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Pondering Derrick Jensen/Life vs. Productivity: "What Would You Live and Die to Protect?"

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Meanwhile, as the so-called free market that allows unchecked corporate powers like BP to pollute and destroy our ecosystems with impunity continues, the oil spreads across the Gulf and another oil platform has exploded in the Gulf, this time 80 miles south of Louisiana.

Jensen believes that expecting those in power to do what is right for human beings, much less the planet, "is delusional." "Their function in a democracy is to give us the illusion of power, but the truth is that they do what they want," Jensen explains. "Why is it that cops are always called in to break strikes but not help the strikers? When the function of the state is to support the privatization of profits and the externalization of costs, what kind of state is this?"

Jensen, a prolific writer and author of several books, including "A Language Older Than Words" and "Endgame," summarizes the situation we face like this: "The point is that when a gold mining corporation spreads cyanide all over the mine and this hits our groundwater and wells and destroys ground waters in Montana, they are not called a terrorist, they are called a capitalist."

The same can be said for BP. Exxon. Monsanto. Bayer. Dow. Lockheed Martin. It's a long list.

"If it was space aliens coming down and systematically changing the planet, would we appeal to them through lawsuits, take off our clothes and make peace symbols, petitions?" Jensen asks. "I was once being interviewed by a dogmatic pacifist and he felt that I wanted all activists to act like assassins. That's not true. What I want is for all activists to act like they are serious about their resistance and that might include assassinations."

Jensen believes that we are at a point in history where the very planet upon which we live and our lives are at stake. If the perpetual growth, corporate-capitalist-industrial machine is allowed to continue, we will die. Thus, it must be stopped by any means necessary.

To illustrate what might be possible by taking a militant approach, Jensen points to Johann Georg Elser, the man who attempted to assassinate Adolph Hitler in 1939.

"Everyone agrees that if Hitler was killed in 1939, the war doesn't happen," Jensen explains, "The point is that I want people to think like members of a resistance. The first thing that means is to start thinking away from being part of a capitalist industrial system and away from this government that we all acknowledge serves corporations better than us and toward the land where we live."

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Many are concerned that the approach Jensen advocates will generate extreme government crackdowns on activists working on topics across the political spectrum - that the use of violence to promote change is a bankrupt strategy and one that is doomed to failure.

"I am not the violence guy," is Jensen's response, "I'm really the everything guy. Only two percent of the IRA ever picked up weapons. 98 percent were doing support work. We need a wide range of tactics, which can include fighting back and attacking the infrastructure. I don't know what is so radical or incendiary about believing that living oceans are more important than a social structure. The culture as a whole suffers from insanity, one form of which is that this social structure is more important than the living planet. I don't believe you can suffer the delusion that you can systematically dismantle a planet and live on it. It's very simple to me. Life is more important than capitalism."

* * *

Many activists have argued that nonviolence is the only path that will lead to positive, lasting change in society. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and activist, is a man Martin Luther King Jr. called "an apostle of peace and nonviolence." In Saigon during the early 1960s, he organized students to rebuild bombed villages, resettle families and create agricultural coops. His work, then as now, is based on the Buddhist principles of nonviolence and compassionate action.

Voices like Hanh's tell us that violence begets violence, a theory backed by thousands of years of historical evidence.

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Some, like influential German Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt, argue that the use of violence, while at times effective in destroying power, "Is utterly incapable of creating it." Arendt's work dealt with the nature of power that she explored via investigations of politics, authority and totalitarianism.

Arendt believed that true freedom was synonymous with collective political action among equals.

Organized nonviolent power, on a massive scale, like that by the movement behind Gandhi in India, could possibly avoid these draconian measures while destabilizing the corporate centers of power.

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DAHR JAMAIL He is author of the book Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq. Jamail's work has been featured on National Public Radio, the Guardian, The Nation, and The Progressive. He has received many (more...)

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Pondering Derrick Jensen/Life vs. Productivity: "What Would You Live and Die to Protect?"