Interview with Environmentalist Derrick Jensen

Washington, DC (TFC) – Derrick Jensen is long-term Grassroots Environmental Activist and writer. He has written around 20 books, and his main focus is trying to stop this culture from killing the planet. He’s written a lot about domestic violence, misogyny, racism, the nexus of environmental destruction, and about the dominate cultures’ destructive urges.

How do you feel about Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party of America?

I’m not a huge fan of the Green Party. I’m going to tell a story about a time I did a talk at this conference called Bioneerrs, ten years ago, and being there really broke my heart. The whole thing is about social change and environmentalism. One of their taglines, one year, was “the shift is hitting the fan”, about paradigm shifting. The thing that broke my heart was, so far as I know, I was the only person there who talked about power and psychopathology. And I don’t think you can talk about social change without talking about Power, and I don’t think you can talk about the destruction of the planet without talking about Psychopathology. And, one of the things with the Green Party is that they have a lot of really good ideas. But, then, how do you actually put them in place, given that those in power are sociopaths and the entire system rewards sociopathic behavior?
That doesn’t mean we need to give up or do nothing but simply take them out. It’s like a doctor friend of mine says, “to cure something is proper diagnosis”. And, I think, if part of the disease that’s killing the planet is this sociopathological behavior, then fighting that sociopathological behavior should be part of our response.
I also have to say, in a couple of elections I’ve voted Green. If there was a local Green, I would vote. I think, on the national level, the voting I’ve done is pretty much symbolic. I voted for Nader. I voted for a friend one time. The last time, I think, I voted for any mainstream candidate was against Reagan in ‘84, and you pretty much had to vote against Reagan. But, interestingly, in 1980 I voted for Reagan and then realized I was an idiot, and voted democrat in 84. By 1988, I had an awakening and realized it was a whole system that was just full of crap.
I do believe in voting on a local level. Voting on a national level may not change much, but locally, you can protect some things.

What warnings would you give young environmentalists as to how to differentiate green-washing from effective efforts?

I think the best way we learn is by making mistakes. The advice I would give to young activists is to find what you love and defend it. Probably at some point, when they run up against the economic system, they’ll find themselves screwed over. That’s a lesson we all have to learn.

I had already recognized this culture was inherently destructive. But, a big lesson for me was the salvage rider. In 1995, activists all over the country had been able to shut down the Forest Service timber sales using the timber sale appeal process. Basically, that process is where if you can show the timber sales are breaking the law, you can appeal to have them stopped. And, then, they would have to produce a new document. And, then, you would stop them again by showing where they violate the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act etc. We were successful enough at doing this that Congress passed what’s called a salvage rider, wherein any timber sales that they wanted would be an exception to environmental regulations. The lesson here is that any time you can work using their rules, in order to stop the injustice and stop the destruction, they will change the rules on you. There is really no substitute for learning this lesson yourself.

In as far as telling what Greenwashing : the question always comes down to what so many indigenous people have said to me: “We have to decolonize our hearts and minds.” We have to shift our loyalty away from the system and toward the landbase and the national world. So the central question is: where is the primary loyalty of the people involved, is it toward the natural world, or is our loyalty to the system?

One of the things I’ve said a lot is; what do all the so-called solutions for global warming have in common? They take industrialization, the economic system, and colonialism as a given. And, the natural world is that which must conform to industrial capitalism. That’s insane, in terms of being out of touch with physical reality.
There has been this terrible coup where sustainability doesn’t mean sustaining the natural ecosystem, but sustaining the economic system.
So, when figuring out if something is greenwashing, ask: does this thing, primarily, help sustain the economic system or the natural world?
So, that’s one of the problems I have with industrial solar and wind energy. These are primarily aimed at extending the party, not aimed at protecting salmon.

I would also ask young people to think about the linkages.

A solar cell may be really groovy and you can power your pot grow but where did the solar cell come from? It required mining. It required Global Infrastructure. And, even climate activists ignore these linkages. I heard one activist say, “Solar power has no costs, only benefits.” Tell that to people who live in Bhatu China, or the lake that is now completely dead, where most of that power comes from.

So, a friend of mine says, “A lot of environmentalists start by wanting to protect one specific piece of land and move on to questioning the entire culture of western civilization.” And, the reason is, once you start asking the questions, they don’t stop.
Why are they trying to destroy this piece of land? And then you ask, why do they want to destroy other pieces of land? Then, you ask why do we have an economic system based on destroying land? And, then, you start asking what is the history of this economic system? What happens when it runs out of frontiers? And, what happens when you have overshoot? So, an important thing for young activists to do is to never stop asking those questions.

Can you name some successful revolutions of the past that you think we should look to when forming our own strategies? i.e. if colonizing powers left, where economy was left to it’s its people)

Economy is a really hard word when you have a global economic system. We can talk about the Irish kicking the British out, or the Vietnamese kicking out the United States , but the real winner in Vietnam is Coca Cola. Because Vietnam is still tied into the global economic system.
One of my problems, and I’m not attacking revolution when I say this, because I think it’s great that the Indians and Irish kicked out the British and (that) the Vietnamese kicked out the U.S. One of the problems is that when you defeat a certain mindset, it will find expression in another way, such as when the United States illegalized chattel slavery, we have to recognize that the underlying entitlement, where white people felt entitled to the lives and labor of the African Americans, was still there and found expression in a new way with the Jim Crow Laws. And we can see this all the way up to today with mass incarceration and the incarceration of African American males, today, in such shameful ways. And, like I said earlier, young activists need to keep looking at the linkages and, unfortunately, this makes one depressed. Because when you see a victory, oftentimes, you also see a backlash and a reconfiguration and reestablishment of the underlying bigotry. We see this, too with monotheism’s movement toward science, especially mechanistic science, where the world is really not alive. First off, the monotheism of the Christian sky-god did the heavy lifting with taking meaning out of the world and leave it up there, and all mechanistic science had to do was turn off the light. And, my point is, that’s really an extension. We can say, ‘Wow, we really got rid of the superstition and the bigotry that has to do with Christianity’, but, now, there is this belief in science, which is really even scarier, because at least with the Christian sky-god there was someone who was above humans. Now, humans are making themselves into this new god who thinks they control the whole planet.

Now, having said that as a preamble, I’d like to say one of the things the Irish did that was very smart was really highlighted in the film “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” which starts off with all these all these Irish guys playing hurling. At first, when I saw this, I was, like, ‘What the hell does this have to do with the Irish Liberation struggle?’ One of the things we have to do , as I mentioned earlier, is to decolonize ourselves. And, one of the ways they did this (was) by playing Irish sports. They also used Gaelic Language and read Gaelic Literature. So, one thing about a successful revolution is to break identification with the dominate system. After that, it’s all strategy and tactics. But, first, comes the emotional part. Once you have that, you look around and say, ‘What do we want to do, blow something up, vote, peaceful strikes?’ And, this ties back into everything we’ve talked about so far. Are we identifying with a system or are we identifying with those we are trying to protect? So, we can say the civil rights were successful in the sense that African Americans now have a provisional right to vote. Of course, there is still mass incarceration, which targets black males and thus takes away their right to vote, but It was still successful, in that it accomplished some aims. This was done by identifying as black voters. So, identifying is very important.

Several years out from the writing of the DEW, is there anything you would change in terms of strategy that you’ve learned since?

We don’t know because no one is doing it. All I know is that there are more than 450 dead zones in the ocean and one of those has recovered. And, it did that because the Soviet Union collapsed. It’s in the Black Sea and the collapse made agriculture no longer economically feasible there. So, they stopped agriculture and the dead zone has recovered enough that they have a commercial fishery there. And, what that makes clear to me, as everything in this culture does, is this planet will survive great when this culture stops killing it, presuming there’s anything left.

The image that keeps coming to mind is this body, which is the earth, and it keeps bleeding out because it’s been stabbed 300 times. And, you have all these people trying to heal this body, and they are doing CPR and putting on bandages, and everything else. But, the thing they’re not doing is stopping the killer from stabbing the person to death. We have to stop that primary damage. We have to recognize that we can’t have it all. You can’t have a way of life that relies on industrial capitalism and continue to have a planet.

Now, I haven’t really answered your question, mostly because of what I’ve said at first. Nobody’s doing it, so we don’t know what mistakes there are. It’s like I’ve been saying for fifteen years now, if space aliens came down to earth and they were doing what industrial civilization is doing to the planet, we would put in place Decisive Ecological Warfare. We would destroy their infrastructure. And that’s another thing that’s very important, we can make an argument that World War II was won by the Allies, primarily in the killing fields of Russia. We can make this argument, and it’s a very strong argument. But, I would also argue that either first, or second most important, was the German industrial capacity. That’s how the North won the Civil War. It wasn’t just because they had better generals (although they certainly did). The North won the Civil War because they destroyed the south’s capacity to wage war.

So, I don’t care, we can do it by voting, if it works. We just have to find a way to stop this culture from waging war on the planet.

Will Potter’s “Green Is the New Red” talks about the crackdown against Green movements. Do you have any advice to people who want to speak openly about resistance but are afraid of the repercussions? Where is the line between security culture and the need for movement building? The Invisible Committee says we need to tie the actions that have been done into a narrative. Is the problem that the media never covers the actions of those who, for instance, did direct action against fracking in New Jersey, and that any direct action the media does cover seems to follow the horrible lone wolf narratives? Do you think this stifles our movement?

I think what you say makes a lot of sense. I mean, really, I’m not trying to turn this question into a let’s praise DGR thing, but, really, that’s what we are trying to do. Same with the North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office. You have to have those who are completely Above Ground who can publicize, so, often, there are those who are environmental activists, who are also active below ground, and they got arrested, in part, because they’re doing dual service. We need a firewall, we need a group that’s able to publish the narrative, and another group which is separate, to actually do it. And, both of these roles are really critical.

As far as security culture… (And, I realize this isn’t so much a successful revolutionary movement as a successful social movement) I think, sometimes, about the whole marijuana legalization movement, because they’ve done a good job of pushing an agenda that would have been unthinkable thirty years ago. They’ve done this by being below ground with the growers and above ground with NORML. So, they have used this model, which I think is pretty good. We can say the same thing about the IRA.

That’s one thing you have to do when you live in a security state. And, one thing I think we have to remember about living in a security state is, yeah, surveillance is everywhere but we need to recognize that, although they pretend they are God, those sitting at the top are not actually omniscient. Once again, living in northern California, where the pot economy basically runs the entire economy, helped distill a healthy understanding that the Panopticon is not as all seeing as it wants to be. And, once again, I know there is a difference between growing marijuana, when probably x percent of cops smoke marijuana, and (are) on some level sympathetic, and B, ending capitalism, which would freak out all the cops.

The green scare did not happen because of great police work; it happened because Jake Ferguson was an abuser, junkie and a snitch. So, it was not started by the Panopticon; it was solved by good old-fashioned stoolie. I used to teach at Pelican Bay, a super Max. I’m very naïve about some things, including Drug Culture. And, I used to go to concerts and I’d see someone calling acid or something, and others would say if you drop them anywhere, they could find drugs in 15 minutes. And, I was like, I can’t even find a bathroom in 15 minutes! And, what that means is that underground economy is surviving the Panopticon very well. So, we need to understand that there is a panopitcon but that it isn’t omniscient.

Can you give a critique of Anarchists and why you see a lot of their work as ineffective?

Well, I had a conversation a couple years ago, with a very famous anarchist who didn’t want me to use his name. He believes in anarchism but he had a critique of anarchism, but he knew if he spoke out, he’d get death threats. His critique was, part of the central problem was, that this serious dedicated anarchist had, was that anarchism is an open membership. And, so, anyone can become an anarchist simply by identifying as an anarchist. He says many who call themselves anarchist, aren’t; they are just antisocial and have found a ideological excuse for their bad behavior. And, he completely disagrees with the notion that antisocial people can simply identify as anarchists. You know, anarchists have a long tradition of fighting for the eight-hour work day, or the anarchists in Spain, Kropotkin, this long tradition. He says, two, there needs to be a away to kick people out. I’ve heard anarchists say that in order to stop patriarchy, you have to be a disgusting pervert, so are we going to put that person in the same category as Goldman or Kroptokin? Are we going to let that person in, even if they are just a prick?

Second problem. So, they are going to have nutjobs in any group, republicans, democrats, stamp collectors. Anarchism is so small and so vocal, that the nut jobs really stand out. So, then, the nut jobs can sort of discredit the larger group, when it’s an open group.

So, as far as effectiveness, a concern I have is that the individualist anarchists, as opposed to collectivist anarchist, have an active hostility toward organization. This is not just DGR getting attacked for this, by being perceived as hierarchical, but I’ve seen writing on this going back 140 years, where if anybody believes you can have an organization with a stable schema, they get immediately attacked as Stalinist.

And, then, they attack the organization simply because it’s an organization. There is a great line by Samuel Huntington that says “The west won the world, not by the strength of its ideals, but by its application of organized violence.” He’s actually a supporter of the western empire. He says it’s a good thing.

In Endgame, I talk about this. I have become convinced that the single most important invention of the dominant culture, which has allowed it to destroy the planet, is the top-down bureaucratic military style organization. I’m not saying we need to model our organizations after this, but it is really effective. IT is how this culture was able to murder the Native Americans. They had one big army. My experience with people, is that they can, generally, be very contentious. And, it’s really hard to get together on the same page.

So, I had a friend who was, years ago, trying to start an environmental organization. And, one of the members was an indigenous person. He said 95% of the time is going to be dealing with personality conflicts, and the other 5% is actually doing the work. And, it’s an accomplishment, albeit a terrible one, that the U.S. Military is able to get 5 million people to act toward one aim; killing brown people, or whatever it is they are doing. They have propaganda on TV and in print, they have the capitalist system, which rewards bad behavior, they have an organizational schema and, on the other side, we are supposed to defeat them without being organized?

Piecemeal efforts are what made Mclellan lose against Lee. He attacked in one place and Lee moved his troops back, and then attacked another place, and Lee moved his troops back. The Turkish military had a strategy of attacking in piecemeal, and as such, they lost every battle for nearly two hundred years. The Russians would attack en masse and the Turkish army would send in one unit at a time and get slaughtered. One thing the terrible racist, Nathan Bedford Forrest, said, “The way you win a battle is getting their first with the most.” And, that’s what you want, in any conflict, is local superiority.

The best example I can think of is the Zulu wars, and we have heard of Roark’s )drift, there was, like, 100 British defenders and 2000 Zulu, but the British won because the Zulu attacked piecemeal. One person would run up, which is great if your point is to show your bravery, as opposed to actually destroy the enemy.

So, my point on this is, you asked why I see anarchist strategy as oftentimes ineffective, and I think, if you’re fighting an organized force, you should try to be organized, as well.

Can you give a definition of Radical Feminism, and perhaps, a response to some of your detractors who’ve accused DGR of transphobia?

The question I would ask is “Given the fact that we live in a rape culture, do you believe that women have the right to bathe, sleep, organize, and gather, free from the presence of males?” And, if you do believe that women have that right, you will be accused of transphobia; you will receive death threats. If you are a woman, you will receive rape threats. I’ve been de-platformed over this, and I’ve even had some trans activists threaten to kill the children of DGR Activists over this. Because I believe that women have the right to gather free from the presence of males.

Somebody wrote me and said “ I have a a little five-year-old boy (who) loves to wear frilly clothes, loves to dance ‘like a girl’, ‘sing like a girl’, and wouldn’t this make him transgender?” and I wrote back and said, “Are you saying only little girls can wear frilly clothes? Why can’t we just say ‘this is a little boy who likes to play with dolls, and sing in a high voice?’ Why can’t we just love and accept this child for who he is? What does it even mean to dance ‘like a girl’? ”

One thing that makes me angry is shoddy thinking. It’s, like, ok, so I know that the trans allies are gonna (sp going to) get mad when I say, “women should be able to gather alone” because they will then say, “who are women? Aren’t trans who identify as women are women?” I would say my definition of woman is human female. And my definition of female is based on biology. Just like there are male marijuana plants and female marijuana plants. There are male hippopotami, and female hippopotami. There are also dimorphic plants, animals and humans. So those are my definitions.

I want to say two things before anyone gives a definition of woman. 1. A definition cannot be tautological. You cannot use a word to define itself. You cannot say, then,” a woman is someone who identifies as a woman”, any more than you can say “a square is something that sort of resembles a square”. The other thing is a definition must have a clearly defined metric. So, if I say “here is a three sided thing, it’s a square”, you would say “no, it’s not a square because a square has 4 sides”. You have to be able to a verify. I can say I’m a vegetarian but I had great ribs for dinner. This not only destroys the word ‘vegetarian’ it also destroys the word ‘definition. I guess I would ask those who disagree with my definition, “What is your better definition that is verifiable, for the word ‘woman’?” and second, “Is the fact that I have a different definition for the word woman, which is defensible linguistically, so important that you think it’s acceptable for men to threaten to rape women?”

I want to make it clear, no one in DGR is telling anyone how to live. I don’t give a shit! I’m not saying people who identify as trans should get paid less for their work, (or) that they shouldn’t have whatever sexual partner they want. I’m not suggesting that they should be kicked out of their house, or they should be de-platformed from a university, or that anything bad should happen to them.

Another thing is, and I’ve never discussed this before publically, but I think an important issue that needs to be discussed is. It’s part of a larger post-modern social movement that values what we think and what we feel over what is real. This takes us right back to the greenwashing, in that people will say, ‘We have to come up with the economy we want’, but, no, first we have to figure out what the Earth will allow!

This culture has a deep hate for the embodied and for what is natural. Here’s a great example: It ends up that I have coronary artery disease, and I told my doctor that I was feeling better since I had been diagnosed. And, this is right before Obamacare kicked in, so I didn’t have insurance yet. The pain got less in that time, and I asked why. And, the doctor said that when the arteries get clogged, the body sends out capillaries all around it to basically do it own version of bypass surgery. I had never heard that before. And, it’s like we all think it’s some miraculous thing, when someone cuts open your chest and does bypass surgery, but we don’t even think about it when the body does it, itself. There is tremendous wisdom of knowledge in the body, and we have to learn to respect. This is important, both on a larger global scale and on the personal scale. I think it’s really important to recognize how this culture devalues the body. How I feel is way less important than what is.

Can you talk a bit about left sectarianism?

This goes back to the machine-like organizational structure of the dominant culture, which I am not valorizing, but I’m just saying, it’s really fucking effective! It’s been able to get people past sectarianism.

Over the years, I’ve gotten thousands of pieces of hate mail, of only a couple hundred were from right wingers! anti-car activists because I drive a car, vegans because I eat meat, anarchists because I believe in laws against rape! I’ve never understood why animal rights activists and hunters don’t work together to protect the habitat, and once that’s done, animal rights activists can sabotage the hunts! I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I do believe in temporary alliances.

The best example is, 300 CE or 400 CE. These two sects of Christianity fought, same name but one had an umlaut, and one didn’t. And, they are killing each other. Hundreds of people! The conflict was “Do you believe the fires of hell are literal or figurative?”

I was talking to this guy who lives in West Virginia and he was talking about the left always attacking each other. He mentioned that where he lived used to have 1 KKK chapter that consisted of three brothers and now they have three chapters. Because they can’t stand each other. So it’s not just a problem on the left.

So, instead of getting mad at sectarianism, which I’ve been doing for the past fifteen years, is try to figure out what to do about it. Because I think it’s probably part of the human condition.

My friend, Janet Armstrong, is an indigenous activist and writer, and she told me once, ‘We, in our community, have just as many squabbles as white people do. But, the difference is I know my great-grandchild might marry your great-grandchild, so we figure out how to get along.” And, I really like that. I think we just have to ask “What are we really trying to do?”

What’s wrong with me having a really strong disagreement with a trans activist, for example, and them having a really strong disagreement with me, and we both continue doing our work and, at worst, ignore each other? There are plenty of people who I disagree with. Families have different political views all the time and still love each other.

The question I’ve been asked over the years that cracks me up is what it’s like at my house on Thanksgiving. And, one of my sisters is a petroleum engineer, and she used to be married to a guy who did cyanide heat leaching and owned a gold mine. And, now, she’s married to a guy who used to work for the NSA and now works for the Israeli Military. What do we talk about? We talk about football. My brother is a huge Seattle Seahawks fan, so go, Hawks! I don’t talk about environmental stuff; it’d just start an argument. So, I don’t understand why we can’t agree to disagree.

Chomsky is a really great example. My agent is Chomsky’s agent. And Chomsky really disagrees with the anti-industrial perspective. And, I was doing a talk in Scotland and one of the things they wanted to ask me was about Chomsky blasting anti-industrialism. And, I really disagree with him on this, but I really respect his work, so my agent, a really smart person, said just to say ‘I’m not attacking Chomsky. We just have a disagreement on this.” And, I don’t understand why we can’t do this more often. There is a limit, of course. Roman Palanski is a rapist, so it makes sense to talk about his personal life.

A great example is Richard Dawkins. I can’t stand Richard Dawkins. I’ve critiqued his work a lot. And I’ve heard, individually, he’s pompous. But I’ve never heard that he’s a rapist or anything so I don’t know why I wouldn’t just keep my critiques on his work.

I think film is really detrimental to communication, because it’s so removed from real life and the way we communicate because in order to move a story forward, you have to have dramatic tension. So, a lot of times you have people fighting who wouldn’t fight in real life. And, I think that)because we learn to communicate from the stories we take in, we learn to be even more contentious than we would be in real life.

I know someone who was on Bill Maher and was being relatively polite, and they got mad and said, if you are ever on the show again, you have to interrupt people and be contentious, because that’s what makes the show work. We want Jerry Springer, we want people to throw chairs. And, we may not really want that, but that’s what works for the spectacle. And, then, we learn that’s acceptable behavior.

I’m working on a couple books right now. We had a significant conflict Saturday and it was handled by both parties in a mature fashion. And, this helped to strengthen our friendship. Still have a significant disagreement, but we built our friendship because we handled it maturely.

What are your thoughts on Prison Abolition?

Obviously, the prison system is horrendous. But, I’m not a prison abolitionist. Because when I used to teach at a Super Max, the students agreed that the only way for prison abolition to work is if you’re going to kill a bunch of people. 85% should not be in prison, or B, someone else was really responsible. I knew a kid who was put out for prostitution at 4 (age four), and really, what chance did this kid have? He was really fucked up by the time he was six. Another kid was living on the streets of Oklahoma at six, with his little brother. And, this guy is now doing life for murder. And, when he got to prison was, probably, the first time he knew where his next meal was coming from. So, I agree the whole system is completely messed up. Having said that, I also had a creative writing student who tortured a person to death, and one of the things the inmates used to do was pass around jellybeans. I was told not to ever take anything from this one guy. Because, since he’d been in prison, he’d poisoned three people. Something, obviously, had happened to this guy. A friend had a student who said to her, “I am so broken, I need to be kept out of society.”

I’m not talking about the prison industrial complex, or for profit prisons those are clearly messed up. One of the reasons I’ve said I’m against the death penalty is because it’s racist and classist. But, I actually think Tony Hayward of BP should be executed. As it is, it’s outrageous because it’s racist and classist.

There’s a guy, not sure if he was executed or died on death row, but he killed his wife and kid and put each heart in a separate pocket because ‘the blood couldn’t mix.” And, then, when he was on trial, he pulled out one of his eyes because ‘that’s how the feds were putting stuff into his brain.” That didn’t work, so he pulled out his other eye and ate it. I’m not saying he needed to be in prison as is, but he definitely needed to be separated from society. Or removed. What do you do with Ted Bundy? I’m not saying that Ted Bundy makes the case for locking up some fifteen year old.

I had a student who said if he could change one thing about societies perception of drug dealers, he’d like to destroy the image of the drug dealer in an Armani suit. He said, “You try living in Oakland with three children, and working at Mcdonalds, you can’t do it. So, drug dealing puts food on the table.” But, now, he is in prison which doesn’t help anybody.

It’s really interesting. Before I went to work in the prison system, I was completely apolitical on the drug war, because I never thought about it. But, I became highly politicized because a lot of my students would have been perfectly fine neighbors as long as you either a) kept them off drugs, or b) made the drug the same way you did cigarettes. A lot of them are doing terrible things to get money for drugs, but if it had just been like cigarettes, they never would have murdered people.

I had one student who was in because he was a marijuana dealer in the 1970s, and someone tried to rob him and he shot him dead. It blew me away because if he had been a shoe salesman and shot someone who tried to rob him, he wouldn’t have even gone to jail for one night, much less gone to prison for the rest of his life.

So, when talking about prison abolition, I get a little nervous because I can’t wrap my head around it. Craig O’Hara said about anarchism, that it’s not about the eradication of all laws, but making society such that you don’t need them. And, that’s it, exactly. I’ve seen anarchists get mad at women for calling the cops for rape!

I have a friend who was a police abolitionist and she was going into a lot of communities known for police brutality, and getting push back because the police are only one threat. You also have armed drug gangs, which are sometimes just as organized as the cops, and just as nasty as the cops. And, the local people had no interest in police abolition until there was a community defense that made it practical.

I talked to Christian Parenti years ago and one of the things he said about police, it’s very important to remember that police have two functions; to stop meth heads from bashing in the head of Grandma, and to bash in the head of strikers. Two roles, to protect and serve, and to protect and serve the capitalists. Police like to emphasize the prior, whereas anti-police activists like to emphasize the latter. Christian Parenti said most of how they spend their time (is) making sure people don’t drive 80 mph through a school zone. And, I don’t have a problem with someone getting a ticket for driving 80 mph through a school zone. But, the most important social role is to bash in the head of strikers.

So, similarly with prisons, we need to realize that the conditions are really really, really terrible, and that something needs to be done about Ted Bundy until we have a society where Ted Bundys aren’t made!

(answers transcribed from audio, proofread by R.H.)