Fuck giving up

Feels like Aotearoa (New Zealand) was years ago and literally thousands of miles away. The European leg of the tour has been a whirlwind tour with 30 screenings in 60 days and 3 more to go.

I’m in Athens right now and I feel a bit like Hunter S. Thompson during a scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’ll tell you more about that after I leave Greece. So far the experience here has been incredibly inspiring, and I already feel like I don’t want to leave. I’ll be producing a report on neighborhood assemblies, but more on that next week. I do need some financial support to make this happen, so if you have a few bucks click on the chipin box.

In England, the burning question of a lot people I met was weather the new anti-squatting law is going to take hold immediately, or if squatters are going to have some time to sort out their strategies: fight or flight.

The idea of squatting has really blown my mind. The people occupying these spaces have taken a huge financial burden of their backs (rent) and can dedicate more time to resistance projects and community building. For the first time in my 40 years on this planet I got to stay in a squatted building in Sydney, and since then have visited or slept in about a dozen liberated spaces.

The most standout of these is Grow Heathrow. Folks from the climate camp movement, occupied an abandoned food market turned in the village of Sipson. You see, Heathrow Airport needed to add a third runway, and in order to do so they had to evict and demolish the village.

The folks from Grow Heathrow have rehabilitated the land, from an illegal junkyard to a sustainable community that is off the grid and the grows much of its food. The people in Sipson absolutely love the project. Not only did it help stop the airport expansion, but because it has helped reduce crime and has turned a contaminated eyesore into a vision of how we can transition to a post-carbon world.

Many of the troublemakers who took on this project, went to Copenhagen to the COP15 meetings and were arrested and/or brutalized by the Danish police. For many the COP15 was the last chance for governments and corporations, to make a binding agreement on carbon emissions before climate change tipping points delivered us into an apocalyptic future. As we all know the talks failed to deliver, and you saw the likes of George Monbiot throwing in the towel.

But these activists, the people who have broken the law time and time again to raise the alarm about climate catastrophe, did not call it quits and have instead escalated their actions. Their exploits are beautifully documented in Emily Jame’s Just Do it! film, a must watch. Stay tuned for an interview with Emily on my show.

I also stayed with some activists in Düren, Germany who are occupying a forest top stop the expansion of a massive lignite mine. This August they are continuing the tradition of Climate Camp, with one of their own.

Yep, I’ve been inspired by most of the people I’ve met. But then a dark mountain got in the way of the ray of hope I had been feeling. I was invited to speak and screen END:CIV at an event organized by a group called The Dark Mountain Project (DMP). The DMP was co-founded by Paul Kingsnorth, as “a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself..” But the short of it, is that Kingsnorth does not see any realistic solutions to stopping runaway climate change, and has basically given up and encourages people to write or make art about dealing with this reality.

I have a lot of respect for Kingsnorth for having the courage to admit this publicly. Very few people would admit the despair that comes from the knowledge that we may be totally fucked, or even expose their vulnerabilities online. I feel this despair on a regular basis, but I disagree that the way forward is to retreat. I must admit I did not know about Dark Mountain’s position before I arrived at Wiston Lodge, where the weekend retreat was taking place.

The opening sessions was led by Kingsnorth himself. Several times throughout his talk, he referred to the “Derrick Jensen” crowd in a dismissive and condescending matter. Kingsnorth is obviously a smart guy, but he has to own up with how problematic generalizations are, and that the “Jensen crowd”, meaning people who espouse an anti-civ philosophy and support those who are willing to fight or support those who fight, is much bigger than Derrick Jensen himself. The thought going through my mind was “Fuck, I’ve been set up!” But during the Q and A I respectfully called him out and invited the crowd to consider these ideas during my talk and film showing.

What’s interesting is that the DMP website reads just like Endgame. For instance, “We aim to offer up a challenge to the foundations of our civilization.” and “Draw back the curtain, follow the tireless motion of cogs and wheels back to its source, and you will find the engine driving our civilisation: the myth of progress.”

But as it’s typical of privileged people, when you bring up active resistance, they conflate it with violence. When you bring up the fact that the only thing that’s going to avert climate catastrophe is the destruction of the oil economy, they call you a mass murderer. Let me unpack this a bit.

The organizers opted to do a Q and A with me after showing a few clips of the the END:CIV before the full screening of the film. I know it’s totally backwards but somehow I agreed with it. During the session, I stated that the destruction of the oil economy is indispensable to bringing us to zero carbon emissions, and no amount of letter writing and picketing was going to stop the gears of extraction and combustion, we need to do this by force.

At this moment, an older gentleman began a relentless attack. Paraphrasing… “Do you see how complicit you are in all of this? I mean you use a laptop and you flew here!” and “You are using the language of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik?” This man was talking about the man who murdered 93 people in the name of white supremacy. According to him, Breivik justified his murders in order to stop further ethnic violence in Europe. This statement was followed by an angry tirade about how if the oil stopped flowing, many people will face hunger. I certainly never advocated that I wish people to go hungry or to die. But people like the man attacking me would rather see his way of life extended for a generation or two, than destroy the system that extends him his cushy digs. But what then is the solution to stopping carbon emissions in time to avert tipping points that will bring us into climate Armageddon? Does he see the reality of tar sands, shale and fracking extractive practices slowing fossil fuel production and burning down? Does he see the governments of the first world acting decisively against this looming catastrophe? Well of course he doesn’t, because as it turns out, the man in question is on the “Sustainability Board” of a mining company. Enough said.

During Kingsnorth’s Q and A session he replied to me, that the problem he sees with “the Jensen crowd” is that he finds the ideas to be dangerous. But what is more dangerous I ask: To support of active resistance, or to promote this idea that it’s too late?

In all honesty, I find it somewhat insulting to those who are actively trying to stop this insane system. Should the Wet’suet’en and Gitxsan communities actively opposing tar sands pipelines going through their territories give up? What about indigenous communities in Bolivia halting a super highway project through the Amazonian jungle? Or MEND in Nigeria, who actively attack oil infrastructure to stop Shell and others from destroying their wetlands? Should they give up too?

During an interview for END:CIV, Waziyatawin told me and I paraphrase, that we can’t be patient and wait for this system to collapse that we have to give it a push, hence her expression “Fuck Patience“, I want to add to that and say fuck giving up!

13 Responses to “Fuck giving up”

  1. 1 Paul Kingsnorth

    I’m sorry you had a hard time at Wiston. I didn’t organise that event – I was a guest too – but I can assure you you weren’t ‘set up.’ I agree that a film showing followed by a Q&A might have worked better, and I think the organisers do too in retrospect, but you live and learn. There was actually a lot of interest in what you had to say.

    Some of the hostility you experienced, I think, stems from rather different reasons to those you lay out here though.

    Before we get into that, I’d like to correct a number of inaccuracies about my talk and about Dark Mountain. I’m sure they are not intentional, but it’s good to be clear. I appreciate that our position is not easy to summarise.

    Firstly, the idea that Dark Mountain is about ‘giving up’ is a fiction created by those who oppose or don’t understand what we’re doing. The idea that we advocate doing nothing in the face of ecocide is a nonsense. There are many things worth doing, and they’ll vary according to circumstance for all of us. Many DM folk are activists in some way – and many, incidentally, have a lot of sympathy for Derrick Jensen’s arguments. We ran a sympathetic interview with him in our first book, which you may have missed.

    The idea that our position amounts to telling ‘the Wet’suet’en and Gitxsan communities actively opposing tar sands pipelines going through their territories … indigenous communities in Bolivia halting a super highway project through the Amazonian jungle’ etc to give up fighting is palpable nonsense, and nothing to do with what we’re about. Quite the opposite is true. As far as I’m concerned, the more on-the-ground active resistance there is to the destruction caused by this system, the better.

    What we do say is that the world is undergoing an economic and ecological collapse, the momentum of which it is now too late to stop, and the results of which we are going to have to live with. Why? Well, funnily enough, we make precisely the same argument Jensen does when he asks ‘do you think this system will voluntarily reform itself to become peaceful and sustainable’? The answer, obviously, is no. We then go on to say – as does Jensen – that the mainstream green movement has failed to halt the process too – hence the failure of Copenhagen.

    In other words: a very similar analysis. At this point, probably, we differ. Derrick and you and others go on to advocate some unspecified war against the system to bring it down. We don’t – or rather, I don’t, because I don’t want to speak for others. I don’t think such a ‘war’ would work. Not least because many of the people advocating it are writing books and making films rather than building up fighting units in the Great North Woods 😉

    Next: I don’t think you can attempt to dismiss those involved in DM as ‘privileged people’ when you yourself are a white middle class chap who’s spent the last six months flying around the world on a promotional film tour! Let’s be honest here: Jensen, and you, and I, and most people involved in discussing these issues, are all ‘privileged’ in global terms. What we’re really talking about is the collapse both of the Western model of development and the Western model of anti-development/resistance/environmentalism. Someone living in a Bombay slum is likely to have a different take (which is not to say we don’t have interest in DM from the ‘developing’ world – we do have some. But they have yet to plunge deep enough into over-development to see the problems it brings. They have different, and far more urgent, problems of their own to deal with.)

    Also, the conflation of ‘privilege’ with ‘fear of violent resistance’ is historically bizarre. From Che Guevara to Marcos via Lenin and Meinhof, many people leading violent ‘resistance’ movements come from the intellectual bourgeoisie.

    The ‘older gentleman’ that took you to task during your talk, by the way, is Alastair McIntosh, one of the most respected activists in Britain. He has a long history of involvement in direct action, here and around the world, and has produced, in ‘Soil and Soul’ one of the best books on landscape, place, activism and spirituality I’ve ever read. He’s a pacifist, and so unlikely to take kindly to your advocacy of war. But to accuse him of wanting to see ‘his way of life extended for a generation or two, than destroy the system that extends him his cushy digs’ is silly stuff. I’d wager that Alastair’s Scottish island childhood was considerably less cushy than anything you have ever experienced, and that his current work with the unemployed in Glasgow would open your eyes wide.

    I think this perhaps gets to the heart of the matter. You, and others in your position, often imagine your critics to be frightened of your ‘dangerous’ ideas, or scaredy-cats, or ‘privileged’ people who can’t take the idea of violence. But I think what bothers the critics of your position is something different: they can sense an emptiness at the heart of it.

    You write: ‘During Kingsnorth’s Q and A session he replied to me, that the problem he sees with “the Jensen crowd” is that he finds the ideas to be dangerous.’ This is nonsense. I love dangerous ideas! Bring them on, I say. My problem is not that the ideas are dangerous, but that they are no more than ideas.

    It seems to me that you all advocate ‘war’ from a position of comfort, but you do no fighting. I’d have a lot more respect for Derrick if he stopped churning out books about how other people should fight, and started fighting himself. The fact that he can’t is what convinces me that his position is a non-starter. If even the people advocating this war against the system can’t get beyond making films, writing books and posting blogs, how is it a realistic thing to be calling for?

    I’m currently reading ‘Technological Slavery’, the collected works of Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. His position is very similar to Jensen’s, but his writing is much more convincing. Not least because, unlike ‘the Jensen crowd’ he walked the walk and didn’t just talk the talk. That is where you would need to go, I think, to show that you meant it. I doubt you are prepared to – at least, I hope not. Still, I reckon old Ted’s life would make a good film.

    Good luck with the film tour. The ideas are not dangerous, but they do get people thinking, and that’s always valuable. Speaking to people afterwards, I found a lot of them at Wiston were stimulated by the showing.


  2. 2 Resister

    Hey Paul,

    Thanks for your reply. As I told you during the Q and A session, I found your dismissive tone towards “the Jensen” crowd puzzling, because I think that “we”, if there was such a group, have a lot in common. But the assertion that we are advocating for an “unspecified war” is as you put it “non-sense.” Many of us (me included) work within grassroots communities to build up these cultures of resistance. No escalation of tactics is going to happen if we don’t have a strong support base from which to work from. Our analysis can’t be encapsulated in sound bites and generalizations, it’s much more complex than that.

    Before I respond to the argument that those of us who advocate active resistance do it “from a position of comfort.” let me clarify some things for you. First off, I am not white, nor middle class. Being Puerto Rican in North America affords me the comfort of racism, being followed by security when I go shopping, and having less opportunities in society than white folks like you do. When I am not “flying around the world on a promotional film tour” I live in a camper van. When I was teen, my family was indeed well off, but all that changed when my father was incarcerated for broadcasting very damaging information about the US Government. After that my family lost everything. Touring is not a glamorous endeavor, and if I didn’t believe in these ideas I wouldn’t have spent the past 6 years of my life working on them and beating the pavement to spread them. I’ve slept on floors, couches, squats, caravans, vans, tents, I eat food from bins and community kitchens on a regular basis to make this work. I also take abuse from white men during screenings from time to time. The accommodations at Wiston Lodge were the first “nice” ones (by middle class standards) I had during this leg of the tour. This tour is funded by small donations and I don’t charge for screenings. When I return to Canada, I’ll go back to my van and my work as an unpaid grassroots media maker and organizer. I will also be in great financial debt.

    People who take public positions that advocate the destruction of the capitalist system (or civilization) are not in a position of comfort. On the contrary, by taking public positions you reveal yourself to the security apparatus and make yourself more vulnerable too state repression. Ted Kaczynski was certainly “walking the walk”, but he did so anonymously. We only learned who he was after his own brother snitched on him, and Ted certainly did not want to get caught so that he could prove something to people like you. Working anonymously does free you up to do both, advocate and act in illegal ways, but it does limit the amount of public discourse you can engage in. But it’s a catch 22 isn’t? Because let’s say theoretically that I was doing this film tour, and on my off time committing acts of sabotage, would it be in my interest to tell you “Hey I’m doing it!” Could I even have public events if I was doing such things?

    In 2006 I started documenting and reporting on the struggle against the Olympic Games in my city. Later I helped organize an independent media centre that would serve as a hub for news about the anti-Olympic protests. The “comfort” this got me, was constant surveillance, police harassment and infiltration and stack of personal data (including eating and drinking habits) in the hard drives of the security apparatus. Now, how would making a film like END:CIV make my life more “comfortable?” Hell, in Athens, where I am at the moment, many people don’t even want to video taped holding a sign at a protest for fear of police retaliation!

    Now to Alastair Macintosh, sustainability partner for mining giant Lafarge. Macintosh reacted to these ideas in the same way that many pacifists that attend my screenings do: Violently. If Macintosh is a pacifist why is his discourse so vicious? If the author of ‘Soil and Soul’ cares so much about “landscape” why does he help greenwash the activities of a company that destroy both soul and soil? But Macintosh did not even want to have a conversation, instead he interrupted, mocked and had a general disrespectful and hostile tone towards me throughout my talk. I honestly don’t give a fuck if Macintosh turned water into wine or came back from the dead to become the king of kings. If he or other “respected” people can’t have a civilized (heh!) discussion and rather react in anger, then the whole scenario is an exercise in futility. He certainly did not earn my respect. After the Q and A session many people apologized to me for him, even though he himself would not be man enough to apologize himself.

    Lastly, your criticisms are not new and reveal naiveté, poor analysis, and even a lack of active engagement with people who have these ideas or who are engaged in militant resistance. Also your assumptions about my person and my background are rather insulting. If you would have spent even a short time getting to know me that weekend, you could have avoided such an embarrassing response.

    Again thanks for taking the time to respond, and hope that if we ever meet again, that our next encounter is a productive one.

  3. 3 Sharon Blackie

    Hi Franklin – as a fellow speaker at the Dark Mountain-associated event in question, just wanted simply to say that, regardless of who is right and who is wrong, you handled the whole thing – and there was indeed a considerable level of hostility – with true dignity. And made more impact on many of us as a result. Keep up the good work!

  4. 4 Paul Kingsnorth

    Hi Franklin,

    Well, violent discourse is very common around this stuff, isn’t it? I’ve certainly had more of it than I would have liked. Ironically, I’m usually on the other side.

    These scraps are counter-productive. I’m sorry if I was wrong about your background. I shouldn’t have made assumptions. Though I notice that you’re still assuming a lot about me. These things work both ways. Neither of us actually knows each other. But in any case, our backgrounds are not greatly relevant. It’s not a competition – is it?

    You’ve not responded to any of the points I made about DM, but I hope you’ve taken them on board so you have a better idea where we are coming from.

    I wasn’t at your talk, unfortunately, because I was ill most of the weekend. I would have liked to have a conversation otherwise. I heard that Alastair went way over the top in his attack on you. But whether you like him or not, he has certainly not ‘given up.’ He and I disagree on a lot, but I have respect for him, as I have for you. Doesn’t mean we have to agree though.

    My analysis is not ‘poor’ – it’s just not one you like. And I’m not ‘naive’. Rather the opposite, I’m afraid. I’m very sceptical. I know your arguments, and those of Jensen and of the milieu you move in. I respect them, and we come from a very similar place, in some ways. I just don’t think they will work, for a number of reasons that aren’t easy to explain on a blog: confusion of motives; lack of clarity around objectives; unwillingness to be honest about the scale of pain involved; inability to cary most people with you; state responses … etc. I could go on. I don’t say this with any great pleasure, but it’s how I see things.

    Anyway, I hope we have cleared things up on both sides, a little.


  5. 5 Resister

    You started it 😉

    But seriously, I can play nice, but please re-read my blog and re-read the way in which you responded: White, middle class, comfortable, empty etc. Maybe you take offense by the use of the word “privileged” but that’s certainly my opinion based on the hostile and dogmatic responses by some who attended the retreat, and not an attack at any particular person.

    If my rant about a Macintosh (who’s name I kept out of respect, go figure) sounds disrespectful, then so be it. The man did nothing to earn my respect.

    I appreciate the apology, but please, don’t throw this back at me. I’m simply venting my frustrations at what was an awful, yet very telling experience.

    With that said, I appreciate the clarification of DMP’s position, and seriously, you should publish it. The idea of “it’s too late” and “giving up” is not only reproduced in media articles I’ve read, but also by people I met at the retreat. I think we agree on most points, but simply disagree on tactics, which is only normal. I’m comfortable with this disagreement, as long as it doesn’t transform itself into personal attacks and the debate deals only with the facts and ideas at hand. One of the things I always say after my screenings is that we need to create safe spaces where these hard discussions occur. This was not afforded to me at Wiston Lodge.

  6. 6 Libra

    “I’d have a lot more respect for Derrick if he stopped churning out books about how other people should fight, and started fighting himself. The fact that he can’t is what convinces me that his position is a non-starter.”

    The “fact that he can’t” is firstly due to his being half-dead from Crohn’s disease. He also has Avascular Necrosis in both ankles and has had to endure two allografts. He is not physically in any condition for the serious underground activity that will be necessary to stop the industrial economy. He’s lucky he can walk at all.

    Secondly, and more importantly, there needs to be an absolute firewall between aboveground and underground action. People who do public actions like protests or civil disobedience or education need to stay far away from anything underground. The people who chose to work underground need to have public lives that are bland and unassuming and utterly nonpolitical. It is a terrible mistake to mix and match aboveground and belowground, putting everyone at risk. This is a very basic concept for a resistance movement. We ignore it at our peril.

  7. 7 Ben Cutbank

    Dear Paul,

    I’m responding as someone on the Staff of the Deep Green Resistance movement.

    You said: “I know your arguments, and those of Jensen and of the milieu you move in. I respect them, and we come from a very similar place, in some ways. I just don’t think they will work, for a number of reasons that aren’t easy to explain on a blog: confusion of motives; lack of clarity around objectives; unwillingness to be honest about the scale of pain involved; inability to cary most people with you; state responses … etc. I could go on. I don’t say this with any great pleasure, but it’s how I see things.”

    I really agree that we come from similar places. With that mutual understanding, why is there energy being put into discounting organized political resistance just because some thing it’s not possible. And, it’s true: it’s a privilege to hold that position. For the Lakota warriors of the Pine Ridge Reservation who’s relatives are being exploited and killed off by alcohol-dealers, for example, this position is not only not an option, but it’s unthinkable. The only option is to fight for your community and fight for the land.

    I respect our disagreements, and I’m interested to hear more from you about your specific concerns with the resistance that DGR and others are proposing. I must ask, have you read the book, “Deep Green Resistance?” If so, it makes me deeply confused at your comment about a lack of clear objectives. I’m sure you’ve read books by Derrick Jensen. Given this, I am again deeply confused at your assertion that there is a lack of understanding or weight given to the pain involved; industrial civilization is causing unprecedented pain and there will be pain when it falls, whether that comes on it’s own or brave human beings bring it down. To comment on your last two concerns: 1) Historically, relatively small resistance movements have brought down large power structures; and 2) The state will repress any effective resistance that challenges their power and profits, whether its attacks on infrastructure, distributing subversive literature, or waving signs outside of a CEO’s home.

    It also seems you’ve implied that it’s essential for all revolutionaries to participate in underground activities. You must know: In countless historical resistance movements, nothing could be further from the truth. As has been said, a firewall between above- and underground resisters is absolutely necessary for the safety and security of everyone in a resistance movement. And, frankly, it’s absurd to say that everyone should be resisting in the same way. Some are extremely talented with writing, while some are extremely talented with skills that would serve an underground. Can you see why it makes no realistic sense to have these two camps doing each others work, though it’s not their specialty? Of course, I recognize the world needs more people who are brave enough to do the decisive attacks on industrial systems.

    Thank you,

  8. 8 Max

    Hello Paul and all,

    I just wanted respond briefly to one of the last things you said, Paul. You wrote:

    “I just don’t think they will work, for a number of reasons that aren’t easy to explain on a blog: confusion of motives; lack of clarity around objectives; unwillingness to be honest about the scale of pain involved; inability to cary most people with you; state responses … etc”

    I am an organizer with Deep Green Resistance, based on the book of the same name by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Aric McBay, so I think I could say I am intimately aware of the motives, objectives, etc.

    For me and the people I work with, our motives are extremely clear. This civilization is killing the planet and doing great violence every day to the land we love and to innocent people. I hate this culture. It is toxic, it is poisonous, it is sick in it’s heart. There is no humanity. It teaches children to lose themselves be “good Germans.”

    So I fight because I hate civilization, and because I love the land. I love life. I love healthy communities. I want their to be a real future, and there can be none while this culture trundles along, leaving lifelessness behind.

    The objectives of our movement are also abundantly clear:

    The ultimate goal of the primary resistance movement in this scenario is simply a living planet—a planet not just living, but in recovery, growing more alive and more diverse year after year. A planet on which humans live in equitable and sustainable communities without exploiting the planet or each other.

    Given our current state of emergency, this translates into a more immediate goal, which is at the heart of this movement’s grand strategy:
    Goal 1: To disrupt and dismantle industrial civilization; to thereby remove the ability of the powerful to exploit the marginalized and destroy the planet.

    This movement’s second goal both depends on and assists the first:
    Goal 2: To defend and rebuild just, sustainable, and autonomous human communities, and, as part of that, to assist in the recovery of the land.”

    I’m not sure where you get your ideas that we are not willing to be honest about the scale of pain involved (RE: the collapse of civ, or it’s day to day operation?). I interview new recruits for DGR regularly, and with every one we discuss the moral implications of our work – the impacts of bringing down civ on people around the world. This is not a joke, nor is it a game. This is a serious movement for dedicated people, and of course we all hold in our hearts a great deal of emotions around this.

    This has turned into a longer response than I had hoped, but my main point is this: this movement is building. We are growing. We have love in our hearts, and we are ready to do what it takes to protect that which we love.

  9. 9 Susan

    First of all, I want to say thank you Frank Lopez for your work. We need public speakers as well as people out there “walking the walk”. None of us can fill all necessary roles. I am thankful Derrick Jensen and others have taken up a public role. I don’t think there is any one right way to fight back in this struggle, we need it all. Those that take a public role put themselves at great risk, and I respect them greatly for doing so. As others have commented previously, it would be unwise for those in public positions to undertake underground activities. For anyone who thinks these roles should be mixed, I recommend reading the book Deep Green Resistance; it explains very clearly why underground and aboveground roles should never be mixed. I am upset to hear anyone suggest that Derrick Jensen, or anyone in a public role, should be out there fighting back.

    I am disappointed to see hostility between groups that I thought were be allies. Horizontal hostility takes away energy we could be using in fighting our mutual enemies or protecting our communities and landbase. It doesn’t matter to me if we have differences in beliefs or use different strategies to fight back, if we spend time arguing about our differences, we have less time for actual resistance. I think we should be working together, even if we disagree about the details on how to do so.

    Paul Kingsnorth mentioned an “unspecified war against the system” in his comment. I’ve read the book Deep Green Resistance. I found the section on Decisive Ecological Warfare very specific. I don’t see anything unspecific about the information in the book Deep Green Resistance, nor in the movement itself. In fact, I found the book very specific, educational and inspirational on the topic of resistance. Reading this book has helped me so that I can see specifically many ways in which I can apply my own skills in ways that will enhance the work others are doing. I recommend this book to anyone who has not read it.

    I hope in the future we can all work together without hostility towards each other, for love of the land, for love of all living things. The world needs us.

  10. 10 Xander

    Others have pointed out the flaws in Paul’s analysis of Frank and Derrick’s arguments. I just want to comment on something Resister said:

    “No escalation of tactics is going to happen if we don’t have a strong support base from which to work from. Our analysis can’t be encapsulated in sound bites and generalizations, it’s much more complex than that.”

    Without folks like Frank, Derrick, or Paul I would never have chosen to enter the struggle for a livable future. And yes, the fact that I have a choice says everything about my history necessary for the sake of this conversation. But this notwithstanding, it will take many more like me in positions of privilege to use that privilege for good if we are to have a chance at survival.

    I agree, Paul, at this rate things aren’t looking good. Folks under the yoke of oppression are fighting everywhere, yet a vast majority of the “developed” world sits watching TV every night, eating packaged poison and doing their best to ignore the fact that we’re hurtling towards oblivion. Most of them will never wake up, this is also true.

    But the fact is a very few can have a staggering impact on a system that, while powerful and resource-rich, is extremely brittle in key places. If these few are to understand what is going on, really see the situation and thus know how to have the greatest effect, folks like you, folks like Derrick and Frank, will be absolutely necessary. The only way an underground such as those advocated by Frank, Derrick, and DGR can succeed is through solid aboveground doing their best to propagate a grounded analysis. As Resister also points out, this is far more likely to get a target pasted on the chest of the aboveground militants calling for whatever it takes in defense of the planet than to bring the heat on an organized, secure, smart underground (not for lack of trying by those in power, presumably).

    The first, and in my opinion most important step is a grounding in that complex analysis. Without that, any decisive attacks on infrastructure are doomed to continue in the piecemeal, reactive vein we have seen so much of.

  11. 11 char

    Thank you for doing this, Frank. And the comments are great! I just have one question:

    Re. “Several times throughout his talk, he referred to the “Derrick Jensen” crowd in a dismissive and condescending matter.” — Why? I thought Paul Kingsnorth and “the Jensen crowd” were on the same team. This saddens and confuses me, and more importantly, it gets in the way of really important work that needs to be done. As we all know, this planet is being murdered, and it needs to be stopped, period.

  12. 12 Amy

    It is good to see that you two are keeping a relatively calm discourse on this experience. What I read about DM was really god. I think it has a great analysis on the situation that is somewhat but not vastly different from DJs work and reaches the same conclusions in the first instance. The dirrerence I see is that DM emphasizes the importance of culture itself, of cultural narratives, stories, myths as the driving force of a culture that is called civilization and that is destroying the biosphere and itself. DJ also looks at the culture, but his focus is more on violence, opression, privilege and dominance. He basically points towards the fact that it is not only myths and cultural narratives that make people destroy the world, but that violence is used to spread this culture to those places and people that are not yet part of it – including those who are born into it, if they decide to break out.
    I am unsure at what point the two views depart but clearly DMs focus is on cultural tools whiche DJ calls for more hands-on tools to get from here to a world that is liveable and loveable. The criticism towards both approaches is, as I see it the following: DM does not aim towards dismantling power structures or physical/political/economical structures that are destroying the world. Instead DM tries to build a counterculture that attempts to dismantle the cultural narratives of the dominant culture or at least to provide alternative narratives. To a degree I think, DM also looks at the present time as one of collapse and there seems to be a bit of a focus on how to make it through that collapse or contraction and how to create a culture that is positive during that time and afterwards. DJ on the other hand is more about defending physical places and physical action. He basically strives towards bringing on that contraction because it is the only way the destruction can be halted. Paul said on Radio Ecoshock, that he thinks that those who say that an economic collapse is the only way to stop carbon emissions (and the other destruction) do have a point. The criticism against DJ is often one along certain repeating lines. One is the “you are participating in it, so by wanting to abolish capitalism/civilization/oil you are a hyprocrite because you used a car/train/plane/computer recently”. This makes little sense to me, because being part of a certain class/race does not mean one cannot see what is going on. Doug Tompkins was complicit in the destruction of the world but turned around and rescued many square miles of forest in Chile. There were several attempts on Hitlers life from within national socialist society – from people who indirectly did of course profit, like all Germans at that time, from the dispossession of Jews and military conquest. One cannot easily escape civilization and still be effective. Not even the Unabomber could do that (“Hey, Ted, you are using plastic canisters to store water in your lodge, you are a hypocrite!”?). The other criticism is that of not doing direct action oneself or that such action cannot be effective. The first point of these was already written about – One cannot do serious action while being out in public about it. If one does, it is again about symbolic acts, being publicly arrested as a publicity stunt does only work in some instances. How effective such a resistance as described by DJ and others (DGR) can be – I dont know. I have not yet seen large sectors of the oil economy go down due to sabotage or mining projects, pipelines etc halted by secretive direct action. Maybe DGR is too small for now, who knows. Larger scale civil disobedience seems to be able to stop some projects, but this is the course that was used for decades now and that only lead to smallscale victories while the world is burning.
    Overall, I would say that both strategies are important and vital. We need both – some people who look at ways to end the destruction of the natural world in direct action, maybe even stopping this deathful culture in its tracks if they can – and people who look at ways to build a culture that is better, that can replace the dominant culture when it finally comes down (by itself or because others brought it down sooner and thus helped to preserve a more liveable world for the future).
    I hope I understand this correctly if Paul says, that he has “given up” – hopefully he means that he has given up on the strategies that have not worked yet. On pseudodemocratic governments, legislative solutions and technofixes. But hopefully he does not fall for the hope that “creating a new story” can change the world, because that strategy is as old as the environmental movement and it did not work either. From the perspective of DM as I understand it, their focus is on cultural issues, on building a culture that is made for a future when the dominant culture is gone – and from that perspective, it should not condemn other groups who want to speed up the process of the dominant culture going away, because only if that fire is lit and the opressive dominator culture burns, then from that charred remains can new cultural seeds grow and not be stifled and overshadowed by the monsters of consumerism and civilization.


  13. 13 Paul Kingsnorth

    Hello again all.

    Thanks for the discussion. I think we all have a very similar point of departure, even if we then go in different directions.

    For the record, I’ve never ‘dismissed’ Jensen and DGR; as I said, we ran an interview with DJ in our first book, and there’s a lot of common ground with many people involved in DM. I’m personally not convinced by the DGR narrative of resistance. I could write a lot more about why, but won’t, because this is not really the point. Dark Mountain is not here to tell anyone else how they should react to the crisis we are all living through. We all have our personal journeys to go on.

    I’m sorry Wiston was traumatic for you Franklin; though as I say, I wasn’t involved in that and missed it, unfortunately. But you are putting across pretty hardcore ideas here: you must be used to a bit of push and shove occasionally. I think robust debate has got to be healthy – even if it’s not always enjoyable (as I can testify.)

    Finally, I would say this: Dark Mountain is not an activist project. This is quite important. We are a creative, literary and artistic space. We are a conversation with no prescribed endpoint. We’re not campaigning for anything and we’re not proposing ‘solutions.’ That’s not to say that activism is worthless or that nothing can be done, and it is not the same as ‘giving up’ (though you do have to give up on false hope and ineffectual solutions before Dark Mountain will make much sense to you.) It’s simply to say that we have another aim, which is to help create a form of writing and art that will be relevant for the times we are living through. I think that’s a valuable thing to do, and I also think it can run in tandem with other approaches.

    On that note, if anyone is interested in the third DM book, which is forthcoming, we’re currently crowdfunding it. There’s much in there on all these topics.


    All the best,

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