Endgame Vol. 2: Resistance
Finally someone has put these thoughts into coherent arguments. Better than Volume 1 (because it deals more with action — see my review here) Volume II is still far from perfect. But my overriding feeling about both is an excited gratitude that someone has actually written them. And regardless of the flaws, it is obvious that Jensen has put an incredible amount of thought and consideration into this work. It’s not just a brainless rant against civilization, but composed rather of arguments that have been clearly analyzed and meditated upon, in order to break down each phenomena into its component parts.
A great example would be the discussion on symbolic and non-symbolic violence. Jensen defines his terms, describes what each one looks like, and even posits two requisites for symbolic action to be effective: 1) The message has to be able to reach its intended target and 2) That target has to have the agency and the will to change the situation. By making such a thorough analysis with clear definitions, Jensen develops his argument such that you cannot disagree on grounds that he is being obscure or illogical, even if you do disagree with his premises (then again, I would defy critics to disprove even one of those 20 premises).
The conversations with the hackers and with the ex-military personnel were actually exciting, and made me terribly hopeful for the possibilities (even remembering from Volume I that hope is a waste of time). And am I mistaken or did he pretty much destroy Gandhi right around the first 100 pages or so? Are you kidding? First Buddhism and then the Holy Cow. Whether or not I agree with Jensen on this point (and honestly I haven’t studied Gandhi enough to fully accept or reject Jensen’s argument), I love the guy’s sheer audacity.
Like I said, though, it wasn’t perfect (five stars are for the content). As are all of the 5 books of his I’ve read, the narrative is disfocused to say the least, and a little distracting because of it. It’s hard to tell if he wrote it that way, stream-of-consciousness-esque, or just sort of mixed and matched after he had completed everything. I tend to think the former. But it results in him repeating many of the same phrases and passages, themes and ideas throughout the book, ad nauseum. I love Jensen for his lack of restraint, but here it would have made his book more readable, and wasted less paper.
Another complaint to go along with the disfocus/length is that the stylistic layout of the book is wasteful. For someone who is concerned with deforestation, it’s surprising that in the last three books of his I’ve read (The Culture of Make Believe — see my review — and the Endgames), there are hundreds of blank pages, or pages used only for a big block quote. I understand his argument that cutting back on 50 pages or so is not going to save any particular forests, but couldn’t it make a small difference at least? At least if he was publishing a more physically efficient/ecological/sustainable book, he would be sending an effective symbolic message, by his own definition.
One last thing, and minor, is that Jensen mentions vivisection over and over again, but doesn’t ever really go into details. What is he referring to when he uses the word? How prevalent is it? Where is this going on? Where are all of these “vivisection labs”? My understanding is that most of the egregious stuff (actually dissecting live animals to see how they tick) has been phased out, am I mistaken on this? Development of this discussion would have been helpful.
A response to those who criticize Jensen for not providing enough concrete solutions or action plans to these problems: I personally found Jensen’s treatment of this issue both satisfactory and understandable. While providing a loose framework of what he thinks the most effecitve resistance will look like (whether it is small guerrilla units taking out infrastructure, hackers messing with communications, or lone activists taking out a dam), he also develops what for me was some very helpful basic strategy: “Get there first with the most” (i.e. select your battlefield/terms of argument and make them fight on your terms, not vice versa), and “Hit ’em where they ain´t” (and where it causes the most harm).
Additionally there is his discussion of fulcra, leverage, and bottlenecks, all of which lay out some broad tactical patterns. He also states, which some may view as a cop-out but which I happen to agree with, that he cannot tell people specifically what to do, because part of the entire destruction of civilization has to come from people reclaiming their own agency. He implores people to use his basic suggestions and be creative with them.
My question to the critics of Jensen’s treatment is: What more did you expect/want? What about this is lacking? Do you need him to tell you specifically which dams to take out? He says over and over that you have to pay attention to the land closest to where you live. Do you expect him to recommend you an ex-military guy to blow stuff up with? Do you want him to introduce you to your own personal guerrilla unit? To make a list of every single destructive activity you could perform?
I’m not sure what more Jensen could have done here than what he did. With all due respect, these criticisms strike me as an excuse to avoid using your own creativity and agency to do something yourself — which is to say it reeks of physical and mental laziness. Jensen is fulfilling his chosen role by writing about this in the most public manner possibility. The readers, in order to hold up their end, will have to do something eventually as well — not everything will be handed to us on a platter.
Overall, even with the flaws, I give 5 stars for the audacity, originality, and thoughtfulness of Jensen’s content. Kudos and much thanks to him (and also to Seven Stories for publishing it).