Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Uncovering
  3. Utility
  4. Invisibility
  5. Contempt
  6. Power
  7. Property
  8. Philanthropy
  9. Giving Back the Land
  10. Beginning to See
  11. Redemption and Failure
  12. Flesh
  13. Seeing Things
  14. The Other Side of Darkness
  15. Criminals
  16. Killers
  17. The Cost of Power
  18. Tranquility and Felicity
  19. Assimilation
  20. The Impossibility of Forgetting
  21. Production
  22. False Contracts
  23. Competition
  24. Distance
  25. Corporations, Cops, and Hungry Ghosts
  26. War
  27. Resistance
  28. Expanding the Frontier
  29. The View From Inside
  30. The Closing of the Iron Cage
  31. Holocausts
  32. Coming Home
  33. Acknowledgments
  34. Notes
  35. Bibliography

Derrick Jensen's fourth book, published in 2002 by Context Books following Railroads and Clearcuts, Listening to the Land, and A Language Older Than Words. In it, Jensen uses horrific descriptions of hate crimes, corporate exploitation, and societal injustice to fuel a few basic questions: Why do people hate? Why are people poor? What roles do individuals and governments play in furthering the system of injustice? What, if anything, can be done to address the imbalance between rich and poor, and to make people relate on a personal level?

His direct, personal inquiry discovers that people feel free to hate when they objectify others. It is easy to hurt, exploit, and kill when you don't think that someone has a mother, a father, and a background. Jensen sites a record in which the simple statement "I am twenty-three" made Nazi death camp workers see one of their victims as a woman with a family.

Jensen works as a creative writing teacher at a prison in California, and uses his experience with inmates as a peer and as an advocate to support analysis of the position of the poor. He asks why, time and time again, poor people riot and kill one another--out of fear or hatred--but never lash out at the rich. He studies the psychology of Carlyle's captains of industry, considering their motivations, and considering how they use their power--at the expense of all others--to stay on top.

He finds that rich people get their money from inheritance and government subsidies, exploring trends we can see today with Halliburton but that were used with Rockefeller and before. The government can provide huge sums of capital to businesses. Governments will even assist in hiding and assuaging environmental damages resulting from companies' gross neglect . The populace can be persuaded and manipulated to remain complacent.

Jensen's central image is of the story of Ham and Noah in the Bible: Ham sees his father naked, while his brothers avert their eyes in fear. Noah curses Ham for his impudence and condemns him to slavery. Jensen originally read the story as a moral tale of respect, but realizes that the story is actually advocating blind obedience: Ham was released because he was dangerous. Ham realized that Noah can be weak. Through this interpretation, Jensen examines how society reinforces itself by society rejecting anyone who realizes the underlying rules are arbitrary and unfair.

The Culture of Make Believe is both personal and academic in tone. It exposes and confronts fundamental problems in capitalist society and argues that these problems have existed since the division of labor between farmhand and overseer. It is a well-researched, easy-to-read, 608-page tome. Anyone dissatisfied with our consumer culture, who wants to explore the dynamics that generate and perpetuate this culture, should read it.


Sources

http://www.derrickjensen.org
Personal experience (reading the book).

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