Personal Changes Doesn’t Equal Political Change
Derrick Jensen comes right out of the gate mentioning Hitler (as opposed to later as per Godwin's Law) in "Taking Shorter Showers Doesn't Cut it: Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change," which might annoy some people. But what's more annoying is the reality that the personal choices we make and hold so dear, that we're so convinced are going to change the world, might not really be working as effectively as we would like.
Here are some highlights, just from the article (the comments are a bit of a maze, but if you can negotiate them I think they're worth reading through). They are all Jensen's words exactly, except what's in brackets (not parenthesis-they're him too).
- Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance.
- People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.
- I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.
- If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses.
- Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. [And by the way, I would not have said that, necessarily, and perhaps this is a language issue here.]
- [Neo-Luddite] Kirkpatrick Sale . . . : “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”
- [Capitalism] redefines us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming.
- We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.
It's posts like this that make me feel like an ineffectual white, suburban elitist. I have such a difficult time giving up the notion that I can buy or not buy my way out of a problem, and that my one vote to buy or not buy really does count because if more people did it we'd develop the mythical critical mass that would indeed change the way things are or are done.
While I go to bed in my cushy home each night after a long day of blogging, reading, writing, working, baking vegan cookies, buying local, organic and vegan foodstuffs, recycling, taking short showers, driving very little, volunteering a lot, taking care of the creatures, wearing the same "Life is Good" T-shirts and flip-flops and trying to buy only what I need, and feeling like with each of those decisions–my decisions–the world gets better, I must admit that that last part just might be an illusion. It might be a lie I tell myself to make me feel like I have power to change the world and am changing it with my choices.
What are your thoughts?