When I was between the ages of seven and eleven, my father was particularly ready to start a militia and secede from the union. I say "particularly" because in one way or another he's always been a little paranoid and iffy on the subject of loyalty to his citizenship (except when republicans are elected to any office, then you are guarantied to see him sporting his American flag suspenders). My parents "home schooled" me for a few years (quotation marks indicate that you could take out the word "school" and the phrase might be more accurate), when not putting me in various, sometimes experimental, private schools, so I have a colorful educational background. I always loved learning, as Derrick Jensen would say we all do, but I loathed
the educational circus that was my childhood. I say all this because I have a deep mistrust of people who, like my father, are excessively suspicious or critical of civilization. Jensen is one of these people, and so I am sorry to say that I am absolutely persuaded by every argument I have heard him make. He positively has me ready to march out and overthrow the global economy.
My first exposure to Derrick Jensen was at the University of Oregon's Public Interest Environmental Law Conference last year. My vegan friend and my noble-savage friend took me to hear him as a keynote speaker. When the girl introducing him to the standing-room-only audience and said something to the effect of, "Don't stampede out of here when you hear his crazy ideas. We need extremists like Jensen to make the rest of us look normal" I sighed and braced myself for chanting and rhyming gibberish (in Eugene that kind of thing, unfortunately, is not completely uncommon). Instead, I met this hilarious, kind, thoughtful man, who I believe is truly trying to help people - and not in a patronizing, rich-American kind of way, either (pet peeve of mine). He's obviously doing the things he does because he understands that making us better helps him. To give you an idea of the lecture he gave when I saw him, this youtube clip shows a small section of the beginning of the lecture, when he gave it elsewhere. In this clip he describes the original script for the movie Star Wars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwhL4Lc1VNo&feature=relatedd .
Walking On Water is primarily about Jensen's experiences as a writer and writing instructor at a prison and a university in Washington state. Those experiences are really only the frame, though, in which he presents his criticisms of the American educational system, where Jensen says we are trained to submit ourselves to a society that turns us into slaves and masters. This book is what I wished Lies My Teacher Told Me would have been. Rather than focus on the details of misinformation in textbooks and the politics of the educational system, which bogged down Loewen's complaint against public education, Derrick Jensen tackled the larger problem of the systems in which we live. This book doesn't necessarily deal with all of the larger issues Jensen typically talks about, but I read it because it's . . . ummm . . . how shall I phrase this? It's about six hundred pages shorter than his other books. It seemed like a good place to start.
The thing that really makes me impressed with Jensen's writing and speaking is that I think he deeply believes in the destructiveness of industrialized civilization, and he is honestly fighting to save the things he loves. One of the points he made in the lecture I heard was that people used to get their food from forests and rivers, so we would fight to the death to protect forests and rivers. Now we get our food from supermarkets, so we will fight to the death to protect supermarkets and let the forests and rivers that actually provide the food be destroyed by the systems that created the supermarket. I mean, it's just true. They change the deli section at a grocery store and there's a public outcry from the same people who laugh at the major destruction of ocean mammal life. And I'm no different. The things I don't know or understand that are deeply important to the survival of the human race are staggering. I'm not willing to abandon civilization entirely, but I'm definitely a believer, if only from the arguments of Derrick Jensen, in the evils of industrialism.