What To Do When You’re in Rome

Here’s a pretty good but also somehow laughably bad discussion between Chris Hedges and Derrick Jensen:

Obviously I’m very sympathetic to both their views in general, but parts of this definitely make me cringe, in the very embarrassing sense that I hope I don’t sound like this when I’m talking to others about ecological collapse. You know, like, overthrow the system already. (They also both whine about not being invited to speak at universities—er, being “de-platformed”— which seems a bit Frasier-Craneish.)

But there are some great moments here, as one would expect from a conversation between two people who have demonstrated a consistent ability to cut through the bullshit of our culture. The part about the myths we tell ourselves in America is especially valuable, and of course I eat up any praise for Ralph Nader—so scant as it typically is.

Yet my biggest take-away is that I need to stop using terms like “system” and “State” and “civilization” so loosely. It’s puerile, at best, to rail against a supposedly monolithic, oversimplified network of institutions that is oh-so easily conjured as a stand-in for any kind of (typically vague and bureaucratic) problem. Yes, it’s all connected, but one of my biggest criticisms of fundamentalists is that they refuse to acknowledge nuances. May I never fall into the same trap.

When I use any of the aforementioned terms, I really mean the corporate oligarchy—so like 100 people who make all the decisions for the rest of us. I retain my right to use the word “machine,” however; it encapsulates perfectly the idea that we’ve constructed something that is now beyond our control: something without an ethics other than production for its own sake, something that cannot be stopped.


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