|NC: What do
you hope to achieve through your writing?
DJ: I want to bring down civilization. I’m interested
in living in a world that has more wild salmon every year
than the year before. A world that has more migratory songbirds
every year than the year before; a world that has less dioxins
and flame retardants in mothers’ breast milk; a world
that is not being destroyed; a world where krill populations
aren’t collapsing; a world where there aren’t
dead zones in the oceans; a world not being systematically
dismantled. I want to live in a world that is not being killed,
and I will do whatever it takes to get there. It is really
clear that for the past 6000 years, civilization has been
killing the planet. I’m on the planet’s side.
NC: You speak a lot about hope. Do you think there
is power in hopelessness?
DJ: I think hope is really harmful for several reasons. False
hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and they blind us to
real possibilities. Does anybody really think that Weyerhaeuser
is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anybody
really think that if a democrat would have gotten into the
White House that things would be ok? Does anybody think that
vivisectors will stop torturing animals just because we stand
outside with a sign?
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stand out
there with that sign. What it means is, do we really believe
that they will stop because we do that? And if you don’t
believe that, what does that mean? The book I have just recently
completed is really centered around this question. Do you
believe that the culture will undergo a voluntary transformation
to obtain a sustainable way of living? If you don’t,
what does that mean for our strategy and for our tactics?
We don’t know. The reason we don’t know is that
we don’t ask that question. The reason we don’t
ask that question is that we’re so busy pretending that
we have hope.
One of the smartest things the Nazis did was to co-opt rationality
and to co-opt hope. The way they did that was by making it
so that at every step of the way it was in the Jews’
rational, best interest not to resist.
Would you rather get an ID card or would you rather resist
and possibly get killed? Do you want to go to a ghetto or
do you want to resist and possibly get killed? Do you want
to get on a cattle car or do you want to resist and possibly
get killed? Do you want to take a shower or do you want to
resist and possibly get killed?
Every step of the way, it was in their rational best interest
to not resist. But I’ll tell you something really interesting:
The Jews who participated in the Warsaw ghetto uprising had
a much higher rate of survival than those who went along.
We need to keep that in mind over the next ten years.
NC: How can civilization be brought down?
DJ: I’ve done benefits for earth liberation prisoners
and fully support the actions of the E.L.F. and the A.L.F.
That said, I do have a criticism, which is that I wish they
would move up the infrastructure. I think what we need to
do is start looking for bottlenecks. For example, one man
acting all by himself almost stopped World War II. (Before
I talk about this, I need to say that I am not talking about
assassinating George Bush.)
George Elser was a guy who decided to kill Hitler. Anybody
who talks about the German resistance in World War II is very
clear that killing Hitler was crucial to stopping the war.
It was late 1939. The war had just started and it could have
been brought to a stop. Elser was able to fabricate a bomb,
put it in a place where Hitler was going to give a speech
and set the timer. Hitler, instead of giving his speech at
the normal time, moved it up by a half hour. Instead of finishing
up at 9:30 as he always did, he finished at 9:00. He was out
of the building at 9:10 and the bomb went off at 9:20. So
it was 10 minutes that would have stopped World War II.
The specific reasons I’m saying that I’m not
applying this to George Bush is that Bush doesn’t wield
the sort of power that Hitler did. If Bush were to choke on
a pretzel, Cheney would take over. In that particular case
assassination would not do as much good as it would have done
with Hitler. But my point is that the Elser situation is an
example of leveraging power. Leveraging power does not have
to be violent. I’m leveraging my voice when I write
a book as opposed to standing on a street corner.
When individuals liberate animals I think that what they
are trying to do is to save those particular animals. It would
be the same taking out a dam. The primary reason would be
to liberate that stretch of river. But I think, for example,
if somebody torches an SUV, that’s not a lot of leverage.
That’s a huge risk for not very much return. In no way
am I saying anything negative about any of the people who
have had the outrageous courage to do those actions, but if
you are going to get popped for 20 years for burning a couple
SUVs, there are other things that I would rather do.
That’s actually my biggest criticism of the E.L.F.
and A.L.F., and it’s not even a criticism, because I
would like to see them continue to do what they do. In addition,
however, I would like to see others move up the infrastructure.
I’ve spoken with hackers who have said things that suggest
to me that hacking holds great promise.
NC: How do you maintain a positive outlook and keep
yourself motivated and focused on the fight at hand?
There seems to be this idea that if you understand how bad
things are, you have to be miserable all the time. But the
truth is that I’m both really happy and really sad.
I’m full of rage, I’m full of hate, and I’m
full of love. People expend all this energy fighting the despair.
Well, despair is an appropriate response to a desperate situation.
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to attempt to not feel
those “negative feelings.” Sorrow is just sorrow,
and pain is just pain. It’s not so much the sorrow and
the pain that hurts as it is the resistance to it. I’m
going to quote from my new book because I address this issue
Most of our actions are frighteningly ineffective. If that
weren’t the case we would not be witnessing the dismantling
of the world. Yet we keep on doing the same old symbolic actions
and keep on calling the making of this or that statement a
Now don’t get me wrong, symbolic victories can provide
great morale boosts, which can be crucial. But we make a fatal
and frankly pathetic error when we presume that our symbolic
victories, our recruiting and our morale boosting, by themselves
make tangible differences on the ground, and we should never
forget that what happens on the ground is the only thing that
There comes a time in the lives of many long-term activists
when symbolic victories, rare even as these can be sometimes,
are no longer enough. There comes a time when many of these
activists get burned out, discouraged and demoralized. Many
fight despair. I think fighting against this despair is a
mistake. I think this despair is often an unacknowledged,
embodied, understanding that the tactics they’ve been
using aren’t accomplishing what they want and the goals
they’ve been seeking are insufficient to the crisis
These activists get burned out and frustrated because they’re
trying to achieve sustainability within a system that is inherently
unsustainable. They can never win. No wonder they get discouraged.
But instead of really listening to these feelings, they so
often take a couple of weeks off and then dive back into trying
to put the same old square pegs into the same old round holes.
The result: more burnout, more frustration, more discouragement,
and the salmon keep dying.
What would happen if we listened to these feelings of being
burnt out, discouraged, demoralized, and frustrated? What
would those feelings tell us? Is it possible they could tell
us that what we’re doing isn’t working, and so
we should try something else? Perhaps they’re telling
us to switch metaphors. That we should stop trying to save
scraps of soap in a concentration camp and try to bust out
of the whole camp.