Obligations to Friends and to the Wider Culture

Here’s a good (and short) interview with Derrick Jensen about his writing process and about how he maintains his energy in all his activism and projects. The first question is somewhat trite, but the rest of the interview is insightful. My favorite part was about how he saves his convincing for his writing, so that he doesn’t have to do it all day with friends:

Also, I don’t have any friends in my life with whom I have to revisit Civilization is Bad 101 every time I open my mouth. None of my friends are human supremacists. None of my friends likes this culture. I can’t fight this culture and my friends too. It’s so great to be able to call up a friend and cry with them about how horrible it is what this culture is doing to the planet. And it’s great to be able to call up a friend and say, “Yay! The stock market went down 300 points today!”

I recently attended a talk by Bob Jensen (no relation) here in Austin, titled “Capitalism and Christianity: A Tale of Two Cults,” and one question during the Q&A was about what to tell relatives at Thanksgiving when they challenge one’s unconventional ideas (like, you know, that unlimited growth on a finite planet is unsustainable). Bob’s advice was to not eat with people who can’t even entertain alternatives to their viewpoints (and also not to celebrate Thanksgiving in the first place, but cultures are set in their ways).

Should we have friends who are like-minded, or is it good to have some friends who challenge one’s ideas in constructive ways? I definitely have friends in both categories, but I will say that at times having “debates,” as fun or idea-honing as they may be, can just be exhausting. There’s so much to do, and no time for unnecessary quarrels. Do you think poisoning the water supply is a bad idea? If so, then on some level we’re on the same team. I may not want to have a meal or a beer with you, though. I think that’s a good line to draw.


One thought on “Obligations to Friends and to the Wider Culture

  1. People who have some kind of vested or ideological reason to deny climate change or to be a supremacist or capitalist etc just won’t hear anything contrary. Reason and facts for sure won’t sway them. I think debating feels like a waste of time because it is — I think it is more productive to build from some discontent shared in common. The only thing a person can do is help raise consciousness of injustice with teeny tiny baby steps that maybe someday they can transfer to other issues. People can learn empathy. At least I sure hope so or we are in a far worse situation than I even dreamed.

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