What do Derrick Jensen and George Washington Have in Common?

Derrick Jensen was speaking to the Occupy Oakland and San Francisco folks today, and I had hoped to catch the livestream, but ended up missing it.  I did find, however, a video from about a month ago, when Jensen spoke to Occupy DC via Skype.

True to form, Jensen told the crowd that when people ask him whether he’s calling for the overthrow of the U.S. Government, ie, real revolution, he answers that “this question comes far too late.

“For the government was long since overthrown.  And those who overthrew it are known as Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Halliburton, Monsanto, ADM, WalMart, Massey, Goldman Sachs, Citibank.

“They are the real governors, and the United States Government is a wholly owned subsidiary brought to you by McDonalds, Pfizer and Lockheed Martin.

“So then you can ask, am I advocating the overthrow of the corporations?  Am I advocating the overthrow of the corporate state?

“To which I will say hell yes!”

For someone like me who came of age in the 1970s and 80s, it’s very hard to imagine a world without corporations.  How would we get our stuff?  What would I type on if there was no Apple?  How would we communicate without Google, Facebook or WordPress, not to mention Twitter?

And of course, how would any of these products see the light of day without the industrial supply lines that go from oil extraction to factory production to tanker ships to retail store?

Well, somehow for the vast majority of human history, your ancestors and mine managed to live and procreate and die just fine without any corporate help or interference.

I’m no Luddite: I love my computer, car, cell phone and dishwasher just as much as the next American.

But somewhere along the way to the bank, we ceded far too much power to these corporations. Derrick Jensen has it right when he says that “a government worth a good goddamn” should answer to human beings, not corporations.

And not just to human beings, but to all of the beings on our planet who are fading away day by day–at the rate of 200 extinctions a day, as Jensen never tires of reminding us.

Will we join the polar bears and the wolves and the rhinos in fading away quietly into the night when our time comes, as it surely will if we do nothing to stop the steamroll of oil-driven climate change?

Or will we stand up now and demand that our government obey its mandate to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, recognizing that what is good for the people is what is good for the earth as an ecological system?

Jensen closed his talk in DC on a positive and galvanizing note:

“When the government becomes destructive of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.  It is long past time we made full use of our rights.”

Just like our colonial-era forebears, we have the right to throw off the yoke of oppressive government to found a better system.

The Occupy movements are the advance guard of what needs to be a massive campaign of civil disobedience and relentless pressure on the government to listen to us, the people–not them, the corporations.

We celebrate those rabble-rousers, Washington and Jefferson, as national heroes.  Let’s get behind today’s rabble-rousers and turn the corner into a new era.  It can’t happen too soon.

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  1. A movement is growing based on the book, co-authored by Derrick Jensen, called Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. Deep Green Resistance has a plan of action for anyone determined to fight for this planet-and win. If you’ve ever been inspired by Derrick’s work, then here’s where the solutions are. The time for action is now. Now this war has two sides…

    98% of the old growth forests are gone. 99% of of the prairies are gone. 80% of the rivers on this planet do not support life anymore. We are out of species, we are out soil, and we are out of time. And what we are being told by most of the environmental movement is that the way to stop all of this is through personal consumer choices. It’s time for a real strategy that truly addresses the scope of our predicament.

    Where is your threshold for resistance? To take only one variable out of hundreds: Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are already gone. Is it 91 percent? 92? 93? 94? Would you wait till they had killed off 95 percent? 96? 97? 98? 99? How about 100 percent? Would you fight back then?

    Good people have stayed silent for too long. We’re tired of ineffective, symbolic acts – piecemeal, reactive, and sad. Now our despair and anger can be matched by an even deeper joy, beyond compare, the joy of beginning to fight back, effectively. We are pleased to announce the formation of DGR Action Groups worldwide. Take the first step and join the resistance.

    Learn more about the strategy, find groups that have formed near you, or find out how to start your own group at:


  2. Hari Bluesword

     /  December 18, 2011

    As a radical feminist, I would be more likely to ask “What does Derrick Jensen have in common with feminists Mary Daly and Sonia Johnson?” Those womyn were here, before Jensen, to speak of the brutal, death-dealing nature of our culture–and indeed, far more than Washington or Jefferson, they posed the deepest issues with uncompromised clarity and deepest sense of inclusion of all Life. Their work to forward our understanding of patriarchy forms a much truer basis of Jensen’s stunning work than anything GW or TJ ever said or did.

    But then, as a womyn and feminist, I work to promote equality in important part by referencing and crediting brilliant, powerful womyn as often as possible, in a world where men are still far too often held up for notice/admiration. And, further, I am loathe to idealize the men who framed the birthing USA, since many were slave-holders and all of them failed to include womyn and people of color in their framing of a life where ‘all men are created equal’. Those men took important steps toward realization of the ideal of democracy, no doubt…and yet, they were still every bit products of their feudal forefathers, with the same entitlement and huMAN-centric view of life and their rights in it.

    Still–that said, I much appreciate your essay, and your work in general on this blog. Thanks for being here, doing this work. We need more (and more, and more) of this kind of work! With my critique, I only hope to promote our joint awareness of all the ways in which we unintentionally support the menstream–and might more intentionally support the deconstruction of patriarchy and the needed elevation of womyn’s status in our awareness.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  December 18, 2011

      I totally agree with you about radical feminists having already made a lot of same critique that Jensen is making (also indigenous women, as I mentioned in my last post–Rigoberta Menchu was way ahead of him in recognizing Capitalism as a god to which human sacrifices are regularly made). I need to go back to Susan Griffin, Mary Daly, Jane Caputi and others, and I will. But my inclination now is to be as inclusive as possible without regard to gender or other barriers that have been used to separate us in the past. If we find kindred spirits, we need to reach out in solidarity and waste no time in bickering over turf. There is just too much to do, and too little time….

      Thanks for writing….


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