Liberal vs. Radical — Lierre Keith — Full Presentation

This is an excerpt from a Deep Green Resistance training. In this presentation, DGR co-founder Lierre Keith compares liberalism with radicalism. Which one describes you?

This re-upload combines the previous videos that were split into three parts.

Excerpt from the book, “Deep Green Resistance,” chapter 3.

Can it be done? Can industrial civilization be stopped? Theoretically, any institution built by humans can be taken apart by humans. That seems obvious as a concept. But in the here and now, in the time frame left to our planet, what is feasible?

Here the left diverges. The faithful insist that Everything Will Be Okay. They play an emotional shell game of new technology, individual consumer choices, and hope as a moral duty. When all three shells turn up empty, the fall-back plan is an insistence in the belief that people can’t really kill the planet. There will be bacteria if nothing else, they urge, as if that should give solace to the drowning bears and the vanished snails. Meanwhile, the facts tell a different story. Methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide, is escaping from both land and sea where up until now it was sequestered by being frozen. This could lead to “a catastrophic warming of the earth.” Catastrophic meaning a planet too hot for life—any life, all life. Kiss your mustard seed of bacteria good-bye: yes, we can kill the planet.

It’s a bankrupt approach regardless. Try this. Pretend that I have a knife and you don’t. Pretend I slice off one of your fingers, then another, then a third. When you object—and you will object, with all your might—I tell you that I’m not going to kill you, just change you. Joint by joint, I continue to disarticulate someone still alive, who will very soon be dead. When you protest for your life, I tell you that you’re not actually going to die, as there will surely be some bacteria remaining. Does that work for you?

One would hope that a looming mass extinction would compel us to seek something beyond emotional solace wrapped in pseudospiritual platitudes. But strategies for action are an affront to the faithful, who need to believe in individual action. This faith is really just liberalism writ large. One of the cardinal differences between liberals—those who insist that Everything Will Be Okay—and the truly radical is in their conception of the basic unit of society. This split is a continental divide. Liberals believe that a society is made up of individuals. Individualism is so sacrosanct that, in this view, being identified as a member of a group or class is an insult. But for radicals, society is made up of classes (economic ones in Marx’s original version) or any groups or castes. In the radical’s understanding, being a member of a group is not an affront. Far from it; identifying with a group is the first step toward political consciousness and ultimately effective political action.


8 thoughts on “Liberal vs. Radical — Lierre Keith — Full Presentation”

  1. Wow, I couldn’t agree more. It’s about time that someone beside me pushed back against the BS that humans can’t destroy the Earth. (In the eyes of many of us, they already have, but we obviously don’t mean literally.) This statement is a prediction of an unknowable fact, and I sure don’t want to find out or even to try to. Saying that humans can’t destroy the Earth is a deeply anti-environmental statement, because it strongly implies that we can just continue doing whatever we want and everything will be fine. Not so!

  2. Re Lierre’s essay on liberalism versus radicalism:
    While individualism is basic to liberalism, it is even more basic to conservatism. Hence the ostracism of radicals in mainstream politics, where we are an inherent threat to the status quo, liberal or conservative.

    Even more problematic are the two issues that both liberals and conservatives regard as inviolable, and closed to discussion — and both of which are key obstacles in any serious effort to save the environment. I refer, of course, to procreation and religion.

    I keep hearing reporters and politicians wondering “how we are going to feed a continually growing population.” But no one ever talks about preventing continuous growth, which logically is the part of the equation we should be addressing.

    This taboo goes back to the dawn of civilization, when virtually all the presumed gods supposedly commanded humanity to “be fruitful and multiply.” This appeared important back then, when a tribe could be wiped out by any of several natural calamities, to say nothing of war. Hence the “be fruitful and multiply” commandment of Western religions, and which I am sure has its counterparts in others. But since the faithful rarely attach common sense to religious beliefs, there appear to be many who assume that multiplication is to continue until we are destroyed not by plague, pestilence, and war, but by multiplication itself.

    This obvious end game (which Lierre discusses brilliantly in her critique of agriculture) simply meant the creation of deserts and the death of ancient civilizations, when it happened in places like Angkor Wat and Ur. But this time (thanks to globalization) there’s nowhere left to run. As Chris Hedges put it, “It’s all Easter Island now.”

    With all due respect to the many good things religion teaches, common sense is not among them. When I tried to raise the issue of overpopulation with my evangelical stepmother, she interrupted with, “But God tells us to be fruitful and multiply.”
    When I responded with, “Okay, God, we did that. Now what?” it was as if I’d urinated into a baptismal font.

    There simply is no such thing as rational discourse with a religious fundamentalist, because their thinking is rooted in the most colossal error imaginable. All Creator religions are based on the mistaken assumption that, because the sun and moon and stars appear to revolve around Earth, our tiny planet must be the center of the Universe. And as the dominant species on Earth, we must be the reason for all of Creation. And from there, it’s just a short hop to human supremacy, male domination, the master race, and all the other power-isms you can think of — with a sword in one hand, and the Word of God in the other.

    To understand what a total fallacy this is, however, we need to fully grasp just how monumental an error it all is, beginning with Earth as the center of the Universe. In many textbooks, our solar system is represented by a sun the size of a quarter, surrounded by peppercorn-sized planets, fractions of an inch away. In reality, a sun of this size would be about ten yards from Earth, which would be about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. while the orbits of Pluto and Neptune would be close to half a mile distant. A jet fighter, traveling at the speed of sound, would need 16 years of continuous flight just to fly from Earth to the sun, and approximately 1100 years to transect the orbit of Neptune. And yet our solar system, vast as it is, is to the known Universe as a basketball is to the solar system. A god of the Universe, in other words, would be about as concerned with our existence as a lobster off the coast of Maine might be with the possibility of bacterial life on Mars.

    We are indescribably meaningless to the Universe, and any meaning in our own lives must come from the love and compassion we show for the world around us, and the life forms that inhabit it. Nothing we could ever build, think, invent, or compose will ever mean a thing, outside our own, hopelessly tiny planet. And our material alterations of the earthly landscape will only be measured in terms of how great their negative impacts might be.

    This is who we are. We are an organism with too many synapses, too much time on our hands. Likewise, we have far too high a regard for the novelties of opposable thumbs, our inability to walk on all fours, and the brain that allows us to appreciate the seemingly miraculous opportunities of existence — and all too often to squander them, on destructive illusions of wealth and power.

  3. @Mark Behrend
    I agree, and I think the reason is this: At some point a very long time ago, consciously, unconsciously, or both, humans decided to focus on their intellect and ego, and on the material world (which obviously includes the natural world), instead of focusing on wisdom, empathy, and expanding our consciousness. This led to agriculture and all of its evils, and possibly even to leaving Africa long before that (when everywhere that humans went they caused extinctions).

    Humans could have been a shining light on the Earth, but instead are a cancerous tumor. This might be able to be reversed, except that it appears that we’re out of time. We should still do the right thing as much as possible (0-1 biological kid, consume as little as possible, work for major societal changes, try to convince people that we’re all just parts of this planet not superior beings and that we need to act that way, etc.) because it’s the right thing to do (and let the chips fall where they may), but humans have already caused so much destruction that even if we stopped and reversed course immediately we’d still be one of the worst things to ever happen to this planet.

  4. I first watched this back in 2011 or 2012 I think, I was struck then by the same thing I’m struck by now. What does it achieve? here we are, 8 years later, still watching the same shit-show play out. She changed nothing, we changed nothing. Please, someone show me what I’m missing?

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