Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Herb Ruhs: Derrick Jensen and The Happy Doomer

In Around Mendo Island on January 24, 2011 at 7:40 am

Anderson Valley

I don’t know why I end up defending Derrick Jensen (Beyond Hope). He is pretty good at that himself.

What I observe is that folks who read Jensen enthusiastically uniformly fail to understand him and that those who react badly to him are understanding him at a level they are compelled to deny in their conscious thoughts. The things that we don’t like about ourselves annoy us most in others. I think of Jensen as like a real life Ender from Card’s novel Ender’s Game. Like Ender he is unavoidably flooded with reality while all around him are sleep walkers. Being awake while participating in “civilized life” can be excruciating and causes sufferers to flee to monasteries and hermitages, but some brave souls like Jensen choose to stay involved and end up calling themselves activist. No greater gift than from those who confront insanity directly.

Also, like Ender in subsequent Card novels, Jensen is a “speaker for the dead.” In this case he speaks for the extinct and soon to be extinct. He speaks eloquently of the unbearable sadness of being a member of a suicidal and murderous species. This is such a hard task that few even dare to do it, and no one I am aware of does it as eloquently as Jensen, who I relate to as a poet rather than as primarily a nonfiction writer (though fact is the raw material of his tragic poetry).

Most people with any degree of emotional and intellectual maturity are aware that what bothers them most about others is what they deny about themselves. We hate people who remind us of parts of ourselves we hide. So it is with Jensen. Not only is he a hero for treading where angels fear but he is speaking with such an original voice that criticism has no purchase for lack of comparisons. This is the meaning of the oft misused term “incomparable” which has been bastardized in popular speech as a mere superlative.

That said, although I cite the same facts, I am what I like to call a “happy doomer” as opposed to Jensen’s “unhappy doomer” approach. Happy, not because of the things Jensen cites, the evident beauty of life itself and the continually amazing Universe in which life lives, but because of doom itself. I sometimes ask folks exactly what part of modern life they would like to save from the forces of doom. Outside of the usual references to loved ones, art and music I find that there is virtually nothing of the current arrangement that we casually call “civilization” that people really want to save. QED, doom is a good thing since it represents the wiping away of so much that is bad, life hating and ugly.

My program is to try to recruit people to manifest high altitude nuclear explosions. I began this when I learned of the experience of Wiccan groups in England that had been being successful in manifesting improvements at certain crime ridden corners and neighborhoods by coordinating the visualization of goodness in those places. Just a few people causing relatively vast amounts of good caught my attention. Since that time I have been recruiting folks to join me for a brief moment at noon each day (I have an awful time remembering if I don’t set and alarm) to visualize a series of high altitude (two hundred or so miles up) nuclear explosions. This is moving rapidly to actuality since the primitive nuclear powers in Pakistan and North Korea are being pressured by high tech militaries, and, when this comes to a head, their best defense is to set these things off a couple of hundred miles up to create an ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) to degrade the high tech electronics of their attackers. So maybe it is working. It is beginning to seem sort of inevitable so I am being a happier doomer by the day. I am SOOO ready for the industrial cancer that afflicts life on earth to crumble and leave us to fend for ourselves in more life affirming ways.

If I was too brief about this (for the sake of space) please seek clarification. I am not kidding about this. I am EXPECTING, not hoping, that soon we will be liberated from technological mass insanity. Therefore I am a HAPPY DOOMER.

  1. Yikes.

    I can truly sympathize here, but when it gets to the point that high-altitude nuclear explosions are being invoked as some sort of solution, the notion of happiness becomes even more elusive. Should that come to pass, we’ll get a chance to find out what “mass insanity” really is.

  2. Hi Izzy,

    Thanks for commenting. I felt this way too when I first encountered the idea. It is only by virtue of some serious study and thought that I came to my current position. In spite of millennia of with being presented with “propaganda for the good of the people,” I have yet to shear of a situation where propaganda, even GOOD PROPAGANDA THAT I SUPPORT, pursued vigorously, fails to freeze thought in artificial constructs and prevent serious critical thinking. There is no such thing as good propaganda. So it is with the anti-nuke crusades. I remain staunchly opposed to nuclear technology and would like to see it gone for good. The irony is that the only plausible way to rid the earth of nuclear technology is to set off about five to eight primitive nuclear weapons as previously stated. Industrial technology, as it has evolved over the last couple hundred years, is so anti-biological, so just plain anti-life, that, left to its own designs it will kill all advanced life forms on Earth, including humans of course.

    There are exceptions to every generalization, otherwise we would call them laws. The sole exception (and I include medicinal isotopes) to the nukes-are-bad position, is this one, not only because it will bring an end to much human suffering under tyrannical globalized capitalism, but because of the poetic justice involved in seeing puny nuclear powers defeat the dominant ones in a way that is essentially irreversible and brings an end to the nuclear age (as part of clean sweep of advanced technologies). I love my laptop. I love search engines. I would love to see my laptop become a paper weight and the library my search engine.

    There is no risk from radiation. There are no direct effects on biological organisms. It will cripple the globalized trade in advanced technological weapons. It will make large scale nuclear war obsolete because the industrial infrastructure will be destroyed and the resources that armies fight over, coal, oil, rare earth elements, uranium, coltan, cobalt, etc., essentially worthless. It will lead to real localization and self determination. Which is not to say that folks will be wise in how they respond, but those who do respond wisely, those who honor self sufficiency, local harvests, cooperative economic initiatives. And, most of all, it will give Earth a breathing spell to heal Her wounds.

    A number of years ago I was introduced to the idea of high altitude nuclear explosions by John Lewallen;s (Philo) book “High Altitude Nuclear War.” For those interested in following me along this path of enlightenment, that might be a good starting place. Now we have the internet, which is an excellent source (key words EMP, HIGH ALTITUDE NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS), but I still like books.

    Given enough time to converse on this topic, one to one, even I am surprised by how many folks become convinced of the desirability of the Jubilee Bomb (one especially cute name for this) and I expect that some of those floks are even thinking about it and helping to manifest it into reality, even if not joining me at noon.

    Now, inexplicably to those yet to be convinced, I feel a surge of good feeling every time I hear the Neocons threatening Pakistan and North Korea. Now, that’s what I call making lemonade.


  3. Sort of a reverse Neutron Bomb, eh?

    Well, maybe. No doubt the planet can use a break from our destructive activities – so could most of us humans, actually. Recalls to mind a story told by Dennis McKenna about an ayahuasca experience, when the overmind of the Amazon rainforest informed him that “you monkeys just think you’re in charge”. But it is, after all, human psychology (or at least some demented form of it) that is behind our current predicament, not the gizmos themselves. If we were truly sane, many of them would not have even been developed, nuclear bombs included. Will the sociopaths among us rapture up with the blast? Will we really all join in a circle around the campfire afterward? What’s stopping us now? The EMP phenomenon is well known, but a little reading on the subject reveals that the real-world effects of such an explosion are not as predictable or controllable as we might wish. Certainly the short-term suffering would be immense. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but lot of things could go wrong with this particular plan.

  4. Yes Izzy,

    In fact in the Congressional hearings on the subject a government nuclear weapons expert testified seemingly angrily that this was the opposite of the “neutron bomb.” “Inefficiencies” in the process mainly concern the strength of the EMP induced and the “hardening” of targets. Both issues are moot. Firstly, a sufficient forcing of the current system, resulting in general collapse, would probably be accomplished merely by the destruction of the satellite cloud, which is the most certain effect. The orbits of the satellites would likely be so contaminated that the satellites could not be replaced due to space being seeded with hazards, even in the unlikely event that the broad based industrial system somehow managed to put together a launch attempt. But the big thing is that industrial production would become impossible because it has become so fragile and interconnected that any sufficient disturbance would bring the whole thing down . The military “hardening” (which probably is not as good as advertised) is also irrelevant. Destruction of the industrial base will destroy the markets for the raw materials which militaries seek to protect and make them irrelevant even to the extent that they could still function.

    The suffering aspect is daunting. I wouldn’t want to be flying on a jet liner. On the other hand, the authoritarians are always warning us that there will be great suffering if we don’t do as they say and we have enormous, and EXTREMELY UNJUST, suffering anyway! The current agricultural system is destroying the food supply and famine is returning to many places as climate change and environmental destruction. We starve if we do and we starve if we don’t, but at least we will have this blood sucking system off the backs of the survivors. The propaganda is always predicting a “blood bath” if the criminals are run off. This NEVER happens. Rebecca Solnit has a great book called “A paradise built in hell: the extraordinary communities that arise in disaster.” Reading it may give you more courage as we face disaster no matter what happens. Actual history, as related by Solnit, as well as the work of Sociologist who study Disaster Psychology, supports the reality that folks do amazingly well when they emerge from disaster, AS LONG AS THE AUTHORITIES REMAIN INACTIVE. Solnit’s book can change one’s mind fundamentally about disaster scenarios.

    Harm reduction beats attempts at harm avoidance.


  5. So far techno-fixes for our techno-problems just haven’t panned out real well. Every brilliant new idea yields ten unforeseen world-erroding difficulties. And inasmuch as numerous civilizatons have already risen and fallen in predictable patterns, it’s a little hard to discern the mechanism that will prevent it from starting all over. I have great faith in the positive aspect of human creativity and imagination, but it really needs a freer arena in which to realize the possibilities. Have we finally learned our lesson? Will the bad guys and control freaks now play nice? I guess one way or another, we’re gonna find out.

    In any event, you may get your wish without any human agency. Apparently, our sun itself periodically puts out electromagentic bursts that dwarf anything we might cook up. And there is real concern that the coming solar maximum that will play out during the next few years could be a whopper.

    Bzzzt…fttzzpp…pop!!flash!!…fade to black.

  6. I wouldn’t get worried about the sun flairs. Just the latest fear thing. It is a random event. Big ones strong enough to fry the surface are very, very rare. It is in the catagory of the asteroid catastrophe. Or the giant volcano eruption. Maybe at Mammoth.

    The reason that it wouldn’t just start up again after the EMP is that the founding conditions for this technology are no longer pertaining. The easy resources are gone, but even more are the intermediary steps of technology are gone as well. Pulling ourselves up by non existent boot straps.

    An even more likely reset event, but one that would allow the restart, is a mass dieoff due to contagious disease. EMP is better. Wish for that. Noon each day please.


  7. Well, the last such solar event was as recent as 1859, and though the world was not highly electrified at that time, it still managed to fry the nascent telegraph systems in both the United States and Europe. Literally cooked the wires. Sounds like a trial run for your plan. Anyway, who really knows what will happen. But beyond that, it seems like I’m talking about human nature & you’re talking about technology. And so we while away the time between now and whatever will come. I just can’t find it in myself to actively wish for disaster, but we all have our quirks.

    Good luck!

  8. Hi Izzy,

    One person’s quirk can be another person’s highly evidenced reality. The EMP thing is the only plausible scenario to stop this run away train that threatens all advanced life on Earth that I have come up with. The only one. I am always expecting someone to toss in another plausible scenario. I’ve been at this steadily for eight years now without even a bite!

    Of all the unpopular things that I do, and there are many, probably the most universally reviled is my tendency to logically refute peoples hopeful fantasizes. The Ukiah Blog seems to be doing a good job of debunking technical “solutions.” The blog is also concentrating on the really important issues of how folks are going to survive after the disaster that will be coming to your neighborhood in the near future. Economically, much of the country is already in disaster conditions. People’s heads are full of highly effective “light at the end of the tunnel” propaganda as things become progressively worse so the general condition is not widely appreciated. Short of a collapse (which can only be delayed thankfully) the plans already in place by our globalized military industrial complex will produce the worst of possible outcomes. Relentless oppression, famine, war and pestilence destroying most of the rest of life until the ability of the Earth to support complex life, including us, will not return for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. Any proposal does not have to promise very much to be better than that. Something needs to pull the plug before the accumulated damage causes Soylent Green to become a documentary.

    My pipe dream is that people will start to get together in small groups and educate themselves about these things and send delegates to larger meetings with novel and creative ideas, some of which would certainly be better than EMP. In the mean time please excuse my nausea in response to movement and identity politics.


  9. From what I’ve read on the subject, EMP could definitely bring the high-tech economy to a screeching, sputtering halt. Is that what you want? Millions of urbanized, citified, newly hungry humans, with no inkling of how to raise their own food, suddenly becoming desperate wannabe farmers/gardeners with no land, no equipment, no knowledge, no experience, and no support network? The prospect of this makes you “happy”? Really?

  10. Dave,

    Thanks for the link. That was an excellent article.

    Cuba has the rarest thing in the world: important and practical knowledge spread diffusely throughout its population. They have made themselves depression proof. Wouldn’t it be poetic if the example set by Cuba’s agronomists saves the US over the next few decades?

    One concern I have about farming without cheap energy is the possibility that can-see to can’t-see, dawn-to-dusk drudgery may make a comeback. It seems to me that the answer to that is plentiful non-petroleum energy*. Not enough to waste on the re-industrialization of agriculture, but enough so that working like an ox all day is unnecessary.

    I really like the idea of making farming worthwhile and fun for farmers. NO to nuclear energy of any kind, if anyone should ever ask me.

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