Category Archives: review

review: derrick jensen’s ‘dreams’ and ‘a language older than words’

back in mid-july i wrote that i would soon have a review of derrick jensen’s latest book, dreams. however, somewhere along the way, i got a bit distracted by what is probably his best-known work, a language older than words. i first read language back in 2003, and i remembered that it had had something of an effect on my worldview. i remembered that he basically showed that the sexual and child abuse that he had suffered growing up was not dissimilar to the way our culture is treating the planet. however, with so many words and books and thoughts between then and now, i felt that, after completing dreams, it was time to go back to the work that first introduced me to his writing.

so i’m just going to say first off that i’m of the opinion that dreams is basically a rehashing of language. honestly, all of his books seem to be a rehashing of each other. however, this is definitely not a bad thing, at least in his case! what he writes is simply the truth: industrial civilization is incompatible with life on this planet and needs to be stopped. each of his books just focuses on different aspects of the destruction we are taking part in (whether we do so intentionally or knowingly, or not). a section of page 262 in language seems to me to be the point of what he’s trying to get across in all of the books he’s written over the years:

We need to learn from egalitarian religious and especially extant indigenous groups that the emphasis of our society must be on process: not on the creation of things and the accumulation of monetary or political power, but on the acknowledgement and maintenance of relationships, on both personal and grand scales.

that’s it, pure and simple. dreams focuses on the acknowledgment and maintenance of relationships between humans and what jensen calls ‘other sides’. part of the way the other sides attempt to communicate with us is through dreams while we sleep, but there are other ways, subtle and not-so-much, that other beings (for lack of a better word) try to get through to us humans. however, most of the time we write these things off as coincidence or flukes or as products of our imagination. or, we view these communications as being evil, because of some old testament verses that basically write off any extra-biblical communiques of this sort as being forbidden and of the devil. anyway, jensen’s main message in dreams is that these other sides are more than willing to help humanity bring down civilization (and that it’s going to happen regardless, whether or not humans choose to participate or just ‘let it happen’, as we so often do).

personally, what he wrote in dreams about this topic fully resonates with me. i’ve kept a dream journal off and on for a number of years, and can clearly see where some ‘other’ has been guiding me, giving me messages about what i should and shouldn’t be doing, or about my motivations, blatant and subconscious. and even outside of dreaming, from time to time i’ll get ‘a feeling’ about something, or do something that i initially find inexplicable, but eventually it makes sense why whatever event happened the way it did. for example, the morning of march 11, 2011, i woke up with a feeling of deep dread in my chest. the thought ‘something really bad is happening right now’ went through my head, and i lay there in bed, really scared. eventually i fell back asleep, but upon waking up later that morning, of course the first news i heard was of the massive earthquake and tsunami in japan. (actually, a local news station is the alarm on my clock radio, and what i woke up to was the announcement of a tsunami warning for hawaii.) the worst was (and still may be) yet to come, with the meltdown of the fukushima nuclear reactors. we still don’t know the full effects of this, effects likely made worse due to the attempted (and continued) suppression of information by japanese (and world) officials regarding this event. i’ve heard that every person in the northern hemisphere has been exposed to radiation from the fukushima event (sorry, can’t currently find a link to back this up, but will continue to look). who knows what long term effects this will have on our health? so, yeah, ‘something really bad’ happened that morning, and i was told about it by some mysterious other as it happened on the other side of the world.

dreams is an amazing book, and should be read by everyone, although admittedly if you’re not open to the idea of there being reality beyond what is seen with the human eye, you’re gonna think it’s all bullshit. however, while dreams should be read by everyone, i believe that a language older than words must be read by everyone. i think (and, as much as i understood what i was reading, i didn’t get this back in 2003) that this is the most important book i have ever read. and it’s not even for the abuse angle, which of course is important. i just think language has the ability to remind people of what’s important, of why we’re here, of what the point is. and what is the point, according to jensen (from page 150 of language)?

What if the point of life has nothing to do with the creation of an ever-expanding region of control? What if the point is not to keep at bay all those people, beings, objects, and emotions that we so needlessly fear? What if the point instead is to let go of that control? What if the point of life, the primary reason for existence, is to lie naked with your lover in a shady grove of trees? What if the point is to taste each other’s sweat and feel the delicate pressure of finger on chest, thigh on thigh, lip on cheek? What if the point is to stop, then, in your slow movements together, and listen to birdsong, to watch dragonflies hover, to look at your lover’s face, then up at the undersides of leaves moving into your movement, to bring trees, wind, grass, dragonflies into your family and in so doing abandon any attempt to control them? What if the point all along has been to get along, to relate, and experience things on their own terms? What if the point is to feel joy when joyous, love when loving, anger when angry, thoughtful when full of thought? What if the point from the beginning has been to simply be?(emphasis mine)

read both books, and other books by jensen as well. i just started walking on water: reading, writing, and revolution, his views on the educational system in this country, and plan to reread the culture of make-believe after that (plus i’m also in the middle of reading his work with aric mcbay and lierre keith, deep green resistance). however, if you are only going to read one book of his, hands down it should be a language older than words. if nothing else, it will remind you of what you deep down already know. it’s dark reading at times, but who says beauty always has to be about sweetness and light?

review of ‘zeitgeist: moving forward’

over the weekend i watched the third in the series of zeitgeist documentaries, zeitgeist: moving forward. i ‘enjoyed’ (well as much as one can ‘enjoy’ movies telling us why we’re fucked in the ways that we are) the first two movies, although i found myself disagreeing with the solution first presented in zeitgeist: addendum: a resource-based economy, as demonstrated in the venus project. it just seemed too utopian in its vision and much too dependent on technology.

in moving forward, the idea of a resource based economy seems to have been kicked up a notch from addendum. but here’s the thing: the film is absolutely right in what it says about human nature and about how the monetary system will basically be the root of our demise. the first two films were right on in unmasking religion, christianity in particular, as a tool of control, as well as in the questions asked about 9/11, and in its explanation of how the federal reserve system works, to our detriment. the creators of this film series have nailed our society’s problems on the head, and then some. it’s the solution presented where these films are lacking, in my opinion. and i’m not one to necessarily present better alternatives; i’m not that smart. i think ultimately  solutions will work themselves out, out of necessity, as we cross various bridges. whether or not the solutions humanity comes up with will be enough to save ourselves remains to be seen. but, i think the energy that has obviously gone into the thinking about the venus project has been wasted, because this solution is only viable to someone who grew up on and believed what he saw on the jetsons. this well-meaning energy needs to go instead into planning for the future based on the way things are now, not working with a clean slate, which is pretty much the premise behind solutions presented in the film. (the earth exists with the same number of resources currently in existence, but i’m not sure about the number of people or what happened to the cities and/or countries currently in existence.)

in moving forward, jacque fresco, the mastermind behind these ideas, suggests building cities with different rings, or zones, designed for various activities. one of my questions is, what happens to the cities that exist now? are we going to raze all currently standing cities so these perfectly round cities with populations of 50,000-ish can be built? and each of these cities has an agricultural belt, where the city’s food (presumably vegetables?) will be grown in high rise one-acre gardens. with these gardens ringing the city, providing the city’s food needs, supposedly you wouldn’t have to go outside the city to get food ever again. if everyone in the city is a vegetarian, that is. a vegetarian diet is not an ideal diet, no matter what its pundits say. so, are you going to raise livestock in these high-rise towers? that would take factory farming to a whole new level (no pun intended). and it seems that some sort of artificial lighting would be needed in a high rise farm, because all sides cannot be optimally oriented towards the sun, which means some sort of power source would be needed. maybe it would be solar, maybe not, but solar energy requires extraction of resources as well (for panels). the devil is in the details.

additionally, this example of a resource-based economy is much too dependent on technology. it is suggested in the film that computers be used to globally monitor resources (the global monitoring thing kinda smells like big brother to me), so that resources can be shipped to where they are in short supply anywhere on the planet. but when the grid goes down, computers (and ipads and e-readers and smartphones and that big flat-screen telly, etc.) are going to be pretty useless, except maybe for use as doorstops or paperweights. and driverless cars, and trains that can get from china to new york city in an hour – it’s all basically wishful thinking bullshit. it seems there are more pressing needs than getting from point a to point b in the shortest amount of time, just because you can. (plus, what about the idea that it’s really all supposed to be about the journey, not just arrival at the destination?)

this utopian fantasy of fresco’s is still based on extracting resources from the earth on a massive scale. however, just because you have the ability to keep track of a resource and where you think it needs to go doesn’t mean the resource is available to be used to begin with. the fact is that any solution to the problems the people of this planet face (once the world economy collapses/the grid goes down) will have to deal with people learning how to do things for themselves, by hand, locally, and not dependent on a system whose home base may be on the other side of the planet. this means learning how to do things like growing and raising food, sewing and mending, even bartering and trading skills. besides, we don’t really have the time to wait for dr. fresco to build these magical cities that will solve all our problems for us with the push of a button, while we currently continue to grow more distant from one another, even with the world at our fingertips via the internet. we have to solve our own problems: ‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’ and i fear that we may even be too late on that front, but no matter, there are some of us who see what’s going on and realize that we need to do what we can, while we can.

so, overall, i do support the zeitgeist franchise, in that it is waking people up and getting us to at least think about taking control of our own destinies. but i wish it would leave it at that, or at least offer realistic suggestions on how to do so, without proposing another system of control (which i think is rather ironic since much of the content of these films is about exposing the control world systems have on us). honestly i didn’t watch the last 45 minutes of moving forward (which is nearly 3 hours long), because my thought was that the solutions offered were pretty much non-workable. maybe i’m too quick to judge, who knows, but it seems to me that with converging global crises a very real matter, we just don’t have the time for this fantasy foolishness. we have work to do.