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The Culture of Make Believe [Paperback]

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Item description for The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen...

Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an examination of the very heart of our civilization. The Culture of Make Believe is a book that is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   720
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 2" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   2.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2004
Publisher   Chelsea Green
ISBN  1931498571  
ISBN13  9781931498579  

Availability  0 units.

More About Derrick Jensen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Derrick Jensen is the prize-winning author of A Language Older than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, Listening to the Land, Strangely Like War, Welcome to the Machine, and Walking on Water. He was one of two finalists for the 2003 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, which cited The Culture of Make Believe as "a passionate and provocative meditation on the nexus of racism, genocide, environmental destruction and corporate malfeasance, where civilization meets its discontents." He writes for The New York Times Magazine, Audubon, and The Sun Magazine among many others. He is an environmental activist and lives on the coast of northern California.

Derrick Jensen currently resides in Crescent City, in the state of California. Derrick Jensen was born in 1960.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > International
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Good & Evil
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Political
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > International > Relations
6Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Discrimination & Racism

Reviews - What do customers think about The Culture of Make Believe?

Necessary Reading  Aug 2, 2008
An important work that helps one to understand the reality of humankind's environmental onslaught on the earth, and constant attack on life itself. But it is important to also read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit to balance out Jensen's perspective.
Reading both books will change your perspective on our world and culture forever.
Necessary For Anyone Who Values Life  Sep 18, 2007
Derrick Jensen is on a mission to convince the world that our culture is insane. And he is right. Read this book and you will realize how as a society, as a culture, as a world we are a**-backwards in our thinking, in our values, in our way of living.

This book is a long, hard road through hell. Hell being the world that surrounds us, but you will feel, and hopefully be a better person after reading this book. It is beyond relevant today more than ever, as our leaders everywhere become more corrupt and take advantage of us in everyway possible.

You will never view the words "Hate" and "Power" the same way after reading this book, and unless you are shallow and think that Paris Hilton is great, or if you are a power hungry leader that preys on the everyday person, you will find this book startingly refreshing and totally, completely life changing.
Are you ready for the red pill?  Jun 22, 2007
*The Culture of Make Believe* picks up where its predecessor, the powerful *Language Older than Words*, left off. After examining in that latter volume the objectification and systematic denial of that objectification that permeate Western culture, Jensen turns his attention to the related "relationships between hate and fear, hate and power, power and fear... What are the relationships between any of these and the desire or need to control? And what are the relationships between all of these and a desire or need to perceive others as objects? It seems obvious to me that enslaving another requires that the other be, at least to some degree, objectified: Does objectification imply hatred? I used to think so, but I'm beginning to think the relationship is more complex." (67) The relationship is indeed more complex, and because of the complexly interpenetrating nature of the subject matter, the book itself is also complex while somehow remaining an engaging read. In order to adequately describe and analyze these complex relationships, Jensen's sprawling tome draws on vivid storytelling, graphic and painful historical accounts, potent metaphors drawn from our cultural heritage, powerful intuitions, postmodern reflexivity and critical insight into the author's own biases, lengthy interviews with relevant thinkers, and an underlying logic that deftly interweaves the seemingly disparate strands of racism, sexism, monotheism, hatred, power, exploitation, colonialism, ecocide, war, abstraction, objectification, production, and of civilization (particularly the civilization with roots in the Mediterranean and the Levant, aka "Western" civilization) itself. In the Biblical metaphor that he develops throughout the book, Jensen is Noah's son Ham, sharing his vision of the naked patriarch of civilization, especially industrial civilization, and calling the reader to see that the patriarch has no clothes, and having seen, to make a choice.

Jensen's book is filled with detailed accounts of atrocities that have been perpetrated against racial and ethnic minorities, women, and against the natural world itself, but he doesn't stop with relating the gory details. Instead he digs deeper into the accounts to show how the perpetrators were most often not barbaric and marginal, as we tend to assume, but were instead policemen, politicians, businessmen, economists, investors, CEOs, Rotarians, and other decent, respectable folks, the people that Ward Churchill has called "little Eichmanns." (In other words, the perpetrators were and are all of us who benefit from the system.) He describes how South African cultures were systematically destroyed, not through lawlessness but through the passing of laws, in order to get black laborers to mine diamonds for DeBeers; in effect, racist apartheid grew out of good old-fashioned market economics. He relates accounts of how everyday black Americans were lynched and burned for looking at white women, or for looking like black men who looked at white women, or for just being black. (He even tells the story of a woman whose fetus was cut out of her belly by a bunch of upstanding white citizens as punishment for her crime of hating them for burning her husband.) Again and again, we see that the perpetrators of these evils weren't inbred reprobates, but were upstanding members of their communities, and that these evil occasions weren't attended in shame, but in celebration. For example, at its height the KKK, contrary to popular belief, did not comprise backwater yokels but police chiefs, sheriffs, attorneys general, and state governors.

According to Jensen's analysis, hatred--whether aimed at blacks, at women, at religious minorities, at Iraqi civilians, or at the natural world itself--is a manifestation of our cultural vision of the world. In this vision, the Other is objectified, dealt with abstractly in terms of a class (so an innocent black man is burned just because he looks like the actual criminal or a 2,000 year old tree is rendered into two-by-fours just to make a quick buck), held in contempt, and viewed as a resource to be exploited instead of as another living being with which one may enter into relationship. Moreover, as Jensen teases out, the phenomenon of red-faced, spittle-flinging hatred is an aberration that typically appears only when the normal direction of power is subverted or challenged. At other times, hatred merely manifests as the status quo, innocent only to those who benefit from its privileges.

This book, while engaging, is not an easy read, precisely because it challenges the reader on EVERY level. It reveals the "embeddedness of all of us in a culture that perceives war in monstrously utilitarian terms" and our "immersion in a river of deceit, a river where we take as accepted that one hand may hold forth an olive branch while another makes final arrangements to thrust with a sword, a river where treaties are abrogated at convenience, a culture in which lying to achieve one's goals in not only acceptable and expected, but routine" (175). Making the choice to see one's embeddedness in the culture of make believe and to conceive of alternatives is irrevocable and has real consequences: "The difficulty comes--and here is the real beauty of the story of Noah and his sons---when, like Ham (or at least my vision of Ham), you find your way through these shifts in perception and see the patriarch naked and vulnerable. What do you do then? Do you, like Ham, talk about what you have seen? As the story makes clear, there are grave strictures against doing so, with severe consequences. Or do you follow the lead of Ham's brothers, and reap the privilege that comes from averting your eyes?" (62-3) Jensen's book challenges our need for happy, simple solutions and implies that this need for "feel-good" vibes is itself a loss created by the culture of make believe: "I need not fight despair...despair is a normal and reasonable response to a desperate situation.... my response--breaking into sobs over the killing of so much beauty--is normal, and expected, and that to not feel these losses manifests another type of loss, that of one's own humanity, one's own heart." (249)

I could write and quote more, but I won't. My guess is that you are here, reading these reviews, because you already have an idea of what Derrick Jensen has to say and agree with it to a greater or lesser extent. Readers seem to either hate Jensen's writing style-- with its tangential approach, long narrative arcs that connect loose ends over a span of 200 pages, and self-referential quality--or to love it, hearing it in a voice as refreshing as the truth it reveals in page after page. Give this book a read. Your view of the world and of your role in it won't be the same when you finish it.
The Culture of Make Believe  Mar 15, 2007
The author presents strong, well-researched and documented arguments for hate as the basis of our (US, Western-European-based) culture. "Hate" is a pretty strong word, but I haven't thought of a better one for what Jensen is describing. Well written with a few organizational issues, may omit some accounts opposing particular theses.
The futile quest for an ideal society  Jan 24, 2007
I got this book as a "textbook" for a college level class and it interested me from the start with its weird cover. I believe the cover is a metaphor for Jensen's life: He holds the key to personal fulfillment literally in his hand, but he feels like he cannot reach it until he has cut down the bars of society. When I opened it up, I saw that it wasn't a college textbook at all. The pages smell weird and each chapter title is a one word description of negative emotions or problems with society (i.e. criminals), ambiguous black and white drawings, and finally, a relevant quote from an intellectual such as Locke or Thoreau.

From the first chapter on you can tell that Jensen feels absolute conviction in his work. He tackles many difficult subjects such as rape and slavery, bombarding the reader with unrelenting statistics and gristly details. He knows the more facts he throws out, the less likely you are to call his views extreme. Make no mistake: this is extremist literature.

There's no flow to the chapters because at any particular point, Jensen will start writing about some trivial conversation with one of his "friends", who always seem to leave him with something to ponder.

Because there is no flow to the chapters, the book has is essentially a 605 page stream of consciousness monologue that goes nowhere. However most people will keep reading because it throws around so many facts and ideas you think it just has to come to some conclusion. Don't waste your time.

A woman's testimonial on the back cover declares, "The Culture of Make Believe is a masterpiece."

I wondered what would possess her to say such a thing, and a careful reading of the acknowledgements revealed that this woman was one of Jensen's buddies trying to prop up his work. How revealing.

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