you yell out in defiance
you’re backed up against the wall
they’re up there clutching their guns and
it makes you feel real small
so you can cuss, spit, throw bottles
but it all ends up with handcuffs on you hands
Circle Jerks, Back Against the Wall
As I was making my dinner – and bemoaning my lack of time and inspiration to write recently – I started thinking about a forum discussion that I have been observing over the past few weeks. It’s a discussion I have seen replayed a number of times, although this time did not turn to flames so I was pleased to some degree. The topic is this (in a tiny nutshell): when the shared goal is ‘Saving the World,’ what tactics and strategies are valid?
At the core of this discussion is the work of Derrick Jensen. Derrick is an American Environmental Activist and Writer who relates his own experiences with childhood abuse to the continuing abuse of our planet. I have read a number of his essays and rather enjoyed them. And I have heard some phenomenal recommendations of his work, for the writing, the emotional integrity and honesty, for the clarity of his vision: it sounds like his work may be incredibly valuable for those that are ready to hear him. I have not read his books because I think, perhaps, that I am not ready to hear what he has to say – I fear that I would be so deeply drawn in to his story and his anger and his personal resolution of that anger that I would have a hard time finding myself once more. I am empathic, after all…
In any case, one of the metaphors that he uses that I have heard repeated a number of times, flows something like this: If your mother were being raped right there in front of you, what would you do?
I think, most people would probably respond with something like “Anything I could…”
And of course, that is the answer he wants you to come up with, because then he points out that the Earth around us, our collective mother is being raped before our eyes every day. Although I don’t believe he ever overtly advocates this, some of his readers take the hard line that violence against the ”system’ is therefore justified and righteous. That being unwilling to act is a result of our collective abuse at the hands of this civilized society we have created, and that to become all we can be, we must find ways to stand against our conditioning.
I have always argued against this mentality. Often times without really being able to figure out exactly where the argument broke down in my mind. Today, as I pondered, it clicked into place.
The rape analogy is not a bad one. In many ways it is quite fitting. But there is a piece missing to the storyline. Yes, our mother is being raped before our eyes, but imagine her attacker – in this case he is not one man, he is a line of men stretching back into the depths of time and as far as we can see into the future. So in this case, when we jump to the adrenaline response ‘Whatever I can…’ we have to know that even if we take out one or two of those guys before we die – we still have not helped her because the line is endless. Maybe she got a moments breath, but that only makes the next attack that much more painful.
If we know this going into it – and how can we not if we are willing to see – then what is the true righteous action? Is it to sacrifice ourselves knowing it will be in vane? Or is it to step back and use our brains and our creativity and our hope to find another way of addressing the issues before us? Perhaps, if we take that moment, we can find ways to eliminate the cause behind all those men standing in line.
Originally Posted February 7, 2007