Friday, July 23, 2010

Derrick Jensen, Endgame vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization, pages 284-285

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

The checkout guy hates his job. Or at least he would if he allowed himself to feel in his body the slipping away of his own precious lifetime. Perhaps, though, it's more accurate to say "his own no-longer-precious lifetime," since if it were really precious he would not--could not--sell it so cheaply, nor even sell it for money at all. But he has been trained never to think of that, and especially to never feel it. If he thought of that--if he felt himself spending the majority of his life doing things he did not want to do--how would he then act? Who would he then be? What would he then do? How would he survive in this awful, unsurvivable system we call civilization? How, too, would we all respond if we fully awoke to the effects of the drip, drip, drip of hour after hour, day after day, year after year sold to jobs we do not love (jobs that are probably destroying our landbase to boot), and how would we respond, too, if we paid attention to the effects of other incessant drippings such as airbrushed photo after airbrushed photo on something so intimate as what--not whom, never whom--we find attractive?


A high school student bags the groceries. She's been through the mill. Twelve years of it, not counting her home life, twelve years of sitting in rows wishing she were somewhere else, wishing she were free, wishing it was later in the day, later in the year, later in her life when at long last her time--her life--would be her own. Moment after moment she wishes this. She wishes it day after day, year after year, until--and this was the point all along--she ceases anymore to wish at all (except to wish her body looked like those in the magazines, and to wish she had more money to buy things she hopes will for at least that one sparkling moment of purchase take away the ache she never lets herself feel), until she has become subservient, docile, domestic. Until her will--what's that?--has been broken. Until rebellion against the system comes to consist of yet more purchasing--don't you love those ads conflating alcohol consumption (purchased, of course, from major corporations) and rebelliousness?--or of nothing at all, until rebellion, like will, simply ceases to exist. Until the last vestiges of the wildness and freedom that are her birthright--as they are the birthright of every animal, plant, rock, river, piece of ground, breath of wind--have been worn or torn away.

Free will at this point becomes almost meaningless, because by now victims participate of their own free will--having long since lost touch with what free will might be. Indeed, they can be said to no longer have any meaningful will at all. Their will has been broken. Of course. That's the point. Now, they are workers. They are productive members of this great and benevolent structure of civilization that brings good to all it touches. They are happy, even if this happiness requires routine chemical assistance. There is no longer any need for force, because the people--or more precisely those who were once people--have been fully metabolized into the system, have become self-regulating, self-policing.

Welcome to the end of the world.


Bruce said...

As much as I dislike our civilizational system, isn't it naive to think that humans can be wild like other natural things? Humans are strange, conflicted beings who have no idea what could possibly make for satisfaction. We dream of how it could be without oppressors, but boredom is our true, but silent, foe.

Ethan said...

I tend toward the opinion that boredom is a symptom of civilization, as is the distinction between humans and other natural things. I honestly don't know what's possible at this or any other point in the history of civilization, or what's even desirable, but Jensen does seem to be on to something.