By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance
Over the almost seven years I have been involved in social justice activism of various kinds, my level of understanding concerning our social and planetary predicament has grown quite a bit. I began my process towards a radical perspective as a student activist in the university anti-violence against women movement. It was there I developed what I like to call a clear “scope of the problem.
Allow me to back up a bit. I did not know it at the time, but while I was in high school my family survived a rough experience fighting the local police department that helped prime me for radical activism. My mother, while an officer, filed a civil suit against the department for racial discrimination. The ordeal was traumatizing – the media was relentless in their assaults on her character, the department engaged in continuous harassment of my family (including forcibly evicting us from our home on my 16th birthday), all of this culminating in several relocations in- and out-of-state. If it were not for the consistent support of family, friends, legal counsel and a compassionate and talented journalist who had our back, the city and its armed thugs would have certainly continued its oppression against us. Instead, my mother’s case was a primary reason the city organized a citizen’s review board to oversee law enforcement activities. My mother and I went on to write and publish a creative nonfiction book of her experience.
To this day, I am consistently amazed at my mother’s strength and courage. I witnessed her defy all odds, determined to stand up to the city’s bullying and set a lasting precedent for future generations.
As a teen I was not inclined towards activism, but that all changed when I attended college and somehow found myself sitting in the social justice center talking pro-feminist theory with fellow campus community members. I completed feminist and anti-violence training and that is when the real change began.
The information I learned was harrowing. I had no idea just how prevalent male violence against women was. Shaken to the core, I spent several nights in tears, struggling to understand just how the world became this way and how it could possibly continue. From the first night of training, I knew pro-feminism would be my life’s work. It became my passion.
Further social justice training on issues of race and class began to complete the circle for me. My own life experiences started to make much more sense, and I became sensitive to issues of justice and equality.
Then it was time for another wake-up call. I do not remember exactly how I discovered radical politics, but eventually I came upon Marxist theory, which then lead me to anarchism and eventually anti-civilization. I began reading Derrick Jensen’s Endgame in the fall of 2008, and all of the emotions I felt when completing activist training came rushing back to the fore.
It was all even worse than I had thought – the levels of violence against women, people of color, indigenous communities, children and now the planet. We are, in the words of Lierre Keith, “turning the planet to dust” with agricultural and extractive industrial processes. Quite literally, the planet is being killed, and that murder is increasing over time.
And that is when it all finally clicked, once and for all. It took me nearly three years to finally complete Endgame. Jensen does not hold back – his writing makes the violence of this culture so palpable. In addition to pro-feminism, I decided to somehow find a way to assist in the fight against industrial civilization, just in time for the publication of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet.
A good definition of “scope” is “extent or range of view.” It is how far or wide one is able to see, how much of a given subject, problem or circumstance one has considered. A narrow scope yields superficial or inadequate results in addressing a given situation. A wide scope allows one to consider more possibilities, and be more honest about what needs to be done.
My life experiences have given me no choice but to keep a wide scope of our planet’s peril. I have been fortunate – and unfortunate – enough to have, directly or indirectly, experienced many of this culture’s truly wicked crimes against humanity.
An aspect of widening your scope that is important to consider is that when you do, it is likely you will never be the same. Society will transform before your eyes – what was once a world seemingly full of pleasure and privilege becomes one in which oppression, repression and psychopathic behavior are the norm, the way the system works.
But when you do widen your scope, and finally become honest about what is happening, you have a responsibility to act. And you must allow the reality of the situation to inform your actions.
Jensen, Ward Churchill, Peter Gelderloos, Arundhati Roy, Stephanie McMillan, and so many others have all articulated it in various ways – the dominant culture will not voluntarily transition to a more sustainable way of life unless we force them. Even if it were possible, it is unlikely to occur within a timeframe adequate enough to save the planet from destruction.
Consider this: there is a chance that this planet is the only source of life of its kind in the entire universe. Whatever your belief, this is a possibility, and industrial civilization is destroying potentially the only source of life.
One would be hard-pressed to find a greater evil than that. If you ever wanted to determine a set of objective moral truths to follow and carve them onto a couple stone tablets, this is a good start: destroying all life on earth is evil and immoral and it must be prevented by whatever means necessary.
We are facing a global temperature increase between five and eleven degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Keep in mind that just a few degrees increase is more than enough to wipe out the vast majority of diverse species on the planet.
Last year, 313 black men were killed by police or other vigilantes, an average of one every 28 hours.
Men battering women is the most common crime in the world; a man beats a woman once every fifteen seconds. And at least one-third of all women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
We must begin to see the world through the lens of justice, and our scope must extend to all of life. There are some very serious yet important questions that need to be answered, and very soon: What do we value – life or luxury? If the dominant culture is incapable of changing on its own, are we prepared to force it to change? And what will it take to do so?
There is no use in hiding behind our privileges, comforts and perceived inadequacies any longer. Oppressed communities have been on the front lines fighting back against genocide of mind and body since the onset of this culture, but now everyone and everything is at risk. Even the privileged elite – sadistic in their callous disregard for the welfare of others, stopping at nothing to extract every ounce of resources from whoever they can – will have to pay for their actions. And that payment will be made in blood.
So what scope are you using? Are you waiting for a mass shift in collective consciousness, ascension into a higher spiritual plane of existence? If so, please tell me: who all is included in this ascension? Will the psychopaths destroying the planet be going as well? Seriously, you can have them. Take them with you. I love this beautiful planet and I’m staying here to fight for it.
Get serious about the situation we are in. Take a step back, look at the world for what it really is, swallow that lump in your throat, and join us. Let the emotions wash over you – allow yourself to fully feel them. Get acquainted with that despair and heartbreak, and then do what is necessary to make sure future generations do not also have to feel it.
Everything we do needs to be done mindful of its effect on several generations ahead. This culture is so short-sighted; in less than one percent of our existence on this planet, we’ve decimated land, animal, water and air. There is a hole in the ozone layer, and acid in the rain, and the very soil upon which we depend is either blowing away in the wind or running off into the seas and oceans.
Such is the result of limiting our scope to the next quarter, or the next fiscal year. It is a suicidal tendency. Let’s rediscover our sanity. Communion with each other, with Earth, and with its entire community of life – this reconnection will help us reverse this murderous trajectory. We don’t have much choice, anyway. So widen your scope and fight.
We have a planet to save.
Let’s Get Free! is a monthly column by Kourtney Mitchell, a writer and activist from Georgia, primarily focusing on anti-oppression and building genuine alliance with oppressed communities. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.