In the latest edition of Orion, Derrick Jensen writes
I think often of a line by the psychiatrist R. D. Laing, “Few books today are forgivable.” He wrote this, I believe, because we have become so very alienated from our own experience, from who we are, and this alienation is so destructive to others and to ourselves that if a book does not take this alienation as its starting point and work toward rectifying it, we’d all be better off looking at blank pieces of paper. Or better, actually experiencing something (or someone). Or even better, entering, as Martin Buber might have written, into a relationship with something or someone.
I agree with Laing that few books today are forgivable (and the same is true for films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on), and I agree for the reasons I believe he was giving. But there’s another reason I think few books (films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on) are forgivable. There’s that little nagging fact that this culture is murdering the planet. Any book (film, painting, song, relationship, life, and so on) that doesn’t begin with this basic understanding— that the culture is murdering the planet (in part because of this alienation; and of course this murder then in turn fuels further alienation)— and doesn’t work toward rectifying it is not forgivable, for an infinitude of reasons, one of which is that without a living planet there can be no books. There can be no paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on. There can be nothing.
Cartoonist Stephanie McMillan, in an editorial
called "Artists, Raise Your Weapons", adds:
In times like these, for an artist not to devote her/his talents and energies to creating cultural weapons of resistance is a betrayal of the
worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is
unforgivable... Let us not be the system’s tools or fools. Artists are not cowards and
weaklings -- we’re tough. We take sides. We fight back...
It is our
duty and responsibility to create a fierce, unyielding, aggressive
of resistance. We must create art that exposes and denounces evil, that
strengthens activists and revolutionaries, celebrates and contributes to
the coming liberation of this planet from corporate industrial military
Pick up your weapon, artist.
I feel these days, when I walk into a bookstore, or a theatre, or talk to people or listen to people talking about what is important to them, in the moment, that I'm inhabiting some kind of parallel universe to these writers and artists and people. How can they be preoccupied by, and care about, things that are so inane when our entire civilization is careening out of control into a wall? How am I supposed to relate
to other people when the world they perceive and live in is so unrecognizably different from mine?
Can we hope to communicate with the rest of the world in any meaningful way when most people are speaking and hearing only a language of ignorance and denial, while we speak what Jensen calls "a language older than words", a language they never learned? Or is whether our message is understood by the rest of the world not our business?