I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Calling All Fanatics: Protecting nature should be more important than enjoying it

Derrick Jensen is a provocative environmental activist and writer. His basic point: save the planet at any cost. If it costs your integrity? Yes. If it costs your life? Check.

He has a short column with Orion magazine. In the recent July|August edition, "Calling All Fanatics" he starts by saying, "there aren't nearly enough of us working anywhere near hard enough to stop this culture from killing the planet."

Should we be enjoying our hikes, kayaking trips, and nice camping trips when our entire society is continuing to allow the destruction of the natural world, polluting the air and water, sending carbon into the atmosphere, and cutting down the forests (and other overharvesting), all to feed the need for greed--our demand for more and more stuff.

"For anyone not to devote her/his talents and energies to defending the planet is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable."

I am inclined to agree. Although I am a theologian by trade, a thinker, I want my theory to be grounded in the reality and workings of the world. From my volunteer work teaching in the local county jail it has become clear to me that there are problems that require immediate action, and words without deeds are dead. People's lives are being stolen and abused. We can sit back and pontificate on incarceration, but I know the names of people who need support because every night they get shut up in cages like animals with other desperate people. They need friends, mentors, and they need activists.

I feel the same way about the environment. I agree with Jensen that there is a "contempt against life itself" at work somewhere in all of this.

Yet as a theologian and spiritual thinker, I also want to ask the deeper questions. I want to ask, where does this "contempt against life" come from. I want to take Jensen's militarism, his do-or-die attitude, his courage, and join it with some intelligent spiritual analysis. By "spiritual" I mean that I want to ask about the "spirit" or "mood" or "attitude" that animates this culture of contempt against life. I do believe, for example, that consumerism is based on contempt. We have to first despise ourselves. Once we despise our lives, then we are vulnerable to advertising and marketing manipulation.

In the past, advertising and marketing was simple: for a content, satisfied, or self-actualized life, just purchase [insert product/service]. The sophistication of our current consumerism is such that we are well aware of our own self-content, and yet we continue to consume. This interests me. Self-contempt is celebrated, in often very subtle ways. Of course we still sell cereal by showing happy kids, but its also hip to be angsty: "yeah, I'm a jaded consumer, and to prove it I wear this jacket and these shoes." Even protests against the system necessitate that we participate in the system.

There's a market for the anti-system crowd. These are the saavy, self-aware types. The advertiser can tap into the contempt and bring it to the surface, no problem. An advertiser can use anything to sell a product or service.

How do we respond to this contempt for life? If our consuming impulse is based on contempt and a discontented consumer, how do we stop the consuming impulse before it begins? How does a person (or a society for that matter) become content, undoing our conditioning toward contempt?


joven said...

beautiful blog..pls visit mine and be a follower.. thanks and God bless..


joven said...

beautiful blog..pls visit mine and be a follower.. thanks and God bless..


joven said...

beautiful blog..pls visit mine to,and be a follower..thanks and God bless..http://forlots.blogspot.com/

daniel hutchinson said...

Hi Jon,

Gret to read this post while my own opinion differs or goes in a different direction I appreciate your tack.

IT is good to read about your work and to see how this blog is so integral within your life, central somehow and reflective a spur to good works somehow.

Anyway forgive my long absence.

Jonathan Erdman said...


I've been absent myself for quite a time. Currently I am on a blogging sabbatical, deciding whether it is something that I really want to do, and if so, what might it look like?

daniel hutchinson said...

that's cool. hey man, if I ever do make it to the states, we must connect. Likewise if you ever in South Africa.

I don't really feel like writing a response to this piece but it did stir something in me.



PS cool to see that you and Tamie hooked up.