Delusional? We're all in on the silence

Derrick Jensen is calling you a liar. He’s calling me one too.
It’s because we collude in the silencing of A Language Older than Words, otherwise know as erosion, cause and effect, or even the Truth.
“The language … of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone,” writes Jensen in his thought-provoking and harrowing memoir, is a language that communicates contact, both positive and negative. From his experience with an abusive father to an equally personal absorption of the scars of the abusive human race, Jensen’s work is a wake-up call and a brutal depiction of mankind’s self-deception.
There is much to applaud in Jensen’s accusations, laid out in A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make-Believe and Listening to the Land, among others. No, we don’t do enough to prevent genocide-– hell, we don’t even abhor it sufficiently. Yes, women are still frequent victims of violence, and the environment is defended just as shabbily.
It’s true, a trip to a slaughterhouse is an appalling testament to the misplaced technologies of euthanasia and quality care, and a cursory study of the ethnic breakdown of prison inmates leads to a conclusion that racism is endemic in the US penal system.
These “self-evident truths,” asserts Jensen in my all-time favorite passage, sometime “percolate past our defenses and into our consciousness, [where] they are treated like so many hand grenades rolling across the dance floor of an improbably macabre party.”
But moral effrontery is a dangerous weapon. Even as a preacher works his audience from attention to passion and from accusation to penance, there is a thin line that, in crossing, can send “the choir” out for a smoke.
For me that moment came when I read that “We pretend that …the women who are raped… the 50 million children who are enslaved to make soccer balls… are happy and unaffected by it all.”
OK. I never boycotted Kathy Lee, and I skipped the “Take back the night” march; does that make me delusional? Self-absorbed, well-intentioned, and privileged, yes – I have been hopping the grenades of my own personal disco, and I’m not alone. This is a problem, but it’s not hypocrisy.

Derrick Jensen speaks Thursday, May 8, at two venues: New Dominion Bookshop on the Downtown Mall at noon, and Live Arts Theater at 7:30pm. The evening event is a forum with Native American activist Ward Churchill and UVA professor Jennings Wagoner entitled Lewis & Clark Revisited, the Native Voice of Westward Expansion and is sponsored by the Living Education Center for Ecology and the Arts. 971-1647.

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