towards its numerical apex, sperm counts are plummeting to shockingly low levels, with modern industrial life looking to be the most likely culprit. What do you make of this jagged juxtaposition? How do you see this contradiction ending? Some are certainly ready to believe that technological advances will soon make any Children of Men scenario impossible – a view I very much doubt you share.
DJ: I don’t know what Children of Men is, so I’m going to skip that. What I can say about sperm counts plummeting to shockingly low levels is that, so far as humans go, thank God. Thank the Earth, thank Goddess, thank endocrine disruptors, in this case. Frankly, anything that reduces human sperm levels at this point is . . . See, here’s the thing, my loyalty is always to the natural world, and always to, “What will this world look like when this culture is done with its overshoot and drawdown?” And any fewer human babies, especially in the industrialized nations, is a good thing. Having said that, this also makes me very concerned, because this is being done by endocrine disruptors and toxification of the total environment. It’s not just happening to humans. And non-humans who are already stressed by so many different factors, and whose populations have gone down fifty percent in the last forty years or more, they can’t afford this.
And when humans are adding an additional three hundred and some thousand people to the planet every day, we can afford a low sperm count. How do I see that contradiction ending? I see it ending the same way that all the other contradictions end, having to do with this culture, which is with the collapse of human population through I don’t know what means. I don’t know if it’s going to be through plague, or . . . I don’t know if it’s through a virus, a fungus, a collapse of crops, antibiotic resistance. I don’t know. This would be a very interesting time to be a bacteria or a virus who wants to study what happens to your subjects – in this case the study subjects are humans – when you pack them into factory farms, which is what cities basically are. Cities are factory farms for human beings for the various predators on humans, the bacteria and virus. And it will be very interesting to see how that all plays out. I don’t know, from a human perspective, if “interesting” is the word you want to use.
I see it playing out the same way these all play out: Humans will continue to do what, at this point, humans are best at doing, which is to deny the situation and continue to act as if this can go on forever until it no longer is going on forever, and then they will continue to pretend that it can go on forever until it’s clear to every other being on the planet that it can’t go on forever, and then they will continue to try to go on forever. And every day they do this will make the eventual human carrying capacity that much lower.
HC: When it comes to deep ecology, another thinker I find as fascinating as you is the octogenarian Finn, Pentti Linkola. However, I rarely (if ever) hear the two of you discussed in the same spaces. Are you familiar with his work? Do you know if he is familiar with yours?
DJ: No and no. I’m not familiar with his. I’ve heard the name, that’s all. Excuse me, I have no idea if he’s familiar with mine.
HC: Interestingly, you are often labeled as a Left-wing radical, and he is often labeled as a Right-wing radical. However, both of you share similar axioms that place you outside of any typical Left-Right spectrum, in that neither of you are “human supremacists,” and both of you are very comfortable with violence and the retarding of economic growth.
DJ: I’m uncomfortable with violence, it’s just that I don’t leave it off the table.
HC: For me, this means you both have a lot more in common with one another than either has with generic culture warriors found on the “Right” and “Left.”
DJ: Well, there’s a couple of things here. One of them is that I don’t know his work, so anything I say about his work or anything we have in common is purely speculative. But I’m suspecting that what we may have in common is a biocentric perspective. I don’t know. I know that Earth First was not formed by Lefties. I mean, they called themselves Rednecks for Wilderness, and what they were was biocentric. And that’s the primary thing I care about, is a perspective that is ecocentric and biocentric, that takes the planet as primary. There’s a few things here. Another is, I don’t really consider myself Left-wing. I’m certainly not Right-wing. What I consider myself is– And let me finish this before you throw rocks at me. What I consider myself is fundamentally conservative. And what I mean by that is I think it’s a monumentally stupid idea to wipe out great runs of salmon when they are good for the forest, and when you can eat them. I just think that’s stupid. And I’ve always thought that’s stupid. And I think that it’s just monumentally stupid to wipe out lampreys, who – I’ve heard from a friend that smoked lamprey – is so fat and rich it tastes like candy. And never mind their ecological benefits, I just think it’s monumentally stupid. I think what we’re doing is incredibly stupid. And I’m conservative in that I think that it is wasteful to wipe out runs of salmon so you can have electricity to run a computer. I just think it’s a stupid idea.
You know, one of my sisters just got a little bit of a windfall, and because of some other circumstances, she can’t save it. She’s prohibited from saving it, so she has to spend it. So she was saying, “Should I do some improvements around my apartment, or should I take a trip to New York?” And we both are like, “Do the improvements in your apartment, because then you’ll have them forever. A trip to New York, after the trip’s done, it’s gone.” So I’m not saying nobody should ever take a trip, I’m just saying I’m fundamentally conservative that way.
And second, I don’t read reviews of my work anymore, and I haven’t read reviews for fifteen years. But in a review I read early on and I really liked, somebody said, “At some point in his career, everybody who loves Derrick Jensen’s work is going to hate him, because he refuses to follow any ideological lines, but instead just takes his thoughts wherever they go.” And I loved that, and it’s true. I’ve had people write to me and say, “Oh, my God, I loved you so much when you wrote A Language Older Than Words, but now that you wrote Culture of Make Believe, I never want to speak to you again. You’ve made me so mad.” And people who, when I wrote Endgame, said, “Oh, I love Language and Culture so much, but now, Endgame, because you talk about fighting back, it makes me hate you and I never want to read you again.”
That’s another thing I want to bring up, the whole purity thing. This is huge on the Left. I don’t know if it’s big on the Right. But right now on the Left, there’s this huge deal that you can’t work with anybody on the Right, and if you do, then you’re impure. And that just doesn’t make any sense to me. Environmentalists used to do this all the time: You would have environmentalists and hunters work together to try to protect some land. Oh, I don’t know if I ever told this story. I love this story. One time a publisher set up . . . I get a lot of interviews set up, and a lot of them make sense, and once in a while they don’t. And one interview that got set up that didn’t make any sense is they hooked me up with a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball post-game show. And I didn’t even know this going in. I’m just supposed to call up the radio station, and it’s like, “Hi, this is Derrick Jensen.” They’re like, “Great, we’ve got you in a Pittsburgh Pirates post-game show right now.” See, I hadn’t even watched the game or anything. I didn’t know who they were playing that day. And we get on, and because both the asker and I were professionals, when we realized we’ve got fifteen minutes to fill, we were trying to figure it out. And what we came to is that since western Pennsylvania is very much a hunting territory, we started talking about how I thought hunters and animal rights activists should work together to protect habitat. And then once the habitat’s protected, the animal rights people can go sabotage the hunts of the hunters, and the hunters can get mad at the animal rights people later. But for now, you work together to protect habitat, because you have that in common. I don’t know why that’s so hard to understand. I have no problem working on . . . Some of the strongest people against prostitution and pornography are Christians. And why not work with them on that issue, and then not work with them on abortion? And just to be very clear . . .
Oh, I’ve got to tell this story. This is one of my favorite stories. This is back when I was living in Spokane, and I would go to the slash piles. Where the National Forest deforests our forests, they leave behind slash piles of the smaller pieces of wood. And so I would go up there with my truck and get wood for firewood. And I was up there one day, way back in the forest, and I get a flat tire. And so I go to check my spare, and my spare is flat, too, because I haven’t looked at my spare in five years. And it’s like, “Oh, crap.” So, I’m not going to walk. It’s miles out, so I’m not going to walk. I’m thumping along the road at one mile an hour, and I get to this guy’s house, and I ask him, “Can I borrow a pump to pump up my . . .” He says, “Sorry, I don’t have a pump.” But he said, “I do have a spare tire you can use.” So, he gives me a tire and I drive home, and the next day I go and get my tires fixed. And then my mom makes a cake, and I take the cake back up to this guy to thank him and give him back his tire. It’s an hour drive or something. So, I take him back his tire. He says, “Great. You want to come in and have a piece of cake?” I said, “Sure.” So, we go inside, have a piece of cake. He’s got chainsaws – literally, instead of paintings on his walls, he’s got chainsaws. This guy is like the logger from central casting. And then, he’s a really nice guy. And he says, “So, as long as you’re here, I got plenty of wood out in back. You want to go out and I’ll just cut you some firewood to length? I got tons of wood out there.” I said, “Sure, that’d be really nice.” So, at the back, he’s holding the chainsaw, and then he says, “So, by the way, what do you do for a living?” And I go, “Oh, crap.” And I’m really bad at lying. So I say, “Well, I’m a writer.” He says, “What do you write?” And I’m thinking, “Oh, science fiction, fantasy, romance.” But like I said, I’m a bad liar. So I say, “Well, right now I’m writing a book about how the big four timber companies got their land illegally from the public domain.” And this guy starts swearing and he turns red in the face. I’m looking for a break in the fence. And it takes me about twenty seconds to realize that this guy is an independent logger who’s been put out of business by Plum Creek, and he hates Plum Creek even more than I do, which I didn’t think was possible. He knows more about Plum Creek than I do, which I didn’t know was possible. And it takes us another twenty to thirty seconds, and then we got our arms around each other’s shoulders, just swapping atrocity stories on how much we hate Plum Creek. And then I said, “You know, just to be honest, I’ve gotta tell you, I am against all forms of industrial logging. So, after you and I take down Plum Creek, and Weyerhaeuser, and Potlatch, Boise Cascade, I’m coming after you.” And then he and I just both laughed our asses off, because we recognized that taking down Plum Creek, Potlatch, Boise Cascade, and Weyerhaeuser is a job of a lifetime. And, yes, I disagree with all industrial logging, but my disagreement with this particular guy was so theoretical.
I had another student one time, when I taught at Washington University, who was a small log owner. He’d been put out of business by Weyerhaeuser. The stories that he could tell about Weyerhaeuser were just chilling. Well, quickly, the way that he got put out of business is that Weyerhaeuser did this all the time: They would make orders, huge orders, and you’re a tiny mill. So, you get this huge order, that’s great. “This has made our business for the year.” And then they would delay on paying you, and then they would delay on paying you, and delay on paying you. And because you’re a small business, you can’t do it. And they would basically just say, “Yeah, go ahead and sue us for the money we owe you.” So he got driven out of business by that. He was very Right-wing, and he and I would look at each other like dogs at a dog park who don’t really trust each other. And then we had some nice conversation. We disagreed on logging, obviously. He thought logging was great. But we agreed, for example, that no one should be allowed to clear cut further than two hundred yards from your home. He thought clear cuts were okay, but we both agreed that absentee ownership, no. So every mine owner should have to live on the mine, and your children should have to drink the water that comes out of the mine, and you should have to drink the water that comes out of the mine.
And so the point is, I don’t have to agree with somebody on everything. Basically, if I think that working with this person . . . Oh, and this neighborhood, when we were working to stop the developers. It was just a group of people in the neighborhood, and a couple were very fundamentalist Christians. I remember there was one conversation where the fundamentalist Christians . . . The whole neighborhood was there. The fundamentalist Christians are saying, “So we’re just wondering, you all are just against them putting in houses right here, you’re not against this, like, development everywhere, you’re not like those . . . You’re not environmentalists or anything, are you?” And me and one of the other neighbors who knew each other pretty well just looked at each other, and it’s like, “No, it’s just this one.” And we just lied through our teeth right there. But the point is, that’s politics, it’s making alliances. Hell, that’s life. I lived on the same property as my mom for twenty years. We didn’t agree on everything, and there were times where we had very strong disagreements about things. That’s life. I mean, sure, I guess there’s categories. I mean, there are ways you could put me on the Left. I certainly believe in a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or not. But then again, I also think that there are things that one can do that can cause one to forfeit one’s right to live. I have absolutely no problem with the state killing Ted Bundy, absolutely no problem at all. So that makes me a bad Lefty. You know, I have opinions – sue me. Here’s the real point: I refuse to follow anybody else’s line. I am going to think for myself, and I’m going to think for myself until the end. And I would urge you to do the same thing.
HC: While we’re on the topic of petty politics, you have gotten flak in recent years from Leftists who are normally sympathetic to your views because of your radical feminist reservations regarding male-to-female–
DJ: Actually, male to trans–
HC: –people’s gender identities. The politics of trans inclusivity are gaining steam day by day across the West. Do you view this as a passing fad, or do you think its emblematic of a more general cultural decline?
DJ: Well, first off, my perspective on that is not radical feminist, because radical feminists are women, and I’m not a woman. And also, just like we’ve said to the previous question, my views aren’t informed . . . I happen to fall into ideologies because they agree with my views, ideologies don’t make my views. And in this case, there have been some people who have said, “Gosh, Derrick, we’re really surprised that you don’t agree with the transgender identity, the gender identity movement. We’re really surprised, because we thought you were a good Lefty.” Remember what I said earlier about how, at some point, people who liked me before are going to hate me? This is just an example of that. And it’s like, no, actually, from the beginning, everything about my work has been about the primacy of physical reality, and that we can think all sorts of things about physical reality, but physical reality is still there, and it’s still the basis for everything. And Earth First was a great concept, because the Earth is first. And it’s the same, body first. I can have whatever thoughts I want about my body, but that doesn’t alter the fact that my body is my body. And also – it kind of cracks me up – when I used to do Culture of Make Believe talks, I opened the talk by saying that this book was supposed to be a five-page introduction to the Encyclopedia of Hate Groups, and then I made the mistake of asking, “What is a hate group?” And the first thing I did is I went to a KKK Website, and it said, “We are not a hate group, we’re a love group because we love whites.” And so, immediately, I was faced with a dilemma. Either A. the KKK is not a hate group, or B. you can’t trust rhetoric. And I would say this, and everybody would just burst into laughter. And then I would say, “So if you don’t trust rhetoric, what do you trust?” And then I would go other ways. My point is that I could do the same joke today, except instead of that I could say, “Males who identify as transgender say they’re women . . . but they’re still male. Humans don’t change sex, so either A. males who identify as transgender are women, or B. you can’t trust rhetoric.” The same audience that laughed their ass off when I said that earlier, would now be trying to kill me.
I’m still the same person who has always believed that physical reality . . . My work from the beginning, from the very, very beginning. Oh my gosh, what is the second paragraph of A Language Older Than Words? It begins, “In order to maintain our way of living we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves.” From the beginning, my work has been about epistemology, and about how do we know something is true? How do we know? And where I always come back to is this, this, this is what is true: Physical reality is the basis for everything. This is my problem with bright green lies, that they tell us that you can have solar manufacturers, that you can have solar harvesting facilities that don’t harm the planet. Well, that’s just not true, that’s physically not true, that’s my problem with it. Let’s go through and see what’s true. And, my loyalty . . . You know, I made a joke earlier about telling a not-truth to the neighbor, telling a lie to the neighbor, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. My loyalty is to the land, and my loyalty is to embodied reality, and my loyalty is also to the truth. Consequences be damned.
And so the question was, “Do I view gender identity as a passing fad, or I do think it’s emblematic of a more general cultural decline?” I think it’s emblematic of a lot of things. One is, I think it’s a backlash against women’s very real gains over the last thirty years. After the American Civil War ended chattel slavery in the United States, ostensibly the underlying entitlement and hatred by white people or black people, it figured out another way to manifest through the Jim Crow laws, through the prison industrial complex, which was developed from the 1880s through the present. And likewise, there was a lot of resistance to women’s-only spaces when they first started cropping up. The first women’s bathrooms. The reason women fought so hard for bathrooms was so they could have a more robust social life, more robust public life, because they were sexually assaulted in bathrooms. There are children in India right now who are afraid to go to school, don’t go to university, because they’re afraid of being assaulted in bathrooms. That’s one place to assault them. I mean, twenty-five percent of all women are raped in their lifetimes out of [inaudible] rape attempts. We just have to acknowledge the women have. . . That as a class, men assault women. And I’m not saying every man assaults every woman, I never said that; I’m saying that as a class. And so women struggled very hard for restrooms in the UK, say. And what happened to the first women’s restroom in the UK? It was burned down by a man, because he didn’t want it. And so women were able to struggle for that, they got it. Women struggled for Title IX, they would struggle for women’s sports, they struggled for women’s spaces, and there are those who have opposed those spaces. And they’ve not been able to get traction until postmodernism, queer theory, transgender ideology has done, presto change-o, and now you can have the white male, millionaire, weightlifter from New Zealand who deprives an indigenous Samoan woman of her medal in weightlifting. And the Lefties support this, the Lefties support a millionaire white male taking a medal away from an indigenous woman who’s suffered childhood sexual abuse, and the Lefties support this. Do I see it as a passing fad? In part, but it goes way back, this is part and parcel . . . Within patriarchy, there is a violation urge, an urge to violate, that this is why this culture has to go to the Moon, have to bomb the Moon, have to probe the deepest faults of the ocean. And this is why every treaty with indigenous people was broken, because . . . And this is why they have to violate the very genes of creatures, because the patriarchal urge to violate is to violate everything, there can be nothing. This is why science has to know everything; within patriarchy, there can be nothing that is not violable, that is not violated, and that includes women’s spaces. There is nothing, nowhere, no place that is free from that patriarchal male violation imperative.
Another part of this – it’s just what blows me away – I cannot believe that we have an entire country that celebrated the castration of a young teen male, Jazz Jennings. I’m eventually going to write a book on the trans issue, and when I do, one of the things I have to include is this culture’s history of castration, of patriarchy’s history of castration, and how . . . There’s a pretty interesting book called Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven. And now what are they? Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Judith Butler? And it’s a passing fad, too. But no, it’s part of postmodernism. Postmodernism is this idea – it started off as a great idea, but it’s stupid, it is like everything that this culture touches, no matter how smart it starts off, but it ends up being stupid. And the smart idea was we’ve been taught that . . . Stories we’ve been taught are really neurocentric, that the winner tells a story through history. And so all the stories we’ve been given are centered on men, centered on European culture and so on. And that’s problematical. You’re absolutely right. So they realize that there are all these narratives competing in society, and sometimes one narrative wins over another. Completely smart, brilliant. The problem is that what postmodernism did is go, “Okay, since there’s all these narratives competing, there is no reality underneath them.”
That’s just nuts. And so it’s very clear that, of course, this is what’s going to happen, that’s the modern secular version of the Christian notion of the great chain of being, where heaven is where the real action is out there. In the great chain of being, we’ve got God, man, woman, animal, plant, soil. And down here is mindless matter, according to them, and up here is pure mind. Do you see how this fits in with postmodernism? That postmodernism is: There is no reality, there’s only the mind. The great chain of being is, physical reality stinks. The real action, the Earth is a veil of tears, and out there . . . The Earth is a veil of tears where we all have planet dysphoria, we’re in the wrong place. We have dysphoria because we’re really supposed to be in heaven, where Jesus is calling us home. And it’s the same thing now, except that there is no reality, and it’s still the mind, it’s the same thing. It’s the great chain of being all over. So this is a fad? No. This is just end-stage body-hating. And also something that’s really important to acknowledge about the whole trans issue is that it is, in my experience, the most authoritarian issue around. And the postmodernists have to be this way, because they have set it up such that if you believe that there is no reality, and there are only these stories, you cannot in fact win an argument based on fact. You can’t. Because there is no fact. So all you can do is win your argument through either cheating at discourse, redefining terms constantly, or silencing those who disagree with you. Because every time anybody brings up facts, you silence them.
Anybody who speaks out against this ideology, anybody who disagrees with the ideology at all . . . I have in the last week heard of three people who have lost their jobs, which had nothing to do with transgender ideology, but because they did not agree. They refused to say, hand over their gender-fluid chest, that trans women are women. Because they did not do that oath of loyalty, they lost their job. That is because we are at a stage where that’s the only way they can win. I’ve actually heard people argue that procreative sex among non-human animals is a social construct. And what do you do? What do you do? What do you do with people who . . . How did dinosaurs reproduce? How did humans reproduce? How do we know? This is what kills me. So a male who identifies as a woman and a female who identifies as a man have sex, and one of them gets pregnant. Which one? Got a coin so we can flip it? We all know which one gets pregnant. And no matter how you identify, no matter how any of them identify, if one of them gets pregnant, it is the female. Identification doesn’t mean anything. I can identify as a porpoise, but does that mean I’m going to swim in the Caribbean? No, I will drown. I can identify as a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer. Does that mean that I have a shrine in Cooperstown? No! It doesn’t! I can identify as a plumber. Does that mean I can fix the toilet? No! It doesn’t! I can identify as anything I want. Identification doesn’t mean anything. So is it a passing fad, and I think it is emblematic of end of empire. At the end of empire, things get especially crazy, and we’re going to see this more and more often, manifested in ways that we can’t even imagine.
Another part of this is the whole transhumanist push that is based on the notion that our bodies are fundamentally flawed, and need to be fixed. That’s also based on technologization that . . . So here’s another thing that just kills me about this whole issue. You know Guy Debord. A lot of people who like Debord would not understand how they’re acting this out. Debord had this great line about the society of the spectacle, where “being becomes having and having becomes consuming.” I think he said it better than that. But, basically, that’s what we’re seeing: Somebody believes a simulacrum of a thing that is not a thing itself. So if somebody cuts off your genitals and fashions something that looks somewhat like genitals, that’s not in fact genitals. A simulation of a thing is not a thing. As René Magritte said, “This is not a pipe.” I thought we established this a long time ago. A simulation of a thing isn’t a thing, and that’s where we’re going. And we see this all the time. When I want to listen to a bird song, honestly, I go to Cornell All About Birds, and I click on meadowlark; there aren’t meadowlarks here, so I can’t, but it’s predictable, it’s there, it’s a machine, it’s those pictures, those sounds, are replacing real sounds. I mean, how many people go outside? Not many.
The other thing we haven’t talked about yet has to do with the role of pornography. We’ll get there in a minute. My hope is that the trans activists . . . You know, here’s the thing: When you talk to normal people, they don’t believe any of this. Normal people understand that males aren’t females, and that cutting off your penis does not make you a female, and that putting on a dress doesn’t make you a female. Normal people understand this. And they understand that it’s not fair to have a male competing against a female in sports. I saw this guy the other day saying, “There is no evidence that men are inherently better at any sports than women.” Really? Really? So what are the odds of every single Major League Baseball player being a male? Well, if we presume there’s 750 Major League baseball players, the odds of every single Major League Baseball player being a male are one out of two to the 750th – which is, I believe, greater odds than there are atoms in the universe. And that’s only Major League teams. All the Minor League teams are filled with baseball players. There’s something like 15,000 Minor League players. So – I hesitate to do this, but I put in the odds. If the odds are 50/50, because there’s no advantage to being a male, then the odds of every single Minor and Major League baseball player being a male are one out of two to the 15,000th. And I put that into a calculator online, and it broke the calculator, the calculator came back with infinity. It couldn’t give me a number. Nobody believes this stuff.
Judith Butler . . . This cracks me up. Judith Butler has written in favor of parent-child incest, and she’s written that laws against parent-child incest could actually harm children, and be an instrument of the violation of children. This is all this standard queer theory crap. And she was going to do a talk in Brazil, and a bunch of parents angrily confronted her, saying, “How can you support incest?” And Judith Butler expressed astonishment that anybody believed that she wrote in support of incest. And this made me laugh so hard, because not even Judith Butler believes Judith Butler. The good news is that nobody believes this stuff, and it may just collapse. And I do think that there are so many accounts of men being put into women’s prisons and sexually assaulting women, and male sports, it’s . . . Or males going into female sports. That all, it can’t last. But it can, because look how long capitalism lasted, and that’s based on denial of reality. All I know is that when the Internet’s gone, we’re not going to worry about it anymore. And when the Internet’s gone, and when we are actually back to dealing with real, everyday life, we’re not going to worry about it.
 When Mr. Jensen read this question aloud in his audio file, he skipped over the word “miscegenation.”
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