Q: If we act effectively against those in power, won’t those in power just come down on us harder?
Derrick Jensen: They will, but that’s not a reason to submit. This is how authoritarian regimes and abusers work: they make their victims afraid to act. They reinforce the mentality, “If I try to leave him, my abusive husband, my pimp, may kill me.” And that is a very good reason to not resist.
This question explicitly articulates what we all know to be true: the foundation of this culture is force. And the primary reason we don’t resist is because we are afraid of that force. We know if we act decisively to protect the places and creatures we love or if we act decisively to stop corporate exploitation of the poor, that those in power will come down on us with the full power of the state. We can talk all we want about how we supposedly live in a democracy. And we can talk all we want about the consent of the governed. But what it really comes down to is if you effectively oppose the will of those in power, they will try to kill you. We need to make that explicit so we can face the situation that we’re in. And the situation we’re in is that those in power are killing the planet and they are exploiting the poor, they are murdering the poor, and we are not stopping them because we are afraid.
But there have to be some of us who are willing to act anyway. We should never underestimate the seriousness of attempting to stop those in power. And we also need to be very clear about the seriousness of what is happening to the world. If you’re reading this book, you probably understand how desperate things are.
What is the legacy that we want to leave for those who come after? How do you want to be seen by the generations that follow? Do you want to be seen as someone who knew what the right thing was and didn’t do it because you were afraid? Or do you want to be remembered as someone who was afraid and did the right things anyway? It’s okay to be afraid. Almost everyone I know is afraid at some time or another. But there is tremendous joy and exhilaration that comes, too, from doing what is right. The fact that those in power will use their power against resisters is not a reason to give up the fight before we even begin. It is a reason to be really, really smart.