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The Culture of Make Believe

af Derrick Jensen

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465939,484 (4.42)7
Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an examination of the very heart of our civilization. The Culture of Make Believe is a book that is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking.… (mere)
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Wow, one of the more intense books I have ever read. If you're prone to depression, I recommend taking this one in very small amounts, maybe a chapter a week. I read the whole thing in about a week and spent the last few days in a very pessimistic fog about our prospect as a species. Jensen has the strangest way with words when describing some of the most horrific historical events imagineable. He is eloquent and forceful without being too in-your-face. He does come off as a little arrogant at times, but I think anyone who is convinced that their radical (and under-represented) opinion is correct would do the same.

Ultimately, he takes thoughts and ideas that I have vaguely floating around in my head and organizes them elegantly into strong arguments. His treatment of the subject is a little diffuse: he starts out on a quest to define "hatred" and never really arrives at a concrete definition, but the journey is fascinating nonetheless. It normally bothers me quite a bit when an author offers all critique without any sort of feasible solutions, but here it seems appropriate -- Jensen honestly doesn't think there is hope for our civilization, and for him, the faster we help destroy it, the better. I look forward to reading the two Endgame volumes ([b:Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization|60971|Endgame, Vol. 1 The Problem of Civilization|Derrick Jensen|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348664730s/60971.jpg|59299] and [b:Endgame, Vol. 2: Resistance|60975|Endgame, Vol. 2 Resistance|Derrick Jensen|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348655934s/60975.jpg|59303]), hopefully for more ideas on what I can do to help. But I'm going to take a Jensen-free sabbatical for a couple weeks at least, until I can build up enough optimism to have it once more rudely ripped away (in a good way more or less). ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an examination of the very heart of our civilization. The Culture of Make Believe is a book that is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking.
  bloomcollective | Apr 20, 2013 |
A very necessary book. It will break your heart and kick your ass.

( )
  paperloverevolution | Mar 29, 2013 |
I recently heard someone remark that we are no longer able to think outside of a capitalist system. It seems that our entire world has been established and maintained upon principles of competition, utility, and self-interest; most people wouldn't know how to disrupt that system even if they wanted to. This is Derrick Jensen's misgiving about the establishment of civilization entirely - that it is by necessity a construction of systems of exploitation.

Capitalism gilds itself with mega-corporations with great images that create "cathedrals of consumption" - "All of these human-made settings are designed to create that sense of awe. They're designed to be spectacular. The starting point for all of this is the question: How do you draw people? You get people to come by creating a structure which overwhelms them, which wows them, which causes them to throw up their hands and say, 'This is extraordinary and I'm coming back again and again.'" This analysis works well enough with literal enterprises (think of the Vegas strip), but works in a more terrifying way when considering the enormity and complexity of the workings of society. I had a conversation recently about systemic injustice, and more conservative members of the discussion kept demurring from its confrontation with "Well, it's difficult. It's complicated." Systems of injustice are interwoven deliberately, to make it difficult to confront, because the feeling of being overwhelmed in that instance as well allows power structures to remain in place.

Ultimately, this book is chock-full of interesting if staggeringly depressing research and anecdotes about injustice, but I felt like his conclusions were weak. Since he's done the work and seen the multiplicity of injustices in our present system, I felt like he should've been more able, from his own perspective, to offer a radically different approach to 'society' in a way that perhaps fosters togetherness but otherwise looks entirely different. Instead, his primitivo-anarchism (we return back to the wild), while an interesting proposition, seems like a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in confronting the challenges of re-creating a healthier social dynamic beyond our present and corrupt limitations. ( )
  the_awesome_opossum | Mar 16, 2011 |
Derrick's explanation of the Noah/Ham story and how it ties into our culture totally blew the doors off of all those times I had heard that story. Reading this book was like a journey in which as you travel through, he grabs all these crucial points and continues to march to his final point which is living humanely, like human beings once lived. ( )
2 stem SMPhillips | Mar 20, 2010 |
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The journey of our culture has been one of increasing abstraction from direct personal experience, manifesting in every aspect of our lives, from our pornography (and, more broadly, our intimate relationships) to our economics - which, time after tedious time, values abstractions such as ideology or money (what's a dollar worth, really?) over living beings - to our violence.
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Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an examination of the very heart of our civilization. The Culture of Make Believe is a book that is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking.

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