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.
Library Journal-This passionate book chronicles the violent hatreds that have been overwhelming our planet, tracing them back through their sources in imperialism, slavery, the rise of global capitalism, and the ideologies of possessiveness and consumerism. Jensen's previous book, A Language Older Than Words, a reflection on family violence and childhood abuse, attracted a wide audience. Here he puts together statistics, bits of history, and reflective interviews with friends and acquaintances to examine a world in which hatred and destruction come all too easily. As in his previous book, his intent is to recall victims as individuals. His focus is on the dangers of abstraction and the economics that result from our viewing people and things as sources of profit and elements in systems. What he intends is not a systematic picture but a stunning collection of horrific close-ups. Africans and Indians are most often in view, and women are never far from his mind. Our disdain for the environment also intrudes frequently. Jensen's solution is a return to the simple life, perhaps much like that of the hunter-gatherers, yet he knows that such a turn must be "the end of civilization." Readers will be moved by his argument, though more likely they will be inspired to look for solutions that let us keep art, science, and the great treasures that go with complex communal life. Surely not all abstract thought is bad, but Jensen's aim is to shock us awake and let us stew in the world's injustices, and at that he duly succeeds.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. - Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa, ON Publishers Weekly-Writing with the same driven passion and intense intelligence as his critically acclaimed A Language Older Than Words, which examined the interconnections between personal and social violence, Jensen says this book "is more about racism and far more broadly hate as it manifests itself in our Western world." As in the earlier work, Jensen paints on a huge canvas he details American racism from the genocidal slave trade through lynchings to the 2000 murder of Amadou Diallo by NYC police, and covers a wide range of other cultural horrors as well: the massacres of Native American people, the Holocaust, the 8,000 deaths from the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in India, and the deaths of 500,000 children in Iraq. The book is packed full of startling details South African apartheid laws were enacted at the direct request of the De Beers diamond company to facilitate business; aspects of Christian doctrine supported slavery until about 100 years ago. But the uniqueness and enormous power of Jensen's work is his ability to forge these events into an emotionally compelling and devastating critique of the intellectual, psychological, emotional and social structures of Western culture. Along with greed and globalization he says that the valuing of production over life and the abstract over the particular have set Western culture on a course that will end "really, with the end of the planet." While some readers might take umbrage at his more unsettling associations he compares Hitler's political language to Teddy Roosevelt's Jensen's intricate weaving together of history, philosophy, environmentalism, economics, literature and psychology has produced a powerful argument that demands attention in the tradition of such important books as Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization and Brigid Brophy's Black Ship to Hell.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Chelsea Green Publishing
February 01, 2004
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